Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
July 21st, 2006
The Bishop's Send-Off and the Return of the High Priest

It’s become a defining trait of my journey that much of it is spent in the “bridge and tunnel” traffic of crossing parallel universes. As it keeps things fresh and diverse—and keeps me learning and open as a result—I’m convinced that it’s good for the soul, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Then again, I have a high tolerance for pain.
Another eclectic journey is on-deck for next week. It’s not terribly exotic, but I’m still really looking forward to it.
Next Friday evening begins in the friendly confines of Philadelphia’s Cathedral-Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, as the hometown Church crowd gathers to bid farewell to Bishop Michael…

July 10th, 2006
Baptizing my son was an awakening for me

My husband says being Catholic, for him, is like being gray-haired or left-handed. It’s self-evident, fundamental to who he is, but not something he wants to display on a T-shirt or a bumper sticker.
Though I’m still brunette and a righty, I agree. Faith proclamations and demonstrations always make me feel uncomfortable. I haven’t liked walking around with ashes on my forehead since leaving Sacred Heart Elementary in sixth grade. Even saying grace at a group meal feels awkward. Maybe it’s my training as a journalist, a profession that instills skepticism, but the pews at Mass are the most public place I care to display my faith. And as far as church attendance goes, if something else…

June 23rd, 2006
My First Confession

As it’s a good mantra of the Christian journey, here’s to new beginnings.
With its daily focus on the arcana of all things Vatican and what happens behind the sacristy doors, some of you who know the chaos that is “Whispers in the Loggia” might’ve thought that its humble author was a jaded, seen-it-all-before type who holds court in shadowy corners of cavernous churches, trafficking in ecclesiastical scuttlebutt.
Thanks to the series of interviews published recently by BustedHalo, many of you were surprised to discover that what I call my “Whispers voice” is quite different from my own. The response to that series was overwhelmingly positive and through this…

June 20th, 2006
How living with a street gang led an agnostic anthropologist to faith

Thomas Ward agonized over a choice: should he cheat death by ditching his research or forge ahead and prepare to die? He decided to prepare to die.
From 1993 to 2000, Ward, a professor of anthropology at USC, spent nearly every day hanging out on street corners, back alleyways and apartment complexes with members of the legendary street gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, dubbed by Newsweek as “the fastest-growing, most violent… of the nation’s street gangs.”
Ward said he wanted to study every aspect of the Salvadoran gang: the good and the bad. And about a year into his research, he got a taste of how truly bad things could get. “The first threat occurred when I was at a party and the…

June 15th, 2006
A sit down with the ultimate fan, God

In the beginning, was God. And sports was with God, and sports was God.
Then, out of the muck and mire, God created man, and gave man authority to name all the beasts of the field, the flying things and the creeping things, and it was good.
After God created man, He created the Athlete. Replete with a hefty amount of arrogance and an innate ability to point toward heaven whenever something of significance happened, the athlete flourished throughout the whole earth. The Lord was so impressed He cracked a smile and said to no one in particular “It’s all good.”
But, being God, He wanted more…
So God created ESPN and He saw that it was all good all the time.
So good in fact that God said “Let there…

June 6th, 2006
Just who is the mysterious scribe behind Whispers in the Loggia, the controversial blog that Catholic power brokers can't seem to get enough of?

He is a wiry bantam rooster of a man; a ball of nervous energy with brown hair and rectangular glasses sitting atop a Roman nose. From a row home in South Philadelphia he fields emails and phone calls day and night from sources around the globe who feed him inside information on all things ecclesial: what the Vatican is saying (and what it really means), which Bishops are being moved where, who’s in and who’s out. His blog, Whispers in the Loggia, is read by a growing legion of fans that includes everyone from very prominent cardinals and Vatican bureaucrats to parish priests and lay people. His knowledge of arcane Church traditions is so thorough that the New York Times and Associated Press now use him as…

May 22nd, 2006
Jewish-Christians at USC struggle with the effects of conversion to Christianity

David Allen’s parents wanted him to see a psychiatrist. Why? Not because he was depressed, taking drugs or getting bad grades in college but because he wanted to convert to Christianity.
Allen is one of several Jewish-Christians at the University of Southern California who belong to Chaim, a new Christian organization on USC’s campus that claims to provide an environment where Jewish students can learn more about Jesus, and Christian students more about Judaism.
Raised a reformed Jew, Allen (who requested that his real name not be used) made fun of Jesus and Christians when he was growing up, but while dating a Christian girl, he met a friend of her family who introduced him to Christianity.
That’s…

May 14th, 2006
And an unexpected grace

Two years after my husband Greg and I were married, word came from his Aunt and Uncle in Florida that there was a problem with his grandmother. In one of those awful flukes, Kodak, the company she had worked for all her life, had made an error in her pension. They had been underpaying her for years. This might seem like good news but now that she’d be getting more money, she was no longer eligible to receive the aid that kept her in the private nursing home in Florida she had lived in since a stroke nearly ten years before had left her paralyzed on her right side, unable to walk, speak, wash or dress herself. She would be moved to a state-run facility. No one in the family wanted this to happen but there seemed to be no other…

May 9th, 2006
In the spirit of Judas, National Geographic announces plans for a two-hour special: Even More Gospels!

Through The Gospel of Judas, one of the greatest historical discoveries in the history of humankind, the world’s eyes were opened to a revolutionary view of the disciple traditionally known as Christ’s betrayer. No longer the traitor, Judas is portrayed in the new Gospel as carrying out Jesus’ command to give him up to the authorities: “You will exceed all of them [the twelve apostles]. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me….You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generations—and you will come to rule over them.”
Continuing in the spirit of this monumental discovery, the National Geographic Society has authorized the pre-release of several other newly unearthed…

May 1st, 2006
United 93 honors losses that are both national and personal

The fact that we know how director Paul Greeengrass’ United 93 ends somehow makes the film all the more harrowing to watch. We know that the doomed September 11th flight out of Newark airport will be overtaken by terrorists and targeted for the U.S. Capitol. We also know that a group of passengers will rally and force the plane to crash in a field in Shanksville, PA with no survivors. Greengrass gives Americans the chance to re-live a piece of our national nightmare and nearly five years later the wound is still fresh; having known a member of the flight crew personally made an already difficult film to watch into an excruciating experience.
United Flight attendant Debbie Welsh was a member of my parish, and I…

April 20th, 2006
A Guide to the new reality show God or the Girl

With its mix of equal parts “The Bachelor” and “Jackass” with a spiritual twist, A&E’s new reality series, “God or the Girl” has people talking. The five-part show follows the lives of four young men who struggle with making a decision to pursue studying for the priesthood instead of staying in a relationship with a significant other.
The four “contestants” offer an accurate reflection of the diversity of young adult faith experiences, ranging from highly pious to the irreverent. While “God or the Girl” makes an attempt to honestly portray how these men struggle with their decision, it sometimes stoops to sprinkling in stupid…

April 7th, 2006
Colliding head-on with religion (and myself) deep in the heart of Dixie

Growing up Jewish in New York City, I had no idea that I was a member of a ridiculously small religious minority. That blithe unawareness had something to do with the relatively large number of Jews living there, obviously, but it was also connected to the secular tenor of public life in America’s most international city: religion was considered a private matter; it never came up among strangers or casual acquaintances, and certainly never in a business situation. There was a strong awareness that the other guy might well turn out to be Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Jain, and that it was safer not to risk giving (or receiving) offense.
In 2002 I moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, and everything changed.…

April 6th, 2006
A Danish reader offers some perspective

I was randomly surfing the web when I found your article on the Mohammed cartoons and, though it did offer insight into the Muslim thinking, I have to admit that I found the point to be without insight into what has actually caused the situation in the first place.
I should probably tell you a little bit about myself. I am a Dane. I am a Christian, and I did not enjoy those cartoons. However, anyone from the Danish culture, would interpret them differently than you did. Which is why I thought you might find the background story interesting.
Backstory
You probably already know, that what started the whole ordeal was a man who wanted to make an informative book about Islam for children. Harmless? No, because he wanted cartoons…

March 22nd, 2006
Surviving my husband's heart attack

At 11pm on February 9th my husband started with pain in his chest. At midnight he woke me up and said, “I don’t think I’m ok.” We drove to the emergency room. The guy at the desk took one look at Greg’s pale sweaty face and said, “Come right back to Room 1.” After that, things went the way they go when you’re a kid and you realize the sledding hill is too steep but you’ve already pushed off. Everything starts whizzing by in a blur and you’re thinking to yourself, “If I can (Unh!) just hang onto the (Ow!) sled, I might live through this.” I’m 38 years old, and the thought of becoming a widow just now is definitely NOT part of the plan.
As one…

March 13th, 2006
The Best American Spiritual Writing 2005

A quick glance at the “inspiration” section in any large bookstore is all one needs to determine that books classified as spiritual writing occupy a large tent. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s The Gift of Peace nestles next to Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez, while Kabbalah for Beginners and books of Sufi poetry fill the shelves immediately below. The poems, confessional essays, journalistic analyses and riffs that fill the pages of Best American Spiritual Writing are of the decidedly literary variety, having been gleaned from mainstream periodicals like The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times magazine, as well as more specialized journals and literary magazines…

February 21st, 2006

Robert Ellsberg had some explaining to do.
When his book All Saints appeared in 1997, readers celebrated its fresh take on the lives of “365 saints, prophets and witnesses for our time.” But many wanted to know: “Where are all the women?” It was a fair question, given the book’s lopsided male-to-female ratio of four-to-one.
With Blessed Among All Women, Ellsberg returns to address the question head on. In the introduction, he acknowledges the imbalance of All Saints, but is quick to portray it as a symptom of a larger problem. “Among the wide company of official saints,” Ellsberg laments, “women are vastly underrepresented.” Blessed Among All Women…

January 25th, 2006
A Portland parish becomes devoted to the environment

On the long list of social justice causes that the Catholic Church advocates for, issues like poverty and the right to life are usually foremost in people’s minds. But, with the help of their pastor, a parish in the Pacific Northwest has rallied around their concern for the environment with a fervor that has not only enabled them to have a significant, tangible impact on their surrounding community but also illuminated a neglected area of Catholic Social thought that continues to grow in relevance.
When Paulist Father Steve Bossi was assigned to St. Phillip Neri parish in Portland, Oregon, he was excited to return to the Pacific Northwest where he grew up, but he knew he was going to face a huge challenge in…

January 24th, 2006
Wisdom, courage and a good family life, the Old Testament's Deborah "had it all"

Ok, I admit it…in the Bible the men pulled off some pretty incredible feats: Moses parted the sea; Elijah called down fire from heaven to incinerate the wicked priests of Baal; Peter miraculously healed a cripple. Not unlike Hollywood, in the pages of sacred scripture it often seems as though all the juiciest, action-hero roles are reserved for men. And while they fill us with inspiration and admiration, I sometimes wonder where all the women are. Where are my spiritual sisters?
Jezebel!
Often, we are led to believe that all women of leadership and personal strength are Jezebels–evil to the core and deserving of their horrible fate (lest we forget, the original Jezebel of the Bible was thrown from…

January 19th, 2006
John Paul II gave us a moment that we need to remember

When Pope John Paul II’s would-be assasin, Mehmet Ali Agca, was released from a Turkish jail last week after serving almost 25 years behind bars — except for the complete transformation of his hair from jet black to grey—the man who emerged looked strikingly similar to the person who inhabits one of the more enduring images that I hold dear of the late pope. In that scene John Paul is huddled in a corner talking quietly at close range with the man who tried to kill him. It was an extraordinary act of forgiveness that continues to be extremely rare—if not unheard of — on the world stage and one I don’t remember nearly enough in my own life.

After Agca shot John Paul II six times at close range while thousands of pilgrims looked on in St. Peter’s Square, people around the world were shocked. “Who would want to kill a Pope?” was the question on many people’s lips. “He should get the chair,” my mother remarked angrily. And we all agreed.

Breaking the endless cycle

It was an understandable reaction. Think about it, how often do any of us forgive or ask forgiveness for the many comparatively small transgressions in our own lives? How often in our history books, filled with accounts of hatred and violence, do we come across unpredictable acts like this that break the endless cycle of vengeance? Months after his recovery, the Pope’s visit to his attacker in prison was a radical step in a different direction. He looked at his would-be killer in the eye, conversed with him, shook his hand, and even prayed for him!

January 12th, 2006
Critic Harold Bloom wrestles with God in Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine

Who is Jesus? Who is God? Is it possible to discuss them apart from theological abstractions, as personalities with distinctly individual ways of seeing the world? And if so, do these personalities matter to us now in contemporary America? These are the questions that Harold Bloom addresses in his provocative new book, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine.
Bloom comes to this task with an extraordinary pedigree. A professor at Yale, he is one of the most influential literary critics of the last forty years, the author of more than twenty books and the winner of numerous prizes, including a MacArthur “genius” award. In recent years, he has taken to writing for a general audience: The Western Canon, a…

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