Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
October 13th, 2006
The Punk Priest

At first, clicking onto Fr. Bob Lubic’s website seems like a relatively conventional Catholic experience in the internet age. The sublime sound of Gregorian chant wafts from the computer and a photo of the Western Pennsylvania priest clad in Mass vestments fills the screen.
But then, out of nowhere, the sound of a scratching record signals that things might not be exactly as they seem. Suddenly, Lubic’s image transforms into that of an Ozzfest concertgoer and the music leaps into a ska-punk version of “Here I Am, Lord” more reminiscent of Goldfinger’s “Here In Your Bedroom” than anything you’d expect to hear on Sunday morning at the local parish.
Rare
To…

October 4th, 2006
The feast of St. Francis and the blessing of the animals

CNS Photo
Americans love their pets. More than 63 million households have one and the numbers are on the rise. We take our animal companions on walks, to the beach and on family trips. But have you ever taken your pet to church?
October 4th is the feast of St. Francis. On this day, Catholics across the globe carry their pets to church as part of the traditional blessing of the animals.
Franciscan Brother Joseph Wood notes “it is believed that it was not St. Francis, but Anthony of the Desert” who originally began the tradition of animal blessings in the first or second century in Italy. He said it was only centuries later that the Church changed the ritual to the feast of St. Francis.
Wild Thing
St. Francis was…

October 1st, 2006
A private Yom Kippur

Now that I live in North Carolina, I find myself explaining a lot. I grew up Jewish in New York, a place where it’s equally likely to hear someone saying oy vey when a subway door closes on them as it is to hear them mutter a four letter word.
But in North Carolina, things are different. About a month after I had moved here last year, the Jewish High Holidays came around. And I had to explain. The concept of Rosh Hashanah is pretty easy: it’s the Jewish New Year, just instead of popping open champagne and attending expensive parties, we dip apples in honey, say some prayers, and make our relatives feel guilty for missing the evening trip to temple. Yom Kippur is a little more difficult: it’s a day of atonement.…

September 29th, 2006
Turning Inside Out

As time goes on, and this column keeps evolving, I’ve found something interesting. For once, I hope I’m wrong on this one but, just in case, let me clue you in on what I’ve been thinking.
“Almost Holy” was conceived as a bridge between the ad extra (outside the church) audience of “spiritual seekers” for whom BustedHalo exists and the inside-baseball crowd who I seek to inform, entertain etc. on my blog, “Whispers in the Loggia.” In more ways than one, the chance to go beyond the cloistered comfort of insider-dom and put together some observations from the intersection of the Church and the World was a natural fit; I’ve spent most of my life at that…

September 29th, 2006
Slayer's new album confronts America's religious hypocrisy

In recent years I have found that I do not recognize many names on the Billboard music charts. Perhaps this is a sign I am getting older and less connected with what is “hot” right now but—to borrow a line from This is Spinal Tap—I prefer to think that my musical tastes have gotten a bit more “selective.”
In either case, I was very surprised recently to see a familiar and controversial name at the top of the charts. The thrash metal band Slayer had sold enough units of their new disc, Christ Illusion (over 60,000 in the first week) to break into the top five. The cd, Slayer’s first in five years, was favorably reviewed in numerous national newspapers, including the New York…

September 28th, 2006
Spiritual Soundtrack

As I wasn’t blessed with enough talent to be one, I’ve always kept a special place in my heart for musicians. It’s part envy, of course—a friend lent me his guitar for three years, at the end of which I still couldn’t play “Happy Birthday” —but also great admiration for the way a song can capture the mind and lift the soul in a way words alone can’t.
Since I don’t get to read much for pleasure, I write for a living (i.e. sit in seclusion for most of the day) and need something beside the 13 or so cups of black coffee I drink every day to keep me going. My twin life-savers—my iPod and satellite radio—are, by necessity, never far out of reach. I’ve built…

September 22nd, 2006
Catholic-Muslim Relations in the wake of the Pope's controversial remarks

As the firestorm of reaction cools to some sentences in Pope Benedict’s talk on September 12 at Regensberg University in Germany, the questions of the hour are: What lessons can be learned, and what impact will it have on Catholic-Muslim relations at-large?
The speech was in large measure a scholarly address criticizing the West for squeezing faith out the door in its love affair with reason, science, and technology. The section relating to Islam represented only three paragraphs, and came at the outset.

Pope Benedict began by recounting a conversation that took place between a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor and a Persian scholar. “Show me,” he quoted the emperor Manuel II Paleologus…

September 20th, 2006
My unlikely journey of faith

When I was growing up my mother constantly reminded me that “the path to God is not easy” but as the child of an atheist father and—to my mind—an overly devout mother it was advice I ignored because I had no interest in finding a path to God.
My pragmatic father negated any possibility of a Godly existence within our world, and managed to shrink Jesus down to nothing more than a historically accurate character (he had been a history professor in Poland before we moved to Canada). My mother on the other hand, tried to save me from my father’s uninspiring certainty of realism by bombarding me with parables and tales of realms of divine existence. I chose to believe neither of them.
Total…

September 11th, 2006
because religion isn't the only hot-button issue

My last Pure Sex, Pure Love column bemoaned the craziness of the Bridal Registry. Instead of wasting hours, days, even months, learning about thread count and why you need a hostess set of silver, I argued that there are more important discussions brides and grooms should have as they look forward to making a life together.
While this isn’t an earth-shattering argument, you’d be amazed by how many couples would prefer to debate over throw pillows rather than talk about the big-and potentially contentious issues: How many children would you like to have? How will faith be integrated into your family life? What are each spouse’s future goals and dreams? And, of course, finances.
Hot Button #2…

September 1st, 2006
MTV and Mother Church

August may be behind us now, but last month offered two milestones we’d be smart to pay attention to. A month ago today, MTV marked its 25th anniversary, while just a few weeks back was the one year anniversary of Pope Benedict’s first foreign visit—to his native Germany, where he presided at World Youth Day in Cologne.
Not surprisingly MTV’s big birthday got an avalanche of coverage that acknowledged its role as a galvanizing force in the culture. But the first anniversary of the Cologne trip—where Benedict largely surpassed expectations and pumped up a crowd of young people estimated at over 1 million—largely went unnoted, even in the Catholic press and chattering circles.…

August 24th, 2006
Our readers weigh in on Rocco Palmo's column on women's ordination

Catholic Suicide
Dear Rocco,
I will always read your impressive work, a gift handed down to you by no one other than God. I also felt unease about the women’s ordinations on the river in Pittsburgh, because they cannot be done in the style and “tradition” of our church. You could create beautiful paragraphs on that with graciousness, knowledge and wit. Your recent commentaries on this event however, did not glide in that direction. They were a bit on the heavy side, mocking with wit more than perspective, of which you have both in abundance for a 23 year-old gifted male who loves the church and who can write intelligently at such a young age, relatively speaking.
However, I am disappointed with…

August 11th, 2006

In June 2004 Rutba House, an alternative Christian community in Durham, North Carolina, developed this list of ideals meant to shape the nascent “new monastic” movement, which includes The Simple Way and dozens of other groups.
A New Monasticism
Moved by God’s Spirit in this time called America to assemble at St. Johns Baptist Church in Durham, NC, we wish to acknowledge a movement of radical rebirth, grounded in God’s love and drawing on the rich tradition of Christian practices that have long formed disciples in the simple Way of Christ. This contemporary school for conversion which we have called a “new monasticism,” is producing a grassroots ecumenism and a prophetic…

August 8th, 2006
Down by the River

Those of you who follow Catholic news might have heard about a ceremony last week in Pittsburgh. It took place in a boat, on a river… with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Forgive the Beatles’ allusion, but the intended purpose of the exercise was about as trippy as Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds: twelve women claimed that the Pittsburgh event marked their “ordination” as priests and deacons.
Sorry to be a killjoy, but not so fast.
The Survey Says
Of course, a sensitive topic like this takes a bit of explanation. If you look at the polls, you’ll hear that 70% of Catholics questioned would support a change of the Church’s teachings to allow the ordination of women to the priesthood.…

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…

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