Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
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…

January 10th, 2006
A Letter From the Editor

“Make no mistake” a priest friend of mine said to me during a recent phone call “it’s a disaster.” I had called to wish him a happy new year but our conversation had veered toward a difficult subject. He was reacting to the Vatican’s document on the suitability of homosexual men for the priesthood that was released in late 2005. My friend, who also happens to be gay, was commenting in part on the more open-ended interpretations of the document that some church officials have offered publicly. But he was also responding to what seems to be a collective shrug of indifference on the issue from many priests—gay and straight—in the United States who seem to think that,…

December 25th, 2005

“And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold,…

December 24th, 2005
Reflections on St. Joseph from a soon-to-be adoptive father

As Christmas Day draws closer and crèche scenes start to pop up in New York City, I inevitably begin to think about the Holy Family. But this Christmas, as my wife and I begin the process of adopting a child, I find myself drawn closer to the life of St. Joseph than ever before.
Imagine Joseph’s surprise when, in his old age, he accepts Mary as his betrothed only to find out later that she is pregnant. By law, Joseph had the right to stone Mary. So the first intended audience for the gospel must have found it quite surprising that Joseph decided to simply “divorce her quietly.”
A second surprise is that this choice causes Joseph so much angst that he can not even sleep soundly. A dream instructs…

December 20th, 2005
Some thoughts on Christmas presence

HAVERTOWN, PA
December 1958
It’s helpful to have an older brother who’s taller than you. At the age of four Timmy is a year older and can reach things I can’t. One morning, he climbs up on a chair he’s put in the closet we’re not supposed to open, and sees toys on the shelf, new toys, still in their packages. Fun! He yanks down a set of blocks and a bunch of other stuff. Soon I’m busy playing with a new set of beautiful, blond, wooden blocks, putting them one on top of another, and then immediately knocking them down. Fun! All of a sudden, our Mom, seeing that we’ve discovered the Christmas stash early, pulls us into the kitchen. “Time for breakfast, boys. I’m making chocolate chip pancakes.” I love chocolate…

November 15th, 2005
In Syracuse they gather every Wednesday to eat, drink and talk about God

To Blair Frodelius, it makes perfect sense to talk about God in a bar. After all, he says, Jesus turned water into wine. “There is something about sharing food and drink with others around a table that allows the conversation to flow freely,” says Frodelius, worship pastor at Sojourn, a Methodist ministry in Syracuse, NY.
Frodelius leads a Wednesday night discussion group at the Blue Tusk Pub in Syracuse’s trendy downtown district Armory Square called “Jesus in the Postmodern Matrix,” a group aimed at providing a non-threatening venue for people of all denominations to come and discuss their journey with God. They’ve met every Wednesday since the first week in May of…

November 9th, 2005
Can Intelligent Design and Evolution Ever Get Along?

This past summer, I moved to a college campus on the North Shore of Chicago. Thankfully, my dorm days are over, but via marriage to a professor, I have taken semi-root in the soil of a faculty-housing complex –a collection of ten somewhat-dilapidated, PhD-inhabited brick homes around a common-area playground that, with its crumbling dump-trucks, cracked hula-hoops and rusted swings, could double as a toy cemetery. Yet despite (or perhaps partly due to) the aesthetic lapses of this curiously anti-suburban cul-de-sac, the arrangement has lent itself to being a hothouse for philosophical discussion.
One late Friday afternoon at the cemetery’s so-called happy hour, with our toddlers obliviously…

November 1st, 2005
Everything (almost) you'll ever need to know about All Saints Day and All Souls Day

All Saints day began May 13 in the 7th century under the charge of Pope Boniface IV. Boniface consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Virgin Mary and Saints in order to baptize the pagan culture and supplement the faithful’s celebration of the saints.

All Saints Day was then moved in the 9th century to November 1 in order to sanctify the pagan festivals falling on October 31.

The Latin term for All Saints: Festum omnium sanctorum.

All Saints Day today is a time to reflect on the communion of saints in the Catholic Church. It is a day to contemplate the three states of the communion of saints.

The pilgrim church struggling to live faithful lives in this earthly existence,
the triumphant church of saints already in…

October 25th, 2005
Facts and fantasies about exorcism

With two major studio movies about exorcisms released in the past year (The Exorcist: The Beginning and The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and the re-release of the original version of The Exorcist on DVD it’s safe to say that Hollywood seems to have a bit of a fixation with the Devil lately. The most recent offering, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, had the third highest September opening in history and has grossed 73.9 million dollars at the box office thus far. Because Emily Rose was “based on a true story” its release also inspired a flurry of television specials on the subject of possession. Why is it that this dark, mysterious and unexplainable aspect of belief, particularly of Catholicism seems to strike…

October 14th, 2005
How I stopped dating and started living

Two years ago, at the age of thirty, I decided I was tired of waiting for the right guy to come along and made what some people think is a radical choice. Instead of getting on the fast track and jumping onto the speed dating circuit like many of my friends, I did the complete opposite. I made a conscious decision to stop dating. Call me crazy but for the first time, I realized that being single is more than just waiting to get married.
When I finally came to this decision, I didn’t really see it as “giving up dating” as much as I was giving myself over to the things I’m most passionate about in life. It’s a commitment to live my single years with purpose and intentionality.
Long term and Long Distance…

October 4th, 2005
Though its influence among Christians in the West may be waning, the sacred art of fasting is flourishing in the rest of the world.

This October all adult and physically capable Muslims abstain from food, water and sexual relations from dawn to sunset during the lunar month of Ramadan (October 5 to November 3). Approximately one billion Muslims around the globe will be joined in their fast by about 14 million Jews worldwide on Yom Kippur (Oct 12, 13), the Day of Atonement, the single holiest day in the Jewish year. And in mid-November, Eastern Orthodox Christians throughout the world will begin their forty-day vegetarian Advent fast in preparation for the feast of the Nativity.

In every culture and religion in history, fasting has been an instinctive and essential language in our communicating with the Divine. As a religious act it increases…

September 27th, 2005
BustedHalo talks once again with "Fr. Gerard Thomas"

This past February BustedHalo published an extended interview with Fr. Gerard Thomas, a celibate, gay priest who–using an assumed name for fear of reprisal–spoke very candidly about the presence of gay men in the priesthood, the pedophilia scandal and the rumors of a Vatican document that would bar homosexuals from becoming priests.
Recently there has been much talk in the mainstream press that the Vatican document will be released in the very near future, sparking a great deal of controversy among Catholics. On the heels of this news BustedHalo once again spoke to Fr. Thomas about the issue of gay men in the priesthood and seminaries and why he believes that the Vatican’s changes will prove…

September 21st, 2005
The poor serving the poor in Nicaragua

I set off on my recent mission trip to Nicaragua with every intention of spending a week in service to poor orphans and with the hope that the encounter would deepen my relatively limited, first-world perspective on poverty. My perspective was indeed startlingly altered by my time there but in a way that was completely unexpected. My wife and I had gone to help out at Hogar Belen, a home for abandoned and disabled children, and found ourselves instead assisiting the orphanage in their outreach to those even less fortunate than themselves.
An orphanage helping the poor…? I thought the orphans were the poor.
Twice a month the staff of Hogar Belen, heads to the city dump to hand out food. The orphanage itself is…

September 20th, 2005

Most of us can identify certain teachers or mentors who have had
a profound impact on our lives. The same can be said for particular books that have shaped our view of the world. With that in mind, BustedHalo asks the question:
“What books have helped you on your spiritual journey?”
1) Augustine, The Confessions
No sense pussyfooting about it … this remains the template for the serious Catholic seeker, exposing the struggles of a quintessentially human soul
sometimes pompous, sometimes scrupulous, sometimes hiding behind irony or humor, but always searching. Everytime I’m tempted to think there’s something noble or original about my quest, I flip back through Augustine in…

September 15th, 2005
My city will come back and so will I.

The City of New Orleans began as a small settlement one hundred years before the first shots were fired against the British, when New York was New Amsterdam, and in the same century Shakespeare wrote Hamlet and Macbeth. The city has thrived despite plagues, fires, riots, flooding, secession, siege, occupation, segregation, integration, and a strong reputation for corruption and sin.
People have always asked me why I would live in such a backwards place—why I would brave the worst heat, highest crime, and poorest population in the United States. I can’t explain it to outsiders. But when Hurricane Katrina tore apart my life on August 29, I lost more than my belongings and a promising semester of law…

September 14th, 2005
Laughing in the Dark

The following is a reflection written by Sheila Provencher, 32, who lives and works in Baghdad, Iraq, with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). CPT is an ecumenical organization that works with local people in areas of violence (including the West Bank, Colombia and Iraq) to seek nonviolent solutions to situations of injustice and oppression. Sheila, who holds degrees from Harvard and Notre Dame, joined CPT in Baghdad in December, 2003.
BustedHalo.com will feature Sheila’s occasional reflections on daily life in Iraq, the Iraqi people and the challenges they face during the American occupation.

Jokes can reveal a lot. I suspect they can reveal more about a situation than can many scholarly articles,…

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