Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
April 27th, 2005
Reconstruction and Debt in Iraq

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. She is showm at left wearing a red cap.
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.

I have been in Iraq now about a year and a half. When I arrived in Baghdad…

April 19th, 2005
Coming to terms with Benedict's papacy

As the Papal conclave closed, fear crept into my heart. “Anybody but Ratzinger,” I prayed. Moments before the announcement of who was to succeed Pope John Paul II I even said to myself, “If it’s Ratzinger, I’m becoming an Episcopalian.” After my fears were confirmed, I cringed as the white-haired German whom many liberal Catholics have come to despise emerged on the balcony at St. Peter’s.
In his former job, as the head of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the Cardinal Ratzinger was tenacious. He abhorred relativism, silenced liberal theologians, and published a document called Dominus Iesus, that stated that religions other than Catholicism…

April 3rd, 2005
Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code receives a cold cut

What fascinated me about the hugely popular novel The Da Vinci Code was not whether Dan Brown’s gargantuan best-seller had a shred of truth in it but rather that so many people found it to be plausible. Brown cleverly took some alleged rumors and wove them together to try to create a tale that people would find spellbinding and maybe even a bit controversial. My own thought after reading the book was:
“Could people really be this stupid?”
If the New York Times… best seller list is any indication, they are. Fortunately, Davis Sweet’s parody, entitled

April 3rd, 2005
Two perspectives on how to interpret young adults' commitment to Catholicism

More and more seek a robust orthodoxy
by Colleen Carroll Campbell
Conventional wisdom among America’s chattering classes has long held that the Catholic Church’s teachings are too tough and countercultural to appeal to the next generation. But two months ago young adults from around the world defied that conventional wisdom by pouring into Rome to bid farewell to Pope John Paul II. Gathering some 4 million strong for his funeral, an overwhelmingly young crowd packed every inch of St. Peter’s Square to pray for the pope and celebrate the traditional Catholic faith that he had taught them to love.
Their reverence and enthusiasm for the church and its leader surprised many that day, but their…

March 24th, 2005
Journeying to the third world to meet my sponsored child.

“Noticeably fuller, sexier lips in 90 seconds,” read the subject line of the spam email. Interesting news, but not something I could focus on. I was leaving the next day for Guatemala, on a week-long “Mission Awareness Trip” to see the 12-year-old girl I’ve sponsored there for two years. The packing list suggested bug spray (to fend off malaria), Dramamine (the roads in Guatemala are windy and bumpy), and bottled water (Montezuma remains hostile). Sexier lip concoctions–and other must-have products the American media urged upon me–would have to take a back seat to the necessities of life. Nevertheless, I managed to stuff two bags full of clothes and goodies for…

February 18th, 2005
or Saint Jude, the sock drawer and me

When I was very young, I spied an advertisement in a magazine for a statue of Saint Jude. I can’t begin to imagine which magazine this might have been, since my parents weren’t in the habit of leaving Catholic publications lying around the house, but, apparently, the photo of the statue was sufficiently appealing to convince me to drop $3.50 in an envelope.
Truth be told, I also can’t imagine what led me to focus my childish desires on Saint Jude and spend in excess of three weeks’ allowance on a plastic statue rather than, say, another Archie comic book. My only other obsession at that time, as I recall, was a green pup tent I had spotted in the Sears catalogue, but this too was thrown over in favor…

January 7th, 2005
A young adult perspective on cancer

Mary Donovan-Kansora was thirty-four years old when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Shortly before the chemotherapy treatments began, she approached a friend from her church and asked him to pray that she be completely healed. He hesitated before responding. “I’m not sure I can pray for healing,” he finally said, “but I’ll pray that God’s will be done.”
Mary Donovan-Kansora during her treatment for cancer. “I just didn’t know how to connect with God in a way that comforted me.”…
“I was so shocked when he said that to me,” recalls Donovan-Kansora. “That hurt me a lot.” All the same, his suggestion that God might

January 4th, 2005
An anorexic/bulimic finds nourishment and healing in her faith

Having just binged and purged, Kelly Raths remembers “literally pulling my head out of a toilet so I could go do youth group and be this vivacious person that people depended on for their kids.” Kelly, a former youth minister at her Montana Methodist Church, has lived a sacred struggle with food and faith for 12 years.
Kelly recalls months when she would spend Friday night in the local hospital on suicide watch only to force herself back to church on Sunday for her work with the youth group. Church, a place where the Last Supper is celebrated and communities share fellowship over cakes and cookies, can be a devastating place for women who struggle with disordered eating, commonly known as “eating…

January 2nd, 2005
A first-hand exploration of the conflict between Israel and Palestine

Editorial Note: Through Father Tom Ryan of the Paulist office for ecumenical and interfaith relations BustedHalo Editor, Bill McGarvey was asked to participate in a study mission to Israel from Jan 1-Jan 9. The purpose of the trip is to meet with both Israelis and Palestinians to get some sense of what this conflict–which we see constantly played out on our tv screens and the front page of our newspapers–is like firsthand.
The trip is being sponsored in part by a group called the American Israeli Friendship League (AIFL) and they are being led by Sister Carol Rittner who has written numerous books on genocide and the Holocaust and is a professor at Stockton State College. The rest of the group consists…

December 25th, 2004
The challenge of Christmas

It’s my job to put together the manger scene each year in my house. I get out the animals, and the 3 Kings (who don’t get to go into the manger until Epiphany), Joseph with his now broken hand and Mary, the heroine of the barn. Finally my favorite piece, the baby Jesus gets placed in the manger and all the statues stare and adore Baby-Lord.
God is exactly where I like Him—quiet and humble in a manger, lowly, unchallenging; easy to control. Seeing the Christ-child in the manger requires nothing on my part but the ability to sit, adore and presumably, convert oxygen into carbon dioxide.
There is comfort indeed in Jesus’ silence as an unspeakable baby. God empties Himself, as a vulnerable little baby,…

December 23rd, 2004
The difference between faith that is child-like and child- ish

Moving beyond the MangerIsn’t he cute? That chubby little baby, his golden curls enhanced by the glowing disc behind his head. His mother and father gaze on him lovingly, their halos match his. He’s the baby Jesus of the Christmas card. Let’s keep him there. He’s safe. He asks nothing of us but admiration. He demands nothing. We won’t need to change at all. It’s a great idea isn’t it? God on a greeting card – predictable, definable, containable.
What’s wrong with hanging onto the Jesus of our childhood? Well nothing really if you want to remain a child. But Jesus of the Christmas card, the Jesus we grew up with, is only a starting point. We limit ourselves…

November 25th, 2004
The elusive perfect holiday

Turkey perfect
We strive to make them happen, “perfect” holiday celebrations, but they often elude us. We build up our expectations but are often left feeling empty. Nothing seems as good as what we try to imagine; the better than we imagine arrives as a total surprise.
My best Thanksgiving Day arrived as a complete surprise to me.
My new tribeEleven months before that Thanksgiving I had left an alcoholism treatment center after five weeks in treatment on the ninth floor of Cabrini Hospital in Seattle. I had decided then and there that if I was going to be a recovering alcoholic, I wanted to be with the real hardcore members of Alcoholics Anonymous, which in my case meant attending meeting on skid row downtown.…

November 10th, 2004
An Adult Perspective on Catholic Guilt

I have many fond memories of growing up Catholic—May processions, church socials, and cherished gold-edged holy cards.
Unfortunately, there’s one aspect of my Catholic experience that has always been a real drag. Any guesses? It starts with “g” and rhymes with “built.”
You got it.
Two kinds
Guilt and I go way, way back. We’ve had an intimate relationship over the years, one that’s been lengthy, challenging and—ultimately—very enlightening.
It’s taken me years, but I finally learned that there are two kinds of guilt. There’s the good, useful guilt that liberates us, and the bad, useless guilt that limits us.
I’m an expert in the second…

November 3rd, 2004
A gay priest speaks out

In the wake of the scandals, some high-ranking officials in the Catholic church have lumped together pedophilia and homosexuality by suggesting that the presence of gay men in the priesthood is at the root of the sexual abuse crisis. Recently, there have been rumors that the Vatican is about to release a document that will either bar or seriously restrict the ordination of gay men to the priesthood. In an article that appeared in a recent issue of Commonweal, a magazine run by lay Catholics, a gay priest (writing under the pseudonym Fr. Gerard Thomas because he has been forbidden from speaking publicly about his sexual orientation) spoke out about why releasing this sort of document would constitute a serious moral…

October 19th, 2004
Raspberries Are the Fruit of the Spirit

Many of the most significant changes in my life occurred all in the same year. I went from being a city apartment dweller to a suburban homeowner, the primary breadwinner to a housewife with no income of my own, an independent childless woman to a mother. I instantly had the overwhelming need to prove myself. I identified a task that seemed to epitomize the work of a suburban stay-at-home mom. I took up gardening.
Most people who have never before willingly put their hands in the dirt choose to start with an easy crop. But I didn’t plant tomatoes or marigolds. I felt compelled to grow raspberries.
As my unborn child stirred in the womb, I worried about everything. I worried about the big things, such as how to teach…

October 12th, 2004
A conservative reflects on the "Moral Values" debate

Liberal Democrats are enemies of religion and corruptors of children. Or so it seems to some conservative Republicans. (Of course, to some Democrats, Republicans want to establish an intolerant despotic theocracy, so there’s plenty of demonizing on both sides of the political fence!)
After an election in which “moral values” were named as the primary motivator in selecting a candidate, the Democratic party needs to recognize its deficiencies in this area. Despite their support of social programs that benefit the poor, middle class and elderly, the “values” Democrats project leave a lot to be desired. After all, modern politics is as much about perception as it is about…

October 2nd, 2004
There is no W in Faith

I am neither God nor George W. Bush. As a result, I’m really not in a position to talk about the President’s soul, though I do believe I can talk about his faith, mostly because he talks about it all the time. Other people are talking about it too—or, more specifically, they’re talking about the role faith plays in his life and making a good case that the President’s approach to his faith provides one of the most stark contrasts in this year’s election.
Bush’s total certainty—his resolution, as he likes to call it—has been all the buzz among the blue-state, secular media lately. Like me, they’re horrified that Bush links his desire to kick the crap out of other countries…

October 1st, 2004
Babe Ruth's Curse isn't dead until the Red Sox win a World Series

True Red Sox fans know the pain and hardship of loss. Historically, their team doesn’t simply lose, they invent new
and creative ways of doing so. A recent HBO documentary likened Red Sox rooting to “looking into the sun.” Another fan said that rooting for Boston is “like watching the Wizard of Oz and Dorothy dies at the end.”
For years, Sox fans have maintained that their beloved team is cursed by the ghost of Babe Ruth who placed a hex on his former club for selling him to the Yankees. Since 1918 the Red Sox have been unable to capture the World Series title, blowing leads with only one out to go in some cases.
Now I’m not one for admitting a belief in such voodoo, but there does seem…

September 11th, 2004
A questionnaire reply given during a recent religious retreat.

Q: Can you tell us of a moment in your life when you definitely felt the presence of God?
A: It wasn’t when the first tower fell, or when I could hear–on the phone with a friend who lived very close–the second tower come clattering down. It wasn’t when I stood at 9th Avenue and 14th street to catch my breath, and by turning my head just an inch to the right saw serene Villagers safe in the beautiful light and air, and then by turning my head just an inch to the left saw a sky blackening with dust from the two buildings; and right before me silent tangles of people covered by the detritus of coworkers and friends making up some of that wreckage were numbly trying to find their way home. It wasn’t when…

September 8th, 2004
How a Small Group of Mid-Western Monks are Turning Ink Toner into Gold

he last time you attempted to replace your toner at an office supply store, chances are you were first forced to negotiate a Fort Knox-like system involving glass cases, keys, and surly managers, as though you were purchasing Tiffany diamonds or a firearm. Consumers who require decent printouts for everyday tasks are at the mercy of a very narrow market with inflated prices.
The thing about mercy, though, is that it sometimes comes to the rescue from some very unpredictable places. Sparta, Wisconsin is the site of Our Lady of Springbank Cistercian Abbey and the home of six monks who have brought the 1500-year-old Benedictine tradition of prayer and work into the twenty first century through their website, LaserMonks.com.…

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