Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
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.…

September 6th, 2004
To whom can a religious person turn for mental health?

At a recent engagement encounter retreat, one of the many Catholic marriage prep programs offered to engaged couples, a couple inquired about marriage counseling “in case we ever have need for it in the future.” The response given by the resident “Catholic psychologist” was that it was “paramount that they find a Catholic psychologist who’ll be sensitive to their religious perspective.”
A puzzled couple wondered why this was case? What do religion and mental health have to do with one another? Didn’t Freud hate religion? What do the expressions of religious tradition have to do with our psychological well being? Does my shrink need to be Catholic if I am…

August 13th, 2004
The sacraments, the internet and the wisdom of Andy Warhol

Supposedly, Andy Warhol once said that sex and parties were the only two events where you actually had to be there.
For a long time I’ve been wondering—are sacraments the third?
Virtual JesusIn May of 2004 BH operations director Mike Hayes and I were leading a discussion on faith and the media at the University of Notre Dame. Everything got a little wacky when we introduced the topic of Eucharistic adoration online.
If you’re already confused, here’s the deal: Eucharistic adoration is the Catholic custom of placing before the people a large host that has been consecrated at Mass in a special sun-shaped viewing chamber (called a monstrance) on the altar for a special period of prayer and meditation.…

August 3rd, 2004

August 15 is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in which Catholics believe that Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul after her death.

This does not mean that Mary did not die, nor does it mean that Mary was all powerful and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven under her own power. Rather, Catholics believe that Jesus, out of love for his human mother, assumed her body and soul into heaven after her earthly life was over.

Catholics believe that Mary’s assumption is a foretaste of what all believers will undergo at the end of time. In other words, Mary’s assumption is a pre-view of our own bodily assumption when the world ends.

Nothing certain is known about Mary’s death. The earliest…

July 18th, 2004
A Modern Look at an Ancient Prayer

A few years ago, I remember watching a network news report about the beneficial effects of meditative prayer. The report first featured a Catholic women’s group that was devoted to praying the rosary. The women shown were primarily in their fifties and sixties. Then the report moved on to meditations inspired by Buddhism and Hinduism. The women who practiced that were in their twenties and thirties.
For me, that report signified the Catholic Church’s problem of attracting young people, especially with traditional devotions that have an image of being outdated. Having grown up in a Catholic family, I have an affection for some of these devotions myself and would like to see them continue among members…

July 18th, 2004
Amidst protest the Archdiocese of Boston attempts to close 65 parishes.

“This was nothing but a war zone,” said 30-year old Sixto Merced to a local Boston newspaper, “Church was the only place that you could go that was safe.” Sixto knows what it’s like to have a second chance at life after having survived the violent streets of his inner-city Roxbury neighborhood. St. Mary of the Angel’s youth group offered him a sense of belonging that kept him from joining the local gangs. In his neighborhood where many youth don’t graduate from high school, Sixto got his diploma and went on to become a neighborhood police officer. Now he and hundreds of other church members are back in the streets, this time struggling to save the life of the church that…

July 7th, 2004
How the inspiration of a 19th century woman's incredible life helps me keep the faith

We would, of course, roll our eyes. That’s what teenage girls do when being told something for the millionth time. Still, repetition does have its effect, and so when our teachers at our small all-girls school run by the Sisters of the Holy Child in suburban New Jersey reminded us of how we were meant to “meet the wants of the age”…
—one of the many mottos of the order’s Foundress, Cornelia Connelly—it usually stuck.
Connelly (1809-1879) founded the Society of the Holy Child Jesus in 1846 in England and in the process broke all the rules about what a woman in the Church was supposed to be. She was a wealthy Philadelphian who in the span of 30 years lived a life that would have made any soap-opera

June 24th, 2004
Through his recent book and Yoga DVD, Father Thomas Ryan is reclaiming the body in Christian spirituality.

Whether it’s Pilates or spinning, marathoning or extreme kayaking, Americans love their exercise. No doubt the number of new gym memberships and fitness-related New Year’s resolutions will spike in a couple of weeks, right after we’ve all ingested too many rum balls and glasses of egg nog.
Physical activity for the sake of good health is certainly a noble goal. No one would debate the health benefits of an after dinner walk, a daily run, or taking the stairs whenever possible. But Fr. Thomas Ryan a Paulist priest as well as a certified yoga instructor and avid skier, believes physical activity enhances both bodily and spiritual health. In other words, taking good care of our bodies has spiritual…

June 24th, 2004
The Busted Halo Interview with the author of the New York Times Bestseller Father Joe.

Perhaps it is fitting that it took someone whose job it is to satirize sacred cows and poke fun at hypocrites to write one of the most powerful spiritual memoirs in recent memory. We live in an age of irony and skepticism where nothing is precious and every motive is doubted; where institutions are generally reviled and authority is sneered at. Who better to speak about something as unexpected and sobering as a personal faith journey than someone who shares our culture’s sense of contempt?
Tony Hendra’s name may not be a household word yet, but anyone who has been awake and interested in popular culture over the last 30 years will certainly know his work. The British-born Hendra moved to the United States…

June 9th, 2004
Drunken Taunts, Childhood Regrets

I was just walking my dog on a peaceful Sunday afternoon.
From beyond a grassy knoll of lavender and roses, someone beckoned me from a second floor apartment balcony. I looked up to see a shirtless man leaning against the rail. He was too far away for me to make out his features, but I could tell he was young, blond, and—from his unsteady swagger—drunk.
“What kinda dog is that?” he yowled. A greyhound, I responded, continuing to walk.
“I’ll bet he can kick some ass,” he bellowed, taking a swig of something I safely presumed to be beer. “I’ll bet he can kick some major aaaaassss” he repeated.
“Naw, he’s friendly.” Still not breaking pace,…

June 6th, 2004
Mercy and Mourning for My Enemy

I couldn’t help it. “Good riddance,” I mumbled, as the news came through that Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States, had died on Saturday, June 5, 2004.
In these days following his passing, it has seemed like nearly every other American was praising his achievements—the president-savior who gave us “morning in America, the tough guy who felled the Berlin Wall, the grandfatherly “Great Communicator” who reassured us.
I scowl, feeling like the man in Bermuda shorts at the winter formal. By my accounting, President Reagan bequeathed our world one nightmare after another. How does someone like me honestly mourn his passing?
Ronnie and me back in college…

June 5th, 2004
Philadelphia Catholics Moving Toward Healing with AALM

Although the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow laws and segregated facilities may no longer exist in the United States, there are other, less visible and less formalized aspects of racial prejudice that persist–even, unfortunately, within faith communities. In particular, a parish in Philadelphia with a history of racial tension is helping members of their congregation understand and deal with existing prejudices thanks to the influence of the African American Leadership Ministry (AALM).
A ministry is born
AALM was started in 1996 by a group of black members and white allies at St. Vincent de Paul parish who saw the need for black leaders in their church congregation. Black parishioners desired a voice…

June 3rd, 2004
...or how I learned to turn the other cheek to the other #%*!$ drivers I share the road with.

I’m a big fan of peace and harmony. Because of this, I generally don’t struggle much when it comes to forgiving others. Subconsciously, it feels far better than carrying an unpleasant conflict around in my heart.
But there’s one thing that I am loath to forgive. It’s embarrassing to admit to something so petty, but I can’t forgive rudeness from other drivers.
In my defense, I come by this honestly. My grandfather, an
infinitely kind and gentle man, nonetheless remembered every insult that had ever happened to him on the road. I distinctly recall his outrage when, in his words, “a chick in a Rambo truck” cut him off on the freeway. I don’t know whether to blame nature…

June 2nd, 2004
A review of Awake My Soul: Contemporary Catholics on Traditional Devotions edited by James Martin, S.J.

To an older generation of Roman Catholics, the mention of traditional devotions like the eucharistic adoration and liturgy of the hours might elicit either chilling memories of a repressive, bygone Catholic era or perhaps a sense of nostalgia for the way things used to be. What they might not expect is that these same devotions are experiencing a renaissance of sorts among a younger generation for whom these practices are new and carry less cultural baggage.
In Awake My Soul: Contemporary Catholics on Traditional Devotions editor James Martin, S.J. has gathered the reflections of a diverse group of authors—many of whom are in their thirties and forties—on their “favorite” devotions. The…

May 18th, 2004
God Places a Bet at the Kentucky Derby

Smarty Jones, your 2004 Kentucky Derby champion, is God’s Horse.
Seabiscuit for the new milleniumYou see a horse like that and a story like this maybe once in a lifetime. Twice, if you’ve seen Seabiscuit.
Smarty came to the party with a trainer, a jockey, and a couple of owners who had never been to the Kentucky Derby before. He lined up in the starting gate with seventeen other horses who cost more, were bred better, and were backed by connections who had been through this ten, twenty, fifty times before.
He won.
God’s horseKentucky Derby winners are named Secretariat… Affirmed… War Admiral. Not “Smarty Jones.” Not something that sounds like it just fell out of the comics page.…

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