Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
April 16th, 2004

“All of us had suffered greatly to get to this moment�I had eaten little and slept not at all since leaving Camp 2, two days earlier. Every time I coughed, the pain from my torn thoracic cartilidge felt like someone was jabbing a knife beneath my ribs and brought tears to my eyes. But if I wanted a crack at the summit, I knew that I had to ignore my infirmities and climb.”
-From Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer
These are the words of the reporter who went on an expedition to the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on earth at more than 29,000 feet! To many, this mountain is affectionately called “the roof of the world.” To hear Krakauer’s account, where several people paid thousands…

April 12th, 2004
A young mid-westerner reflects on his summer in India

Calling it a “vacation” might be a bit of a stretch, but through his correspondence with friends back in the United States, 29-year-old, Minneapolis native Paul Lickteig offers up a refreshing variation on the old elementary school essay chestnut “what I did this summer.”
Lickteig, who is studying to become a Jesuit priest, recently returned from India where he worked and traveled from mid-June until the beginning of August. During that time he stayed in contact with friends through a series of emails in which he recounted his impressions of life there. Like a 21st century explorer’s email travelogue, Lickteig’s observations have the quality of urgent dispatches…

April 10th, 2004
Leaving home

St. Mark’s University Parish in Santa Barbara was like my second home. During my time there, I invited and welcomed people to parish activities as if it actually were my own home.
I estimate eating one-third of my dinners at St. Mark’s during my sophomore year of college.
Six months ago I left St. Mark’s and California for Brussels, Belgium. I came to Brussels to complete a one-year M.A. program in International Conflict Analysis, to experience life in Europe, and to get some work experience here.
Different tableauI knew that my experience in Belgium would be different and it certainly has been. The people are different, the attitudes towards religion are different—especially coming from…

April 9th, 2004
What Happens When Teachers of Faith Don't Know?

The small, white-haired woman leading the discussion hesitated.
She coughed and bit her lip but managed to read the information on the paper clutched in her shaking hand. She spoke of the Church and Catholic beliefs and, sitting in a semi-circle before her, the members of her parish’s RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) group leaned in to listen.
For many of the class members—unbaptized and baptized non-Catholics—the information she shared was new, neat knowledge about a faith they sought to join. For me—a Catholic theology student and neutral observer placed in the parish by my school—the information was wrong.
Just the facts, ma’am…
The facts, I thought, were important. The

April 3rd, 2004
I would do anything for love (but I won't do that)

“I can definitely see you as a priest,” my friend told me.“Thanks,” I said. This was a helpful insight, since I’d like to be a priest. “But the thing is,” he said, “I just can’t see you being celibate.”This was a less helpful insight since, as I understand it, Catholic priests tend to be celibate.
I actually would have agreed with my friend a year ago. If you would have asked me why I wanted to be a priest, I could have told you about how I wanted to serve others or how I felt preaching was a great way to use my talents. I could even talk about my deep passion for the Eucharist and the desire to share it with those around me. I’ve thought about being a priest…

April 2nd, 2004
Children Are Always Surprising

“It’s a boy,” my brother-in-law said with great shock as he stood before a roomful of nail-biting family members and friends. The stunned pandemonium that followed shook the desk clerk, the cleaning service, and the poor woman who just wanted to use the maternity ward bathroom.
We’d been expecting a girl.
Right from the moment he was born, my nephew was teaching. And surprising.
Good morning!
The birth of a baby jolts everyone and everything within earshot. My structured sister is now awake around the clock, her accountant’s schedule at the whim of a nine-pound bundle of spit-up and pee.
Her voice is the same but her life has completely changed focus. There is still Sportscenter,…

April 2nd, 2004
Fasting for Contemporary People

At Thurman’s , in Columbus (Ohio), the meat in the burger is so succulent it almost melts in your mouth. It’s the best (and the biggest) burger I’ve ever eaten.
It’s been four years since I tasted it, and yet my mouth still waters when I think about it.
Ever noticed that when you give up something you like (even for a little while), you appreciate it even more than you used to? That if you’ve skipped a meal, the food at the next meal tastes really good, even it’s a simple meal?
Maybe it’s time to take another look at the practice of fasting.
Fasting and your health
The Catholic Minimum on Fasting
Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good…

March 28th, 2004
No Regrets About Joining the Mobile Phone Culture

I’m still surprised by the cell phone invasion into United States culture—the same way I am surprised by pickled pork rinds or couples making out in public —I’m not used to them yet.
The evidence of evilI shouldn’t be astonished when I stumble into a woman blocking aisle 8 in the grocery store deliberating with her husband over mustard, or when a man calls his wife with 100 yards of a marathon left to run; but I am astonished.
And there I am walking home from the coffee shop on a beautiful, spring afternoon; answering my phone calls, oblivious to the warmth of the sun, the colors of the flowers, and the cracks in the sidewalk.
A love-hate relationshipBut the truth is that this same technology that…

March 19th, 2004
Does God Really Want Our Catholic Guilt?

I ate meat this past Friday. I didn’t mean to; it just happened.
Abstinence malfunctionI was at lunch with a friend at Evergreen, one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the city, and I ordered orange-flavored chicken. I ate every bite of the perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked, perfect combination of sweet and spicy meat. I simply forgot it was Lent.
Okay, so I also ate ice cream on Ash Wednesday. I was in a really bad mood.
My first Lent as a Catholic is off to a fantastic start.
Oh hellThe ice cream thing was on purpose. The meat was an accident. I’m not sure which I feel worse about. Or maybe I should feel guilty about the string of expletives that came out of my mouth upon realizing that I’d eaten…

March 14th, 2004
Green Eggs and Ham... a Lenten Reflection

I am Sam
Sam I am
That Sam-I-am!
That Sam-I-am!
I do not like
that Sam-I-am!
Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
What do Green Eggs and Ham have to do with Lent? Well besides the fact that Dr Seuss’ birthday falls during Lent this year, and that the story’s antagonist is (accidentally I’m sure) named after God “I AM”, I’d like to propose that this classic children’s story, much like the scripture we’re reading at mass now, shares a sense of overwhelming invitation.
The Gospel readings we hear this Lent are used particularly with those preparing to enter the church at Easter, the candidates and catechumens in…

March 13th, 2004
A High School English Teacher on Her Vocation

I’m a high school English teacher. When I share this with others, they usually respond with some variation of the following: “Wow. That takes courage.”
It’s an accurate observation, but it’s only half the story.
Yes, teaching does require chutzpah: you’re on stage, a performer. More than that, you are the playwright and director. Invariably, you’re also your own worst critic. And it’s a performance that takes place in front of an often reluctant audience.
Exposed!It’s an intense experience, being on display. I don’t just mean physically, although that’s certainly true; I recall my embarrassment when I arrived at school one day and…

March 12th, 2004
Parental Guilt Trip Ends at Right Destination

A few years ago my mother said, “Today is Good Friday. Why don’t come to church with me tonight?”
Oh no, I thought. Not the church talk again.
“Mother,” I explained for the hundredth time, “I don’t need church to feel close to God. It’s all here.” I patted my heart. As usual, she wouldn’t accept that reply.
“Would it kill you to visit God once in a while?”
Parental guilt tripsI pondered her request. While I considered myself a spiritual person, I never felt the need to attend church. But Mother’s request came the day before she was flying to Phoenix to spend Easter with my sister. That triggered my paranoia.
What if her plane crashed?…

February 28th, 2004
Knowing the Entire Me

As my husband Scott and I packed up our apartment to move, I came across a box of my old diaries. I could barely lift it. It held twenty-seven volumes, my life from the sixth grade to adulthood.
Flipping through the diaries, I was pulled pleasantly back into my past. But along with this nostalgia came a needling feeling of loneliness. And I started to wonder something: how much does Scott really know me?
I looked at the box of diaries. How much of all this can anyone know?
Insider knowledge One of the most amazing things about marriage is the insider knowledge that you acquire about your spouse. After being married to Scott for a year and a half, I can describe the minute variations in his breathing as he falls asleep. I can…

February 28th, 2004
Don't Wait for the Video of Your Life

There I was, flying 13,000 feet in the air without an airplane.
I was plummeting 120 miles per hour toward the earth, with my arms and legs outstretched. I was skydiving . Just prior to that, I had raced through several hours of training. I knew the eight steps required to check my parachute, and what to do if I needed to pull my reserve. Needless to say, I had a lot on my mind.
Surprisingly, the one thing I didn’t really have much time to think about was skydiving itself, since the activity is not necessarily conducive to full, present-moment awareness. You have too much to think about to fully experience it.
What a fittingly ironic metaphor for life. In our most profound moments (our wedding day, receiving our Country…

February 19th, 2004
How far does a girl have to go to find a spiritual home?

“Ok, now make a right at Lenape in .6 miles” I said, squinting at the passing street signs as if by brute concentration I could make the next sign read, “Lenape.” “I don’t know,” my roommate anxiously replied, glancing at the odometer. “I think we’ve gone more than .6 miles, and I don’t see it.” I returned my attention to the Map Quest print out, fumbling through the pages, “Maybe it was that last street that didn’t have a name…” Welcome to another Sunday morning in central New Jersey. 16 months ago, fate (and a job) led me, a 28 year-old Catholic, from the rolling cornfields of northern Indiana to the Garden State. There…

February 19th, 2004
Or, How I Cleaned My Way to Cosmic Harmony

I’d been cleaning for weeks. It started the week before Thanksgiving; I had nine coming for Thanksgiving dinner and was damned if I didn’t have a clean and organized apartment (or at least living room) to show off to my family and friends. So I cleaned and cleaned and having met my goal of a tidy living room, I found myself still cleaning.
And loving it.
I was liberated with every bag of garbage tossed. An organized closet became a cause of celebration. To the dust bunnies hidden in dark corners for years, I was the Terminatrix with a vacuum hose.
I could feel the newfound vitality rushing through my body. First one corner then another, then a whole room. I couldn’t sleep after the bedroom was done; I…

February 19th, 2004
Sacramental Somersaults Show An Openness to Change

All marriage as moral danger?
“Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man downwards as the caresses of a woman,” St. Augustine said in the fifth century. Like many spiritual thinkers of his time, St. Augustine did not believe in the sacredness of sexuality or of women—let alone marriage.
Today you might hear something similar said about the moral dangers of gay marriage drawing down the sacred spirit of heterosexual marriage in our society. However, since the Catholic Church has so thoroughly changed its opinions on heterosexual marriage since the time of St. Augustine, one speculates if the Church might one day adapt its teaching to welcome gay members to the sacrament of marriage.…

February 18th, 2004
Will the Message of Lent and Mel's Movie Trickle Down to Our Hearts?

With the much hyped anticipated opening of Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ on the first day of Lent 2004, Christians were offered two ways of observing the beginning of Lent this year—with ashes or celluloid.
Or perhaps both. Both the traditional reception of ashes on Ash Wednesday and Mel’s new movie are touching the psyche of thousands of American believers and not a few non-believers.
Getting your ash in gearI can neither applaud nor criticize Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ because I haven’t seen it. However, something has been bothering me about the hype surrounding this movie; and I have a continuing curiosity about the thousands who troop to church…

February 18th, 2004
or How to Survive a Trip on the Bi-Polar Express *also proven effective for Holiday coping

Many people have a hard time with winter. Up North where I come from the days are short and gloomy. The cold is bitter and winter is long. The holidays, cloaked in joy and celebration can be their own peculiar kind of wolf in sheep’s clothing. There are memories of loves and loved ones lost. There’s the extra stress of everything that needs doing. All that along with the expectation that we should feel happy, Christmas and New Year’s can have a nasty bite. My husband Greg has bi-polar depression and the winter is especially bad for him. If winter gets you down or you’re close to someone who struggles with seasonal depression, let this list be a starting point for you. Make your own list of mood…

February 17th, 2004
A February Salute to the Under-Appreciated Wives of Our Presidents

Mrs. America…
Attractive, hospitable, gracious—eager volunteers. This is the traditional image of the First Lady of the United States.
Since there is no official job description for the wife of the President, each First Lady has had to create her own platform. While on the public level, many were were quiet, many found ways to use their gifts for the good of the country, some wandered into the spotlight, and not a few helped to empower women in American society.
During February we traditionally celebrate the birthdays of Presidents Lincoln and Washington, nodding to all our U.S. leaders with a holiday known as “President’s Day.” But let us also remember the great women who accompanied them—both

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