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Features : Religion & Spirituality
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

February 9th, 2004
George W. Bush Says God Chose Him to Be President

A man set apart by God
When George W. Bush was governor of Texas and decided to run for president, he described his decision in terms of a divine mandate: He had been “called,” a phrase that evokes the prophetic commissions of the Hebrew Scriptures. He summoned to the governor’s mansion all the leading pastors of the region to carry out a ritual of “laying on of hands,” a practice that corresponds above all to priestly or ministerial ordination.
His premonition of his presidential role during a national disaster was documented in a new book by Christian author Stephen Mansfield, The Faith of George W. Bush. Bush said to James Robinson: ‘I feel like God wants me to run for President.…

February 8th, 2004
Making sense of a milestone

On a recent Saturday night, my husband and I went to a concert for an Irish punk band he had been following for over half a decade. We arrived at Columbus ‘ PromoWest Pavilion at 10:15pm, a deliberate move to bypass the opening acts. I stood on a bench behind Jim in the back of the dark, cavernous room, quietly grooving as I looked out over the luminous mass of sweating, moshing, grinding twentysomethings. As I checked out the shoulder tats and lingerie-and-jeans ensembles, with absolutely no desire to be a part of the action, I came to a realization.
I am old. Or at least semi-old. I have just turned 30, and this milestone birthday has caused me to reflect on such things. Yes, I know that 30 is not pass-the-Ensure or…

February 6th, 2004
A Client and His Astonishing Family Tradition for Lent

Fresh out of graduate school a decade ago, I was hired as a speech pathologist for a not-for-profit agency serving the inner city poor. My therapy room contained an observation mirror so that the parents could watch and learn from my example.
Jared the poster childOne of my first clients was a five-year-old boy who had very delayed development. Jared came from a struggling urban family. He would have made the perfect poster child for poverty in America. He was charming and adorable, even in his ragged clothes. His mother was a shy woman who rarely made eye contact with me.
Jared’s little light One day in late winter, which just happened to be Ash Wednesday , I ended our speech therapy session by asking Jared to…

January 24th, 2004
For the Spiritually Curious with a Limited Budget

I boarded a bus in Washington, DC, complete with wailing children, frustrated parents, and a man be-bopping to the loud music on his earphones for the entire four-hour trip to Atlantic City—where I would change buses to ride another two hours sitting next to Mr. Be-Bop himself.
When you don’t own a car, the bus becomes a regular form of transportation that doesn’t guarantee on-time departure or arrival, clean restrooms, or air conditioning. But it always guarantees an unexpected journey that leads me exactly where I want to be. This time, my destination was a spiritual retreat…budget style.
Choose Your Own Adventure
I’ve had my fair share of budget retreat experiences—everything…

January 13th, 2004
A Catholic's Foray into the World of Buddhist Meditation

My body screamed: “I’ve only had four hours of sleep!”
But at 6:30 in the morning, some inner yearning drew me from my flannel sheets into the snowy winter morning. Looking back at last winter, I am surprised that anything could get me out of bed when it was 20 degrees outside, but I am even more surprised that—as a life-long Catholic—I woke up at 6:30 every morning to encounter God at a Buddhist Meditation Center.
Jesus didn’t head to a meditation center to commune with God. But he did take time out of his busy ministry to pray or meditate and draw closer to God. Jesus spent 40 days with God in the desert at the beginning of his ministry when “the Spirit immediately drove him out into…

January 12th, 2004

Kim Schiel remembers swimming with her Catholic friends during college and noticing a row of scabs on the upper thigh of one of the females. This female was a member of Opus Dei, a Catholic organization that encouraged her to wear a cilice, or spiked chain, around her thigh once a week to cultivate discipline and suffer like Christ. Kim, now a mother and a family physician, says, “God gives us a healthy body so we can respect it, not abuse it. There are plenty other ways to cultivate discipline.”
Although Kim decided not to join Opus Dei, more than 80,000 other Catholics around the world have committed themselves to this organization as a way to live out their faith in Christ.
So what is Opus Dei?Opus Dei,…

January 12th, 2004
Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just READ

The turning point was not being able to find a pew without a direct view of the dead saint’s remains in that crystal coffin under the altar. The experience was so bad that I walked right out of Mass and, having no other church in my immediate area, I simply stopped going.
But other things weren’t going well either. I had been through a period of debilitating illness, had a job I detested, had recently suffered the loss of a boyfriend who I thought I might marry. Instead he moved out of the country for a new job, and I was in an unhealthy rebound relationship.
Out with Mr. Wrong, in with St. Right
Mostly in an effort to get out of rebound-ville, I decided to give the Church one last try, albeit in a parish without the…

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