Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
June 29th, 2002

I’ve been listening to the stories of young immigrants lately.
To me they sound to me a lot like the classic tales of the spiritual journey of life. Not so religious really, but they are all about awakening.
L. arrived here five years ago from Iran, the young wife of a physician husband taking up his medical residency. Before two years had elapsed she and her husband had divorced, not exactly what anyone had scripted for this adventure. Yet she calls the divorce “the best thing I ever did.” She decided not to go home to Tehran. Maybe it has something to do with the opportunities she has here as a woman in this more secular and open culture. Yet still she misses her home and family and sometimes thinks about…

June 2nd, 2002

This Saturday I went back to my old apartment and finished packing my things to move them to my new apartment. Clothes, books, file folders, even an old computer. But there was something, actually someone, I left behind — my husband.
I’ve made an agonizing but clear decision to separate from my husband after 11 years of marriage, the last five particularly rocky and difficult. We’re two good people, one with more years of Catholic education than the fingers on her two hands, who just couldn’t make the relationship work.
Our early days were filled with joy, the joy of listening, of singing together, telling stories and laughing late into the night. We did car trips really well and enjoyed…

June 1st, 2002
Back to the Rosary

I’ve never found the rosary particularly helpful to my prayer.
Truth be told, most of the time when I pray, I use my own words. Having learned that prayer is conversation with God, I need not only to speak to God but also to listen intently. I need to sense where God is guiding me in my life, where God is working in my life.
There are those times when it all feels like bunk. I feel like I’m talking to the wall, to myself, like God isn’t around. I end up feeling empty inside, alone. Is God deaf? Maybe my wife who’s a sign language interpreter would have better luck signing my prayers?
But I’ve had moments of great clarity during prayer too. I’ve had things explained to me a thousand times…

May 1st, 2002

“I’ll be right here.”
- E.T. to Elliot before blasting off for home
“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
-Jesus to his disciples, before blasting off for heaven
So E.T. is twenty years old. That face. Those eyes. It seems like he hasn’t aged a bit. In fact, with his new facelift, he’s even more spry than ever. If this Web site was www.nra.org, the site for the National Rifle Association, we might be discussing how wrong it was for the director, Steven Spielberg, to digitally turn some of the guns in the film into walkie-talkies (he was concerned it wasn’t suitable for the kiddies, although, interestingly enough, he did think it was okay to have Elliot,…

May 1st, 2002
Winging It: Meditations of a Young Adult (Orbis Books)

A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. -JOSEPH HELLER
I just received an invitation to a wedding in India from a woman I stayed with in Calcutta nearly seven years ago. Her youngest son is getting married, and she said it would mean a lot if I could come.
I chuckle aloud as I open the envelope, because I can’t help but remember that episode from Seinfeld when Elaine is invited to her friend’s wedding in India. She shows up to spite the friend she thinks doesn’t really want her there and discovers that the groom is her former lover.
The image of Elaine, drunk, with the nose ring, reminds me of the photo I took with two petite Indian woman. Towering over them…

April 28th, 2002
Tangerines and Transformations

Volunteering to teach confirmation classes at my mid-town Los Angeles parish is challenging work. Let’s face it, most teens sign up for the two year, twice-a-month program, because it’s SUPER important to their parents, while hardly registering as something to care about for themselves.
First ingredient: Vitamin J
So my pastor and I started out with a disadvantage only good teen snacks could remedy-Tostitos, Fritos, Cheetos, cookies, hot chocolate, Snapple, sodas, tangerines (requested), spring water (also requested). These are the paths to a young person’s soul.
Okay, maybe more than snacks are involved. It helps that teens are intensely social and eventually figure out who likes…

April 12th, 2002
A College Student's Spiritual Journey from Minnesota to Thailand

Ever since growing up in Frazee, Minnesota, a small town with a population of 1,700 people, and living next to two Lao families, I had a dream of going to the Thailand/Laos. (Similarly, both peoples actually stem from the same group of people called the Tai Yay.) The two Lao families lived next door from when I was six until I was thirteen when they had to move away. During this time,
I was best friends with the children of both families. I spent my days at their houses, ate with them, watched Thai and Lao movies and concerts, joined in on their traditional ceremonies, and they would teach me a Lao word a day. That was the start of my love for the Thai/Lao language and culture. Ever since then, my Thai/Lao roots have kept popping…

April 6th, 2002
Past Pain Becomes Present Strength

He walked into the diner with his blue windbreaker and disheveled gray hair. His clothes were rumpled and his glasses were slightly askew. In short, he was a mess.
He sat in the booth directly behind us. The odor that emanated from him was bleach mixed with body sweat. It was impossible for us to finish our meal with the unappetizing stench.
I took a good look at the man. He looked to be in his seventies, balding, a bit weird. It was at that moment that I realized how much he reminded me of my dad.
The connection

While I know my dad can easily take care of himself, my uneducated Irish immigrant father has a few eccentricities that have embarrassed me over the years. I shudder sometimes when he launches into a story that everyone…

March 28th, 2002
Young People and the Catholic Peace Movement Today

As images of war fill a greater share of the nation’s TV news, many Catholics are tuning in to organizations like Pax Christi USA to uphold the doctrine of nonviolence. A peace movement of over 14,000 members and 140 U.S. Catholic bishops, Pax Christi USA is considered a crucial component of the global peace movement.
So how is Pax Christi USA organizing its efforts in response to current events?
Following is the first of a two-part interview with Johnny Zokovitch, program associate and youth outreach coordinator for the national organization.
Edward Ortiz: How do the rising numbers of young people currently signing up for the military affect your nonviolence outreach programs?
Johnny Zokovitch: While…

January 16th, 2002
An Infinity of Little Hours: The Trial of Faith of Five Young Men in the Western World's Most Austere Monastic Order

What would it be like to see the face of God with your own eyes?
In the year 1084 St. Bruno of Cologne and six companions climbed a mountain in the French Alps with the goal of doing exactly that: achieving union with God in their own lifetime. Despite the intense cold, they built huts for themselves at the very top of the mountain and took up lives of solitude, contemplation and prayer. In doing so, they founded the Carthusian order, the most austere monastic order in the Western world.
Nearly 900 years later, Paddy O’Connell, a young Irishman not yet thirty, pulls the bell rope outside the gatehouse of the imposing Carthusian monastery in Parkminster, England, and asks admittance. Hans Klein, an East German,…

January 10th, 2002
JC's Girls' unusual evangelization to the sex industry

“We got some other girls together and we went out to our first strip club.”
It may sound like the beginnings of a wild bachelorlette party but in fact it is elementary school teacher Tanya Huerter’s recollection of the first step she and two other women from Southern California took toward creating an outreach to the adult entertainment industry.
Huerter along with Lori Albee and Heather Veitch are the founders of JC’s Girls a ministry whose mission is to “seek to share God’s message of hope and forgiveness by reaching out in a nonjudgmental way to those who are in the sex industry.” The trio, who is affiliated with Sandals Church in Riverside, Ca, explodes any stereotype…

January 8th, 2002
I'm only five "Why's" away from an ontological crisis

What’s that?
I’m buckling my son into his car seat the other morning when he points to the tool used to scrape snow off the windshield.
“It’s an ice scraper, sweetheart.”
Why?
“So we can scrape the ice off the windshield.”
Why?
“So we can see when we drive.”
Why?
“So we don’t crash.”
Why?
“Because we don’t want to die.”
Why?

What am I supposed to tell the kid? Because we value our lives? I know what his reply will be: Why? Because they are a gift. Why? Um, because life is sacred. Why?
I like to think I have a good education and am respectably literate on matters of meaning and religion, but my two-year-old son reminds me that…

January 6th, 2002
Making room in the classroom for a civil rights' icon and the practice of civil disobedience

The death of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks on October 24th coupled with the fiftieth anniversary on December 1, of her refusal to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus allows us to once again examine the state of our nation’s soul. Parks’ small act in defiance of segregation in 1955 on that bus, and her resulting arrest, helped galvanize a fledgling revolution against bias in the United States. It is also challenges us to consider our own cooperation with injustice.
Of course, Parks’ act of civil disobedience was not without precedent. Civil disobedience has long been a major weapon in humanity’s struggle against injustice and stretches back in the U.S. to 19th century…

January 4th, 2002

Like Erin Tribble, I can often get to feeling like prayer is another item on the to do list rather than a way to just be.
I recently heard that Americans are working about 140 hours more of overtime than they did 20 years ago, and so it’s no wonder prayer time feels crunched.
While the Jews where inspired by God long ago to create the Sabbath — a whole entire day of rest and prayer and relaxation every week — we in the third millennium are challenged to seize what Los Angeles spiritual director and author Wilkie Au calls a “Sabbath Moment.”
Whenever I feel tapped out I take a Sabbath Moment:

At work: A fifteen minute walk around the block to notice the slightly warm winter sun settling on my skin.…

October 1st, 2001
A Spiritual Memo

“You might as well bombard the Rocky Mountains,” an engineer boasted in 1829 of Fort Pulaski , a behemoth of brick and moat strategically entrenched in northern Georgia. Walls seven and a half feet thick. Well over a thousand yards from the nearest site where siege batteries could be placed. It was …unbreachable. Unsinkable.
Thirty years later, on the very first day it saw battle , it lay in rubble.
In the next millennium, the bullets still lay burrowed into the brick. I saw them myself, wondering at the sad fury of the Civil War. This place was so carefully built, so meticulously engineered, that after almost one hundred and fifty years of floating on mud, the foundation remains sound, the bricks completely…

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