Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
November 10th, 2011

We are told it is natural to thirst for fulfillment in aligning our life with God’s plan for us and to thirst for the kingdom of heaven on earth to be made manifest around us. So how is this compatible with the idea of accepting everything exactly as it is? This tension is expressed in the Serenity Prayer, which I’ve written about here before. In one line we ask for the courage to change what we can; in another the serenity to accept what we can’t. The prayer’s author then adds a request for the wisdom to know the difference. Well, that’s easier said than done, isn’t it?
Usually in this column, I at least take a stab at giving some advice. But here all I can do is acknowledge the tension.…

November 9th, 2011
Churches aren't one-size-fits-all and it can take time to find the right one

I’ve been church shopping for more than three years now. I’m not much of a shopper so it’s getting tiring, but I’m not about to give up. I’m choosey: I want good music, a diverse and accepting community, a priest who consistently gives relevant and challenging homilies, and a church culture that embraces social justice. I’ve found churches that have some of the things on my list, but finding all of them in one place has proven to be a challenge.
My church shopping began in August of 2008 when I moved from Maine to North Carolina to transfer to Salem College. At first I rode with friends to a Mass on another college campus. I liked the priest, but student Masses have always seemed…

November 4th, 2011
Dealing with the shortening days and the end of daylight-saving time

Every year, at the beginning of warm weather, I encourage everyone to get out in the sun and experience nature, but it’s important to respect the rhythms of nature and our body in cold weather too. This weekend, in the wee hours of Sunday November 6, daylight-saving time (DST) ends for the year. Though winter doesn’t technically begin for another month and a half, this always feels to me like the point where things change.
So I want to talk to you about two things: SAD and DST.
First, let’s clear up one thing about “seasonal affective disorder,” or SAD. Everyone is affected by the seasons…. That’s not a disorder. That’s being human.
Unless you live near the equator, the

November 3rd, 2011

Growing up, I always knew Dad’s side of the family was Polish. I knew we had a special affinity for sausages and cabbage, that we called my grandma Busha and that we had thrown a party bigger than any Arrowhead Road had ever seen when I made my First Communion.
But I never knew much more than that until we lost her.
Memories from the day of Busha’s funeral resound so powerfully in my memory. Images of my towering dad and four uncles, some of the toughest men I know, sitting in wooden pews with clasped hands, bent heads, and red-rimmed eyes flash through my mind. A Polish priest crossing the air above her body, sounds of a Polish prayer that none of us but Busha could understand.
I felt something in our family change that day.…

October 28th, 2011
Learning to love, not fear, the people in the stained glass windows

Lately, I’ve been considering teaching my son Matthew about the saints. At the big-boy age of 5, he’s surely old enough to become captivated by their stories. But then I realized that when you talk about the lives of the saints, you also have to talk about their deaths.

Therein lies the problem.

Not every saint had a gruesome death, of course, but quite a few of them did. And for a kid whose imaginative diet consists of nothing more sinister than the dragon that Harold draws with his magic purple crayon, I can hardly fathom telling him about St. Agnes, whose head was cut off, or St. Lawrence, who was literally grilled alive. My child already has an innate fear of the dark; I don’t need to tell him stories that will encourage it.

October 19th, 2011
Getting over the stress of praying the right way and simply talking with God

Last week, I paused to look out the front window of my apartment just long enough to see a middle-aged woman briskly get in her car, make the Sign of the Cross, and turn over the engine.
I felt somewhat comforted knowing someone else prays before driving. I never used to pray in the car, until I came to Chicago. Something about driving here reminds me daily of my mortality. I sometimes wonder how I arrive back home without an insurance claim. This all occurs in a car that is adorned by religious medals that my very-Catholic mother sneaks into it in the same manner she tries to hide $20 in my purse.
As much as I could talk at length about Chicago drivers, what stayed with me about that morning is that someone else prayed the same…

October 12th, 2011

Somehow — don’t ask me how — the conversation turned to Catholic iconography. Seven or eight of us denizens of graduate school were gathered around a long wooden table in the seminar room. I sat in tense silence next to the window while the others commented on what they considered grisly religious emblems: the Sacred Heart wound with thorns and dripping blood, the body of Jesus hanging limp and emaciated upon the crucifix. One person started to laugh.
“My mother wouldn’t let me in a Catholic church when I was little,” she said, “because she thought it was so primitive….”
I said nothing; I could think of nothing to say to this little crowd of non- or ex-Catholics. But small knots of discomfort

October 7th, 2011

I probably should have had an obit for Steve Jobs ready to run. We had a dry run when he resigned as head of Apple a few months ago. But I didn’t, and many others have accurately chronicled the facts, so instead, for my regular personal spirituality column, I’m going to look at a few things we can learn from him.
Though I never had the pleasure of meeting the man, Steve Jobs’ work and influence affected my life often. At different times, I came close to working for both Apple and Pixar, the latter before he took it over. The first personal computer I ever bought was a Mac 512, no hard drive, for $2,600 (in 1984 money; that’s the equivalent of $5,400 today). Compared to my current MacBook, it had 1/800th…

October 6th, 2011

Do you have trouble forgiving? Well, I hope I don’t shatter anyone’s image of nuns, but I do, too.
Some of the sayings connected with forgiveness don’t help. You know, sayings like Alexander Pope’s “To err is human, to forgive is divine” and Jesus’ command that we forgive 77 times (or 70 times seven times) sends the subliminal message that forgiveness is impossible. Then we have the phrase “forgive and forget” — where in the world did that come from? So many people let these words glide glibly from their tongues. It makes it seem that forgiveness is easy and adds a guilt trip besides.
Well, I was in the category of believing that forgiving was next to impossible. I sat in prayer I don’t know…

September 29th, 2011

I often hear people talking about living in the present moment as if it is a struggle, some cosmic game of attempting to grasp something that is fleeting, illusory. They say things like, “the moment I have it, it’s gone.” While this is true and can be frustrating, the last thing present moment awareness is about is grabbing serenity. I have always liked the metaphor of the river (borrowed from my Christian contemplative practice of centering prayer) in talking of the flow of thoughts. Imagine the stream of consciousness as a river, with boats and debris representing thoughts. You’re sitting on the bank of the river watching it. Normal awareness has you looking at each individual boat-thought, following it down the river with your eyes — and to strain the metaphor, getting on it and opening hatches — then suddenly shifting your awareness to another boat and so on. If your mind is particularly cluttered, you can feel overwhelmed by all the boats you have to look at and it can feel like that classic I Love Lucy skit with the conveyor belt at the chocolate factory, like you’re falling behind and they start slipping by. There can be a sense of panic that a thought that’s getting past you without attention is important and you’re missing it.

Present moment awareness is simply sitting on the bank and watching the river, not the boats. Boats cross your field of vision and you do see them, but you don’t follow them with your eyes or get on them. They’re not out of focus, but you don’t focus on them.

September 28th, 2011
Reconciling prayers of petition with the idea of God's Will

When we speak to God are we affecting His plans? Are we influencing the future? And if not, why do we persist in asking God to listen to our wishes? The most thoughtful people I know can’t help wondering.
Jesus taught his disciples to ask in prayer for specific blessings: for our daily bread; to forgive our transgressions; to help us in some way against temptation; and to deliver us from evil. But it feels less appropriate to turn our prayers into a wish list of our own desires, or a memo to God on improving his management style. Asking God to bring about something specific for me — a new job, acceptance to a school, approval for a mortgage – seems downright cheesy.
Even asking for good things to happen for other…

September 26th, 2011

Tekiah Shevarim Teruah…
It was a Saturday morning in New York City, in a class taught by Rebbetzin Harris, that the meaning of Rosh Hashanah became so extraordinary to me. I always remembered Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, as a holiday that my Russian Jewish family celebrated with a sense of patriotism, if one could have patriotism for a religion. The cognac and the dancing till the wee hours of the night contributed to the joy of this day. But that’s how us Russian Jews do it. Ignore the shrimp and lobster on the table or the dirty Russian jokes and Rosh Hashanah was, and will always be, a very special day in our family and in our hearts, even if we don’t know what it is we’re celebrating.
In Judaism, Rosh Hashanah

September 22nd, 2011

Let’s get one thing clear: I like the taste of meat. I like double bacon cheeseburgers. I like steak so rare it moos. On Thanksgiving I want turkey, on Christmas I want ham, and on my father’s birthday I want meatballs made from my family’s off-the-boat-from-Sicily recipe, so good they take five hours to make and five minutes to eat. So imagine my family’s reaction when I came home for Mardi Gras break my freshman year of college and announced that I was giving up meat for Lent and possibly forever.
“Oh, God,… Beth,” said my mom.
“More veal for me!” said my younger brother.
“[Expletive],” said my older brother.
“What are they teaching you at that school?” said my dad.
“That school” was a Jesuit

September 21st, 2011

As a recent college graduate, I know a thing or 12 about doubt.
There are plenty of reasons for that. I spent the last four years working toward a degree in theological studies. I don’t know if I’m looking at the wrong numbers, but statistics seem to indicate that theologians are prone to reaping spiritual and intellectual rewards far more often than they are financial gains. Which is great, but still.
I’m also weeks away from embarking on a six-month trip to Vietnam, something that was inspired by a three-week trip I took there last summer with a group from school. On paper, it’s totally the kind of thing that makes me swoon — one of my friends and I will spend six months hopping around Southeast Asia, relying…

September 15th, 2011

My last column, about waiting patiently for a late bus, provoked some interesting comments and reactions (on the site and directly) that tease out the bigger issues involved. While I wrote about waiting for someone who’s late, two commenters brought up the flipside of the same time management coin — what to do when you’re going to be late yourself through no fault of your own. Fellow Busted Halo contributor Ginny Moyer wrote…

September 13th, 2011

The poet W.H. Auden said, “Civilizations should be measured by the degree of diversity attained and the degree of unity retained.”
Indeed, civilizations are made or lost based on the amount of togetherness people work at having and keeping. Unity is a quality we all desire — especially in the church. But even there, with a God who wants us all to be unified, it doesn’t stick around very long.
The simple definition of unity is “the state of being one; oneness; the state of being of one mind or feeling, as in harmony or agreement.” We’ve grown up with the image of the ideal, thinking when we find the perfect mate, elect the perfect official, or do the best for our community everyone will be happy and content.…

September 12th, 2011

Mary was very perplexing to me before I became a Catholic. She was like some unnamed bird that I could not see and did not know, perching in a tree nearby. I knew she was there — I also knew she was important to some people, but I had no idea why.
Even after coming into the Church, I struggled with my beliefs about Mary: Did I believe in the Virgin Birth? Was that even important? Wasn’t it odd that the Church insisted on Mary’s continued virginity (poor Joseph!) when the Bible clearly represents Jesus as having brothers and sisters? Was she some kind of holy gal I could never emulate or was she more powerful, more funky and more earthy than I could possibly imagine?
I didn’t come to Mary until the tires…

September 2nd, 2011
A Prayer for Labor Day

Lord, we see our neighbors hurting as they lose their jobs to layoffs and plant closings and their homes to foreclosure. We pray that in the midst of turmoil, they feel your presence.
Lord of compassion, hear our prayer
Lord, our elected officials are seeking solutions to this economic crisis; let them not forget workers, who through the sweat of their brows, keep this country going.
Lord of compassion, hear our prayer
Lord, as we face the uncertain future, give us the spirit of integrity, that we would hold up those who are in severe distress, as we are all your children and made in the image of God.
Lord of compassion, hear our prayer
Lord, we pray for employers that they would not bow to idols in the worship of wealth,

August 29th, 2011
Developing a Spirit-centered approach to service

For my first few years as a librarian, I felt richly rewarded, a shining star of helpfulness. In a nutshell, I get paid to give people advice when they ask me for help, and then they thank me. Smart! Altruistic! Serving the public! What’s not to love? As my younger brother said when I first got the job, “Well, Anne, you do love to tell people what to do.” But after a few years, the unrewarding aspects of the work began to overshadow the more enjoyable ones.
Some people dismissed my advice. Some were rude. Troubled souls came to me with problems a librarian couldn’t solve. At times, I felt like the public wanted to tear me into pieces and chew me up. I had panic attacks and migraines. I took a lot of sick…

August 18th, 2011
Busted Halo sits down with the new youth catechism's publisher

Everyone registered for World Youth Day is getting a free copy of YouCat in their native language as part of their registration packet, as it is officially introduced in Madrid. When YouCat was launched back in April, we talked with its publisher. Here’s that discussion.

When you think of a good read, the Catechism of the Catholic Church probably doesn’t come to mind. That’s why YouCat is exciting — it presents the Catechism in a compelling and engaging way. YouCat is the official new “Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church.” But its potential value goes well beyond this definition.

Today, Fr. Joseph Fessio, S. J., founder and editor of Ignatius Press, U.S. publisher of YouCat, is in Rome for the presentation of YouCat to Pope Benedict XVI. We sat down with Fr. Fessio last week to discuss why this book is needed, who can benefit from it and how it came to be made.

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