Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith

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“Heaven and Earth” at Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum: a tour with art historian Fran Altvater

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FranArt historian Fran Altvater, assistant dean of the University of Hartford’s Hillyer College, with Nan Goldin’s “Cupid with His Wings on Fire,” at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, where the exhibit “Heaven and Earth” is on view through April.

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“It’s been a gazillion years since my last confession”: the sacrament we love to hate

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Annunciation detailDetail from the Master of the Hartford Annunciation, now showing in the Wadsworth Atheneum exhibit “Heaven and Earth” (which is up through April and a tour of which will be the subject of “Reasonably Catholic”‘s April 7th episode).

Fr JohnPassionist Fr. John Baptist Pesce, interviewed over lunch on the 64th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He talks about what’s he’s learned from his many years of listening to penitents and absolving them from their sins, some of which don’t even qualify as sins, he says. As much as people don’t partake of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as much as in years past, he says, some people come too frequently. Especially interesting is his approach to confession on LGBT retreats; his question for the penitents, he says, is whether they acted lovingly.

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An LGBT Catholic pilgrimage to Florence, Assisi and Rome

Mike post-Rome

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Michael Reynolds recently returned home from a pilgrimage to Italy sponsored by New Ways Ministries. He was one of about 40 pilgrims to visit Florence, Assisi and Rome, including Vatican City, where he attended an audience with Pope Francis. Mike is the editor of a book, Our Place at the Table, in which LGBT Catholics and their loved ones tell of having been welcomed by their parishes; it is meant to be instructive to pastors and parish leaders. Among Mike’s insights from the trip is that the gypsies his group was warned to avoid have something in common with the LGBT community: they are treated as outcasts. Mike asks, how would Jesus treat them?

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Her religion is “Eclectic”: a chat with seeker and sage Patti Vassia

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PattiPatti Vassia, now retired after having held leadership positions at various Middletown, CT, non-profit organizations, is a spiritual seeker who has learned the value of both putting down deep roots in one place and of traveling widely. She talks about her spiritual journey, including:


… her achievement in 2013 of a lifelong dream of being rebaptized, this time by immersion. She is shown here being baptized by Pastor Andy Eiss at Fellowship Church in Middletown.

Patti also reflects on her trip last fall to Machu Picchu, another lifelong dream. The photo on the lower right is of Agosto, a wise and helpful guide at the site — he led her to the shady spot where she’s resting in the photo above the one of him. He declared Machu Picchu the center of the world, a place where “we are all one.”

Machu Pichu 1Patti at MPPatti at MP2Agosto

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A Mardi Gras feast of Oscar picks by Commonweal’s Richard Alleva; plus a buncha gals sittin’ around talking about “Boyhood”

photoRichard AllevaBoyhood posterRichard Alleva, a film critic for the Catholic journal Commonweal, predicts which films will take home Oscars on Feb. 22. Also, friends Claudia White, Gigi Wolfgang and Janice Keeman bat around “Boyhood” at Claudia’s Durham, CT, home.


Michael Keaton in Birdman

From Terry Gross’s recent Fresh Air interview on NPR with Michael Keaton, star of Birdman:

GROSS: So your parents were Catholic and observant.

KEATON: My mom was. My dad was a Protestant. And, you know, that was a big deal.

GROSS: Oh, that’s right. You’re right. Right, so what did that make you?

KEATON: It was a blessing because I distinctly remember, you know, hearing only Catholics are going to heaven. And I was blessed by that because I really was a, you know, I bought the whole deal. In Catholic school I was a good Catholic kid, altar boy and all that. And I remember thinking, whoa, now wait a minute, you know, my dad’s not Catholic. I haven’t really seen him do anything really that wrong. You know, I’m going, this doesn’t hold up logically to me. So I think somewhere in the back of my head I tucked it away. I went, eh, I’m kind of in. I’m mostly in on the religion thing but not totally. That was a blessing in disguise, I think. You know, it really made me open-minded to things, I think.

GROSS: Did you have an official exit point?

KEATON: No, because I loved being raised Catholic. I think it was very – I really like it. And I – you know, if I meditate, I still occasionally find that because that’s my – that’s familiar territory for me. I’ll find a church I think is cool, but not often, or, you know – yeah, there were exit points kind of early on, you know, like in – you know, I was kind of the kid who got in trouble in high school, and I was a party boy in college and I was a lot of fun. And also, you know, you start reading more and learning more and you’re open to more people, you know, and different viewpoints. And, you know, I’m a curious dude, so I read a lot. But I never was one of those guys who went, oh, my God, this is scarring, this is horrible, you know. I thought it was pretty cool. I liked it. And I love Pope Francis. I think he’s pretty cool. I hope the other slipper doesn’t fall, as they say, you know, we don’t find out something weird down the road. I hope he gets in and out and everybody goes, wow, how about that dude?



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Toward a church that welcomes gays and a country that cares for the poor: catching up with two travelers

Michael ReynoldsLynn_CampbellMichael Reynolds is heading to Italy this week on an LGBT pilgrimage, where, during a planned audience with Pope Francis, he hopes to pass along to the pontiff a book of testimonies about how LGBT Catholics have been welcomed by their parishes. And Lynn Campbell, director of the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Office of Catholic Social Justice Ministry, is in Washington, DC, for a gathering of Catholic leaders; she and her contingent will meet with the Connecticut delegation to remind them to remember the poor.

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Spiritual but not religious? This place is made for you.

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Photo by Brandon Nappi


The Copper Beech Institute, New England’s newest meditation center, is located at a Catholic retreat center and monastery in West Hartford, CT, but its founder and director, Brandon Nappi, says he hopes all seekers — from lapsed Catholics to Buddhists to atheists in search of stress reduction — will feel welcome there.

treeCB labrynth signCB artFrom left: a copper beech tree, a symbol of wisdom and solitude, after which the center is named; the sign leading to the labyrinth, based on the design of the one in Chartres Cathedral; a painting in the Golden Thread Gallery.

Fr. Richard McBrien Rest in peace, Fr. Richard McBrien

A champion of progressive Catholicism has gone to his reward, where we know he’s praying for us. Read the National Catholic Reporter obituary below:







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Depression and the spiritual journey, with WESU’s Dr. Helen Evrard

Helen head shotDr. Helen Evrard is the producer and host of “Mind Matters,” on WESU, a show about mental health issues which airs every Wednesday from 6 to 6:30 p.m. She is also the author of Positive Matters: Words, Quotations and Stories to Heal and Inspire. Raised Catholic, she ultimately left the faith, but then was surprised to discover that some aspects of Catholicism were helpful in her journey. You can learn more about Dr. Evrard at and at

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