Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith

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Don’t keep calm. Merton wouldn’t. Upcoming retreat will contemplate the famed monk’s writing and photography

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In this, the 50th anniversary year of Merton’s death, the archivist of the Merton Collection at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY, Dr. Paul M. Pearson, and scholar Dr. Michael W. Higgins, of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, will be the featured speakers at a retreat titled “Thomas Merton and the Spiritual Imagination” at Wisdom House retreat center in Litchfield, Conn., on Sept. 7 and 8.

Pearson curated an exhibit of Merton’s photographs, titled “A Hidden Wholeness: The Zen Photography of Thomas Merton,” which will be on display for the first time in New England, through early November. Merton’s advice on photography, “Stop looking and start seeing.” Pearson will speak at the exhibit’s opening event on Saturday, Sept. 8. It is free and open to the public. A book Pearson edited, Beholding Paradise: The Photographs of Thomas Merton, is forthcoming from Paulist Press.


Merton scholar Dr. Michael W. Higgins, author of The Unquiet Monk: Thomas Merton’s Questing Faith, a copy of which will be given to each retreatant, will lead the retreat, an exploration of Merton’s literary, moral, and mystical imagination.

Asked in our interview what Merton would make of current Roman Catholic events, Higgins said he would be as “forthright and fiery” as when he sometimes found himself “on a collision course with the bishops” and others in authority.


For information about the retreat, see





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Keeping the faith? Post-Pennsylvania, that’s a tough one …

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The episode began with a brief interview with a married couple, Jane and Bill, who asked that their last name not be shared. Catholic for 60-plus years, they left the church in reaction to a previous scandal and are not members of any other denomination.

Msgr. Ken Lasch is a New Jersey canon lawyer and longtime champion of church sexual abuse victims. Challenging the church has resulted in his suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as well as the friendship of many of his fellow priests. He is calling for a grand jury to be empaneled in every diocese in the country “to bring the church to its knees.” He writes at

Deb Rose-Milavec is the executive director of FutureChurch. Having labored in the thankless fields of church reform for years, she considers the Pennsylvania report to be the fruit of many good Catholics’ hard work and “a pivotal moment” for the church. The bishops, she says, “are in so much trouble now, they cannot go on with business as usual.” The organization’s website is

The text of Pope Francis’ Monday letter in reaction to the Pennsylvania revelations:

Pope addresses latest sexual abuse claims in letter: read full text

In happier Catholic news:

Sister throws perfect pitch

Congratulations, Sister Mary Jo Sobieck! In a rough week, you gave Catholics a reason to smile!

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Endless (in a bad way) Summer: Dylan and Merton experience the dark night of the soul

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9780802875204Hudson, Bob

Robert Hudson’s The Monk and the Record Player: Thomas Merton, Bob Dylan, and the Perilous Summer of 1966, chronicles the crises afflicting the two famously reclusive heroes of the Sixties counterculture. Merton, a Trappist monk, was in love with a young student nurse and finding inspiration for his writing in Dylan’s music, which he listened to on a record player borrowed from the Kentucky abbey where he lived. Dylan, for his part, was on the verge of a physical and emotional breakdown, caused by a combination of a (real or fictional) motorcycle wreck, drugs, and a grueling schedule of tour dates. Though the hermit and the rock star never met, they had a mutual friend in Joan Baez.

Hudson is a Dylan scholar, a member of the International Thomas Merton Society, and a books editor. He compiled The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style and edited Four Birds of Noah’s Ark: A Prayer Book from the Time of Shakespeare, by Thomas Dekker. He’s also worked with bestselling authors Philip Yancey, Walter Wangerin Jr, Leonard Sweet, and Lee Strobel.





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Pedophiles: four reasons the Church keeps making more — and other essays by a former priest

Church Chat book coverTom Smith photoFormer diocesan priest Tom Smith, author of Church Chat: Snapshots of a Changing Catholic Church, among other books, takes up the subject of Cardinal McCarrick; Pope Francis’ condemnation of the death penalty in all instances; who should be allowed to receive communion; Catholic identity; the problem with “catechism answers”; and the choice cranky Catholics have to stay or go.

Tom will be back on a future episode to talk about his daughter Karla’s suicide. In the meantime, you can learn about coping with the suicide of a loved one at

Also, Tom writes occasional  National Catholic Reporter Soul Seeing columns. Here are links to two of his most recent