Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith

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No Godtalk, please. We’re Christian.

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Jonathan Merritt is the author of Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words are Vanishing — and How We Can Revive Them. “If we do not use sacred words, then our minds will be less attuned to transcendence,” he says in the book. “If we do not have spiritual conversations, then we’ll be less shaped by our spirituality.”

Merritt holds graduate degrees from Southeastern baptist Theological Seminary and Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. He writes on faith and culture, including for The Atlantic. Among his other books is Jesus is Better Than You Imagined.

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We’re for the birds!

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For the third year in a row, we dedicate our first episode of the New Year to the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, the nation’s longest-running citizen science project in which groups of volunteers in a designated area count every bird they see, with the data used to track trends.

In this 119th year of the count, I joined volunteers for the Stratford/Milford, CT, count. We posted ourselves at Russian Beach, at the edge of Long Island Sound in Stratford, then, in a nearby woodlot, team leader Frank Mantlik quickly located this Barred Owl, shown here on the screen of Frank’s camera.

According to Frank’s report, the team counted an impressive “112 species, including 3 Northern Shoveler, 8 Canvasback, 3 Redhead, all 3 Scoters, 6 Great Egret, all 3 Accipiters, both Vultures, all 3 Falcons, 1 Clapper Rail, Black Bellied Plover, Killdeer, Purple Sandpiper, 4 Owls (including 6 Barred Owl, 3 Long-eared Owl), 7 Raven, 47 H Lark, 2 RB Nuthatch, 2 Br Creeper, 5 Winter Wren, 4 GC Kinglet, 4 E Bluebird, 2 Hermit Thrush, 3 Gr Catbird, 1 Am Pipit, 37 Snow Bunting, 2 YR Warbler, 7 Field Sparrow, 6 WC Sparrow, 6 Fox Sparrow, 6 Swamp Sparrow, 1 E Towhee, 12 Purple Finch, 1 Pine Siskin, 1 Ipswich Sparrow and 28 Boat-tailed Grackle.  Count Period birds included Iceland Gull, Razorbill, Northern Gannet and Short-eared Owl.”

The bird count continues through Jan. 5. To learn how you might still join in, check the site.

Here are more photos from a glorious day!

We started our day at 6 a.m. with a hearty breakfast at the Blue Sky Diner in Stratford. Above, team leader Frank Mantlik; below, from left, Patrick Comins, executive director of Audubon CT; bird count veteran Ryan Maclean; and Stefan Martin, who works with various Audubon chapters.

Patrick Comins


(In car) Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe, Audubon Connecticut’s Bird Conservation Programs Manager; Genevieve Nuttall, Audubon Connecticut’s Bird Conservation Program Associate; and high school student Nivea Ortiz, who saw her first-ever owl that day!