Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith

Leave a comment

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

Click below to hear the episode:

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.





Leave a comment

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


Leave a comment

A God set adrift — by us — and wanting to be found

Click below to hear the episode:

Unmoored God coverpaul crowley picJesuit theologian Fr. Paul G. Crowley’s latest book, The Unmoored God: Believing in a Time of Dislocation, is a meditation on “something prior to the Church” — “the deeper habits of believing.” While “the machinery of religion rolls on,” he says, people are feeling disconnected from the holy. Crowley reminds us that Jesus, too, was just such a lost soul, and “desires to be located and found.”

Father Crowley is a professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University and the editor-in-chief of Theological Studies.

Leave a comment

A transgender Christian woman and a lesbian atheist: a love story

To listen to the episode, click below:

Sharron and Brianna at WESUSharron Emmons and Brianna Johnston at WESU. Sharron’s book of photographs, Transfiguration: How Bright Is the Light, created in completion of a Wesleyan University Master of Liberal Studies degree, focuses on Brianna, who at age 50 transitioned into the woman she’d always felt herself to be inside. They both hold leadership positions at Metropolitan Community Church in Hartford, a welcoming congregation.

Here are two photos from Sharron’s book:




Leave a comment

On ‘having a soul and being true to it’– writer Blanche McCrary Boyd’s moral journey

Click below to hear the episode:

Blanche BoydWriter Blanche McCrary Boyd has just published Tomb of the Unknown Racist, her third novel in a trilogy; the other two books are The Revolution of Little Girls and Terminal Velocity. Reared in the segregationist South, Boyd says she faced a terrifying choice between her conscience and her family, a conflict that informs her work. All fiction is moral fiction, says the longtime Connecticut College professor, whether its author is aware of it or not, since not to take a stand is to take a stand. In our interview, as in all her writing, starting with her 1980s book of essays,  The Redneck Way of Knowledge, Boyd proves to be both funny and deep. She’s frank about, among other subjects: her recovery, through AA, from drugs and alcohol; and about overcoming her own homophobia regarding whether lesbians can be suitable mothers of sons.

Learn more about her and her work at

Leave a comment

Latest Catholic parish reform effort: creating a space for priests to listen to women

HeadshotKateSmalldrm_futurechurchFr Tony Flannery

L-R: Kate McElwee, executive director of the Women’s Ordination Conference; Deb Rose-Milavec, executive director of Future Church; and Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, who’s no longer allowed to publicly minister because of his liberal views on women’s ordination contraception and homosexuality.

They were interviewed by phone during a break in a meeting in Slovakia of the International Church Reform Network.

Leave a comment

To inspire your Fourth: encouraging messages of hope and action from a few of your fellow citizens

Click below to hear the episode:

chief(WPRI photo)

In an interview originally intended for Memorial Day, RI Supreme Court Chief Justice (Ret.) Frank Williams, a Lincoln scholar, on presidential character — or lack thereof.

And members of the 16th annual Brake the Cycle of Poverty ride, below, pause along their Tour de Connecticut. The cyclists stopped at churches, retreat houses and government offices to highlight the growing problem of poverty and urge greater economic opportunity. For information about how you can take part, either as a rider or support staffer, email


John3Tom21Top, l-r: John Ryan, Wendy Rego, Tom Breen; bottom, l-r: Maureen Flanagan and Katie Johnson



“All will yet be well again”

Below is the commencement address Chief Williams delivered in May to graduates of Mississippi State University, where his and his wife Virginia’s collection of Lincolniana is archived:

“An Army of One”

        This is a great occasion and I am delighted to be with you.  Thank you, President Mark Keenum for your  progressive leadership and for the expertise and scholarship of the distinguished faculty and staff at this great institution. Their spouses and companions are not to be forgotten either.  A special thanks to the relatives and friends who gather together today to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates, who have worked so hard, and for many, who have persevered – although faced with great personal sacrifice.     

       Congratulations Class of 2018! 

       Parents, this is your celebration too – especially for writing those monthly checks.  I know you must feel relieved as you watch your investment walk across the stage, knowing that your asset will deliver some keenly anticipated dividends.  Unfortunately, for many of you, after your investment walks off the stage, it will parade back into your homes where rent, laundry, and internet access are free.  There will be, I assure you, more bills.

       At my commencement ceremony from Boston University, I had no idea who the speaker was or what he said.  Realistically, I acknowledge that your experience will likely be the same.  Like you, I wanted a short speech, since you, too, are not going to remember who your speaker was anyway.  Frank J. Williams – W-I-L-L-I-A-M-S.

         Each of you is here today because of someone else:  a parent, a sibling, a teacher, a neighbor, a mentor, someone who had faith and confidence in you, someone who nurtured your dreams.  As you leave here today, take a moment to think of those who have come before you, who have helped you along the way, who are at your side today.  Mississippi State University is what it is because of you and you are what you are because of Mississippi State University. 

         Through no fault of your own, you are entering this world at a time when our nation is divided by conflicting policies and an unavoidable War on Terror.  My generation is partly to blame.  We left this country vulnerable, opening the door to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that forever changed this nation.  And, as represented by the gridlock in Washington, we are a house divided.  As Abraham Lincoln said in 1858 just before the Civil War, “…A house divided against itself cannot stand… I do not expect the house to fall – I do expect it will cease to be divided.” 

           I take comfort, however, in knowing that our nation has prevailed before, despite tough times.  You, the new leaders of America, are charged with an important duty – the preservation of democracy.  Our nation needs men and women like you to help it bind its wounds.  I am confident that you are well equipped to do just that if you have courage, resilience and empathy.  Through the efforts of hard working Americans like you, who cherish patriotism, loyalty, friendship, family, service, and sacrifice, all will yet be well again.

       So, I charge you to re-instill faith in our country, which is after all, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The last best hope of earth.”

       Democracy is a living, breathing thing.  It requires our sustenance to continue.  In your time at State, you have learned much and have grown intellectually, emotionally, and socially.  But now, you have a greater challenge, the broader mission of running the race of life with all of its “friction and abrasion.”  For our republic to survive and prosper, you need to reserve some time for service.  So put those smartphones down and get out there.  Embrace life.  Volunteer, run for office, serve in the military, join the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or Teach for America, discover your cause and immerse yourself in it. [I am pleased to note that 25 of your class will soon be commissioned second lieutenants in the U. S. Army and Air Force]. Hold tight to the other things in life that matter too: your family, your friends, your religion, and the people who prepared you to succeed. 

       So get up, get out there and make every day better than the last.  One person can make a difference.  Early in this new century, an army major general had created the slogan, “An Army of one.”  By this, he celebrated the value of the individual, but he also reinforced the concept of commitment to a cause greater than self.  The general who wrote of an “army of one” understood the importance of the team. He perished when an aircraft struck the Pentagon on 9/11, giving his life so others might live.  

       The violence of the last century claimed over 100 million lives, so now we are due a peaceful century.  You have the power and responsibility to create that kind of a world.  I agree with the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, that in order to create a happier, peaceful world, we need to first find inner peace.  World peace can be achieved through seeking inner peace and mediating conflicts – not through the use of weapons. 

       Since my retirement from the judicial bench, I mediate cases in an effort to bring people – families, businesses, state agencies –  together so they can resolve their disputes – some of them ugly and contentious – without their taking their hostility to the streets or in the courts where there is a very real chance of unhappy results for all. 

       We build resilience into ourselves – as no one is born with it.  We build resilience into the people we love and we build it together as a community.  It is an incredibly powerful force and it’s one that our country and world need a lot more of right now.  It is in our relationships with each other that we find our will to endure, our capacity to love, and the power to make lasting changes in the world. 

       Do not fear failure either, failure is part of everyone’s narrative.  Learn from it. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Failure is as much a part of life as success and disappointment is as much a fact of life as fulfillment.”. That is the beauty of America because we continually get new chances, new opportunities to get it right.

       The truth is: we cannot solve the problems we face by blaming someone else.  We are all in this together, and we all must be part of the solution.  America’s power in the world comes not from the walls we build, but from the doors we open offering opportunity. 

       Virginia and I gave you and Mississippi State a gift.  It is the collection about Abraham Lincoln and our Civil War.  We wanted it to come here for many reasons and one of those is to give you access to the rudiments that Lincoln possessed – a fundamental vision, a golden temperament, and a shrewd strategy for how to cope with the realities of the moment. 

       He saw America as a land where ambitious poor boys and girls like himself could transform themselves through hard work.  We call it, “the right to rise.”

         Lincoln’s temperament surpasses all explanation.  His early experience of depression and suffering gave him  self-honesty and imbued him with political courage He had a double-minded personality that we need in all our leaders.  He was involved in a bloody Civil War, but he was an exceptionally poor hater.  He was deeply engaged, but also able to step back; a passionate advocate, but also able to see his enemy’s point of view; aware of his own power, but aware of when he was helpless in the hands of fate; extremely self-confident but extremely humble.  His strengths reflected discernment, which involves waiting, listening, letting competing options for action emerge and choosing one after prayer and deliberation. 

       Lincoln had empathy.  He recognized a shared humanity between himself and African-Americans.  Slavery was wrong, and he knew it needed to end.  It was in conflict with the very principles of our Founding.  What better place is there for our Lincoln Collection, gathered in Rhode Island and throughout the world, than here at Mississippi State University as not only a symbol but a resource for continued healing in this great land?

       We live in a partisan time, and I do not see a Lincoln on our horizon.  A person with his face could not survive the multi-media age.  A person with his capacity for introspection could not survive our 24/7 self-branding culture.  But we do need in our leaders, in you our future leaders, a portion of his gifts – someone who is philosophically grounded, emotionally mature, and tactically cunning. 

       Your futures are bright.  You stand on the bottom rung of a very tall ladder – let passion; sincerity and earnestness propel you to the top.

But don’t succumb to a Roman Coliseum culture that leaves no place for mercy. The civic fabric will be stronger if, instead of trying to sever relationships with those who have done wrong, we try to repair them, if we try forgiveness instead of exile. 

       Let political courage, resilience and empathy lead you. 

       Go forth and be amazing.  May God bless you.

       Hail State!



We met our goal!

A HUGE thank-you to all of you who donated to WESU’s spring pledge drive! Clearly, you understand the importance of keeping independent, free-form, non-commercial community radio alive!




Leave a comment

‘A voice from within me said: Walk’

Click below to hear the episode:


action03.mp3″][/audio]Al 1Al2Al3Al4Al5

For more than 150 days, Roderick (also known as Al) Dornan, 78, of Wethersfield, CT, has walked 2.2 miles every day, rain or shine and despite a bad back, along the sidewalks of his neighborhood in solidarity with Dreamers, immigrants and refugees.

Below is the link to the Hartford Courant article and photos that sparked interest in his crusade by other media and on Facebook and Twitter.

And here is the uncut audio of our entire walk together, in which he describes the inspiration he takes from deceased heroes, including his son, Aaron, who died in an accident 20 years ago, and some of the “mantras” he recites along his route.


We’re short

As of this writing, and with the close of the fiscal year just days away, WESU is still shy of meeting its spring pledge drive goal. Every donation WESU receives by this Friday (6/29) at midnight will be doubled until we reach $5,000.

Can you help keep independent, free form, community radio alive in our area? Please go to to donate online or write a check to WESU, 45 Broad St., Middletown, CT 06457




Leave a comment

‘Religious comedy is a tricky business’ — Catholic storyteller Ed Stivender juggles the secular and the sacred

Click below to hear the episode:

Ed picEd Stivender is a Catholic religion teacher-turned-entertainer who makes good use of his master’s degree in theology from Notre Dame in his storytelling. In Ed’s latest work “Like a Party,” which can be found on his website,, he portrays St. Francis of Assisi providing a tour of the Bible’s greatest hits. Ed has performed around the globe at storytelling festivals and other venues. He was called “the Robin Williams of storytelling” in the Miami Herald, and the late author Father Andrew Greeley called him “one of America’s great storytellers.”

He and his banjo playing are also findable at



Have a few extra shekels to toss toward the radio station that makes programming like this possible? Please go to and give what you can as the end of the fiscal year approaches. An amount with a five in it and a shout-out to Reasonably Catholic on the form will nicely mark this program’s fifth anniversary! Thanks!


Leave a comment

A bundle of warmth and wiliness: Pope Francis is irresistible in Wim Wenders’s loving documentary; and his recent private comments about gays may be strategic

Click below to hear the episode:

new richard picRichard Alleva, who writes for the Catholic journal Commonweal, says ”Pope Francis: A Man of His Word” is the kind of documentary he usually hates, but he loved this one. Having considered director Wim Wenders’s other films, Alleva says Wenders, who was raised Catholic, “was destined to make this film.”

An interview with Wenders appears in the current issue of Commonweal:

In the second part of the show, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which works for full equality in the Church for LGBTQ Catholics, takes up a recent affirming statement — made in private to a gay survivor of sexual abuse — that God made him that way and loves him that way.  Asked why he thinks the Pope lets the current less pastoral Church teachings stand, DeBernardo theorizes that a) the Pope has other priorities, such as poverty and the environment, and b) he may be strategically paving the way for updating Church teachings by first modeling a change in its practices.

frank-dFrancis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which, among other offerings, has a daily blog of news, opinion and spirituality at