Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith

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On bringing one’s whole being to the movies: the making of a Catholic critic

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Richard Alleva writes about film for the Catholic journal Commonweal‘s website In our interview, he reads from his essay anthologized in a Best Movie Writing book edited by director Peter Bogdanovich. We also talk about, among other things, his formation as a critic; about why some films are so politically incorrect they should only be viewed in the privacy of one’s home; and about a recent film he was tempted to walk out of.

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Honoring the victims of the Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka

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“A Day of Remembrance & Worship: Honoring the lives lost on Sri Lanka’s Easter Day Attacks,” an ecumenical service on May 18th at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Madison, included speakers of the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian faiths.

The music featured between the segments included in the episode was provided by William Doreza.

The service opened with the service’s organizer, Dinushka DeSilva, ringing a bell eight times for each explosion, followed by a moment of silence for those attacked in St. Anthony’s Church, Shangri La, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Kingsbury, St. Sebastion’s, Zion Church, a guesthouse in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia, and a housing project in Dematagoda.


An Islamic Prayer for Peace, recited by Afthab Zainudeen

In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful: Praise be to the Lord of the Universe who created us and made us into tribes and nations that we may know each other, not that we may despise each other. If the enemy incline towarads peace, do thou also incline towards peace, and trust in God, for the Lord is the one that hears and knows all things. And the servants of God Most Gracious are those who walk on the Earth in humility and when we address them we say “Peace.”


Buddhist Metta Bavana and reflection by Manage Nissanka

May no one deceive or look down on anyone anywhere, for any reason. Whether through feeling angry or through reacting to someone else, may no one want another to suffer. As strongly as a mother, perhaps risking her life, cherishes her child, her only child, develop an unlimited heart for all beings. Develop an unlimited heart of friendliness for the entire universe, sending metta above, below, and all around, beyond all narrowness, beyond all rivalry, beyond all hatred.

Whether you are staying in one place or traveling, sitting down or in bed, in all your waking hours rest in this mindfulness, which is known as like living in heaven right here and now!

In this ay, you will come to let go of views, be spontaneously ethical, and have perfect insight. And leaving behind craving for sense pleasures, from the rounds of rebirth you will finally be completely free!

May all sentient beings be happy, free of suffering, at peace, and live with ease. Transfer merits of this good deed to the victims of this massacre and your departed loved ones.


From the Hindu Upanishads, read by Kanaga Sena

Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the real. Lead us from darkness to light. Lead us from death to immortality. Peace, peace, and peace unto all.

Oh Lord God almighty, may there be peace in celestial regions. May there be peace on earth. May the waters be appeasing. May herbs be wholesome, and may trees and plants bring peace to all. May all beneficent beings bring peace to us. May the Vedic Law propagate peace all through the world. May all things be a source of peace to us. And may thy peace itself bestow peace on all and may that peace come to me also.

Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe. Peace, peace, peace.


Wisdom of Solomon, read by Dinushka DeSilva

But the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seem to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.


Hymn of Sri Lanka

O Father, Thou has promised
The isles shall wait for Thee,
The joyous isles of ocean,
The jewels of the sea.
Lo! We, this island’s watchmen
Would give and take no rest;
For thus has Thou commanded
Till our dear land is blessed.

Then bless her mighty Father
With blessings needed most,
In every verdant village,
By every palmy coast,
On every soaring mountain,
O’er every spreading plain,
May all her sons and daughters
Thy righteousness attain.

Give peace within her borders
Twixt man and man goodwill,
The love all unsuspicious,
The love that works no ill.
In loyal lowly service,
Let each from other learn,
The guardian and the guarde,
Till peace itself doth reign.

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At ‘least religious’ Wesleyan, a home for Christians

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Luka Lezhanskyy, and a well-thumbed copy of the New Testament on the coffee table

Luka is the house manager of Lighthouse, on the cusp of the Wesleyan campus, a home for Christians (and sometimes others in need of housing). It’s one of several “program houses” for students of various religions, despite the Princeton Review’s having named Wesleyan the #1 school with the least religious students. The ranking,  in the 2019 edition of The Best 384 Colleges, is based on “how strongly students disagree that their fellow students are very religious.” For the record, the review also named Wesleyan a #1 “Impact School,” based on its high level of providing community service.

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On the Last Supper being a seder and other Christian misconceptions: a visit with a rabbi

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Rabbi Marci Bellows leads Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester, CT.

Here she welcomes a visitor to the synagogue, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2015. The building was designed by artist Sol Lewitt, who was a member of the congregation until his death in 2007. The Reform congregation’s approach, as stated on its website — — is “ancient and cool.”

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Remember being alone with your thoughts? The case against smart phones

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Writer and critic Rand Richards Cooper, right, on a rant against obsessive smart phone use. He’s joined by Andrew Chatfield, Wesleyan’s arts communication director, whose new show on WESU, “The Center for the Arts Radio Hour,” can be heard every Thursday at 4 p.m.

Rand is a film critic and contributing editor at the the Catholic journal Commonweal,  as well as a columnist and restaurant reviewer at Hartford Magazine. Here are links to some of Rand’s journalistic “jeremiads” on the subject of smart phones:

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‘An obligation to do something about this dysfunctional, corrupt clerical system’

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Sr. Christine Schenk is the author of Crispina and Her Sisters: Women and Authority in Early Christianity, the result of her arduous digging into the archeological record of women’s leadership roles, including preaching, in the 2nd through 6th centuries.

Some photos:


Sr. Christine also is the now-retired founding director of the progressive Catholic organization FutureChurch — — an international coalition of parish centered Catholics working for full participation of all Catholics in the life of the Church. She led the organization from 1990-2013 and worked to transform a diocesan network of 28 parish councils and 100 parish leaders into an international organization of over 3500 parish-centered activists reflecting the values of Vatican II. A Sister of St. Joseph, Sr. Chris formerly worked as a nurse midwife in Cleveland for 20 years.

Additionally, she is featured in the documentary film, Radical Grace. 

In a recent appearance on NPR, she discussed the abuse of sisters by clergy:

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Ugh. Forget Rome. Let’s talk ‘Roma’. Our critics go mano a mano in our annual Oscar roundup.

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Siskel & Ebert didn’t disagree more. Richard Alleva, left, and Rand Richards Cooper, who write for the Catholic journal Commonweal and, make cases for their Oscar picks in advance of this Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast. Richard is a freelance movie reviewer and Reasonably Catholic‘s regular movie critic; Rand is a contributing editor at Commonweal as well as a columnist and restaurant reviewer at Hartford Magazine.

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So very hard to stay: on loving but maybe leaving the Catholic Church

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Author Paul F. Lakeland is president of the Catholic Theological Society of America; a professor at Fairfield University; and chair of its Center for Catholic Studies. A former Jesuit, he contributes regularly to the Catholic journal Commonweal and is the author of several award-winning books, including The Wounded Angel and The Liberation of the Laity.

In our interview, he lends a sympathetic ear to complaints about the Church even as he says he is not going anywhere.