Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith

Leave a comment

‘We can’t save everybody but what CAN we do?’: a retired nurse gets to work

Click below to hear the episode:

Mary Lou ConnorsRetired nurse Mary Lou Connors tells about her volunteer work with the poor in Haiti, with refugees in Hartford, with incarcerated women in Niantic, and as a eucharistic minister at a nursing home.

Information about her Haiti work can be found here:

And here’s a link to a Hometown Heroes feature about her in the Hartford Courant:


Al2Also, save the date: Walking with Al for Immigrants. Al Dornan, who’s been walking 2.2 miles through his Wethersfield neighborhood every day since the beginning of the year, will take his walk to Hartford from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21, starting at the Ribicoff Federal Building, 450 Main St.

Leave a comment

‘A lawyer goes to confession’ — and other adventures of a practicing Catholic practicing law

Click below to hear the episode:

Cody Headshot 2018Cody Guarnieri is a lawyer with the Hartford firm of Brown, Paindiris and Scott. He writes a regular column for the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Catholic Transcript and was instrumental in reviving the Red Mass, a celebration for people in the legal profession and others interested in justice. The Mass, to be said by the archbishop, will take place at noon on Oct. 10 at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church.

Below is one of his Transcript columns:

The beggar

I had arrived at Superior Court in Hartford early. The judicial marshals hadn’t unlocked the doors to the courthouse yet, but already there was a line forming at the entrance. Standing in line is a waste of time, and wasting time is a mortal sin in the practice of law. I decided that this was as good a time as any to try my hand at praying the rosary. Of course, I’ve recited the rosary before, but I’m not particularly good at it and, admittedly, I don’t do it very often. Nevertheless, I keep a rosary around the rearview mirror for the same reason as many Catholics: to remind me not to use the middle finger or yell obscenities while driving.

As I started saying the rosary, I noticed a man walking around near the courthouse. He was early middle-aged and only marginally unkempt. He was approaching people who were arriving to court or otherwise milling near the entrance. I could tell from the body language of those he approached that he was asking them for something.

I’m a lawyer and in court in Hartford often. I’m also a member of St. Patrick–St. Anthony Parish, also in downtown Hartford. I had seen this man before and recognized him immediately. I knew that he was asking people around the courthouse for money.

He tells people that he was arrested recently. That the case against him was dropped and that the marshals had just released him from the courthouse, without his wallet or cell phone. Or he says that the bus from the Hartford Correctional Center had just let him off at the courthouse after having his case dismissed. His tale is one that preys on those who are unfamiliar with the criminal justice system; people who find themselves at court for the first time in their lives or the family members and friends of a defendant are particularly susceptible to his story. His appearance is just clean enough and his account just reasonable enough for it to all seem credible.

I don’t think he tells this story intentionally to lawyers at the courthouse. A lawyer would know that the marshals do not just foist people from the courthouse, penniless and destitute, without their possessions. A lawyer would know that the Hartford Correctional Center transport, also run by the judicial marshals, is not a bus that is going to let anyone out and free before they see the judge. Unfortunately, too, many lawyers may have seen enough begging and homelessness around the courthouses that they wouldn’t give this guy 10 seconds for his story.

cody beggar july aug 700x600 jpgEarlier in my career, before this man had pegged me as a lawyer, he had approached me with his story. My wife tells me I am a sucker when it comes to those who resort to begging on the street. I know that there are better ways to support the poor than by giving a beggar money. I know that sociological research would suggest that among the transient population of the homeless, there is a high likelihood that my money will go toward narcotics, alcohol or some other vice. I know that giving money is a sure way to continue getting solicited. Nevertheless, all too often when I’m approached on the street or drive by someone holding a sign, I can’t help wondering if, when I’m standing at the gates to heaven, Jesus will say to me: “Remember the time that the guy with the prison release story came up to you asking for money to eat and you refused? That was me.”

That day, the marshals were running late. As I sat in my car in front of the courthouse, rosary in hand, the man approached me once again. I rolled down my window and let him give me his spiel, yet again. I heard him out and then reminded him that I’ve heard it before, a couple of times. I asked him why he keeps coming around and telling this lie to people. So he tells me another story I’m well-acquainted with too: He is hard on his luck, has a substance abuse issue and is homeless. He’s saving money and is going to turn his life around. His story worked and I gave him a few dollars, but I told him that he needn’t approach me again because that is the only time I will contribute to his cause.

Of course, I don’t know what he spent the money on. I hope his second story, about getting his life back on track, was a true one. However, I still see him around on occasion.

I don’t know if it is a spiritual or moral necessity to give to beggars in inner cities. I don’t know which, if any, of them actually might be Jesus in disguise, here to test me. However, if you see a beggar and hear his or her story, and it reminds you to say a decade of the rosary and/or contribute to a nonprofit that services the homeless community, perhaps there is a spiritual element to the encounter, after all.

Cody Guarnieri is a criminal defense lawyer with a Hartford law firm and is a member of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish in Hartford.

Leave a comment

A voice for the foreigner: immigration attorney Meghann LaFountain

Click below to hear the episode:

Meghan LaFountainAtty Meghann E. LaFountain, of LaFountain Immigration Law, LLC, in Middletown, CT, handles asylum and deportation cases. She can be reached at and 860-918-4339.


Leave a comment

Centering prayer and contemplation: a tutorial

Click below to hear the episode:


Today, centering prayer.  Here in Connecticut, Mike Smoolca has resurrected two moribund chapters of organizations devoted to this form of quiet prayer. He is joined by Grace Padilla, a longtime practitioner of centering prayer who singlehandedly brought the practice to the Philippines, her home country. At this fractious time in our country’s and church’s history, this may be the balm we need.

Leave a comment

Wounded by Religion; Healed by the Sacred

Click below to hear the episode:

TerrlynTerrlyn Curry Avery coined the title “pastologist” to reflect her dual roles as a Presbyterian minister and psychotherapist. She works with clients of all religious denominations whose painful experiences at the hands of the church are keeping them from thriving. Rev. Avery will be leading a workshop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Courtyard Marriott in Norwich on Sept. 15. Information can  be found at or by emailing



“My faith is in God, not in any church…”

So writes Sr. Eileen Dooling, executive director of Mercy By The Sea Retreat & Conference Center in Madison, CT, in this thoughtful blog post:






Leave a comment

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

Click below to hear the episode:

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





Leave a comment

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

Click below to hear the episode:

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!

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.