Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith

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Notre Dame Cathedral: ‘The building is not about the building’

ND fire

Joe SiryFranWesleyan University Prof. Joseph Siry and University of Hartford’s Hillyer College Prof. Fran Altvater, both art historians, talk about the history and future of Notre Dame Cathedral and react to news of street protests about the funding of its reconstruction.

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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.

temple hello

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.”

temple exterior

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

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IMG_2815Writer 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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IMG_0125 (1)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:


5. Jesus teaching Disciples copy3. watw close up

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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RichardRandSiskel & 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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Paul_Lakeland_photoAuthor 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.




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No Godtalk, please. We’re Christian.

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JM Headshot_SmallJonathan 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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Sex, religion, and politics: what’s past is prologue

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R. Marie GriffithR. Marie Griffith, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis and the director of the Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, is the author of Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics. 

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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!


3We 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.

14 Patrick Comins

Last three photos show: (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!





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Richard Alleva’s Top 10 Christmas films

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Talking movies on “Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith” gives one a powerful appetite! Richard Alleva, semi-retired from the Catholic journal Commonweal, enjoys a well-deserved lunch and dessert in Middletown after exploring his top 10 Christmas films on the show.

donateHave you donated to WESU’s fall/winter pledge drive yet? For a donation of any amount, I’ll send you your choice of a book from the list below. Please support independent, free-form, community radio by going to or mailing a check to WESU, 45 Broad St., Middletown, CT 06457.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

7 Paths to God: the Ways of the Mystic by Joan Borysenko

150 North American Martyrs You Should Know by Brian O’Neel

The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly

The Bishop’s Brothels by EJ Burford

Catholic and Christian by Alan Schreck

Catholics by Brian Moore

Church Chat: Snapshots of a Changing Catholic Church by Tom Smith

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest by Matthew Fox

Faith and Resistance in the Age of Trump by Manuel A. De La Torre

The Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church by John L. Allen Jr

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver

Heads Bowed: Prayers for Catholic School Days by Lisa Mladinich

A History of the Popes by Nicholas Cheetham

Holy Fire: A Personal Journey of Conversion and Renewal by Phyllis Price

Journal of a Soul by Pope John XXIII

How Do We Know When It’s God? by Dan Wakefield

The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) by Pope Francis

Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood by Wayne Muller

Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in the Age of Unbelief by Joseph Pearce

The Little Book of Letting Go by Hugh Prather

Making Sense of the Bible by Adam Hamilton

Maximilian Kolbe: Saint of Auschwitz by Elaine Murray Stone

Memoirs of the Soul: Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography by Nan Phifer

Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends by Mary Claire Kendall

Out of the Garden: Women Writers on the Bible edited by Christina Buchmann and Celina


The Princess Guide: Faith Lessons from Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty by

Jennessa Terraccino

Radical Reinvention: An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church by Kaya Oakes

Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion and Purpose by Matthew Kelly

Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly

Returning: A Spiritual Journey by Dan Wakefield

Rome Sweet Rome: Our Journey to Catholicism by Scott and Kimberly Hahn

Sacred Intelligence: The Essence of Sacred, Selfish, and Shared Relationships by Terrlyn Curry


Saints and Sinners: The American Catholic Experience Through Stories, Memoirs, Essays and

                Commentary edited by Greg Tobin

Saints for All Occasions: a Novel by J. Courtney Sullivan

The 7 Secrets of Successful Catholics by Paul Wilkes

Spiritual Quests: The Art and Craft of Religious Writing edited by William Zinsser

Spontaneous Happiness by Andrew Weil, MD

Stumbling Toward Enlightenment: An Illustrated Crisis Companion by Barbara Lewis-Marco )

A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the Twentieth Century by William F. Buckley

What, Then, Is Liturgy: Musings and Memoir by Anscar J. Chupungko

Why I am a Catholic by Gary Wills