Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith

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Everybody dance now! … Well, not everybody …

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Victoria Scottmarianne-dbJim Bransfield pic

Today, we consider one Catholic high school’s decision to show no mercy when it comes to girls taking girls to the prom. The all-girls Mercy High in Middletown, CT, landed  in the news recently when a student circulated an online petition seeking to take a girlfriend to the prom, which is scheduled for the end of this month. Though the administration compelled the petitioner to withdraw her demand, the repercussions linger on. We’ll talk with three people who favor lifting the ban on same-sex prom attendance: Victoria Scott, a Mercy High alum now studying at SUNY who’s taken up the cause; Maryann Duddy-Burke,  executive director of the organization Dignity, which serves LGBT Catholics; and Jim Bransfield, lifelong Middletown resident who covers sports and writes a popular column for the Middletown Press. Jim, who happens to be gay, devoted a recent piece to the controversy.



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UCC minister ❤s Francis and his ❤ for Earth

Listen to the audio by clicking on the link below:

heart book coverrevdonnaThe Rev. Donna Schaper, pastor of the historic Judson Memorial Baptist Church in New York City, talks about her latest book, I ❤ Francis: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer. She will be speaking about the book at 7 p.m. on May 1 at Hartford Seminary. Details at

Here’s a photo of the “self-fluing log,” a metaphor she explores in our interview.

self-flueing log


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He’s giving up sexism for Lent

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Chris HaleChristopher Hale is executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and a contributor to, The Huffington Post, and Fox News.

Here is his essay, “I Want to Give Up Sexism for Lent”:

Since the President’s election last November, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the harsh realities of sexism that plague both our nation and the Christian community and my participation in it in the ways I’ve acted in my personal and professional life.

I think shame is a necessary part of the faith journey. Shame isn’t a matter of discrediting one’s self-worth, but of penetrating, to its fullest depth, our heart and to take charge of the mystery of suffering and pain that has tied humanity down since the dawn of creation and each of us since the moment of our conception.

On the precipice of Lent, the challenging words of the prophet Joel ring loudly in my ears: “rend your hearts, not your garments!”

This Lent, I want to have an effective gesture that will in some way alleviate the pain of so many of those who suffer around me—oftentimes as the result of my own failings.

St. John Chrystodom is right: “No act of virtue can be large if it does not also benefit another. Therefore, no matter how you spend the day fasting, no matter how you may sleep on a hard floor, and how you may eat ashes and sigh continuously, if do not do good to others, you do not accomplish anything great.”

Here’s a specific way I want to do better this Lent and confront the great sin of sexism that too often dominates my life.

I want to use the privileges life has afforded me to amplify work of young women of faith in public life.

Too often men with good intentions—myself included—crowd out the great work of women who promote the greatest demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the public sphere.

Pride, vanity, selfishness—the litany of reasons why this happens is endless.

I’ve been a big part of the problem, but I too want to be a part of the solution.

I admittedly don’t know yet how this plays out specifically in the context of my own life, this organization, and the broader community, but I’m open to ideas.

If you’re able and willing, I hope you’ll offer me tangible ideas on how to move forward on this Lenten project.

I’m excited to begin this Lenten journey with you, a path that will include suffering and the cross, a path that will challenge me to change and transform, and a path that will be narrow, but never fruitless.




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A minister and an imam walk into a radio station…

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revandimamRev. Cathy Rohrs, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Middletown, and Imam Sami Aziz, Wesleyan and Quinnipiac’s Muslim chaplain and the founder of Common Ground Institute and Services, talk about the developing connection between their two flocks.


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His ‘Silence’ speaks volumes: what Scorcese told Rand Richards Cooper

rand-bulldogAuthor, journalist and critic Rand Richards Cooper talks about his two-hour interview with director Martin Scorcese about the new film Silence.

Click below to hear Part II of our chat:

Rand’s Q&A in the Catholic journal Commonweal can be found here:

And here is his Commonweal review:


Below is the uncut audio of our entire interview:




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Women make noise; Scorcese makes “Silence”- it’s all good

Some audio snapshots from the Women’s March on Washington lovefest; and Part I of a visit with author and journalist Rand Richards Cooper, who had an in-depth interview with director Martin Scorcese about the project he’d been trying to make for decades, novelist Shusaku Endo’s Silence, about two Jesuits in Japan in the 17th century, when practicing Christianity meant risking torture and death.

Click below to hear the episode:


Rand Richards Cooper, whose Q&A with director Martin Scorcese about his film Silence, can be found here:

and here’s his review:



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Is Pope Francis campaigning for married priests? If so, is that a good thing?

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Version 2“This could set back the movement for women’s equality in the Church decades,” says Jamie Manson, a columnist and the books editor for the National Catholic Reporter. The LGBT movement, too, will suffer if married men are ordained, she says. Other topics explored in the episode:

  • a female diaconate — threat or menace?
  • and those four conservative cardinals pressing Pope Francis to clarify whether people who divorce and remarry without first getting an annulment are adulterers. What to make of Francis’ silence?
  • finally, do we liberal Catholics — along with the mainstream press — love Pope Francis too unconditionally?

Click here to read the National Catholic Reporter column which prompted our conversation:

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The four-year fight ahead and other topics, with Father John Baptist Pesce

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Passionist Fr. John Baptist Pesce, 93, of Holy Family Monastery and Retreat Center in West Hartford, CT, was the inaugural guest of Reasonably Catholic: Keeping the Faith when the program launched in 2012. Known to his flock for his urgent, progressive-minded wisdom, he has been an occasional guest since then. Today, he takes up five subjects: parish-shopping; Pope Francis’ end-of-the-year message; Father John’s own Christmas homily; obedience; and finally, our responsibilities over the next four years. Father John offers Mass at the monastery Monday through Saturday at 7 a.m.

Here is a link to Pope Francis’ end-of-the-year message:

And here is the text of Fr. John’s Christmas homily:

He came.
He entered space and time and suffering.
He came, like a lover.
Love seeks first of all and above all
Intimacy, presence, togetherness.
Not happiness.
“Better unhappy with her than happy without her” – that is the word of a lover.
He came.
That is the salient fact, the towering truth,
That alone keeps us from putting a bullet through our heads.
He came.
Job is satisfied even though the God who came gave him absolutely no answers at all to his thousand tortured questions.
He did the most important thing.
He gave the most important gift: himself.
But it is a lover’s gift.
Which means it can be … tragically many times it is, refused!
But the fact of history is he came.
Out of our disconcerting tears, our restless waiting, our impenetrable darkness, out of our agonized aloneness, out of our inescapable confusion, our weeping and wondering, our of our cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
He came all the way, right into that cry!

Except for sin, he knew the human condition (you name it) not as an abstraction or a philosophical problem but in the reality that it is in all its dimensions.
The Word became flesh!  “Flesh” the Greek word sarx to counter any suggestion of make believe, appearance or semblance.
Not a clever piece of divine play-acting. Here the familiar words apply: what you see is what you get, the reality in the flesh is the flesh.

The Son of God, becoming flesh, summons, invites, incites, challenges us to a revolution of tenderness, as Pope Francis expresses it.

He came to bring about a nonviolent revolution of love. Instead of competition, he seeks to have us cooperate, rather than conduct ourselves as rivals, as one above the other, he motivates us to contribute to the common good.
And betterment of all.
He came, as he stated his mission, that we might have life and have it more abundantly…that more abundant life – not a matter of quantity! – but over and above the natural – that which belongs to him as God he shares with us by grace.

To believe that the Son of God assumed our human flesh means that each human person has been taken up into the very heart of God…It is to believe that, as the Church prays, in virtue of the Word become flesh – the mystery that we celebrate and share – God sees and loves in us what God sees and loves in the One who came. There is our identity with him.

I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me!

Imagine that! No, don’t imagine. Accpt it as the reality, the God-given gift that it is. Christ in you, the hope of glory. He came!
Jesus brings about this marvelous exchange which the Church thanks God for in her prayers during these days.

O marvelous exchange!
The Creator of the human race has become man,
born of a virgin.
We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

That sums it up admirably. All the rest is commentary! As when Paul the apostle writes, I live now not I,
But Christ lives in me! No euphemism. No exaggeration. Christ lives in me!
The Lord Jesus continues his life – he is in the world, right now.
At this moment … as close to you and more intimate to you than you are to yourself! Or than I am to myself! This is what we celebrate!

There is an old saying based on the mystery we are celebrating. “Through his union with one of us, the Word has taken up his abode in all of us!”
Pope Francis proclaims this truth by quoting his predecessor Pope Benedict.
Listen carefully to the words of Pope Francis: “I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel:  ‘Being a Christian is never the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, who gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’”

This is precisely what the Son of God become the Son of Mary does today in every child born into the world.

There was a 17th-century priest, poet and mystic named Angelus Silesius. He was so taken up with the meaning of the mystery of God become flesh that he preached to the common, ordinary people of his day: “Should Christ be born ten thousand times anew, desair, O Man, despair, O woman, unless he’s born in you!” With the experience of Jesus being born in him and with the Spirit-boldness of someone who had experienced God in his life, Angelus even dared to preach, “I am to be another Mary and bring Christ to the world.”

What prevents us from claiming that call from God to do the same? Is that not the mission of the Church? And are we not the Church? Whom we honor as the Sacrament of Christ, the visible sign of the invisible Lord?

Nor is that the only such hard-to-believe witness we have to such a stunning reality. We have among our ancestors in the faith a theologian and founder of religious order of priests in the Church, Saint John Eudes. The society of priests which he established are in charge of St. Michael’s College in Winooski, Vermont. Some of you may even be graduates of that institution or know those who have graduated from there. He preached the true Catholic faith with these words: “It may be truly said that a Christian who is alive with the life of Christ and united to him as a member of his body completes and accomplishes in every action he performs in the spirit of Jesus, the same action which Jesus Christ performed during his lifetime on earth. For the Christian life is nothing other than the prolongation and the completion of the life of Christ in every one of us!”

Because, through no fault of your own, you may never have had the mystery we celebrate – the Word made flesh – put before you in this stark, and perhaps disturbing fashion – does not make it any less true and applicable to you, to all of us who belong to Christ and adore him as the Word become flesh.

No, He came and revolutionized our lives to make them the continuation and the prolongation of his own. Or what could he have meant when he told us, “As long as you did it to one of these the least of my brothers or sisters you did it to me”?

We can “characterize” – that is, make a character of God – and we, all-too unfortunately, frequently do – that is, make a character of God, as if God were a sort of divine paymaster. That we perform a good deed that is tallied up and, ultimately, after our death, we receive a comparable reward.

But the unassailable truth is that God has one desire, one single purpose – the one-track mind, or the single heartbeat, the “blood pulse” of the divine heart whose single intent is to enrich, stun, amaze, discombobulate us with nothing less than the gift of divine selfhood … beyond expression, imagination or conception! We say precisely, ineffable!

God’s one preoccupation is to be our happiness! How often has that been preached? Has it been preached? God wants to be our happiness! Imagine how we have to seemingly exaggerate: God’s pleasure is to make us happy, to be our happiness! … To communicate His happiness, what makes God to be God, to be for us that source of ecstatic joy, to bring us out of ourself into the embrace, the selfhood of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

You may well shake your head and be thinking, saying to yourself, “I don’t understand! I don’t’ understand!” Indeed! How proper! And if you did understand, where would the quality of transcendent surprise be? What kind of God would that be? A God measured according to our created, limited dimensions? That would not be anything like the God revealed in the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ revealed in the Gospels!

We have only the Word of God. Only the Word of God. Take that easily, slowly. The Word of God, living and effective (Heb 412), not any kind of verbal articulation, which passes us by, like a puff of breath, but the Son of God in the flesh, who kept that Word most manifestive of His love and most  difficult to keep. “And on the third day I will rise again and be with you until the end of the age.” The Word of God who gives us the assurance that rules out any reason to envy, resent, or consider ourselves at a disadvantage to the contemporaries of Christ, but make us His contemporaries, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed!” (Jn 20:29)

Come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord! Let us succumb to this mystery ineffable of the Word made flesh, the God who on the celebration of His birth as human makes the fit of Himself as one of us to each of us that we might continue His divine mission of glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to all of good will!