Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 20, 1971 when parishioners settled on a site for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oxford.
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I remember the first time I saw her. I was a 15-year-old high school sophomore. She was a junior, but I didn’t know that at the time. We apparently had grown up on opposite sides of the same city. I was in the audience and she was on stage that early fall afternoon. I don’t remember getting to the theater, why I was there or where I was going afterward. All I remember is being absolutely captivated by her.

guarnieri mar18 pg10The way she moved on stage was the embodiment of beauty and grace. Her turns and jumps, expressions and graceful gestures were all absolutely enchanting. She was not merely physically, mechanically performing the steps; she was letting the dance perform through her. The moves had been rehearsed so many times that she didn’t have to think about them at all. Her performance came together seamlessly.

I knew nothing about dance when we met. I came to learn that it has a system of rules and procedures with funny sounding names (not so different from my field, the law, perhaps). More than 15 years and two kids later with the dancer I met in high school, I admittedly still don’t know very much about dance. However, I’ve seen enough performances over the years to have a sense of what is beautiful and indicative of solid training and what is discordant or inharmonious.

These days, my wife teaches tiny dancers (aged 3-7 years) at the University of Hartford HARTT Community Division. They are learning the foundational aspects of movement, progressing toward something more recognizable as dance and ballet. If the students progress through the pre-professional program, they undoubtedly will learn of the many positions, turns, jumps and other movements in the classical ballet repertoire to the most minute detail. They will have performed them so many times as to make the movements second nature. They will aspire to graduate with those movements and techniques committed to their muscle memory, to be recalled and performed seamlessly. They won’t need to think about the rules; they will just dance and it will be beautiful.

I listened to a lecture recently that probably was recorded some years ago by a professor emeritus of liberal studies at the University of Notre Dame, Holy Cross Father Nicholas Ayo. His lecture was an in-depth discussion of the pinnacle Catholic prayers. Father Ayo described the purpose of our lives as learning and practicing the steps of the dance that is being performed in heaven. This is a metaphor that resonates with me.

To be a practicing Catholic is to do (and refrain from doing) certain things. We go to Mass (hopefully, each week) and confession (less often than we should, no doubt), we perform corporal acts of mercy, we give charitably. I would argue that these are the outward manifestations of a kind of person that the practicing Catholic aspires to be: loving, in the broadest sense of the word. Therefore, the steps of our dance are designed to show our friends, family, community and the world that our lives are an expression of the love and beauty that is living and dying in the joy of Christ and the salvation possible only through him.

The steps in our dance represent the actions that influence a way of being and the way we approach the world around us. We aspire to perform our steps more fully, more innately, more effortlessly and essentially more beautifully. Our hope is that we have practiced our steps well enough in this life that we will be invited to the great dance and can perform in heaven with complete grace, relying on our muscle memory, and have it be beautiful. That is, in a sense, the purpose of our lives on earth; the purpose of “practicing” being Catholic.

We practice being Catholic in preparation for the dance in the next life. My wife the dance instructor, my kids, friends, co-workers and clients continue to help me practice my steps daily. I’m not very good, but there’s still hope. I might find grace, yet.

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

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.