The National Catholic Review

The Good Word

  • The morning of April 22, 1915, French and Canadian soldiers were immovably entrenched to the north of Ypres, a Belgian city in the Flemish province of West Flanders.  They saw a strange, green-yellow cloud form above the opposing German trenches. It then billowed across no man’s land into their ranks. As the cloud engulfed them, they experienced a burning sensation in their throats and intolerable choking. Within seconds, men were writhing in their death agonies, vomiting blood and mucus; a...

  • This is the fifteenth entry in the Bible Junkies Online Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. This post examines the second arrest of the disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount.

    For previous entries, please now go to the Complete Acts of the Apostle Commentary, where you can find links to each of the...

  • How history is recited matters almost as much as what happened. When someone as talented as Shakespeare tells your tale, the image stays fixed.

  • Hamlet expires saying, “The rest is silence.”  When someone dies, a stillness descends.  However feebly he might have communicated to us, even a moment before—with a gesture or a sigh—the soul of the other enters a silence in death.  It’s so final, so absolute.  Small wonder that many believe that the other is lost to us at death, dissolving away into nothing.  Yet, before she died of tuberculosis, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux wrote, “When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the...

  • He was a few weeks shy of his seventeenth birthday. It was a morning in spring, and he was on his way to a youth rally. As he walked past his parish church, the Basilica of Saint Joseph, on the Avenida Rivadavia, Jorge Borgoglio felt compelled to enter. “I went in. I felt I had to go in—those things you feel inside and you don’t know what they are.”

  • Enrique Garcia Medina / European Pressphoto Agency

    It’s in the nature of the sacred to be separate.  Sacer, the archaic Latin root of the English word, suggests that which is “cut off,” deliberately distinguished from what we call the secular.  Religions create sacred time, sacred places, sacred objects, and sacred persons.  Sometimes we see more when something is set at a distance.  The sacred reveals by setting aside.

  • Regret is the grace no one wants, but only those who have grown beyond a mistake receive it. That’s one consolation. Those who don’t learn, or change, never experience regret. It’s a perspective on the past we only gain as we grow. The Passion of Saint Mark contains the most potent of regrets, a shame and sorrow candidly confessed yet easily missed.

  • As Easter approaches I wanted to offer some reading as you go through Lent and prepare for Easter. My most recent columns for Lent and Easter can be found at The Word

  • Waiting is the hardest. Why? Because if you’re waiting, you know that something is coming. You’re not blissfully ignorant. Yet, if you’re waiting, you don’t truly know what is coming, what it will be like. That’s why waiting is so difficult, often worse than the moment itself. To be human is to wait. Our minds allow us to see something of what is coming. We know a little, but never enough.

  • Interesting phrase. “It’s just your imagination.” We use it to tell another that her fears spring from her mind rather than reality, as though the two weren’t intertwined. Fears are part world, part whimsy. That’s true as well of inventions and inspirations. They begin with what is and take us to what might be. A world without imagination wouldn’t be one where humans could live. As that wise wizard Albus Dumbledore once said to his protégé, Mr. Potter, “Of course it is happening inside your...