The National Catholic Review

The Good Word

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  • The virtues come braided, which is why the strength, or the weakness, of one virtue effects all of them. If you’re not particularly good at one virtue, strengthening the others will help. Trouble is, weakness in one virtue draws down the rest. That’s why the church, in its fascination with the number seven and its sense of balance, opposes seven virtues to seven deadly sins: humility against pride, kindness against envy, abstinence against gluttony, chastity against lust, patience against...

  • I’d start with stracciatella . It’s such a fun word to pronounce, and what’s there to explain? Other than to say, “It’s chocolate chip.” Of course, they’d want to know how that was different from, the similar looking, bacio , and I’d explain that it was made with the famous chocolates from Perugia. Over here was cioccolato al arancia , dark chocolate with orange flavoring. Of course pistacchio was pistachio. Where’d they think we got it from? Niocciola was hazelnut, all by itself.

    ...

  • My mother loved to lament, while she was preparing some family feast, that she would have to cook her own funeral dinner. But this was a faux, if not fey, complaint. Sometimes I’d hear it while doing something useful, like peeling potatoes. At other times, I might have been enjoying a late breakfast bowl of cereal, glad to be home and to sleep in. Either way, I went with her flourish.

    “That would be great, Mom! What a help. If you could just have the meat and potatoes ready before...

  • Like the moon, our worlds wax and wane. The candles on a child’s birthday cake mark more than years. Their gathering glow corresponds to the expansion of experience and perspective.

    Then comes the waning. As we grow older, we notice that our circle of friends and relatives shrinks, that responsibilities and concerns give way to ailments and anxieties. A single candle on the cake seems somehow fitting. We’re grateful for the gift of life, but we know that its shadows are lengthening...

  • Acts of the Apostles Manuscript

    This is the thirty-fifth entry in the Bible Junkies Online Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. In this entry James, brother of John, and Peter face the wrath of the authorities.

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

  • Most of life never rises to something that we would call an experience. We turn off a light; we shoo away a fly. No such event becomes even a short-term memory. So why does the mind preserve some small pieces from long ago? Is there something we’re supposed to learn from them? Does our consciousness continue to access them because they’ve become part of who we are? Does memory retain them so that we might register and respond to the goodness of God? Or do they linger as a lesson, as some...

  • Jesus himself creates some confusion, if you listen closely and note the contradiction. At times he speaks of the kingdom—that place and time in which God’s justice and mercy combine to create the life we are meant to receive—as something yet to come in the, perhaps distant, future:

    But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Mt 24: 36).

    And then there are times when he speaks as though the kingdom were already here...

  • Acts of the Apostles Manuscript

    This is the thirty-fourth entry in the Bible Junkies Online Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. In this entry the narrative turns to the origin and development of the Church at Antioch.

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

  • The chapel at Brideshead is based on the chapel at Madresfield Court in Worcestershire, the ancestral home of the Lygon family

    It was the first sign of intelligence you showed, and no one taught it to you. It came, as it were, a gift of God: the smile that you offered when you first recognized a human face. What a basic human experience: responding to the presence of another. Everything changes when we realize that we are not alone. Whatever else we’re doing, we add to it the decision of how to react. It doesn’t matter if the person is friend, family, stranger or lover. Humans respond to the presence of each other...

  • When I first moved away from home, to attend a Catholic high school as a boarding student, my cousin, who had briefly explored religious life as a sister, gave me a vinyl-covered, small blue book of many pages. It bore the title, The Practice of Mental Prayer .

    Thomas More Prep, the school that I attended, was an interesting experiment of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars. Two years earlier, they had combined two high schools, their military academy and their minor seminary. It was the...