The National Catholic Review

The Good Word

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  • Driving on the prairie, your eyes arrive long before your car. If something rises up from the land, like a grain silo or a church steeple, you’ll have time to reflect as it sprouts in your windshield. That is, unless you’re racing across the prairie, from one metropolis to another. If your mind is mired in where you’ve been and where you’re going, the plains present themselves as only a long delay in your plans.

    But if you’ve got nowhere in particular to go, and you have the time,...

  • The old hymn says, “Time like an ever rolling stream bears all her sons away. They fly, forgotten, as a dream breaks at the op’ning day.” This week, eating lunch with kindergarten students, I asked them what they were going to wear for Halloween. Yes, it’s April, but I wanted a break from that day’s subject, which was cuts and injuries. When you eat with little kids, one of them finds a topic, and the others pile on. So one meal will be all about dogs, or cats. Really. All. Another will be...

  • St. Francis de Sales produced an easily remembered description of the prayer practice, which Christians call meditation. You bring thoughts to mind in order to move your heart to God ( Introduction to the Devout Life II, 5). Essentially, you give your mind some content, on which to chew, so as move your emotions toward God. The content might be sacred Scripture, a piece of religious art, a view in nature or even the events of your day. In meditation, you mull over something, and, doing so,...

  • This is the 33rd entry in the Bible Junkies Online Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. In this entry Peter reports the Gentile response to the Gospel and his decision to baptize Gentiles to the Jerusalem Church.

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

  • Young Sullivan Ballou had already been elected a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, when he married Sarah Hart Shumway on Oct. 15, 1855. She had borne him two sons before this young Republican, and ardent supporter of Abraham Lincoln, answered the call of his new president. After the attack on Fort Sumter, in April of 1861, President Lincoln needed 75,000 volunteers to preserve the Union.

    Commissioned a major in the Second Rhode Island Infantry, Sullivan Ballou died...

  • We label most everything. Assigning a verbal tag is an essential part of modern life. Turn on cable news, and you’re likely to read: “Breaking News, Terror Alert.” It’s probably not actual breaking at that very moment, but such is the effectiveness of labels. To label something is to make it “at hand,” a part of the world that lies under our control, our comprehension.

    Labels are verbal short-cuts for thought. Once something has been labeled, it’s been reined in by the one who labels...

  • The resurrection of Christ runs so far beyond words. Even the evangelists left the night itself to silence. They make no attempt to tell us what happened within the tomb, only that it was empty come Sunday morning, that he was restored to them, that Calvary had birthed a new, unimaginable creation.

    The great challenge of preaching the resurrection isn’t proving that it happened. It’s always been a reality that stands beyond verification, because it summons faith and excites wonder....

  • To get to Elysian Fields, a once elegant but now rather shabby row in the old quarter of New Orleans, one must take two street cars. The first is named “Desire.” The second is called “Cemeteries.” Tennessee Williams wasn’t being subtle. His play explores the bond that exists between death and desire.

    The great critic Cleanth Brooks once insisted that no doctrine of the Christian faith finds more attestation in literature than that of Original Sin. Our best stories say that something...

  • Tom shows us the photograph, saying,

    This is our father who left us a long time ago. He was a telephone man who fell in love with long distances; he gave up his job with the telephone company and skipped the light fantastic out of town…. The last we heard from him was a picture post-card from Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, containing a message of two words—“Hello—Goodbye!” and no address. I think the rest of the play will explain itself (“The Glass Menagerie,” 401).

    ...

  • Truth ties us together. It draws us to itself. Lies isolate the soul, like a fly in a web, sadly, one woven by the self.

    The first thing I ever stole was one of Caesar’s coins, neglected by a drunken Roman soldier. I told myself that it was a righteous act, to take from those who had stolen our country. The Romans never conquered a single land, you know. They always came as invited liberators. At least that’s what they said. Lies.

    Eventually I stole from my own people. I told...