The National Catholic Review

Faith in Focus

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  • February 15, 2016

    I was at Sunday Mass with my son, Peter, who was almost 6 years old. He was quiet and focused intensely on his color-by-number sheet. I was aware I was feeling grateful that Peter was able to be calmly present in church without being disruptive. Lately, Peter has become aware that if he screams certain phrases in a loud voice, his father will take him out of Mass. His latest phrases include: “I want to go home,” “Can I have a donut?” or the most...

  • February 1, 2016

    We are able to borrow traditions from other religions without compromising our own. This insight defined my interfaith journey as a Muslim at a Catholic college. My pilgrimage was set into motion by an invitation from the college’s chaplain to attend a Sunday worship service at the beginning of my freshman year. That single act of outreach and goodwill sparked a period of intensive spiritual growth and development during my undergraduate career. This...

  • January 18-25, 2016

    It was a splashy, ugly start. The oars of our two-man kayak slapped the water eagerly, but there was no rhythm. The boats on either side of us fought through the same water, striving for the lead. I restrained myself from looking to see where we were in the pack, trying instead to focus on Will’s tempo in front of me. Fifty meters down the lane, we hit our stride. Our strokes synced up and we took off.

    Before the race, I told...

  • January 4-11, 2016

    In my youth, I stuttered terribly. I hated both the children who laughed at my disability and the elders who pitied me. I disliked the teacher who tried to correct me. Answering a question in the class horrified me, and even private conversations filled me with dread. Unable to express my feelings and thoughts clearly, I hated myself, too. Increasingly, I grew anxious, angry with all and horribly fearful of talking to others. I preferred to listen and keep...

  • December 21-28, 2015

    Why is it that if I cut back a wayward branch on a tree, the most growth in the coming season is where I have pruned? Though I am uncomfortable admitting this, I suppose my life is the same. When I was young I grew up on mother’s milk, Catholic schools and television. I remember meticulously planning my day around the many television shows I would watch. When I was 12, I even created a chart for the Christmas season so I could watch every holiday special. I...

  • December 7-14, 2015

    These days, when I am among friends at a dinner party or spending time with family members, I find myself looking at each one and thinking how blessed I am that these unique individuals are knit into my life. When I’m outside, I remember to keep an ear out for the birds singing. I was not always this present, nor was I so grateful. It took the barrel of a gun at the back of my head to bring me to life.

    The day everything...

  • November 30, 2015

    Maria and Manuel had shrunk. As bodies usually do, theirs diminished with the passing years. Maria stood rod straight, just smaller, while Manuel stooped, first over a cane, then a walker. His once-tall frame was pulled down by gravity stronger than his spine. The only evidence of his previous height could be seen when he was stretched out in his blue recliner, as he frequently was. There he relaxed and napped, especially during soap operas, his daytime...

  • November 23, 2015

    ‘Chris, I brought you some of the material. I thought you might want to....”

    “No,” I said, cutting off my sister, Liz. “I don’t want to pre-read any of the material. It’s my weekend—I’m not working.”

    She asked me again a few days later: “Chris?”

    “Ugh—” My grunt of negation was meant to be pre-emptive. She addressed me by name only when she was going to ask me...

  • November 16, 2015

    In the fall of 2013, two ninth graders from the local junior high school here were killed, one in October and one in November. I didn’t know the two boys, but one of my students from the community center in La Esperanza, José, who went to the same school as the murdered ninth graders, was also threatened by a gang—possibly the same one that killed the ninth graders. José knew if he refused to collaborate with the gang, as they demanded, he would meet the...

  • November 2, 2015

    I have stopped trying to correct people when they tell me that Pope Francis is “so much more like Jesus” than his predecessor. Every institution has a public image and, fairly or not, for the first time in a long time the whole world sees a man of the people at the church’s rudder. I admire Francis and consider him saintly. But I am also convinced that the previous man to wear the white and gold, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, is saintly as well. I have found...