The National Catholic Review

The Good Word

  • My nephew has a tattoo. Perhaps, more than one, but, as I pause to picture, I can clearly remember only the one. It’s a simple gothic cross, running the length of his right bicep. Although we live a little less distant than a two-hour car drive, we dwell in different worlds. He’s just under thirty, never married. He struggled to finish high school. Until the drop in prices, he was employed in the Kansas oil fields.

  • This is the eighteenth entry in the Bible Junkies Online Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. This post examines Stephen’s preaching and the plot to arrest him and bring him before the council. Stephen is one of the seven who has just been appointed to serve the practical needs of the Hellenist community, but when we first see him here, he is engaged in evangelism.

  • We are what we remember, granted that memory is deep and wide, and that sometimes who we are, even who we’ve been, may yet surprise us. Yet that which is completely forgotten, if such be possible, would be as though it had never occurred.

    To be human is ever to reclaim one’s past. To live oriented toward the future, as we do, is always to ask new questions, and therefore to discover new meanings, of our past. The past forms the future, yet it is the future that redeems the past....

  • The Holy Spirit is fire, light, comforter, wind and breath—all images and descriptions found in the Scriptures. How about one more image, clearly not found in the Scriptures? The Spirit is the cricket player who urges on his fellow player to continue to run and so score another run. The image is used by the Jesuit priest poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in a sermon delivered in 1882 in Liverpool.

  • As he saw it, he didn’t just make it. He was history. “I am the revolution.” That was the explanation Napoleon Bonaparte offered in 1804, when he announced that he would be crowned Emperor of the young French republic. As Bonaparte saw it, stability would never come to France as long as royalist or Jacobin plotters sought a change of regime through his assassination. Founding a dynasty would bring security, he explained. “They seek to destroy the Revolution by attacking my person. I will...

  • Try to imagine how distant our loved ones could be before Facetime, Skype, texting, email, even telephoning. Then you can better appreciate the desperation of a colonial device, one attempted far before its time. It’s retrieved in Malcolm Gaskill’s Between Two Worlds: How the...

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    This is the seventeenth entry in the Bible Junkies Online Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. This post examines a conflict between Hellenists and Hebraioi, both groups of Jesus’ disciples divided on linguistic grounds, and the choosing of seven to serve the needs of the Hellenists’ community. According to tradition the seven were the first seven “deacons,” but the text does not bear this out unequivocally.

  • Most of us can picture a life preferable to the one we have. Some of us spend entirely too time doing that. We scarcely notice the details of the dream changing, but the imagined life is even more variable than the real one! The only constant seems the stubbornness of God in not granting our wishes, but nowhere in the sacred scriptures does God pledge the life of our dreams. God only promises that our lives will be meaningful, provided that they draw their purpose from Christ’s own, the vine...

  • Kathryn Harrison’s new biography Joan of Arc (2014) is 320 pages long. She uses the word “voice,” or its plural, 150 times. Hard not to, when Joan’s own understanding of her life, and of what God wanted of her, was entirely determined by those voices. That was the issue at her trial by church...

  • This is the sixteenth 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...