The National Catholic Review

The Good Word

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  • You can’t walk out on love. You can walk away, but a love that is real will follow. It will stay with you, because it has become a part of you. Goethe puts it in the plainest possible German, in his little poem “ Heidenröslein .”

    Sah ein Knab’ ein Röslein stehn, Röslein auf der Heiden, War so jung und...
  • My father did not challenge fate. He certainly didn’t scheme about getting ahead in the world. He was an intelligent man, who had boyhood dreams of becoming a physician. The owner of the movie theater, for whom he worked, had pledged to send him to college. But promises are only promises. They don’t necessarily come to pass, especially in years of great depression and world war. As a boy—and that’s, by far, the best word for it—I thought that my father should have been more adventurous,...

  • We tend to think of seeing as an entirely passive operation. One can hear it in the phrases that we use. “What you see is what you get.” “Open your eyes and look.” “It’s as plain as day.” But neither our ancient nor our medieval forebears thought of seeing as such a passive activity. They believed that sight was an active process; that it had as much to do with the person seeing, as the object seen.

    They were mistaken about the physical operation of the eyes, which are passive...

  • Most of us, most of the time, don’t fret about the foundations of empirical science. We’re grateful that it works and rather naively believe that science can answer any question. If not today, then soon enough. That confidence conceals a mistake, made by many. Science is a method, not an acting agent. Science doesn’t work, and science doesn’t answer questions. People do, using science.

    It’s helpful, however, to note how our contemporaries insert the term “science” where once they...

  • Is it possible to dream the future? Of course we do that daily, authoring our own day dreams. But what of those moments when the conscious mind rests and the utterly creative awakes? Is it all illusion, or do we sometimes see the future?

    A fervent abolitionist, Julia Ward Howe regretted that she couldn’t take up arms to free the slaves. In so many ways, this 19 th -century poet and writer wasn’t free herself. Her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, was a celebrated physician, who thought...

  • When I was a child, I thought of the Trinity as something of a celestial committee. There was God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The last character used to be called God the Holy Ghost, but, about the same time that the Beatles came to America, he decided to change his name to Holy Spirit.

    I didn’t want to offend any one of the committee members through neglect, so I assigned each of them two days of the week, in which I would direct my prayer to him. Of course...

  • Wouldn’t it be nice to see the Holy Spirit? Or, at the least, to see something like those tongues of fire? There are two dilemmas for this desire. The first is the nature of God. Because God is pure spirit, there is, quite literally, nothing for the eyes to see. One can’t directly see a spirit any more than one can see spiritual realities such as love, beauty and wisdom. We do see such things in the pattern the world weaves, but we can’t distill love out of an embrace, or beauty from the...

  • The following is the homily by Luke Hansen, S.J., at the Mass of Remembrance for Daniel Berrigan, S.J., on May 6 at the Gesu Chapel at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif.

    During this Easter Season, in the Acts of the Apostles, we have been on a journey with the Apostle Paul “to the ends of the earth.” He has traveled through Asia Minor, Europe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, and today we are with Paul in Corinth. Paul is following the Spirit, strengthening other...

  • Walking between rectory and parish office, I pass the playground of the kindergarten students. I’m frequently stopped to look at a loose tooth, to examine a bug or to take in whatever passes that day for news with tikes. Sometimes, I am assailed with questions.

    Mandy, one of the few children of Mexican descent in the school, recently asked me, “Did Jesus have curly hair?”

    As a pastor, I’ve learned this helpful stalling tactic, which works with kids and complainers. I repeat...

  • 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,...