The National Catholic Review

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  • May 9, 2016

    If you have ever found it tempting to eat dessert before the main course, then I would encourage you to indulge this streak and read the second part of this memoir first. For readers unfamiliar with the life and philosophy of Dietrich von Hildebrand, the profundity of his struggle, the manner of his Catholic thinking and the reason why the Nazi Gestapo might want to assassinate him, the short essays at the end of this memoir bring all of this into focus....

  • May 9, 2016

    One of the great paradoxes of Buddhist-Christian relations is that Buddhist worldviews diverge so radically from Christian perspectives that in many ways it seems difficult to imagine any understanding at all between their respective adherents; yet many Christians, including myself, have found that engagement with the Buddhist tradition has strongly enriched their Christian practice. Mutual understanding is precarious: if a Christian assimilates Buddhist...

  • May 16, 2016

    Is there something to be gained by assessing the merits of the losing side of a long-settled scientific argument? Christopher Graney’s answer in Setting Aside All Authority is an unequivocal yes, and he takes one of the most celebrated cases of scientific advance—the victory of heliocentrism over geocentrism—to show us. The work contributes to an effort among historians of science to demonstrate how much more genuinely scientific the entire dispute was than...

  • May 16, 2016

    To Montse, the Virgin Mary is not so much the mother of God as she is a type of goddess, one who is sorrowful and carefree all at once. She doesn’t guide or shield people but goes with them and adds her tangible presence when required. She’s more of a sister than a mother.

    It’s possible that Montse feels this way about the Virgin because she was abandoned as an infant and left in a monastery chapel. But readers won’t know for...

  • May 16, 2016

    Reinhold Niebuhr, with his usual gift of mixing irony with political insight, once observed that he avoided reading political history because of the strained Manichean nature of the scholarship produced by the likes of presidential historians. Who would have guessed, he dryly observed, that President Warren G. Harding (of Teapot Dome fame) had actually fought with the Armies of the Lamb, as opposed to the Armies of the Beast? Who knew? But of course Niebuhr’s...

  • May 2, 2016

    In January 1692 in Salem, the devil is very real. An 11-year-old girl feels bites and pricks and goes into strange convulsions and contortions. She is soon joined by her 9-year-old cousin and two neighbor children. They together are able to identify a local beggar-woman as their attacker. The town is in turmoil. The beggar woman is arrested. Soon more Salem children feel the effects of witchcraft and identify more attackers. They report actually seeing...

  • May 2, 2016

    Contemporary intellectuals typically distrust tradition, employ market analogies to make sense of the world and celebrate the continuous advance of technological innovation. Marilynne Robinson does none of these things. A Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and essayist, she is both straightforward and polite in refusing to follow what is trending. Robinson’s appeal is tied to her trademark dissent, though her ability to yield an endless series of penetrating...

  • May 2, 2016

    Because of the simultaneous revelation and mystery of its shifting perspectives, Wallace Stevens’s poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” has remained a literary touchstone for nearly 100 years. Now the fiction writer Colum McCann uses its stanzas as epigraphs to the novella Thirteen Ways of Looking . Stevens’s poem, 13 stanzas published in the early 20th century, is imbued with symbolism about observation and the actions that knowledge can provoke...

  • When he was a boy, Jorge Galán would go up to the roof of his house in San Salvador to watch the bombardments. He did this at night, while his mother and his grandmother were sleeping. Had they found out, they would have tied him to his bed. During childhood, war is an adventure, a trail of blood, some broken glass on the ground, a basement where we can all sleep together.

    On March 24, 1980, a bullet struck and killed Archbishop Óscar Romero while he was celebrating Mass.* The day...

  • April 18, 2016

    It was in 1978 that I first met Mary McGrory, the subject of the well-crafted biography by John Norris, Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism . Time Inc. had just purchased The Washington Star. I had done some reporting for Time years earlier in Vietnam. Some of my old editors asked if I might want to leave The Detroit Free Press, where I had been a reporter for five years, and work as an editor for their new enterprise. It seemed like a good move—with...