The National Catholic Review

Faith in Focus

  • April 6, 2015

    I watch for it every Easter vigil, and every Easter vigil it happens—this Easter vigil right in front of me where I sat in the second row of the chapel expressly to see it; and once again I nearly burst into tears, because it is so beautiful and subtle and gentle and heartrending and amazing, and you would totally miss it if you were not watching closely for it.

  • April 6, 2015

    For a long time, my experience as a public defender supported my belief that some people deserved life sentences. One client chilled me to the core. As a juvenile, he had graduated from burglary and auto theft to armed robbery, holding up three separate victims in the course of two days. The first victim was a young mother playing with her kids in a park; the second was an 11-year-old on a bike. My client preyed on the vulnerable.

  • March 30, 2015

    These days, when I light a candle at the base of the makeshift shrine in my sitting room, I feel at peace. I haven’t always felt this way. A year and a half ago, I would have been sitting down in a room of similar size but crowded with food wrappers and neglected dirty laundry. I probably would have been wolfing down a carton of Chinese food and binge-watching endless episodes of a Netflix drama. I was 200 pounds heavier, stressed, depressed, unsure about my...

  • March 30, 2015

    Despite various attempts over the centuries to give her a personal story, there is no evidence that she was a historical figure. She has never been included in any official list of Catholic saints; and although she is commemorated on July 12 in the Orthodox churches, there has never been a universally observed feast day for her in the Western church.

  • March 23, 2015

    ‘What can possibly make a difference in these kids’ lives after all they have been through?” I asked. The director of the children’s shelter we were visiting that Sunday morning took her finger off the “enter” button she was using to flick through a PowerPoint presentation and sat back in her chair. She exhaled at the ceiling, perhaps scanning the slides in her head of all the kids she had dealt with over the years, suddenly focused on the summons before her...

  • March 16, 2015

    The wedding was on Saturday afternoon, between an American Irish woman and an American Irish man. Both vast clans were in nearly full attendance and there was a great deal of dancing and laughing and dandling of babies. I counted four young women who were enormously pregnant and, as a priest said to me, if God is in high humor today one or more of those women will deliver during the wedding reception and we will welcome new guests to the feast.

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  • March 9, 2015

    No monk should ever defend another in the monastery. Nor should he take sides in an argument…. We decree that no one should be permitted to ostracize or to strike any one of his brothers; and if any monk should break this rule, let him be publicly reprimanded, that the others may learn from his mistake.

    —Rule of St. Benedict

  • March 2, 2015

    I met the monk, before he was a monk, on Facebook. The message icon flickered to life when an actor we both know made the connection: two writers, two creative people, two weirdoes, two Catholics. Perhaps we’d like to get acquainted? The monk back then had a different name; let’s call him Anthony, the desert father, the first monk. I went into the café where he worked, a busy spot near the school where I teach, and introduced myself.

  • February 23, 2015

    When my oldest son Peter was almost 4 years old, we arrived at Sunday Mass, hurriedly walking in a few minutes late, when he noticed the prayer candles in the back corner of the church. He was mesmerized. He asked, “Mommy, what are those?” As the mother of a child who had been labeled as having a significant delay in the way he was acquiring language, I was happy to hear a non-routine, real question stemming from his curiosity.

  • February 16, 2015

    The first time I saw snow, I was 26 years old. I’d moved to Pittsburgh for graduate school after a lifetime in southern Louisiana, where I’d never owned a coat, hat, scarf or mittens. I remember I walked outside the coffee shop where I was studying and stood there, turning circles in wonder like some alien fallen to earth, looking every bit the yokel I was, overpowered by the beauty of the fat, white flakes, by the sudden hushed silence that seemed to...