The National Catholic Review

Faith in Focus

  • October 19, 2015

    My grandmother’s rosary was of amethyst-colored beads and a small silver crucifix, gray-black with tarnish. She kept it on the bureau in her bedroom near a holy card of St. Jude and a talcum powder box made of imitation satin. She’d put it in a special pouch—an old change purse, actually—when she was heading out for Mass or had a reasonably long bus ride ahead of her.

  • October 12, 2015

    For decades, I have admired Ron Hansen, the gifted author of many novels, including one of my favorites, Mariette in Ecstasy, about the religious experiences of a young nun in upstate New York. “Luminous” is how one reviewer described the book, and I think of that adjective every time I read it. More than 20 years ago, I met Ron when he came to lecture on theology and fiction at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., where I was...

  • October 5, 2015

    Five years after my first battle with breast cancer, a new one struck. There it was: a dime-sized tumor, spotted by my doctor even though the rest of my right colon was difficult to see. “How presumptuous of me to think that because I had cancer once there would never be another,” I thought after the initial shock. Later, after the surgery, I was concerned I would have to have another colonoscopy right away. “It’s good news,” the surgeon told me. “You don’t...

  • September 28, 2015

    The thing I remember best about Louie is that he said he hadn’t had a peach in 30 years. Louie (not his real name) was a lifer; he was in his 50s and had been in prison for over three decades. On the day he told me this, as he was hanging out in the library where I work, a couple of landscape workers were ripping out two trees in the chapel courtyard. The trees in question had grown from saplings and had turned out to be fruit trees, suspected peach trees,...

  • September 28, 2015

    Last winter I traveled to Florence, Ariz., to a federal detention facility one hour north of Tucson, where we celebrated a liturgy with 50 men who rarely have a chance to attend Mass and who are separated from their families and friends. We sang hymns together, prayed together and exchanged the sign of peace. I tried to follow along in Spanish.

    We were unable to bring cameras or cell phones into the facility, so I will try to...

  • September 21, 2015

    My parish is a short drive from the house. Every Sunday I see the same people at 8:30 a.m.: the older couples whose children are grown, the many young families with their children, the teenagers who came with their parents but who would rather be in bed. This is the Mass I almost always attend alone. There are a few others who are also alone, though not many.

  • August 31-September 7, 2015

    I never realized the power of stories until I began working with refugees in East Amman. The stories I hear vary. Some are extremely happy, filled with vivid memories of times that were present with love and laughter, enough to fill a large Middle Eastern sitting room. These are the stories where you see people’s faces light up, their bright brown eyes becoming as large as a full moon hanging in the desert sky to light the secrets of the mysterious terrain...

  • August 17-24, 2015

    ‘We just got a call from a producer for a reality TV show,” announced a member of our Catholic Worker farm community to a few of us working in the garden. Skeptical, we kept our hoes moving, preparing to sow the first seeds of spring. We wondered aloud if this was some kind of bizarre prank. “They sound pretty serious,” she said. “They want us to be featured for a show on intentional communities.” We laughed. “What are they going to do,” we joked, “film us...

  • August 17-24, 2015

    ‘Where is God?” My 4-year-old daughter asks me as she looks at me from the floor with her inquisitive, chestnut eyes. I am on the couch, and she sits at my feet playing with Legos.

  • June 22-29, 2015

    Punctuation can make a world of difference in our understanding of written communication. Consider, for example, the following sentences: “Let’s eat, Uncle Larry!” and “Let’s eat Uncle Larry!”