The National Catholic Review

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  • January 23, 2017

    People make the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola for a variety of reasons. Preparing to play a featured role in a Martin Scorsese film is not one you hear often, but it's probably not the worst reason. Men and women often make retreats to find some clarity about who they are or who they’re called to be. I suppose it was so for Andrew Garfield when he asked America ’s James Martin, S.J., to guide him through the Exercises as he prepared to play the lead role in Mr. Scorsese’s new...

  • Heading out onto a chilly, rainy Times Square after a press screening of “Silence”—and trying to hold on to the spell it had cast—I was accosted by a fellow critic for whom the entire experience had been a washout.

    “Why were they there?” he asked, more or less rhetorically. “We’re supposed to sympathize, but they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

    The movie’s “they” and “there” are 1) Portuguese Jesuits and 2) 17th-century Japan, the setting for what is, despite...

  • September 12, 2016

    Last September, Pope Francis descended into the 9/11 Memorial Museum and presided over a multifaith prayer ceremony of great breadth and resolve. “We can and must build unity on the basis of our diversity of languages, cultures and religions,” he said. “Together we are called to say ‘no’ to every attempt to impose uniformity and ‘yes’ to a diversity accepted and reconciled.” Alongside leaders from many faith traditions, he prayed before the raw...

  • What is Pope Francis’ favorite word? Judging by his papal motto, the title of his recent book and the name of the Jubilee Year he kicked off this past December, I’d be willing to put money on “mercy.”

    “Mercy” was not a word I used or thought about much before Pope Francis started saying it all the time. But since he invited everyone to a year to “contemplate the mystery...

  • July 18-25, 2016

    Over his decades-long career, the author Roald Dahl penned 19 books for children, including James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox . His wild, dark and fantastical stories told us the truth about life while still making us want to laugh and bounce on the bed. Children were his main characters, the heroes and heroines of his books. He valued, precisely as children, our cleverness, imagination, sense of humor and ability to endure; and so,...

  • Needing only one name, Oprah occupies a preeminent place in American culture. She is a true media mogul: her Harpo Productions spans from O, The Oprah Magazine to the Oprah Winfrey Network. Paradoxically, her ubiquitous presence sometimes goes unnoticed. Like the air we breathe, Oprah is a fixture in 21st-century America. Since this fall marks 30 years since the debut of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and five years since it left the airwaves, it is fitting to reflect on Oprah’s...

  • May 9, 2016

    If sports fans draft fantasy teams of players, comic book fans likewise draft fantasy teams of creators. Favored characters may be paired with dream writers, or amazing writers might be paired with peerless illustrators.

    And so it came to pass that Marvel Comics, in a fit of cultural awareness perhaps unequaled in contemporary comic book publishing, invited Ta-Nehisi Coates to write the newest series of Black Panther . Mr....

  • May 16, 2016
    Blackbird singing in the dead of night Take these broken wings and learn to fly All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

    The Beatles’ song “Blackbird” is either a civil rights anthem or a response to transcendental meditation in India, depending on whose story you believe. Paul McCartney claims to have written it in honor of the 1960s movement for black equality; other members of the band have their own recollection of the song’s origins...

  • I fell in love with Shakespeare 30 years ago, on a houseboat in Srinagar, India. I was on a six-week jaunt through India before returning to Oxford to finish a degree in English Literature. The only book I carried with me was the one-volume Alexander text of Shakespeare’s complete works, so that I could work on an essay for school. The essay topic, scribbled inside the front cover of my travel journal, was this: “Samuel Johnson said of Shakespeare, ‘comedy was his instinct, tragedy his skill...

  • April 25, 2016

    A mere two years after the world celebrated the 450th anniversary of the birth of its greatest playwright, William Shakespeare, we now have the 400th anniversary of his death (as befits a deft conjurer of plots, he is said to have been born and died on the same date, April 23). There will be festivals, exhibitions, walking tours, concerts, performances and films galore. The Folger Shakespeare Library is sending the 1623 First Folio on a swing through all 50...