Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Learning by Heart

In Darwin, Australia, sometime in 1958, an old man lay dying in hospital. He asked to see—of all people—the British writer ­Malcolm Muggeridge. They didn’t know each other, but ­Muggeridge was touring Australia and the old man had heard him on the radio. As ­Muggeridge recalled it, . . . . Continue Reading »

Spaceship with Saint Giovannino

We had been pointing out the smallest details,often on the periphery, Icarus falling,nearly invisible, only legs left disappearing into the Aegean.No one in that painting was watching it happen,but here in this one, in the Palazzo in Florence,the figure in the background shielded his eyes from the . . . . Continue Reading »

Saint Vincent of Saragossa

His attributes are few—a book, a rodwith three large hooks. But it cannot conveythe tortures, multiple, endured for God—the rack, a gridiron, burnt flesh wrenched away. Portrayed in deacon’s vestments, Vincent showsno fear. He does not see the butterfliesthat form the border. Why the . . . . Continue Reading »

On a Statue of the Blessed Virgin

This woman, cast in bronze,Lowers her eyes uponAn infant on her lap,His naked bulk enfoldedWithin her draping mantle. She cradles him, at rest,While fold on fold descends,Concealing grace with graceExcept where that cloth breaksTo bare one slip of flesh. Here, on the desk, they sit,Where joyless . . . . Continue Reading »

Sonnet 118

I leave my sixteenth year of sighsand head into my final onealthough it seems I’ve just begunexploring ways to agonize. The bitter’s sweet, my losses wise,and life a weight. I pray my runof bad luck ends; I’d be undoneif Death did shut her lovely eyes. Sadly, I stay, but long to go,and long . . . . Continue Reading »

Daring to Say the 
Our Father

Christ Himself taught us in prayerCall God our Father, and so I dareClaim kinship I’d not else presume,Sin-soiled from my mother’s womb.But then He urged us further prayWords that I’m afraid to say.When I ask Thy will be doneI think of Abraham and his sonAnd Jesus in His agony.Might God will . . . . Continue Reading »

The Day Is Now Far Spent

I saw the buckling of Notre Dame’s spireAnd then its swift fall into raging fireAs though the West had fallen all at once—As though heretics had toppled the Cross. Such swirling smoke as the oak beams collapsed,And all the countless treasures of the pastWere lost forever—all our . . . . Continue Reading »

The Dreamer as Architect

Last night in dreams, she lived a thousand yearsAnd was the architect who made a houseThat wandered from the mountains to the sea. And in its rooms the strange and marvelousBegan to stir with songs and imagesAnd words of radiance by those who knew That every stone and changing face and treeWas . . . . Continue Reading »

A Sinner Washes the Feet of Jesus

“If Jesus were a prophet, he would know that the woman touching him is a sinner” (Luke 7:39). If she came through the doorand said, Jesus,would He turn and seetoo much in her eyes? If she knelt to wash His feet,her tears, her hands, her haircolliding at His hem, would the men say, Woman,you have . . . . Continue Reading »

All Aboard

Life’s a slow bus to the edge of town,With unplanned stops along the way.Trust in the driver; he won’t let you down. Traffic lights shine on a sidewalk clown,Waltzing the hours till he turns gray.Life’s a slow bus to the edge of town. The potholes in the pavement’s crownJolt the passengers . . . . Continue Reading »

Filter Tag Articles