e-mail us

Inside NCR

If you must give gifts, let them be NCR

Now appears again on the horizon that greatest celebration of all. Just six weeks away. The coming of Jesus to earth. With the Wise Men. And angels. And Santa Claus not far away. And the Christmas tree, with all the stuff under it. And parties. And a few days off from work, because everyone knows we will be tuckered out from celebrating.

It’s unfair to be cynical about Christmas, which, despite all the crass commercialism, is still the most innocent, upbeat, altruistic time of any year. For a short period we are nice even to people we can’t stand the rest of the year. Bells do ring, and if angels don’t truly sing I don’t want to know about it. If the word joy didn’t exist, Santa Claus or the pope would have to invent it for Christmas.

I might as well tell you right now that, even as we speak, you are being asked to give NCR as a Christmas gift. At least once.

Don’t expect me to apologize about this. I’m convinced that you and we would be doing a favor to anyone you gave a subscription to. Easy for me to say, of course.

Without getting lugubrious about it, we’re all floundering in search of meaning or something. We’re aspiring for all we’re worth, hoping for this and that, here and hereafter, willing with all our might that life fall into line. But in the meantime there is all the stress and craziness and despair, kids committing suicide and adults committing ethnic cleansing. It’s hard to go on living unless one can get the mixed-up world in a livable perspective.

While NCR by no means has the last word on that perspective, we have been and promise to be seekers, looking for answers or at least the right questions. And we plan to be lively about it, honest about it, on good days playful about it, making some kind of music while flirting with the big questions and with any luck finding solid reasons to carry on and maybe raise existence a notch or two toward some higher clarity, peace, justice, friendship, contentment.

So back to the point. Every NCR reader has at least one relative or friend with that NCR tattoo on her or his soul who are not now getting the paper and to whom you plan to give some kind of Christmas gift anyway.

You could of course give them something else, a striped shirt for him, or smelly stuff in a small bottle, a scarf for her, or smelly stuff in a small bottle. Every time they use the smelly stuff they’ll think of you -- if they use it.

You could, on the other hand, give NCR. Every week it arrives it will be a reminder of you. Recently I’ve run into many parents who have begun giving a gift of NCR to their adult children, many of whom are not going to church; in several cases the “kids” after a couple of years started getting their own subscriptions.

Without beating the old millennium drum yet again, this is a significant moment for the world. And many to whom we talk seem to be saying we’re on the brink of an exciting time for the church, the best story on earth just now. All the pulsating themes are there, reform and resistance; holiness and corruption; colorful personalities both literally and metaphorically.

Everywhere we go readers say how much NCR means to them. In that case you can do something helpful for us as well as for someone dear to you. We see each new subscription as a vote of confidence from our readers, never mind that we also need the money.

And this would be easier to do than finding that striped shirt. Phone 1-800-333-7373, a tollfree call. Or, to e-mail (ncrsub@natcath.com) your gift order to us. And this way we’ll all have a very merry Christmas.

The reference to Northern Ireland’s “long sorrow” on the cover is taken from a poem by Patrick Pearse (see story, Northern Ireland memoir) called “The Mother” in which Pearse’s mother predicts the executions of her two sons, which is what happened:

Lord, thou art hard on mothers;
We suffer in their coming and their going.
And though I grudge them not, I weary,
Weary of the long sorrow.
And yet I have my joy:
My sons were faithful
And they fought.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, November 13, 1998