The mysteries and tales souvenirs can unveil

When we envision souvenirs, we usually think of trinkets that commemorate an event, a person or a place. Recently, I visited an exhibit on souvenirs at the Smithsonian Institution Building in Washington, D.C., that changed my concept of them.

Facebook envy: on the outside looking in

It can be easy to trigger Facebook envy. Just go online and check the latest updates from seemingly countless "friends." Each and every one is having a great time while you ... you stare at that screen, sitting on the outside looking in. It can seem like a never-ending barrage of excerpts from those old cliche family Christmas letters. If you base reality on Facebook, every family has had the most marvelous year. Their children, while not perfect, are oh so close to it. Yes, it's good to hear from them but, come on.

Keys to a successful life

Sometimes, the mind makes odd connections. Mine recently connected three people -- Johnny Manziel, Steven Rhodes and Ashton Kutcher. For those who aren't familiar, Kutcher is an actor, Manziel is a football player and Rhodes is a Marine.

The ideological divide

One of the ill fruits of the church's ideological divisions has been a dangerous split between those who are "social justice Catholics" and those who are "pro-life Catholics." This fracturing of the Gospel message and the core teachings of the church has led to a host of unintended consequences. Layered onto this polarization has been the erosion of Catholic identity in some sectors of the church, and a kind of ideological vigilantism in others. Both can lead to a tremendous distrust of institutional church structures and a readiness to ascribe nefarious or self-serving motives to those Catholics with whom one disagrees.

Making peace with Iran

The United States maintains a number of important strategic relationships -- Israel, China and Russia come immediately to mind -- that have the potential to make a significant impact on the current geopolitical landscape. But perhaps the most important relationship the United States maintains, the one likeliest to have the greatest short- and long-term impact on global peace, is with Iran.

Detroit needs fresh ideas right now

Far into the indefinite future, just to mention the name of the city of Detroit will be to raise the question of urban bankruptcy and how to avoid it. Everyone saw it coming. Many tried to help, but nothing could prevent the hammer from dropping on the Motor City on July 19, 2013. Now with protection from creditors, Detroit -- and that means all the people of the city of Detroit -- has to figure out a workable rebound strategy.

Yes, you can: living out a charism as layperson

Do you admire a religious order -- the Benedictines, for example, or the Sisters of Mercy -- and know that even though you've been called to another vocation outside vowed religious life, you desire to participate in the prayer and service of that community? Do you wish you could, to the extent life allows, embrace their charism, their worldview, grow closer to their essential character?

The meaning of World Youth Day

World Youth Day has come and gone, but I'm still glued to the pictures of Brazil and Pope Francis' messages of love and tolerance.

Getting a pet merits a moment of reflection

I stood in line at my local pet shop to buy some fish tank supplies. A young girl and her mother were ahead of me, buying bags of purple shavings, probably for the family guinea pig or hamster. Suddenly the girl fixed her eyes on a fawn-colored, short-haired dog. And then she uttered that question that children throughout time have asked. "Mom, can we get a dog? Please?"

On the battle lines for conscience protection

For 50 years, the Pennsylvania Catholic Health Association (PCHA) has defended conscience rights for individuals and Catholic health care institutions. Among PCHA’s achievements are its contribution to the passage of the Pennsylvania Religious Freedom Protection Act and prevention of legislation that would have required all hospitals to administer potentially abortion-causing emergency contraception to sexual assault victims.