A glimpse into the mind of Pope Francis

In the self-revelatory interview of Pope Francis published by several Jesuit journals around the world in September 2013, the Holy Father mentioned that he had read Alesandro Manzoni's 1828 novel "The Betrothed" three times and had it on a nearby table for a fourth reading whenever the opportunity presented itself. Three times and looking forward to a fourth -- that's a recommendation to be taken seriously. It prompted me to pick up the book and give it a read; one way, I thought, of getting inside the mind of this fascinating pope.

An example of a poverty that frees us

One of the things folks admire about Pope Francis is his decision to live simply. Rather than live in private apartments at the Vatican, he has chosen to live in guest quarters, partly because these are closer to other people and it allows him to live in a community, which, as a Jesuit, he values. But as an archbishop and cardinal, he set the same standard of simplicity, rejecting fancy homes and a lifestyle above that of the people he served. In continuing with this tradition, he's setting a beautiful example, not just for other bishops and clergy, but for all of us.

The dangers of drinking alcohol too early in life

History's proven it: People have been drinking alcohol since the beginning of time. Romans had their wine, Egyptians had their beer and the medieval English had their mead. Despite this long and storied history of partying, humans apparently still haven't learned that drinking too much alcohol can be extremely bad for us.

A wake-up call, until you don’t wake up

We don't know the day or the hour when our time on earth will end. Is there not an appointed time for man's existence on earth to end? Job asked. Now the 21st century has the answer to that Old Testament question with something called the death watch, as in wristwatch. Formally known as the Tikker, the watch's digital display shows the years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds until its wearer runs out of time. It provides a wake-up call until you don't wake up.

A partnership between generations

A recent ad for a Swiss watch shows a well-groomed father getting out of a first-class Pullman car and putting his arm around his 8-year-old son, also nattily attired in khakis, Docksiders and a sport coat. "You never actually own a Patek Philippe," the ad said. "You merely look after it for the next generation." It was a little rich for my taste. But there were some things I liked about the ad. It showed a father in a positive light -- something one rarely sees on Madison Avenue or in Hollywood. The fathers there are typically absent, unconcerned or inept.

Woe to our government

Are you distressed over the recent behavior of the U.S. Congress? You aren't alone. As a resident of Washington D.C.'s Capitol Hill neighborhood, I daily encounter staffers to the Senate, Capitol Hill and the U.S. Supreme Court. I see the reactions of police officers, maintenance personnel and others working in the area. Reactions range from disgust and anger, to distrustfulness and having lost all respect. I also encounter loyalists who couldn't care less about the criticism or damage their party is causing. They feel they are right and that is it.

Observations from a texting hermit

Compared to you, I am not a social creature. In the past week, I've only sent or received text messages from nine people. Actually, nine is a bit of an exaggeration. If I remove automatic texts from companies wanting my business and messages that I sent myself as reminders, that number is reduced to four.

The last 50 years and more to look forward to

Ten U.S. presidents, six popes, and several wars have come, and some gone, since we first met. Our most recent gathering marked the 50th anniversary of our graduation from what had been a small, all-male Jesuit university.

Remembering a titan of the Second Vatican Council

We recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. I was a young priest when the council began, and my heart was with the reform movement within the hierarchy of the church. Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens was the single most influential church leader in that momentous Catholic Church assembly. He was also an idol of mine throughout my life.

Seminarian reflects on journey from budding sports writer to following God’s call

Now in his second year at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, the life change for Brendan Monahan has been quick and drastic. Far from his college days at Penn State where he was living a dual life of partying on the weekends while falsely trying to give God attention on Sundays, now he recalls the interior rise of his vocation, especially his attraction to the Eucharist and confession. Some Sundays at home in Plymouth Meeting, he'd peer at Epiphany of Our Lord Church’s stained-glass windows. During those days the sun seemed to shine brighter through the words, “The Call” next to “of Abraham” and “of Moses.”