What the years have to teach

Recently my young cousin shared a video of her daughter, just a few months old, playing in her jump-up seat. A jump-up is a child's contraption which hangs from a door frame, tethered by a sturdy but flexible elastic band. The baby sits, her legs dangling, while she watches the world and enjoys a soothing bouncing motion. The humor in my cousin's video was that her daughter, Elizabeth, had discovered that with a little extra effort, the jump-up can take her careening toward the door frames. Although not exactly rappelling off the walls yet, Elizabeth is happily shaking it up. Elizabeth, who has an older sister, seems to be living up to the second-child stereotype: discovering adventure in all things.

These are the facts about the HHS mandate

One of the most serious threats to religious freedom is the current mandate by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to force religious organizations to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization to their employees. This mandate uses devastating financial penalties -- far greater than if an employer refuses to provide any health insurance at all -- to coerce Catholic organizations to violate the teachings of their church and their consciences. And while it claims that it has exemptions for religious institutions, it so narrowly defines such institutions that only houses of worship qualify. If a Catholic organization does not employ primarily Catholics and does not serve primarily Catholics, it does not qualify for this exemption.

The inevitable process of aging is part of the journey

It was a brief scene in a movie where the husband and wife were having a conversation. He was in the foreground; she was in the background, brushing her hair as they talked. "I hope you will always look that way," he said admiringly. "I won't," she said, her correction politely spoken with a slight smile. There is a billion-dollar industry trying to prove her wrong.

A dream built on 25 cents a day and resilience

On a recent trip to Madagascar, I visited a rather extensive vocational training center, Ankohonana Sahirana Arenina, run by the Franciscans. The center offers workshops in embroidery, basket-making, sewing, formal tailoring, textile weaving, plumbing, wood-carving and other subjects. Such skill development offers participants a chance to make a good living. For many, that means starting their own businesses.

Eight easy ways to spoil your children

In an age when children easily pick up the how-to of just about any new electronic gadget, it can be tempting for parents to confuse tech-savvy with wise. For the most part, wisdom isn't user-friendly. It takes effort. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes Mom and Dad avoiding the trap of confusing "loving them" with "spoiling them."

In praise of affirmative action in schools, including Catholic U

In October, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas. The issue was affirmative action at public colleges and universities. Nine years ago, in a case from the University of Michigan, the court held that public universities can consider race as one factor among many in admissions. The University of Texas does that for some of its undergraduate applicants. But Texas also admits all applicants from the top 10 percent of each high school's graduating class -- a colorblind program that produces a fairly diverse mix of students.

Lessons from a Pakistani teen fighting for her life

I have a new hero. Her name is Malala Yousafzai, and she’s a 14-year-old girl from Pakistan. When she was 11, the Taliban took power in her valley. They enforced a harsh set of laws on the residents, among them, an edict that girls could no longer attend school. They threatened girls’ teachers and burned […]

Self-restraint among values that keep society together

The "don't impose your values on me" argument is weak. Values are necessary to a functioning community. The disregard of values as some infringement on personal freedom is the fruit of the seed of the "me" mentality. Just as the flotsam and jetsam from the tsunami caused by the 2011 Japanese earthquake is still being cleaned from Pacific coast beaches 18 months later, so the tsunami of secularism requires the church to be involved in cleanup efforts.

Discovering your talents is up to you, not others

What is talent? In our world, talent is often synonymous with fame, fortune and entertainment stardom. Pop culture would like you to believe that you're either talented or you're not, and that the Simon Cowells of the world are the only ones with the authority to discover that talent. People all over the world dream of being "discovered," thinking they need to wait for other people to tell them that they're talented before their lives can really start. What makes me sad is that they often wait fruitlessly for years and years, not understanding that they are the best judges of their talent.

We are called to be moved with compassion

This autumn, there was a horrific accident in Anchorage, Alaska. A man had stopped on a busy street because his truck wasn't working. As his wife sat in the cab, he crawled under the back of the truck to check it, and when he emerged, a car plowed into him with such force that both of his legs were nearly severed. A woman, with her young son in the car, was passing by. She worked as a waitress and a nurse's aide at a local hospital, and she was coming off a long shift. Like the Samaritan of Scripture, she stopped and used her skills to staunch the man's bleeding. Passers-by handed her any scarf they could find -- even a belly dancer's scarf with coins attached -- and she, with help from another motorist, tied them so tightly around what remained of the man's legs that he didn't bleed out before the ambulance arrived. He lost his legs, but he lived.