Giving peace a chance in Syria

Other than the Syrians, who were spared this month from scanning their skies for incoming missiles, no one was more relieved by the stand-down by the United States than members of Congress, who escaped the tough vote on authorizing a military attack. The eleventh-hour development that substituted diplomacy for military intervention may be seen by history as a watershed moment in how citizens can influence government decisions. After decades of previous administrations whipping up war frenzy for questionable goals on dubious evidence, an administration finally seems to have gotten it right.

Representing the presence of God on earth

They say joyfulness is a mark of sanctity. There are no grumpy saints. My husband can verify that by that standard, I have a ways to go toward sainthood. On the other hand, Sister Helen Prejean passes that criterion with flying colors. I had the honor of being with Sister Prejean for two and a half days recently as she went around rural Nebraska talking about her life experiences with justice, and in particular, with the death penalty. A remarkably energetic 74-year-old, the author of "Dead Man Walking" is on a mission.

Reducing the cost of higher education

As the fall 2013 semester opened on college campuses all across the country, the Obama administration showed renewed interest in the finances of higher education. More specifically, the president raised the question of how federal funds can be used more effectively in getting willing students into college classrooms. He showed signs of wanting to shame inefficient universities into lowering their charges. He also hopes to direct federal student aid toward more efficient and, presumably, lower-cost institutions.

An open letter to the author’s younger self

When people ask about your education, you think they mean school. You think they want to know if you're getting good grades in math, if you've read that book by the author who's been dead for 200 years, if you can point to Dubai on a map. You'll be happier once you realize that education and school are not interchangeable words.

An upcoming posthumous honor for a Maryknoll inspiration

Mother Mary Joseph, a woman with whom I shared one year of life together on this earth and to whom I attribute a significant role in my faith formation, will be inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in October.

The only way to peace

"We have to do something." That instinctual desire to take action has been ingrained in the American psyche since the Colonial days. Yes, we have to do something about the chemical weapon killings in Syria, but that something cannot be more violence.

Taking and joy and spirituality to the Twitterverse

After years of writing books and columns, I've discovered a new way to communicate. I've taken to Twitter, which I've found to be yet another channel I can use to help others grow in joy and in spirit. The following is a compilation of my latest musings, some too long to tweet. But if you're on Twitter and you'd like to see more, please follow me at @johncatoir.

Congress: It’s time to talk about immigration

Recess is over -- time to get back to work. As Congress returns to Washington from break, remaining on their to-do list will be the debates on action aimed at our nation's immigration policies. Now is the time to put partisan pride aside and look into the faces of our neighbors in need. In their faces we should see the face of Christ himself.

The wounds of war are for all

It had to be a nightmare for U.S. Army public relations officers and recruiters as they received some unfriendly fire resulting from simultaneous legal actions against three of its members.

Pope Francis: likeable and not so likeable

Why is Pope Francis so appealing to some and not to others? To answer the first question, Pope Francis loves the poor and is opposed to those who can alleviate their suffering but fail to do so because of corruption. He is more than a champion of social justice. He speaks to our conscience and its spiritual yearning for true joy.