Commentaries

Jean Valjean and immigration reform

John Garvey admits he's not enough of a romantic to believe that every undocumented immigrant has the soul of Jean Valjean, the lead character of "Les Miserables." But the crime immigrants have committed (crossing the border without going through customs) is often motivated by a desire to feed a family.

The pope’s progress

It is with both caution and charity that we set out to assess the first months of the papacy of Pope Francis. Six months is not a long time in the church, and it seems unfair to evaluate an individual's achievements after so short a period. We are also aware that as a Jesuit journal we have a special relationship to the first Jesuit pope, who kindly agreed to allow America to print the English translation of his interview with Jesuit journals from around the world.

What the wrong war can teach us

More than a decade ago, I was sitting in an office, nervously listening to the president talk about possibly going to war with a foreign country. Right now, I'm also sitting in an office, nervously listening to the president talk about going to war with a foreign country. The thought of bombing Syria makes me sick, just like the thought of bombing Iraq made me queasy in 2002.

Losing the personal touch that nursed us to health

Four of them walked into the examination room: my doctor -- a specialist in retina disorders -- and three young people in white coats. Immediately, my doctor began to give me the results of a nearly 2-hour-long battery of tests. But as he paused for breath between sentences, I held up my hand.

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.