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Neela Kale :
173 article(s)

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.
November 13th, 2014

Q: Why do infants who receive the sacrament of baptism have to wait until they are older to receive the sacrament of confirmation, instead of receiving them at the same time?
Delaying the sacrament of confirmation until some time after baptism preserves the candidate’s direct connection with the bishop. In the early Church, people who became Christians first were catechized over an extended period. Then they were baptized in water, anointed with oil and given the bread and wine of Eucharist all at once. The presider at this rite was the bishop, seen as the successor to the apostles, the ones sent by Christ to go and baptize all nations. However, as the Church grew, the bishop could no longer be present at all the…

November 11th, 2014

Q: What’s the best way to respond to someone who thinks it’s “funny” to always comment on a show of faith in the workplace (like prayer before a meal)? I don’t want to create tension but I feel I should respond.
The tension is already there, because this person’s comments are making you (and perhaps others) uncomfortable. You’re right to respond. Find a moment when you can talk calmly and without interruption. Try a neutral approach like, “I heard your comment when I was praying before lunch today, and I was just wondering why you might have said that.” It’s possible that this person really hasn’t thought about the ramifications. He or she might simply be a jokester who makes light of everything,…

October 16th, 2014

Some Christian communities talk about the “assurance of salvation,” an absolute certainty that one will go to heaven upon one’s death, regardless of how someone lives their life. The proposal sometimes sounds transactional: if I do X, God will do Y. (Often X means giving assent to the doctrinal formula of some particular group.) This may be justified by a scripture passage such as Acts 16:31. (They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”)
But the Catholic understanding of salvation is more nuanced. Jesus proclaimed that the reign of God is at hand. It is already here in our midst and yet still to come; it is the free gift of God and yet calls for our willing collaboration.…

October 13th, 2014

No one made God. God always is, always has been, and always will be. Time itself is part of God’s creation, so there cannot be anything or anyone before God. Though posed innocently by children, this question challenges the most sophisticated philosophers and theologians. Humans are finite creatures, so bound by time that we cannot grasp the idea of something outside of time. The Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges this difficulty:
“Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking. … Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God”…

September 29th, 2014

Jesus’ invitation to the kingdom of God is truly open to all – young and old, rich and poor, saints and sinners alike. The sad divisions that have arisen throughout history cannot change the fact that this invitation is given to all. The Vatican II document on ecumenism notes that
“many of the significant elements… [which] give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Unitatis Redintegratio, paragraph 3).
As summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 819, “Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities…

September 25th, 2014

Question: I am a registered nurse and an Extra-ordinary Minister of Holy Communion in my parish. I work with many young Catholic nurses and aides. Is it ok to bring Holy Communion to them at work?


Communion services allow patients at health care facilities who cannot easily attend Mass at the parish to receive communion regularly, in a liturgical setting bringing together those residents who are well enough to gather and participate. It is entirely appropriate for the entire community to join in, including staff members, family members and guests. Your young colleagues already bring their faith to work every day in the loving care they provide; participating in the communion service would give them an…

September 22nd, 2014

Question: On Ash Wednesday this year, I went to a noon service and then came back to work. One of my co-workers then told me I “had dirt on my forehead,” referring to the ashes. This person obviously was not Catholic and I was so shocked that someone would be so blunt that I didn’t know what to say. I struggled to address the comment without explaining my whole faith tradition. How would you recommend responding to a comment like this?

Religious traditions that feel like second nature to those of us who practice them sometimes seem foreign to others. Your co-worker, rather than being blunt or insensitive, was probably just being truthful. He or she sought to spare you embarrassment, just as one might quietly…

July 15th, 2014

Q: I am so glad the “nuns on the bus” are going through the country. Why can’t the majority of people see what awful things the Republicans are doing to the poor, women, and wage earners?
The “Nuns on the Bus” are a project of NETWORK, which describes itself as a “National Catholic Social Justice Lobby” and was founded by Roman Catholic religious women working for economic and social justice. They have done excellent work on behalf of the poor since the 1970s. While you may support their advocacy, keep in mind this tidbit of bumper sticker wisdom: “God is not a Republican… or a Democrat.” Catholic teaching on the issues the nuns address may seem quite clear. But reasonable people of good will can…

July 8th, 2014

Situation: My friend had a severe allergic reaction at a party. His wife was embarrassed by it and suggested we all keep eating and drinking. A nurse tended to his needs but he wouldn’t go to the ER or even urgent care. I was surprised at how his wife was more concerned about the party and the guests than her husband’s health. Do I address this with him?

This sounds like a good moment to check in with your friend. Ask how he is recovering and see if he needs anything. Then inquire, gently, about what happened at the party. There may be more to the story. Perhaps the reaction which seemed severe to an outside observer was not actually that serious. Your friend and his wife, presumably experienced with his medical condition,…

July 1st, 2014

First of all, my heart goes out to you. Discovering your husband’s infidelity must be a heartbreaking blow. It is important for you to seek safety and support to face the difficult decisions ahead.
In Catholic teaching, the bond of marriage is indissoluble. A truly valid sacramental marriage ends only in death. But couples sometimes discern that they can no longer remain together. Sometimes they obtain a civil divorce while remaining married in the eyes of the Church. Sometimes they can obtain an annulment, a declaration that in the eyes of the Church the marriage was never a valid sacramental bond. The latter is required if either party wishes to marry again in the Church.
The Church does not oblige you to stay…

May 27th, 2014

Consider that according to the Code of Canon Law, in the marriage covenant “a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life … which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” (canon 1055).
Marriage is a partnership in everything – the marvelous and the mundane, the triumphs and the trials, the day in and day out through all the seasons of your lives. Marriage exists for your good, so that you and your spouse can experience and express the deep love for another person that reflects God’s deep love for us. In fact, one of the tasks of spouses is to help each other on the way to salvation. Marriage also exists for the good of others,…

May 14th, 2014

Q: How do you overcome doubts? After attending college again, and being surrounded by atheists (with good arguments), how do you deal with doubts? I am a believer, and I still believe. This seems to be an isolating place to be.
Remember the father begging Jesus to heal the mute boy in Mark 9:24: “I do believe; help my unbelief!” Sometimes the line between unbelief and faith is razor-thin. While you may feel isolated right now, you are in fact in excellent company. Some of our Catholic tradition’s greatest figures — from the apostle Thomas to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta — wrestled with doubt. Serious intellectual inquiry, such as you are undertaking as a college student, should lead you to seriously…

May 13th, 2014

The sign of peace during the communion rite both recalls Jesus’ injunction to make peace with our brother or sister before bringing our gifts to the Lord (Matthew 5:23-24) and also our prayer for Christ’s peace and unity (Communion Rite, Roman Missal Third Edition). Sometimes the sign of peace celebrates forgiveness given and received; sometimes it expresses our hope for forgiveness and healing yet to come. If you are conscious of sin, it is important for you to express contrition before approaching for communion. But if someone has sinned against you, you do not necessarily have to specifically offer that person a sign of peace in order to receive communion. When deep hurt has been caused, forgiveness does…

May 6th, 2014

My sincere condolences to your sister and all your family. Losing a child before birth brings a unique kind of grief, and both medical professionals and well-meaning family and friends may struggle to fully understand the loss and respond appropriately.
One thing you can do is ask your parish to have a funeral Mass or memorial service said for your sister’s unborn child. Even if the child’s remains are not present, the Mass can be celebrated. The parents can give the child a name, recognizing that he or she is a unique human being with a soul, and trusting that he or she is now with God. If there is no burial site, the parents may long for a place to visit and grieve. Some churches have a shrine dedicated to the unborn;…

April 22nd, 2014

Q: Judith Jarvis Thomson wrote what may be the most famous paper in bioethics, “A Moral Defense of Abortion.” She compares abortion to unplugging someone from life support in her famous “unplugging the violinist” analogy. Since there is a difference between killing and letting die, her argument seems to only apply to eviction-based abortions. Is there a way to convince someone that eviction from the womb is different than unplugging from a machine without appealing to theology? Not that I am against appealing to theology, but to do so would make the argument un-applicable to non-Catholics.
Our legal and medical systems recognize a difference between killing and letting die. End-of-life care directives…

April 19th, 2014

The ceremony you saw was one of the rites associated with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This is a process of catechetical and spiritual preparation, following the practices of the early Church, for adults who wish to become Catholic. Various rites mark the stages of the journey, from the time when a person declares his or her desire to enter the Catholic Church to the culminating moment of the sacraments of initiation. Shortly before their initiation, candidates are sent from their local parishes (in the ceremony that you saw) to the bishop, who presides at the Rite of Election. The bishop asks the candidates to declare their faith in Christ and asks the community to affirm their readiness to…

April 15th, 2014

Consider that according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
“To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth” (2483).
A classic thought experiment is that of a person concealing a Jew during the Holocaust. If the Gestapo knock on the door and ask if there are any Jews in the home, do they have the right to know the truth? Of course not. In this case Catholic teaching recognizes that merely making a statement that is contrary to fact is not necessarily even a lie. It might be the morally upright course of action.…

March 25th, 2014

One principle that flows from Catholic teaching on sexuality is that a couple’s physical intimacy should never exceed their emotional and spiritual intimacy. Until two people commit their full selves to each other in marriage, they have not given their hearts and souls to each other in a way that allows them to fully give their bodies to each other. Without that deeper commitment, it’s easy for them to deceive themselves about what their sexual expressions really mean. And too much sexual expression can easily cloud their discernment about the relationship, making it difficult to see where God is really leading them. Doing “everything but” can be like driving a car too close to the edge of a cliff. The…

March 17th, 2014

Prior to the arrival of Christianity in the 5th century, the Irish followed Celtic religious practices that had been in place for thousands of years. Like indigenous religious traditions in many parts of the world, they were focused on the forces of nature. Rituals sought to placate gods who could unleash nature’s destructive forces or ensure favorable conditions for good harvests; celebrations marked the solar cycle of seasons. Irish religious practice was also influenced by Roman religion after the Roman conquest of Britannia in 43 CE. Druids were the religious authorities in this system, seen as intermediaries between humans and the other world – they can analogously be described as priests. What…

March 11th, 2014

Q: 24 years ago I had artificial insemination with my husband’s sperm to get pregnant because I had “hostile cervix.” In Catholic teaching this was wrong, but how do I ask for forgiveness for this when the result was my beautiful daughter? What am I asking forgiveness for, the act or the results? I can’t in my mind figure out how to ask God to forgive this because of the result. I suppose couples who have had “in vitro” probably feel the same way. Any thoughts on this would be helpful.

Moral theologians have struggled with this question through the centuries: Can we separate the moral nature of an act from the moral nature of its results? Without a doubt, your daughter is a good and beautiful creation of God…

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