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Neela Kale :
157 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.
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…

March 4th, 2014

Q: Who makes the decision as to who can be the sponsors for a child making his confirmation? The rules are 1) church-goer in good standing 2) not divorced 3) Catholic. I don’t know anyone who qualifies for all three.
A sponsor for baptism or confirmation must be at least 16 years old and be a Catholic who has received confirmation and Eucharist and who “leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on” (see the Code of Canon Law, paragraph 874, for the complete requirements). In most places, as determined by the local bishop, “leading a life of faith” is interpreted to mean that a person is following the teaching of the Church with respect to marriage. If single, he or she must not be living with…

February 27th, 2014

Q: I have friends that are Catholic. They are divorced from each other but still live together, something about how they were able to get better insurance this way. Are they still able to receive communion?

Without further details, I’ll assume that your friends obtained a civil divorce but still consider themselves to be married in the Church (Absent annulment proceedings, the Church would concur). While it might be tempting to consider their civil marital status and their sacramental marital status as completely separate, the Church resists this separation. Civil and sacramental marriage are different commitments but they are not unrelated. Blurring the lines creates the possibility for “scandal,”…

February 25th, 2014

I’m so afraid to die. How can I overcome this fear?
Our natural fear of death can intensify if we have recently lost a loved one, suffer from a serious illness or are in some way immediately faced with our own mortality. In the light of this very normal fear, the gospel message insists, again and again: “Do not be afraid.” God’s plan for us does not end in death. Rather, our earthly death is our resurrection to new life in Christ. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Surrendering to the unknown, especially at the end of life, requires a deep act of faith. Time in prayer and reflection may help you to find peace. Rather than seeking to overcome your fear, you might ask God to help you discover how to live with it. On…

February 18th, 2014

Faith is not taught, it is caught. So while it is important to present your curriculum clearly and accurately, you must also offer an enthusiastic example of a life lived in faith. Can your students see that your own life is infused with joy and grace? Do they recognize that you are living in the peace and freedom that only God can give? While maintaining appropriate boundaries, are you honest with them about your own times of struggle and the fruits of those struggles? Your witness will be the strongest message they carry away from your classroom. While doctrines and jargon may go in one ear and out the other, the example of a life shaped by the good news remains in the heart. Be a person of faith and trust that God will touch…

February 5th, 2014

Predestination, as commonly understood, implies that God designates each person for damnation or for salvation. Regardless of what one says or does throughout life, one’s eternal fate has already been decided by God. This idea has prompted major theological controversy throughout the history of Christianity and continues to hold sway with some communities today. However, the Catholic Church does not believe that our eternal salvation or damnation is predetermined by God. Rather, “since the ultimate vocation of [human beings] is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every [human being] the possibility of being associated with this paschal…

November 26th, 2013

I’m a catechist and volunteer at my parish, and I was asked to participate in something called a “mystagogy session.”  What is mystagogy?
The fourth stage of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is called “mystagogy,” from the Greek words meaning “to lead through the mysteries.” Traditionally mystagogy extends throughout the Easter season, until the feast of Pentecost. This is a period of accompaniment for new Catholics as they discover what it means to fully participate in the sacramental mysteries of the Church. The newly baptized are called “neophytes,” from the Greek words meaning “new plant,” because the faith has been newly planted in them. Even though their catechetical…

November 18th, 2013

The liturgical celebrations of the Catholic Church – mass, morning and evening prayer, and other celebrations such as baptisms and weddings – are by definition communal celebrations. Thus they are always open to the community. Anyone who wishes may join us in prayer, whether or not he or she is Catholic or Christian.
As a newcomer, you are welcome to join your voice to ours in prayer and to respond out loud during the mass if you are inspired to do so and believe in the words that you say. If you decide that you wish to become Catholic, immediately before you celebrate the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation and Eucharist) you will have a chance to make a public, official profession of Catholic Christian…

November 13th, 2013

All of us who watch a loved one struggle with mental illness are confronted with the brutal suffering it creates, and your question brings to light one of its peculiar cruelties: the disease itself can make the sufferer push treatment out of reach. How should loved ones react? Can you force your brother to take his medication?
The reality is, you can’t. That’s the challenging side of human freedom. Your brother enjoys the same freedom that you do, even though his ability to use it wisely may be constrained by his illness. If he is over age 18, unless he poses a danger to himself or others, he can choose not to take his medication. You could be tempted to react in one of two extreme ways. One extreme might be dedicating…

November 11th, 2013

Q: Swearing is a part of everyday life for many people. How wrong is swearing in the eyes of the Church?
If you read through all the moral instruction in the bible, you’ll never find anything like, “Thou shalt not say #%$&.” Why? Because language changes over the centuries and across cultures. Words considered deeply offensive in one time and place might be perfectly respectable in another. The commandments do say, beautifully summarized by Jesus himself in Matthew 22:39, to love your neighbor as yourself. How do you feel when someone speaks abusively to you or in your presence? Coarseness tends to devalue the listener and impede rather than enhance communication. Is it a serious sin? As in all things,…

November 8th, 2013

God loves us because God IS love — infinite and perfect love, greater than any love that we can imagine. Our human ability to love is finite and limited, and thus we have a tendency to put limitations on love itself. We think it makes sense to “earn” someone’s love or look for the reasons why another person loves us. But for God there is no earning of love — God’s love is an absolutely free gift of God’s very self to us. For God there are no reasons for love — God loves us because God is love itself. Amazing, isn’t it? This all-surpassing love that God has for us calls forth a response in us, as God invites us to share in the love that is God’s very self:
“Beloved, let us love one another, because…

November 7th, 2013

Q: Soldiers in war are technically killing other sons and daughters of God in an effort to protect our country. Will this affect their fate on Judgment Day? Is it wrong to thank them upon their return home even though they’ve sinned?…
Never hesitate to thank a returning soldier for his or her service to our country. (Thank you, veterans!) Military service cannot be reduced to any single act, and these returning veterans and their families need all the support they can get in response to their sacrifice and generosity. It is not your job to examine their consciences. Many of these men and women return home struggling with the psychological and spiritual consequences of their actions in the line of duty; they need to

October 28th, 2013

It seems unlikely that the Church will add any new sacraments. Seven is a highly symbolic number now buoyed by centuries of tradition. And any new ritual would have to be of a truly universal character, in response to an emergent need of the global Church, not merely of a particular group or region. But this does not mean that the Church does not continue to respond to the changing circumstances of each time and place. Under current liturgical practice, bishops’ conferences may approve blessings or other rituals in response to emerging pastoral needs. These rituals are referred to as sacramentals, sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments and prepare us to receive the grace of the sacraments (see…

October 25th, 2013

Editor’s Note: This is one of the winning questions asked by our readers during Busted Halo Summer School.
Q: Scientists are constantly trying to “prove” the existence of ghosts or departed spirits. What is the Catholic teaching on the presence of ghosts or spirits?…
Catholics believe that death is not the end of human existence. While our present, corruptible bodies decay after death, our immortal souls will be reunited with our glorified bodies in the fullness of time. We don’t actually know what this will look like, although we do believe that we can have contact with the dead who have gone before us. That’s what we do when we pray for the intercession of the saints. But the Church does not teach that

October 21st, 2013

Q: How have the seven sacraments changed over time? Did they all start at the same time or were they added at different times of our history?
In ancient times the Latin word “sacramentum” referred to the Roman soldier’s sacred oath to the empire; after taking the oath he was branded with the insignia of his regiment and belonged to the empire until his death. Early Christians began to use this word to refer to the rituals that made them belong to Christ and to the community of the Church. References to these rituals in the New Testament include the gospel accounts of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan and the allusion to anointing in the letter of James, among many others. Human beings have a deep need for tangible signs…

October 14th, 2013

One way to your question is “yes.” Yes, it is better to pray to God the Father and yes, it is better to pray to Jesus. In fact, it is impossible to do one without the other. Because of Jesus’ complete identification with God the Father – especially developed in the gospel of John – we know that the Father and the Son are one. Together the Father, Son and Spirit invite us into their loving communion; through prayer, we respond to that invitation. The actual words you use to address God in your personal prayer have more to do with style than with substance. Your heart may lead you to language such as “God” or “Father” in a given moment and to words such as “Teacher” or “Savior” in another. But at its…

October 7th, 2013

Since biblical times, God’s name has been understood as a symbol of God’s very self. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
“A name expresses a person’s essence and identity and the meaning of this person’s life. … To disclose one’s name is to make oneself known to others; in a way it is to hand oneself over by becoming accessible, capable of being known more intimately and addressed personally” (203).
God, by revealing Godself to human beings under many names throughout history, showed us God’s desire to be in loving relationship to us, to be known intimately and addressed personally by humankind. As salvation history unfolded, God revealed an even more intimate, personal face:…

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