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Neela Kale :
166 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, 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:…

September 30th, 2013

Q: What if someone asked you if you would be his/her child’s godparent but you don’t feel as if you are either ready or you don’t want to take on that responsibility? What do you say or how should you go about it?
First of all, I commend you for taking the invitation seriously enough to discern your answer, rather than just saying yes out of obligation. A godparent plays a sacred role in the life of the baptized child and of his or her family. Serving as a godparent does not merely mean buying the child’s clothes and baptismal candle and smiling in the pictures on the day of baptism. Rather, in Church teaching, a godparent “helps the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully…

September 16th, 2013

Q: Are angels actually able to intervene in human matters, i.e. warn us of impending danger?
Our English word “angel” is derived from the Greek word “angelos,” meaning “messenger.” According to Church tradition, angels are created beings who are servants and messengers of God. Like human beings, they have intelligence and free will. Unlike human beings, who are embodied spirits, they are spirits without bodies. The bible contains many references to the intervention of angels in human life, primarily as bearers of a message related to salvation history. Consider, for example, the role of Gabriel in Luke 1:5-38 and of other unnamed angels in Luke 2:8-20. God’s voice is as present in the world…

August 7th, 2013

It is always better to root for someone than to root against someone. What you really hope for is your team’s success, not the opponent’s failure, even though the latter is a necessary consequence of the former. (An even better attitude would be to hope that the best team may win, but for many sports fans that’s too much to ask.) In any case, your question applies to healthy, friendly competition on the playing field. In that realm, as you’re perched on the edge of your seat lauding or lamenting, it’s okay to wish that every play go your way. It would be a sin to cheat or sabotage the game to put your team at an advantage. But just cheering for the outcome you desire is fine. And when the game…

July 27th, 2013

Question: I understand and agree with the Church’s stance on same-sex marriage. However, is it wrong to congratulate people or attend the wedding of a same-sex couple? Wouldn’t it be similar to going to a wedding of a different religion?
While the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is reserved to one man and one woman, this doesn’t preclude Catholics from attending celebrations that aren’t Catholic sacramental weddings. Civil weddings don’t pass muster in the Catholic Church, nor do some unions celebrated in other religious communities. That’s not the point here. Mere presence at an event does not mean approval of everything that is taking place. If you were to take a poll of everyone gathered…

July 22nd, 2013

Question: Redemptive suffering: I accept my sufferings and offer them up for specific intentions. I get very lost and confused when I think about free will and suffering. We have a wonderful God that allows us free will. Free will — I can choose what would be God’s will or against — that being sin. I’m hoping I have a correct understanding thus far, maybe not. Where it gets blurry is that I want to do God’s will and I pray about it, but I don’t always know what God’s will is. I understand whatever is in my life, good or bad, God has allowed it — because of my free will? And so sometimes we are suffering as a result of our choices from free will? And then we can offer up those sufferings for specific…

July 17th, 2013

Question: Is an arranged marriage still considered by the church a REAL marriage? My husband and I married as strangers (afraid if we didn’t comply we would be “damned”) in a mass wedding done in the Unification church (Rev. Moon). We were never “in love” but kept our marriage vows, and after leaving that group, still stayed married (for the sake of the kids, mostly!) Later, we became Christian and eventually became Catholic. We are still together (and plan to stay that way!) but sometimes I feel “guilty” for never being in love with my husband and not having that kind of “best friends” relationship. Ours is more one of respect and helpmates. I sometimes worry my marriage is not genuine due…

July 15th, 2013

Question: Ignatian spirituality, Benedictine, Carmelite, Franciscan — I love them all. Love the thoughts, prayers; but how do I know which “way” fits me best? It feels peculiar to follow one “way” because then I feel as if I am veering from Jesus and “picking” St. Benedict’s way or St. Ignatius’ way, etc.

It sounds like you’re already following the way that fits you best — the way of Christ. Each of the strands within Catholic Christian spirituality that you mentioned is meant to lead you ever closer to Christ. The founder of a true Christian religious movement does not want others to follow him or her, but rather to follow Christ, and to reap the benefits of the founder’s spiritual…

July 9th, 2013

Question: I’ve read/learned about consecrating oneself to Jesus through Mary and have held off on doing this until I learn more and pray more about it. I just finished a novena to St. Maximillian Kobe and learned there is the Militia Immaculata which has a consecration. I knew about the consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the St. Louis de Monfort consecration, so now I’m a bit confused and hence my trepidation in consecrating myself. How do you know which consecration to follow? Please don’t tell me any are fine, I’m sure they all are, but I want to understand what’s the difference? Why do people choose one over the other?

The idea of consecration to Mary stems from the teaching that Mary,…

June 25th, 2013

Reincarnation is a concept embraced by Hinduism and Buddhism in which a person is born into a new body over and over again until the goal of liberation from the cycle of rebirth is reached. It goes hand in hand with a cyclical notion of time, in which the world constantly passes through cycles of creation, destruction and recreation. As ideas from these two Eastern traditions have become popularized in recent years, this notion has entered the Western imagination.
But for Christians, time is linear, moving in one direction towards the culmination of history in God. Jesus rose from the dead to make possible our new life with God; each of us is invited to share in the new life offered to us by Christ. We affirm this belief…

June 15th, 2013

Is it ethical and/or moral to root for a team that employs an unethical and/or immoral person (e.g. Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, Jerry Sandusky and Penn State)? Put another way, is it ethical to root for a team yet not support, agree with or condone one of its players?…
As Jesus makes clear in the parable of the weeds and the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43), good and evil mingle closely in our broken world. We are always wrestling with the mixture of good and evil in ourselves individually and in our human institutions and organizations. It might be impossible to find a team with no skeletons in its closet. On some level, to support any team or group is to support its own best version of itself, even if that is

June 7th, 2013

Question: My atheist brother refuses to come to my church wedding. I don’t want to create a scene, but should I invite him to the reception even though he has insulted me?…
Although emotions always run high in wedding preparations, a wedding invitation is really just that: an invitation to your wedding. You are asking a person who is important to you to accompany you on an occasion that is important to you. Perhaps you are saddened that he does not share your religious faith. Perhaps that disagreement has left you feeling insulted. But he is your brother, and it is a very special day in your life. If you want him to celebrate with you, then invite him. That part is in your hands.
The response is in your brother’s hands.

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