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Neela Kale :
177 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.
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 23rd, 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.

April 29th, 2013

Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person requires utmost respect for the human body. We do not have bodies, we are bodies, created in the image of God. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church warns against an attitude that “tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for its sake, [and] to idolize physical perfection” (CCC 2289). The body is good, but it is not an absolute value. In all times and places, people have developed ways to highlight human beauty according to culturally conditioned ideals. But if taken to extremes, these enhancements idolize human notions of beauty and fail to recognize that the work of the Creator is already perfect. Church teaching generally supports…

April 22nd, 2013

Question: I believe a local hotel that I use often is associated with human trafficking. Should I boycott the hotel?
Human trafficking is a dirty little secret in many U.S. cities. According to the Polaris Project, a non-governmental organization working to fight human trafficking and modern-day slavery, there are more individuals in forced labor today than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Under federal law, children involved in the sex trade, adults who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into various forms of labor or services are all considered victims of human trafficking. Find out what groups in your area are working to fight this evil. Add your voice to theirs.

April 19th, 2013

Question: I often drive 5 MPH over the posted speed limit. Is this sinful and should I confess it?

When you get behind the wheel of a car, you have a lethal weapon in your hands. This awesome responsibility means that you must always drive with the utmost care and attention, both to the rules of the road and to your particular surroundings. If your excessive speed is reckless, then you carelessly endanger your life and the lives of others. This violates the Fifth Commandment, which says you shall not kill, and Jesus’ great commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Driving a little over the speed limit may sometimes appear quite safe. Many states have a version of the basic rule, which requires that you drive at

April 8th, 2013

Question: I hate the gift my kid gave me for my birthday. Am I required to wear it if I accept it so as to not hurt his feelings?

Any parent who has painted macaroni ornaments hanging on the Christmas tree or a juice can covered in construction paper holding pencils on his or her desk at work knows that the value of a gift is in the love that the giver wishes to show to the recipient. Your child chose or made something for you with love, and you have the opportunity to receive it with love. So go ahead and put on that lumpy scarf or clashing necklace and wear it with pride. If anyone asks, be grateful for the opportunity to talk about how wonderful your child is. In far too little time, your son or daughter will be grown and gone and you’ll

March 25th, 2013

Question: I’m in a relationship with someone at work. Should we be open about this with co-workers? There are no prohibitions on dating in our company handbook.
Before you consider whether or not to tell your co-workers, first ask yourself if the relationship is appropriate. Does one of you report to or supervise the other? If one person has direct responsibility over the other, or if the two people have vastly unequal job status, the relationship creates an opportunity for sexual harassment. That potential makes an already delicate situation even more problematic. Also, take a moment to consider the other thorny issues. If you stop dating each other, would you still be able to work together? Or would you be

March 18th, 2013

Question: I accidentally walked into a co-ed bathroom and found my receptionist somewhat disrobed. Should I report this to our boss to be sure there are no misunderstandings?

Your receptionist probably uttered a startled yelp and you probably blurted an embarrassed apology as you quickly backed out with your head down. If it was truly accidental and brief, then it’s likely you both want to put the incident behind you. Perhaps you should ask the maintenance staff to check to make sure that the restroom doors lock properly, but that’s really all you need to do.
On the other hand, if you have any reason to believe something more could be at stake, you might mention the incident to your human resources manager. If

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