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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.
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

April 2nd, 2013

Question: My dorm does not allow candles but I like to pray with a candle in front of my statue of Mary. Should I claim religious exemption?
Candles have a time-honored place as a symbol of prayer, especially in the Catholic tradition. In fact, at least two candles must be placed on the altar for the celebration of the Mass (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 117). But that doesn’t mean that you must use a candle when you pray in your room. For private devotional prayer a candle is a helpful symbol, not a requirement. Generally, religious exemptions are reserved for serious matters, when a rule impedes a person’s ability to practice his or her religious faith. That’s not at stake for you here. So don’t spend

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

March 14th, 2013

Catholic moral teaching on sexual intimacy is clear — it is meant to unite a man and woman in married love and open them to the gift of a child. Sexuality is a wonderful gift that helps a husband and wife to express their love for one another in many ways, sometimes playfully, sometimes tenderly, sometimes passionately. It does not reduce to sexual intercourse, but encompasses other behaviors as well. And while there are appropriate behaviors for expressing affection and care between people who are not married, some behaviors — including erotic activities like body shots — are clearly inappropriate. Even if you don’t intend for it to lead to sexual intercourse, exhibitionist behavior in…

March 11th, 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.

March 4th, 2013

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church asserts, “life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good” (2288).
For Catholics, gratitude for life and a desire to treasure it should shape decisions about medical treatment. But any person facing illness, together with his or her family, caregivers and medical professionals, must determine what it means to take reasonable care of the gift of life in his or her situation. Sometimes proactive treatment is appropriate and sometimes it is not; sometimes medication is appropriate and sometimes it is not. A wide range of treatment options are possible…

January 29th, 2013

Q: I’m heading on a mission trip with other students and my campus minister says we will only be allowed one shower for the week. Am I bound to obey?
A. It might be that you have no choice. If you and your classmates are all drawing from the same barrel of water for the week – as we did in some of my missionary communities in Mexico – then when the water is gone, the water is gone. That’s the stark reality for many people who don’t live with the abundant resources that you take for granted when you’re at home. And that’s probably one of the reasons that you’re going on the trip: to walk in someone else’s shoes, if only for a few days, and learn what it’s like to live with limited water, food, medical care and many…

January 22nd, 2013

Q. As a Catholic am I bound to boycott companies like Walmart if they treat their employees badly?
A. In our modern world, everything we touch is part of a complex globalized supply chain linking producers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Too many links in this chain are forged with human rights abuses and environmental atrocities, all in the name of providing cheap consumer goods on demand. Many shoppers turn a blind eye to the suffering people who lie behind the low prices, whether garment workers in China or store associates in middle America. I commend you for your concern and your willingness to take action.
Now the challenge is to find effective action. You can’t simply “opt out” of modern…

January 18th, 2013

Q: I am a best man and I lost one of the rings. Am I required to replace the band and can I do it secretly or am I bound to confess?…
Presumably your buddy asked you to be his best man because he values your friendship and trusts you to play this special role at his wedding. So you’ve created an opportunity to prove yourself worthy of his trust. Yes, you are required to replace the band, just as you would replace or repair anything lost or damaged while in your care. And you must tell your friend what happened. Maybe you have time to replace the ring, and could find an identical one, and no one would be the wiser — but do you want that nagging at your conscience for the rest of your life? Do you want to be nervous throughout the

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