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Neela Kale :
159 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.
August 18th, 2011

Your coworker’s marital status is actually insignificant – the fact that you describe your behavior as “leering” suggests that it has gone beyond appropriate admiration and become an expression of lust. How can you tell the difference? A good clue would be that you would be embarrassed if your coworker found out what you are doing. In Catholic language, we might say you are showing a lack of chastity, the virtue which seeks to integrate sexuality within the person. You have introduced an inappropriate sexual element to your relationship with your coworker, even if it is unbeknownst to him/her. Rather than encouraging your own healthy integration of your sexuality, your behavior drives a wedge between…

August 9th, 2011

The answer depends on your employer’s policies, as well as on whether you’re a day care provider, an office worker, or a firefighter, to give just a few possibilities. Some parents, occasionally or regularly, manage to integrate their children into their working environments. Others find it inappropriate or downright impossible. But your question highlights the need for social structures and labor policies that protect and promote the rights of parents and the wellbeing of the family.
Two key principles of Catholic social teaching come into play here: the importance of the family and the dignity of human labor. Parenthood is a vocation, and parents have a sacred duty to care for and educate their children.…

August 2nd, 2011

Schools that require students to wear uniforms know that we take things more seriously when we are dressed for the occasion. Our dress communicates a great deal about who we are and what is important to us. When you dress for mass, you are telling yourself – and others around you – how much you care about what is taking place. Celebrating the Eucharist is the high point of our lives as Catholic Christians – isn’t that worth showing attention and respect?
Acceptable attire at mass varies from culture to culture, place to place and occasion to occasion. In the United States, extremely casual dress has become the norm in almost all public places. But going to mass is different from going to the mall, and it calls…

July 27th, 2011

First communion day is very special for children. After a long period of preparation, they will finally receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the first time. There is often a lot happening that day. Your son may find himself sitting in a different place than your family usually sits and doing some things differently than he usually does at mass. He may have a special role to play, such as walking in the entrance procession or helping to bring up the gifts. And he will be aware that he and the other children are receiving special attention that day. Children, just like adults, can get nervous when things are special or different. That’s why the rehearsal is so important. If he knows ahead of time what is going to happen,…

July 25th, 2011

A church building is a special place calling for special behavior. While the church is our home and we should feel comfortable there – indeed, the church (small “c”) is a gathering place for the Church, the people of God (capital “C”) – that doesn’t mean that anything goes. Your actions in church show respect for God and for the community that gathers there. If you are stopping by the church to pray, even just for a moment, your actions should respect the place and its purpose.
Spit out your gum, turn off your cell phone, check that you’re appropriately dressed and make the most of the precious opportunity to step away from the ordinary and into a sacred space and time. If you are in the church for mass and…

July 20th, 2011

Congratulations on your daughter’s upcoming first communion! Of course you want to make sure that it is special, but don’t lose sight of what is really important. First communion is not about the dress or the pictures or the party – these are merely extras. First communion is about your daughter receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. It should be the first of many receptions of the Eucharist, so that she can continue to grow in her understanding of the great mystery of the Eucharist and be strengthened by Christ’s real presence in her life. She comes to the table of the Lord as part of the Christian community – her faith formation classmates, other first communicants and your entire parish. The pastor has…

July 20th, 2011

The Catholic Church teaches that human sexuality is a beautiful gift from God. It allows us to love others and, in a special way, to truly give ourselves in love to one other person…

July 12th, 2011

It’s good that you’re tackling this issue before first communion day. Make sure your child understands that you expect reverent behavior; do not encourage or tolerate any kind of silliness around the act of receiving communion, even when you are practicing.
Children have a natural curiosity about new things, especially something as special and mysterious as the Eucharist. Give your child an unconsecrated host and let her hold it in her hands, look at it, and take her time tasting it and consuming it. She won’t be able to do this when she actually receives communion, but it will allow her to satisfy her curiosity. Then show her how you receive and ask her to imitate you. Some people, finding the dry host difficult…

June 16th, 2011

Mary MacKillop, the co-founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart (the Josephites), is one of our most recently canonized saints and was the first Australian to be canonized. She lived from 1842-1909. As a teacher and dedicated servant of the poorest of the poor, she led her sisters to found schools, orphanages, homes for the aged and various other ministries. In the publicity leading up to her canonization, one aspect of her career received intense attention: During a conflict with the local bishop, who tried to change the Josephites’ constitutions after the order helped to remove a priest suspected of pedophilia, she was briefly excommunicated for insubordination. Ultimately…

June 7th, 2011

Good for you for taking your Lenten fast so seriously! During the season of Lent, the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are meant to help us turn away from whatever has derailed us along the way and turn back to God. By giving up dessert for Lent, you are fasting from something that gives you pleasure and offering that sacrifice to God. If skipping dessert has been hard for you, it’s probably a sign that your sacrifice is working. Your effort in keeping to the fast is a concrete step that helps you to turn to God.
Is slipping from your Lenten fast a serious sin that requires you to go to confession? No. Giving up something for Lent (if it’s not something that’s a sin in itself) is a discipline that you set for…

June 3rd, 2011

Let’s imagine that your friend were sober and broke your phone by sheer accident. Should she feel obligated to compensate you? Yes. She is responsible for the damage, much the way one would be responsible for breaking a dish in a china shop. The fact that she was drunk implies negligence and increases her responsibility, rather than mitigating it. (Consider how a drunk driver who causes an accident incurs greater penalties than a sober driver.) So of course she should apologize for what happened and pay for the repair of your phone. It is reasonable for you to expect that.
As far as whether or not you should demand payment, ask yourself about the nature of your relationship. Is it a strong friendship, which will weather…

June 2nd, 2011

In the biblical notion of time, one day ends and another begins at sundown, rather than at 12:00 midnight. (Recall that “evening came, and morning followed – the first [etc.] day” in the creation story of Genesis 1:1-2:4a.) Thus when evening falls on Saturday, according to the understanding of the Church, Sunday begins. When you attend a Saturday evening mass, you hear the lectionary readings and prayers for Sunday; participating in this mass “counts” to fulfill your Sunday obligation. Anticipating the Sunday mass – celebrating it on Saturday evening – came about in the latter half of the 20th century, as the rhythms of modern life made attending Sunday morning mass increasingly difficult for…

May 19th, 2011

Certain holidays have greater importance in a given region or culture than in others because of the widely divergent traditions that are collectively called Hinduism. But some Hindu festivals are observed widely throughout India. Among these are Holi, the spring festival which commemorates the slaying of the demon Holika by Prahlad, a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Bonfires are lit to commemorate Prahlad’s escape from the demon; revelers throw colored water and powder at each other in celebration. The Durga Puja, falling in September-October, is a time dedicated to worship of the mother goddess Durga. Devotees prepare large images of the mother goddess and processions and worship services take place over a…

May 12th, 2011

Hindu religious texts are some of the world’s oldest sacred writings. A group of texts known as the Vedas, containing hymns and sacrificial formulas, originated in North Indian oral traditions and were written down from roughly 1500-500 BCE. These texts are described as “heard” and considered to be divinely revealed, as opposed to later “remembered” writings which are considered to be of human origin. Then the Upanishads, philosophical works that develop the spiritual teachings of the Vedas, emerged during the first millennium BCE. One particularly significant later text, embedded within a foundational epic called the Mahabharata, is the Baghavad Gita, the “Song of God.” It contains…

May 5th, 2011

The protests that have gripped the Middle East in recent months have had secular triggers: rampant poverty, high unemployment, government corruption and political oppression. While religious voices have been a part of the upheavals, they have not been at the forefront. Protesters clamor not for an Islamic state but for democracy and individual freedoms, ideas that some see as Western imports foreign to Islam. However, religion is so deeply rooted in culture – and vice versa – that the nascent process of political change in the Muslim world must chart its own distinctively Muslim course. Political turmoil exposes other fractures in society, as revealed by recent sectarian clashes in Egypt. In Egypt and…

April 26th, 2011

According to the formula of the Church established at the Council of Nicaea in the year 325, Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. (Note that the ecclesiastical designation of the spring equinox and the full moon does not always correspond to the astronomical designation.) This date was chosen in keeping with the date of the Jewish Passover, from which Easter, the Christian Passover, was derived. Eastern and Western Church authorities have defined the spring equinox and the full moon differently, however, and since the Gregorian reform of the calendar, the date of Easter in the Eastern and Western Churches is not always the same. Following the formula, Easter…

March 3rd, 2011

Officially, yes – Christianity is one of three religious minorities recognized by the Iranian government (the other two are Judaism and Zoroastrianism.) The Islamic Republic of Iran is officially a theocracy, in which political and religious authority are intertwined. Shia Islam is the state religion, but these three groups – which together make up barely 2% of the population – are protected and enjoy certain rights, such reserved seats in parliament. The majority of Christians in Iran are members of the Armenian Catholic Church or the Chaldean Catholic Church, both of which are in communion with Rome. Christians are viewed as ethnic minorities and must celebrate their liturgical rites in Armenian…

February 24th, 2011

Many cultures have traditions surrounding the Epiphany. In Spain and Latin America, Three Kings Day, rather than Christmas, is an occasion for gift-giving, and children set out their shoes the night before in hope of receiving a gift from the three kings. Greeks mark the day with a traditional blessing of the waters, when the ban on sailing on rough winter seas is lifted. German children sometimes carol in the streets carrying a star on a pole. And in Louisiana, Epiphany marks the beginning of the Carnival season; cakes are served with a small doll inside representing the baby Jesus.
The feast of the Epiphany (from a Greek word meaning “manifestation”) celebrates the revelation of God as a human being in Jesus…

February 10th, 2011

The word “cult”, in its original sense, refers to a collection of practices and rituals associated with a religion or with a particular aspect of a religion. This is how the word is primarily used in academic discourse. Thus we can speak of the cult of a particular saint in reference to the devotions associated with honoring that saint in Catholic Christianity, or the cult of worship of Vishnu in Hinduism, for example.
However, in more popular usage, the word “cult” has come to refer to exclusive or separatist religious groups, especially new groups, whose beliefs and practices fall outside the perceived mainstream. The word is often used pejoratively, to label a group’s expressions as threatening…

February 3rd, 2011

Q:  Do Hindus believe in Jesus? A friend told me that they believe in all gods.
Hinduism is an umbrella term for the indigenous religious traditions of South Asia, a vast subcontinent which is home to a wide diversity of belief and practice. However, certain principles are common among Hindus. Among these is the belief that there are many gods and goddesses, all of which are manifestations of one abstract supreme being. Unlike the Christian Trinity, one God in three persons, there is greater distinction among these deities, which have different mythologies and personalities. An individual person or a local community will have a particular devotion to one or a few of the deities, expressed in that person or community’s…

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