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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.
October 14th, 2010

The term “transculturation” was coined by 20th century Cuban sociologist and ethnologist Fernando Ortiz. He proposed the term in contrast to the word “acculturation,” which describes the process of transition from one culture to another on the part of an individual or a group.
Transculturation, on the other hand, refers to the encounter between or among cultures in which each one acquires or adapts elements of the other(s) or in which new cultural elements are created. Ortiz found this a more appropriate (and less ethnocentric) term to describe the processes of cultural change at work in the creation of Cuban culture. In the encounter between races, he described five phases of transculturation,…

October 7th, 2010

Rome has figured prominently in the history of the Church from its earliest days. Its Jewish community had close ties to Jerusalem, and thus Christianity reached Rome even before Paul came there as a missionary in 49-50. Peter and Paul both met martyrdom in Rome, giving the Christian community there special status. Also, Rome was one of the major cities of the empire; its great concentration of political and economic power proved a significant advantage as the Church grew.
Rome was one of five primary episcopal sees in the early centuries of the Church (along with the other major cities of the empire: Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria). But in time the bishop of Rome, seen as the successor to St.…

October 6th, 2010

St. Damien of Molokai was born Jozsef DeVeuester in Belgium in 1840. As a young man he entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a missionary order, taking the name Damianus at first vows. His brother, also a member of the same congregation, was assigned by their superiors to the mission in Hawaii but became ill and could not make the voyage. Thus Damien took his place and journeyed to Hawaii in 1864. Damien later volunteered to serve in the colony which had been established on the island of Molokai for Hansen’s disease patients. He remained there at his own will and at the request of the residents of the colony, and eventually he contracted the disease himself. Damien died on Molokai in 1889 among…

September 30th, 2010

Out of respect for Jordan’s predominately Muslim culture, in which women keep most of their bodies covered because of exhortations to modesty in the Koran, travel authorities suggest dressing “conservatively” or “modestly.” Note well that Jordanian Muslim standards for what is conservative or modest might be different than what is considered acceptable in the west today. It is best to avoid revealing, provocative or flashy dress. The Jordan Tourism Board offers the following advice:
“Muslim women’s clothing often covers their arms, legs and hair. Western women are not subject to these customs, but very revealing clothing is never appropriate, and conservative dress is advisable for…

September 23rd, 2010

While the Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of religious worship, government restrictions hamper some actual religious practices. Officially, only state-recognized religious institutions are allowed to exist, and repression of non-recognized groups – such as the Falun Gong movement – can be severe. Foreigners who congregate in houses of worship specifically for foreigners, on the other hand, are not subject to the same restrictions.
A friend of mine who was a lapsed Catholic actually came back to the Church while he was in China for a volunteer year. So I wouldn’t worry too much! If you’re a practicing Catholic, you should know that political and historical divisions do exist in the Catholic…

September 16th, 2010

St. Cyprian was born early in the 3rd century in North Africa, converted to Christianity as an adult, and was made bishop of Carthage in 248 or 249. As bishop he endured persecution and controversy but was eventually martyred in the year 258.
Cyprian’s thought helped the early Church develop its understanding of the sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation. Before Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire, Christians caught up in waves of persecution encountered a terrible choice: declare their faith and face martyrdom, or renounce it and face expulsion from the Christian community. At first, renouncing Christianity was considered final – there was no way an apostate… could be readmitted

September 9th, 2010

Who is the Dalai Lama and should I listen to his teachings if I am Catholic?
The Dalai Lama is the temporal and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, a successive line of teachers have held this title since 1391, each believed to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama.
The present Dalai Lama is the 14th person to hold this title. He was born in 1935, shortly after the death of his predecessor, and was recognized as the Dalai Lama in 1937. Since 1959 after the Chinese takeover of Tibet he has lived in exile in India. He has achieved widespread international acclaim for his nonviolent struggle for the liberation of Tibet, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.…

September 2nd, 2010

The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, informally known as the Order of Malta, is a Catholic religious order which dates to the 11th century. It was founded by merchants from Amalfi (in modern day Italy) who, inspired by John the Baptist, ran a hospice providing care and shelter to pilgrims visiting Jerusalem. Until 1798, most of its members, who generally came from noble families, were religious and took three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; today the majority of its 12,500 members are lay men and women.
The order works in the field of medical/social care and humanitarian aid in more than 120 countries, including the United States. Because of certain…

August 26th, 2010

The cycle of funerary texts called “Bardo Thodol” is often casually known in the west as the “Tibetan Book of the Dead.” A more accurate translation of the title might be something like “Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State,” from “thodol,” meaning liberation, and “bardo,” meaning liminality. According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this text was hidden during the 8th century and rediscovered in the 12th century. Funerary texts are a literary genre, found in many cultures, meant to provide guidance to the newly deceased or soon-to-be deceased about how to survive and prosper in the afterlife.
As Catholics, we have our own funerary texts. Our scripture overflows…

August 19th, 2010

St. Francis of Assisi was known to have a love of the natural world and of creation; countless legends are told about him that attest to his special relationship with animals. He is said to have used live animals in popularizing the nativity scene and to have spent time preaching to the birds, who he called his sisters. In one famous story, he tamed a wolf that had been terrorizing the townspeople in the village of Gubbio. Because of this reputation, St. Francis became the patron saint of animals, and thus his feast day, celebrated on October 4, is often observed by blessing pets, livestock, and other animals. Blessings are meant to give thanks to God and ask for God’s protection; we believe that saints have special…

August 12th, 2010

The word “fatwa” comes from the Arabic root “fata,” meaning newness, clarification or explanation. It refers to a scholarly opinion or ruling on matters of Islamic law, known as Sharia. The scholar who issues the fatwa, known as a “mufti,” draws on his own wisdom and knowledge of Islamic sources to interpret Sharia and address questions not specifically addressed in the law. These may include any aspect of individual life, social norms, financial affairs, moral decisions, politics, etc. Unfortunately in the west the term has become identified with a few highly publicized condemnations, but the vast majority of the millions of fatwas that have been issued in the history of Islam are non-controversial.…

August 5th, 2010

The desert fathers (and mothers!) were the pioneers of monastic life in the Church. Beginning in the third century, some Christians began to flee the comforts and conflicts of pagan cities to seek a life of asceticism in the desert. They sought a simpler life, in imitation of Christ during his forty days in the wilderness, and dedicated themselves to solitude, labor, poverty, fasting, charity and prayer. Some of them lived in isolation; others developed rules for communal life that evolved into large monastic communities. Over time their reputation for holiness grew, and Christians from the surrounding areas sought them out for advice and spiritual direction.
Some of them became great spiritual giants and…

July 29th, 2010

What are hermits?  And do they have anything to do with Catholicism?
A hermit is someone who has withdrawn to a solitary place for a life of religious seclusion. The word comes from the Greek “eremos,” meaning desert – hence a hermit is a person who lives in the desert. The idea of pursuing a reclusive lifestyle for religious reasons exists in many spiritual traditions.
In Catholicism, the hermit’s life recalls the biblical examples of the prophet Elijah, John the Baptist, and of course Jesus, during his forty days in the desert. As early Christian monastic life developed in the third century, many people were drawn to this lifestyle, inspired by the example of St. Anthony and the other desert fathers…

July 22nd, 2010

St. Mary Magdalene was a close follower of Jesus and a supporter of his ministry. The gospel of Luke mentions Mary Magdalene, “from whom seven devils had gone out,” in a list of women disciples who followed Jesus and assisted him out of their means (Luke 8:1-3). According to the gospels, she remained with Jesus at the foot of the cross and witnessed his burial. Then she became the first witness to the resurrection – in the gospel of John, the risen Jesus sends her to the other disciples to proclaim the good news (John 20:11-18). Unfortunately, her memory has been distorted throughout history and she has erroneously been identified as a prostitute or as the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50. This has allowed the popular…

July 15th, 2010

St. Bonaventure (1221-1274), bishop and doctor of the Church, was a medieval scholastic theologian and philosopher. According to legend, he became gravely ill as an infant and his mother took him to St. Francis to pray for his recovery. St. Francis had a vision of the child’s future greatness and exclaimed, “O buona ventura!” – O, good fortune! – and he was thenceforth known as Bonaventure.
St. Bonaventure entered the Franciscans at age 22, studied in Paris alongside St. Thomas Aquinas, and became general of his order of Franciscans at age 35. Pope Gregory X made him a cardinal and bishop of Albano (today part of Italy) and insisted on his presence at the Council of Lyon in 1274, where he contributed to…

July 8th, 2010

Why is St. Paul called an apostle?  He wasn’t one of the twelve apostles that Jesus picked. 
The word “apostle” comes from the Greek “apostolein,” meaning “sent ones.” Although Jesus specially designated twelve of his followers in a symbolic restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel (see Matthew 10:2-5, Mark 3:16-19, and Luke 6:13-16), these twelve men were not the only ones sent by Jesus. Mary Magdalene and the other women who saw the risen Jesus were sent by him to share the good news of the resurrection with the other disciples; before the ascension all of the disciples were sent forth by Jesus to proclaim salvation to the ends of the earth. Paul, though not one of the original companions of Jesus,…

June 24th, 2010

Salubong (Tagalog for “meeting”) is a traditional Filipino devotion that reenacts the encounter of the risen Christ with his mother. In communities in the Philippines, on the morning of Easter Sunday, statues of the risen Christ and of the blessed mother are carried through town in two separate processions. The men of the community, in a procession of joyful celebration, accompany the statue of Christ; the women of the community, in a somber procession of mourning, accompany the image of the sorrowful mother, shrouded in a black mourning veil. They arrive at a designated meeting place, usually in front of the church, where a little girl dressed as an angel removes the black mourning veil from the statue of…

June 17th, 2010

Resurrection accounts in the four canonical gospels vary widely. According to Matthew and Mark, Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene and the other women who went to the tomb to anoint his body; according to John, the first appearance is to Mary Magdalene alone; according to Luke, the first to see him are two disciples making their way to Emmaus. The gospels are theological narratives, not journalistic accounts. They present the theological truth of the resurrection – that Jesus really rose from the dead – but they do not necessarily describe the details in the same way. From a modern, factual point of view we don’t actually know how many times Jesus appeared. We only know that he did. From the resurrection…

June 10th, 2010

Our word “mission” comes from the Latin word “missio,” which means “sending.” After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and sent them out to the world to proclaim the good news. As they preached his message, they sent others, who sent others, and so on, always in Jesus’ name. Thus, from the earliest days of the Church, to be a Christian was to be a missionary, someone sent by Jesus with the message of salvation. Wherever people hunger for that message, we need missionaries. While we often associate “mission” with foreign lands and distant peoples, and find the word’s exotic connotations attractive, long-distance travel is not required. The message of Jesus is not only for peoples…

May 5th, 2010

Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “May fifth”) is a relatively minor Mexican holiday commemorating the Battle of Puebla of May 5, 1862, in which Mexican forces defeated an invading French army far superior in numbers and equipment. Mexico only temporarily halted the French invasion; French reinforcements soon conquered the capital and it was not until 1867 that Mexico finally freed itself from French control.
However, Cinco de Mayo has taken on a life of its own in the United States, celebrated by Mexican-Americans and many others. Some parishes with significant Mexican populations participate in civic or community activities to celebrate the holiday. Any national or cultural holiday is a good occasion to…

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