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Neela Kale :
157 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 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…

April 29th, 2010

After China became communist, as the government sought to limit foreign influences and unite people in Chinese institutions, it prohibited religious institutions with loyalties to foreign governments. Only government-recognized and approved religious groups could exist officially. Practicing religion was allowed; declaring allegiance to a foreign authority such as the Pope in Rome was not. The government established the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association in 1957 to exercise supervision over China’s Catholics, and this official body remains the only recognized Catholic authority in China today. Its bishops are subject to approval by the government. Some of them also have approval from…

April 22nd, 2010

India is the world’s largest secular democracy, but it is also home to tremendous religious diversity, which sometimes plays out in devastating religious conflicts. Christians (the majority of whom are Catholic) make up little more than 2% of the population, and thus religious divisions involving Catholics have not been as prominent as tensions between Hindus and Muslims. Christianity’s long history in India seemed to protect it from some of the imperialist associations it has in other Asian countries, and Catholic institutions such as schools and hospitals enjoy great popularity.
However, a majority of Catholics in India belong to a lower-caste group called Dalits. The lowest-caste status of untouchability…

April 2nd, 2010

The Stations of the Cross (sometimes also called the “Way of the Cross” or Via Crucis, in Latin) are a traditional devotion tracing the events on the way to Christ’s crucifixion. The devotion has its roots in the practice of pilgrimage to Jerusalem, especially to sites along the way to the cross. In the fifteenth century, as it became difficult for Christians to visit Jerusalem, the Franciscans began to erect outdoor shrines in Europe to recall these holy places, and in later centuries the devotion took root throughout the entire Church.
Traditionally, there are fourteen stations:
Jesus is condemned to death
Jesus takes up his cross
Jesus falls the first time
Jesus meets his mother
Simon of Cyrene helps…

April 1st, 2010

In Jewish and Christian tradition, the number 40 has symbolic meaning. A period of 40 days or years, more than being a literal measurement, represents a long time and a period of preparation or testing. When 40 days or 40 years have passed, the appropriate period or the “right amount of time” has been completed in preparation for the working of God’s grace. Recall the 40 days and 40 nights of rain during the flood in Genesis 7, the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the desert after the Exodus, and the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public ministry in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Lent lasts 40 days so that we will spend the “right amount of time” in this period of penance…

March 18th, 2010

Just by asking the question – and by caring about how your community prays – you are already on the right track. But the way you asked the question points to how you can begin to answer it for yourself. Do you want to know what “we” should do to help “them”? Or do you all want to know what you can do to help each other? Your parish leaders, especially those making decisions about prayer and liturgy, must include immigrant parishioners, so that your community can worship in a way that faithfully reflects the experience of all its members.
The specific strategies that work for you will depend on the nature of your community. Do your parishioners come from many different places, or is the immigrant population…

March 10th, 2010

You’re out with your friends on a Friday night and suddenly you notice that one of them has switched from his favorite microbrew to… lemonade? Is it time for Lent already? Giving up something for Lent sometimes evokes head-scratching in non-Catholics, but what might seem like just another Catholic eccentricity can actually be a practice with deep spiritual significance.
Lent, the period of 40 days that precedes the celebration of Easter, has its origin in the early days of the Church. Converts seeking to become Christian, who at that time were mostly adults, spent several years in study and preparation. Under the threat of Roman persecution, becoming a Christian was serious business, so their process of…

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