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Rachel Bundang :
19 article(s)

Rachel Bundang is a writer and doctoral student in theology and ethics in New York City.
March 15th, 2011

Question:  I was in Africa and saw a bunch of priests and parishioners dancing and the offertory procession went on for a much longer time.  While beautiful it seemed to be much different than my experience of church in the US, Canada, and most of Europe and even Latin America.  Can you tell me how these innovations arose there and what they might be expressing in the liturgy?

We often speak of the Church as universal and eternal, but it is also local and contextual.  As the Church’s territory in the world has expanded over the centuries—through mission, colonization, and other kinds of expansion, whether for good or ill—she has sought to make the Gospel intelligible to the peoples she has encountered.

December 24th, 2010
A friend stated that each Christmas his friends, who are Catholic, invite his family to dinner. They always eat fish. I think he mentioned the number 7. My husband who was raised Catholic from birth tells me that at Christmas his mother also served fish. He does not know if there was any particular reason for it and that was 40-50 years ago. Please enlighten me.

The custom of eating fish for Christmas is more a practice in certain ethnic communities rather than a mandate by the Catholic Church. The roots for the particular instance you mention lie in southern Italy-some say Sicily, others say Naples, and yet others say it goes from Rome on down, especially in the coastal towns.
Early Christians used to fast all day Christmas Eve, not eating until after they received communion at Christmas Mass. This practice evolved into a vigilia di magro, a day of fasting, and abstinence like those of Lent, when the faithful are asked to forgo meat as a penitential gesture. Eating that seven-fish feast, the cena della vigilia (“vigil meal”), was to break that fast at the end…

December 17th, 2009

Why do women no longer have to have their head covered while at mass?  And why do some still do it?…

There has long been a practice of women covering their heads in public, and especially in holy places, across religious traditions.  Paul makes note of it in 1 Cor 11:4-16.  Drawing upon this, as well as tradition and local custom, as in the Middle East, the 1917 Code of Canon Law originally required women to cover their heads in church (#1262).

Especially after Vatican II, the practice of wearing veils has largely faded away among Catholics in the West; non-Western Catholics and those who prefer a traditionalist or Tridentine observance of the faith here may still wear them more regularly.  Some say this veil was

December 3rd, 2009

I teach religion in a secular college and have been asked to teach a course on Catholicism.  I’m obviously somewhat limited here so what should I cover over the course of the semester? …

Catholicism itself could cover hundreds of courses.  But, that being said, I understand that a secular setting might not be the most appropriate place to discuss doctrine.  I suggest that your best bet would probably be to approach the material in one of three ways that would sidestep the doctrine yet lend it heft and context:  1) historically; 2) by looking at practices, rituals, and beliefs to see how they have developed over time and learn what they say about the faith; or 3) by major thinkers, figures, moments, or ideas

November 19th, 2009

Christianity emerged from Judaism, which itself rejected figurative religious art as being too much like idol worship (see Ex 20:3).  But once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine in the 4th century CE, it was not long before Roman practices of portraying and honoring the divine (their gods and emperors) would make their way into Christian practices as well.

Although the saints are portrayed in statues, icons, paintings, and other media, they are not worshipped as God is.  Rather, we venerate …the saints, meaning that we honor them, give them respect, and show them devotion for what they have accomplished in their lives of faith.  John Coleman, SJ sees saints as

November 12th, 2009

Question:  I am an African-American, and I was wondering whether it matters what race you are in order to be Catholic. Do you have to be a certain race in order to convert to Catholicism?…

Absolutely anyone may become a Catholic convert!  I am sure you have heard of the apostle Paul’s take on this (Galatians 3:28), so it is worth remembering that such differences don’t matter when entering the Christian life.

What I suspect you are asking is whether you will be welcome in your local church, and what the experience of African-American Catholics overall has been over time. True, the Catholic Church, especially in North America, has been very much shaped by the legacies of different European immigrant groups

October 14th, 2009

While your self-sufficiency and resourcefulness are admirable, starting your own porn site is problematic, even with limits.  Before your body was yours, it was God’s creation.
Putting yourself out there in sexually suggestive ways compromises your inherent human dignity and dishonors the good intent behind sex.  Moreover, you pose a temptation to others—a “near occasion of sin,” as the Catechism says—to engage sex in unhealthy, undignified, ultimately unloving ways.  Sounds like mutual objectification: you want their money, they want arousal, all without commitment.  Porn may be easy and lucrative, but you’d be better off seeking other ways of earning money that won’t…

October 7th, 2009

Question: Can you tell me a bit about “Santa Ria”?  What are its origins and does it have anything to do with the Catholic church?

Santería, also known as Lukumi, is an Afro-Caribbean syncretic religion, meaning that it combines multiple different forms of belief or practice. “Santería” itself means “way of the saints,” and it mingles Yoruba traditions of West African slaves from Nigeria and Benin with the Catholicism of the Spanish plantation owners who colonized the Americas.

Santería rituals often involve elements that use or closely resemble Catholic ones, such as prayers, or images of the saints, known as orishas. …Scholarly consensus says that Spanish efforts to missionize

September 16th, 2009

In the most idealistic sense, a reporter investigates and writes stories that are in the public interest.  But what is that interest, really?  Does it foster civic engagement and bolster the common good, or is it for idle entertainment?

Ethicists distinguish between goodness and rightness in making moral decisions, and the Church emphasizes the importance of having a well-formed conscience to guide you.

In having your faith inform your work, 1) consider what you value most.  Is it the pursuit and presentation of truth and fact?  If so, toward what end?  2) Consider the potential outcomes.  Who will be affected by this outing of information?  Is it about a grave, systemic wrong or—instead—about…

August 19th, 2009

This is more of a question of etiquette and personal taste than of religion or ethics!  Some people are more tethered to their techno-gadgets than others.  Some don’t want to be reachable every single moment.  And some are just unable to respond right away; maybe they’re actually busy, or on a plane, or in a dead zone.  Given the variety of ways people use technology, your expectations are unreasonable.
While the teachings of the church don’t offer much in a direct way here, think about it this way:  when you pray and God doesn’t respond immediately—at least in a way you understand or recognize—are you just as impatient?  Or when God sends you some sign and you… don’t respond immediately,

August 12th, 2009

Not being God, it would be really arrogant to claim to know God’s mind.  That being said, we’re taught by the church that love of neighbor—even in difficult circumstances—is fundamental to community.  Those responsible for the crisis opted for love of self, whether out of greed or laziness.  They prized profit so much that they took undue, ignorant risk with the funds entrusted to them.

It’s important to look at the big picture as well as the details.  Distasteful as they may be, the bailouts seem to be more about damage control and pain containment, lest those affected suffer further.  This doesn’t take away from whatever culpability these CEOs and companies have, and they may well answer for

August 5th, 2009

The premise of a foreclosure auction is that you’re looking to purchase a home cheaply.  You get the low price due to the property repossessed for default then being resold to recoup whatever possible from the lender’s losses.  On one hand, you’re exercising good stewardship of your own resources.  On the other, the family moving out is clearly in distress, regardless of who’s to blame.
You apparently do profit from their pain… but you don’t know all the specifics of their situation:  Were they irresponsible with their money?  Were they exploited by the mortgage industry? Every party in this situation plays a role in the structural violence and inequities the socioeconomic system creates. …

July 29th, 2003
A Perspective on the Cost of Denying Women Ordination

Nearly six years to the day that I received my first theology degree, I was back in Boston at an ordination (see box below).
I was at the Episcopal cathedral, not the Catholic one. Jen, a former roommate, asked me and two other women friends from divinity school—a Jew-nitarian (and Wicca-friendly) minister and an Episco-Lutheran postulant to participate in her “deaconing” (being ordained a deacon) as presenters.

In Christian churches ordination is the ritual by which the Holy Spirit is called down upon leaders of the community. In the Catholic, Orthodox, and certain other Christian traditions ordination is reserved for men only, while in most Protestant denominations it is open…

April 18th, 2003
Better Luck Tomorrow Brings Welcome Complexity to Asian America

With this film, it’s tempting, oh-so-tempting, to make the expected references to classic rock songs: “The Kids Are Alright.” “Teenage Wasteland.” “Another Brick in the Wall.”
But that’s not the world that spawned the kids of Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow . Set in the upper-middle class gated community suburbs of Orange County, the film draws from the best of the teen and (urban) gangster movie genres to offer something fresh: an edgy, well-made, even disturbing satire that’s equally Asian American and mainstream.
“Flip it and reverse it”On the teen front, one central and classic question the movie raises is: “Who…

March 15th, 2003
Practicing Resurrection for Easter

I regularly check into a community discussion board called craigslist. On the morning that Baghdad fell, almost as if staged for the world’s all-seeing cameras, someone posted a message entitled “Wake up slacker, and watch history!” There’s a way in which these Easter morning readings can make us laugh in a similar nervous bemusement as well as fill us with a humbling sense of awe and responsibility.
The vigil is over.
The long night has passed into day.
Friends and family have been baptized and received into Christian community.
But when the long night of fear and chaos is over, or even when the rowdy joy of the party is over, then what? You mean there’s life after that? You mean I…

January 26th, 2003
Sold on the Benefits of Online Dating

When, oh, when did online dating lose its stigma? When did it become the province of sexy nerds and closet punks, as well as the schlubs and the hipper-than-thou among us?
Who knows? Who cares? One thing, though, that online dating has spawned is worth celebrating: the social guinea pig—someone willing to risk humiliation, rejection, and heartbreak (not to mention a few lost dollars and hours) in the search for connection.
Early reportsBack in the day, online dating was for the socially inept or those who needed specific niches filled. My first experience with it was actually third-hand: a friend’s college roommate—an Asian Muslim woman in WASPy suburbia, no less—met her future husband, an Anglo…

January 23rd, 2003
Ministering to the ‘Spiritual But Not Religious'

“Can you imagine us doing this in a church?” I wasn’t eavesdropping, but I did overhear Mina, the young mother, say so to one of her friends during the reception. “There’s just no way we would ever have felt comfortable. We are so not church people.” (Names have been changed for the family’s privacy.)
I recently had the experience of creating and presiding over a baby-naming ceremony—an alternative “baptism” of sorts. Mina, a first-generation Taiwanese-American Buddhist, and Rick, a quintessential Brooklyn Italian Catholic, had just had their first child, their daughter Asha. After the initial bustle, they felt settled

November 23rd, 2002
Thanksgiving Was Not the Über-Holiday for Us

It is November, and I am barreling headlong into the end of the year. But first, I have to make it past the Thanksgiving table.
Growing up working-class and Filipino here in the U.S., Thanksgiving has never felt to me like a real holiday. Or rather, it has never as big a deal to me as to my Anglo and African-American friends, whose families have lived here for generations. Not because it’s a secular holiday with its own mythology, because it’s easy enough to give it a religious backdrop. You could even say that, as Catholics, we celebrate Thanksgiving at every Mass; after all, that’s what Eucharist means.
In our house, though, Thanksgiving was just another day off from school or work. We really could…

November 20th, 2002
pc muñoz and the amen corner a good deed in a weary world (beevine records)

What is a good deed? What’s the point of trying to be good in a world that’s clearly a mess? And how do you even begin to do that?
These are the themes that pc muñoz and the amen corner tackle in this, their third CD. This San Francisco-based music collective cook up a provocative—if uneven—stew of spoken-word, funk, gospel, and experimental electronics that gets your head bobbin’ to the beat and nodding thoughtfully to the lyrics too.
The CD takes the form of songs interspersed with or introduced by spoken word snippets that seem to be excerpts of man-on-the-street interviews. Average people are asked: what is a good deed? And then a song follows, as if to illuminate the thought just offered.…

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