Monday, July 24, 2017

A Bed of Flowers

In the random thoughts on religious life column, a university professor recalls a visit to a book store where a green cover of a book caught his eye. He fingered through the book, memoirs of the family members of those who committed suicide. The book was published by a center in the prevention of suicides.

It easily brought tears to those who would read the book Each day almost 40 dies from suicide in South Korea.

Each of those who died was hurting. It's important to see the way we encounter the adversities that come in life. Often in the book, there are pictures taken from books of psychology. One picture is a composite picture of a witch's face and the face of a beautiful young woman. Depending on the viewer one can see an old witch's face or that of a young woman or both.

The example is also given of a half filled bottle of wine, One person sees the empty section and laments while another person sees the wine and rejoices: same reality with different responses. Our values determine our viewpoint and our future.

Ku Sang was a well known Korean poet who was known for his Christian sensitivity. (His parents were Catholic, an older brother a priest. He studied in Japan was raised in North Korea and the Communist regime had little sympathy for his poetry so he fled to the South. He suffered from tuberculosis and died in 2005)

The professor includes a section of one of his poems the Flower Bed. "Delighted, thankful, joyful/ I am in a flower bed/ you are seen as a place of thorns/ However I see you as a flower bed." ( a literal translation) Depending on our attitude we can see our situation as a bed of thorns or one of flowers.

He recommends to the readers to take the few lines and keep them in their pocket note book and glance at it often. We can turn negativity into something positive. As in the poem about the Chinese date. The date doesn't turn red on its own but needs the encounter with typhoons, thunder, and lighting and we have the reddening of the fruit.

St. Paul says the same in Rm. 5: 3-4 "These suffering bring patience, as we know, and patience brings perseverance,  perseverance brings hope, and this hope is  not deceptive because the love of  God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us."

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Zero Sum Game in Children's Upbringing.



A four-year-old child on the 14th-floor of an apartment went out to the veranda, climbed over the rail and death. The family was out. The grandmother checked to see the child who was sleeping and went out to find another grandchild who was playing outside. During this short time outside, the child woke up and tragedy. Both parents were working. A university art professor recalls the incident in his column in the Catholic Peace Weekly.

The professor presents to the readers the famous painting of the Sistine Madonna by Raphael the Renaissance artist. At the bottom of the painting, we have two angels. They are waiting for Madonna's direction. If one looks closely at the background of the painting one sees hundreds of faces of babies. Each baby selects the parents they want and the person on the left and the woman on the right agree and the Blessed Mother takes the child in her arms and gives it to the angels to deliver to the parents on earth.

The interpretation according to tradition is the way parents should see their children.They have been selected in heaven and given to the parents. This is the way the professor says Catholics should look upon the children born.This makes each child all the more precious.That is why they are to be respected and not ignored.

In Germany, the Sistine Madonna painting was placed on the walls of kindergartens to show how the children should be treated. 

A zero sum game theory is common in our society. In the raising of children, this theory is central. The time spent at the workplace has to be taken away from the child. Both can not win. One has to take a loss for the benefit of the other.

This theory briefly says the time spent away from the child is a loss to the child. We don't have a win/win situation. Parents who spend less time working outside the home have more time to spend with the children, benefiting the children emotionally, intellectually and physically. Who in the family is benefiting when parents are always working? Is the extra income worth the loss to the children?

In some way this is understood by all but sadly society does not give us the environment that allows this to happen. This is probably one of the reasons we have the kind of society we have and it will take a revolutionary change in thinking to see a different future.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Red Queen's Theory

An article in the Kyeongyang magazine by a member of the diocesan pastoral committee for family introduces the readers to the words of the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass: "Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."

Simply expressed,  if we do not continue to move we will be overtaken by others and fall behind. This is the kind of society we have made. The children, especially in their studies, are faced with this reality.The older generation feels sorry and helpless for their plight but is this the correct direction?

A wise person needs leisure. Our situation in Korea is gloomy. According to OECD in 2016 Koreans on the average worked for 2,113 hours a year. Of all the member countries, Korea was the second highest. Japan was 1,719 hours a year, 400 less than Korea.

The word leisure comes from the Latin word licere (be allowed) freedom from necessary occupation. The word school derives from the Greek word schole, originally meaning leisure. We can see how far we have come from the original meaning of leisure in our schooling, because of competition. We have to outdo others. After school, the speed continues to increase and we have personal and family accidents.

Speed has to be reduced otherwise we miss the most important moments of life. We have to slow down to a pace where we can stop and look around. We should take time to measure the speed in which we live. 

Psychologists distinguish between pleasure and enjoyment. Both give happiness but there is a world of difference between them. Pleasure takes little energy, effort and easily achieved: eating a good meal, watching television, playing with the handphone etc. but it is temporary and disappears with the end of the action.

Enjoyment, on the other hand, the energy expended gives rise to more energy. We don't have only instant gratification but the added satisfaction that continues: reading, playing an instrument, a sport, study, prayer etc.. Pleasure is a good but we need the proper balance of pleasure and enjoyment.

He concludes with a layman's treatment of the brain waves: alpha and beta. The alpha appears when at peace and the beta when anxious. When these waves appear at the proper times we have health. Koreans because of the fast pace of life and stress, the beta waves are predominant.

If we want to supplement the alpha waves we have to take time our of our busy life and spend time in prayer and meditation. Where have we come from and where are we going? We have been given this moment in time and need to live it fully.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mothers Have to Change for Society to Change

The Korean Bishops' subcommittee on women's issues recently in their regular yearly seminar used a different approach than in the past. They decisively jettison the old system in which a talk and authorities in their field would discuss the topic and the participant would listen. Both Catholic papers and editorial brought the meeting to the attention of the readers.

This time they used the principles of the Open Space Technology to conduct their meeting. The idea is attributed to Harrison Owen an American who gathered the many ideas on meetings to form this new technology of coming to a decision. The participants freely expressed their opinion, they selected what they wanted to talk about and determined how they wanted to make the decisions.

They became active participants from the beginning to the end. This was a strange method compared to what they were accustomed to from the past. 

As the meeting progressed they began to find a vitality present. Under the big heading of the  meaning and role in the call to the feminine they considered: * motherhood and the feminine * recruiting of women experts * religious education in the family * child care within the Church * care for the women who are marginalized * relationship within the community of faith these and four more  the participants selected.

Participants came from different dioceses and parishes, all workers within the community of faith. They were all convinced of a need to change the way of doing things; agreed the change had to begin with themselves. A change from a passive to active participation in the life of the Church. A  change was also needed  in the system.

60 members attended and were convinced that they had to change if society was going to change. The bishop who is the committee chairman said that hearing the women talk, he had a need to change. Women have a great deal to do within the Church. Since the women's role and position in society has changed this has to change also in the Church. The women have a role also to make in the society and the Church needs to support them in this role.

The topics discussed at the seminar will continue to be  matter for study and development.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Encouraging the Middle Aged Men

A religious sister in View from the Ark of the Catholic Times begins with the news of a middle aged comedian's suicide. He was in his 50s, suffering from depression over money matters. The death shocked many because of his popularity and his recent appearance in a TV drama. The sister is in charge of a diocesan desk which works in the prevention of suicides in the diocese. She prayed that this suicide would not lead to imitations.

The suicide rate among middle-aged men continues to increase yearly. More than 70% of all suicides are male and half are men between the ages of 40 and 65.

Most of the suicides are related to work: failing in their work, losing their job or not properly assessed in the workplace. Depression and thoughts of suicide enter. Men, even at the sacrifice of family, often give themselves to their jobs to such an extent that when things goes wrong, despair, great shock, and suicide is the result.

Men in our society are judged by their work and consequently, the responsibility they feel is great. Unlike women, they are not able to express in words the pressures and frustrations they face. This means they carry it with them, it isolates them, despair follows and the last escape is death at their own hand.

Even though this is the case, in Korea, in the mass media and in our approach to the problem, we continue to concentrate on the youth and the elderly.  Problems with the middle age men are not seen as important. Considering the current social situation with the lack of employment opportunities and economic slowdown, the problems will increase.

What can we do? What can the church do? We need to be more attentive to this group of men and understand the difficulties they face. Family and acquaintances need to show concern and sympathize with them. In her counseling, she hears often how responsibility they have for the family and their abilities make for conflict and trials. She has much sympathy for them living in our present society.

The nation has to become involved and a national response is necessary. Money, both public and private needs to be set aside for suicide prevention and to establish a safety net. We need to help the men to express themselves and find ways to lighten their burdens. "I am tired. it's difficult,  I want to rest, I am lonely," we need to help them say what is inside. All of us need to show concern.

We need to get out of the functional mode which society puts us in at an early age and begin to see life from a contemplative and being mode. Show gratitude for what people have done, instead of saying "fight the good fight" better to say, "you have done much, thank you". Need to remember that life is more precious than what we do.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Who Is The Sermon For?


In the Peace Column of the Catholic Peace Weekly, the writer mentions a book he received from a publisher.The subtitle grabbed his attention: A believer looking into his storage room. It was a short piece of only two pages. For whom is the sermon written? He summarizes the contents for the reader.

"The sermon at Mass is like a flower in the liturgy. The congregation is looking forward to smelling the fragrance. What they get at times is a nasty smelling sermon. There are all kinds of people listening. There is no way of knowing for whom the sermon was prepared. To side with one group against another is dangerous. It exposes oneself. The parishioners are looking for nourishment for their spiritual life and often receive only stress. He asks the Christians are they progressive or liberal. Whatever the reason to expect the parishioners to be at his understanding of reality is rude.  The sermon from the pulpit is not master to slave or superior to an inferior. We need equilibrium between the priest and congregation.

The columnist wasn't in complete agreement in the way the author expressed his thoughts but did agree with the point he was making. The sermon is for the people and not the priest and it's not only saying pleasant things. We need to hear at times what is unpleasant and makes us uncomfortable. It's impossible to please everybody. Jesus himself said that he did not come to give comfort to all.

Depending on the Christian's disposition in being conservative or progressive, will determine the acceptance of what is said.  A priest like all of us will speak from his own set of values but since he's human this will not be always in harmony with the teachings of Jesus. We shouldn't react too sensitively here. In many cases, opposition to the sermon on the social doctrine of the Church can be ignorance of the teaching of the Church.

Sermons are different than lectures and preaching at mass rallies. The sermon at the liturgy should become food for the lives of the believers who participate at the Mass. Of course, the subjective nature of the priest is bound to be reflected, but the priest who is a disciple of Jesus tries to minimize this.

Most priests know this. They prepare to give spiritual nourishment for the Christians. However, if there is even a small number who think differently he wants to ask the priest: Who is the sermon for?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Concern for Creation


Summer is the time for the hot weather and we see a warming that is not natural and a cause of concern for the majority of scientists who have studied the issue. Although some do not see a man-made problem, the majority of the scientists believe we are responsible for what is happening, we are the problem. Since decisions necessary from this conclusion are going to disrupt the way we live, we have hesitation and denial.


A professor at the Catholic University, who is working in the field of environment, writes in a diocesan bulletin to convince the readers of this serious concern. He wonders in his own mind if this is not the most serious issue that humanity needs to face at this time.

In the last hundred years the continual use of fossil fuels and the release of the greenhouse gases into the atmosphere have formed a greenhouse which in the past was not a problem but the greenhouse that is formed now radiates the heat back to the earth instead of allowing the gases to enter space, accounting for the warming and the erratic weather.

In the past millions of years, plants and the oceans were able to absorb the gases. It was the natural make up of the world given to us by the creator. We humans with an insatiable greed for more energy have broken down the equilibrium that was present.

This makes living with air-conditioners a choice of many. The Han River no longer freezes over in the winter. Polar ice caps melting has raised the level of the ocean and he recalls a trip to Jejudo and walking along a path which is now covered with ocean water and no longer in use.

He often reflects on the words of Genesis. Seven times:  "God saw that it was good." Would God say that today seeing the condition creation is in? He concludes that this is not a problem for a few but of all. As Christians, we should realize that the conservation of energy is a need for all, otherwise it will come back to haunt us.

We need to realize that taking care of the beautiful creation is showing concern for ourselves and our posterity. It is an important offering we can make to God for his gift of creation.