Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hospice Movement in Korea

We are born into the world to live and one day die. So, what is the meaning of life and death? With these words, a doctor emeritus at the hospice center at a Catholic hospital begins a column in the Catholic Peace Weekly.

The hospice movement, he says, does a great deal to open us to the meaning of life and death. One of the ways of showing us what the completion of life is.

With the discoveries made in medicine especially antibiotics in the last century, we have had an extension of the average lifespan. In 1955 the ordinary lifespan of Koreans was 55.4 years it is now over 80.

Medicine's saving lives and extending the lifespan enabled society to  avoid issues of death and care for the dying.  Results are that many terminally ill cancer patients have serious pain problems in meeting death. In the intensive care unit of hospitals the patients are in unfamiliar surroundings with all kinds of mechanical gadgets and apparatuses that they have to deal with. Separated from their families, in many cases, alone to face death.

Precisely because of these problems  the hospice movement began. An English physician Dame Cicely Saunders began work with the terminally ill in 1948, which eventually became the first hospice. Society,  volunteers, clergy, family and many others worked together holistically  to alleviate the suffering  of those seriously sick who were  facing death. The Little Company of Mary, religious sisters, were the group that began hospice work here in Korea in 1965. From there it spread to other parts of the country. 

Our columnist has been working in hospice for the last thirty years. He has worked with those terminally ill from cancer and  working with anti-cancer medicine. They cured a few and extended the lives of many. With the cure of some of the patients, he has found great satisfaction from his work. However, the majority, treatment extended their lives but the pain was there and this has bothered the doctor much and wonders why he ever got into the work with the dying sick, but this soon disappears.

He was a frequent visitor to the chapel  where he expressed his frustration in not being able to do more. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament were often to complain but he always found consolation and found strength to continue his work in the hospice movement.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Growing in Married Love


Living together in marriage becomes more difficult with the passage of time. Few were the problems at the start of married life but they developed over the years. They were present but didn't appear until later. A college professor  mentions his growth in married life in a Catholic Times article.

He gives us the example of putting socks in the washing basket and putting  clothes in the clothes' closet. They are very insignificant tasks. However, they can be reasons for friction between the couple.

In time they began to mention the issues that irritated them. Why do you do it that way? After hearing the words of scolding and no noticeable change the words cease but the irritation remains. Usually, habits  carried from childhood difficult to change.

On his part, he has a habit of opening cabinet doors and the rice cooker lid and not closing them. His wife: "Good heavens once you open a door you need to close it. Why do you continually forget to close the doors?"  

On the other hand, his wife has a habit of putting her clothes on door knobs and on the back of chairs. He likes a neat room and this bothers him. "How come, aren't we to put clothes in the closet why do you continue to hang your clothes here and there?"

These are some of the areas in which they both had problems with the other. It's a failure to put oneself in the other person's shoes. We understand that we are different with the head but it doesn't register with the heart.

As the years pass they no longer are a problem, no words are exchanged and each of them will make up for what the other lacks. If he leaves the door of the cabinets ajar she without any comment will close the doors and he will without words take the clothes he finds on the door knobs or chairs and puts them in the closets.

With this way of thinking, they both are concerned with the others life and schedule and help each other to remember what is to be done. They become  managers for each other. It is not only celebrities and the famous that have managers but they have found this way of working together with profit for each of them.

Korean culture is influenced by Confucianism. In   this article, we see that it is not all pervasive in society. We have other influences which also spread within society. Christianity has  changed many of the old cultural ways. Patriarchy is no longer what it was. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Learning About Learning

Korea gives education a high priority and has  great respect for what education is able to do for the country and the individual. It ranks high in the results that it achieves in primary and secondary school programs. A religious sister writing for Catholic Digest reminds us of the price that many pay for the emphasis on achievement in studies.

While in high school she heard over and over again that her studies, no matter how difficult and time consuming,  would propel her to the middle class. You only have to overcome the trials of the present  and your future is assured. Do you know what life is ahead of you if you don't graduate from college? These words made her feel miserable but made her pay attention to what was being said.

At the same time she had all kinds of questions  about her education. What is the reason for school? What is learning and study all about? One of her teachers made her feel lousy. He pointed to the janitor working outside sweeping and told her if she doesn't study she will be doing that kind of work. One of the students asked if the janitor was her father and all the students began to laugh making her feel nausea and wanting to leave.

Did she have to go along with what was being demanded? Competition-- winning, was that what it was all about? She felt alone, despondent, was there any  way out of the maze? Feeling lost while at home she saw a small book on St. Francis on the book shelf and began to read  and  peace and freedom came.  A person without possessions was free... Without freedom we will not be happy. She realized there was another road that could be traveled.

After that she read all the books that she found in her  house on the lives of the Saints. She wanted the freedom that these Saints experienced. It didn't make any difference what college she would attend.
No longer was this of primary importance and she entered a college run by an order of  religious nuns. 

For her it was the  first  time  she  was to meet sisters who wore  every day dress. At first seeing the nuns dressed without the  habits they seemed to be inelegant. They were not like the sisters she knew from the parish and kindergarten she attended.

After graduation she worked as a teacher for over two years with the community and  ended up as a member of that community of sisters. After finishing her course of studies her first assignment was precisely to be a teacher at the high school level. She was going back to the place where she felt so shackled and despondent.

However, the school she taught was much different from her own high school years. The teaching based on Christian principles was based on dignity and respect for the students. They were able to temper the hell of college entrance examinations and with the families make the search for learning and humanity the spirit of the school.

She taught at the school for 15 years and was regarded as a good teacher by the talk in the school community. But was that the reality? Were the thoughts that she had during her own years of schooling still the reality?

Two years ago she was faced with a great challenge. Her job was not to cram into the minds of the children what she deemed necessary but to foster  students' thinking. They were to  define what was necessary and she was to help them achieve their goal and to keep students as the subject of the learning.

This was an import from Europe and required a big change in the way she approached her students. What she considered the proper educational method  was a lie and a barrier in  helping students to grow as human beings.  She learned  something  new about learning. She was learning something that answered the questions she had as a student. She liberated herself and the students.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent Message


Today is the first day of our new liturgical year, the first Sunday of Advent. A new color for the vestments and a new beginning. Both Catholic papers have editorials and articles to prepare our Christians for the new year. Catholics begin the new year with Advent, as world citizens, they will greet the new year on Jan 1st and again as Asians on Jan. 28th.Which one is of greatest importance is without doubt Jan. 28th. This year it will be a long holiday.

Each Diocesan Ordinary has a pastoral letter for the parishioners reminding them of what is necessary during this period of preparation. The love of God is the message and we are to respond. We need a new answer to the old message of evangelization: a more faithful response to the  sacramental life of the Church.

The temptations of the world are many and great. Materialism and pleasure are always beckoning and the need to be vigilant. The Cardinal invites his diocese to remember the centrality of the Eucharist in our lives. Once we have deepened our faith life we go out to spread this love.

One of the editorials mentions a  book  by Cardinal Walter Kasper recently translated into Korean. The cardinal stresses we need to be the signs of hope and joy to the world. We have to remember what God has deemed important and participate in that work: for the good, justice, and truth.

Our society is thirsting for hope.The corruption and deceit  have demoralized many and they are looking for hope. This way of life was shown to us by Jesus and his followers. We are to show the way to truth, justice, goodness, mercy, and hope.

In John's Gospel 13:35 we hear: love one another. He gave us the new commandment. By keeping that commandment people will know that we are disciples of Jesus. Pope Francis has asked us to be people of hope and be witnesses to the truth--prophets.

We need to be careful to not separate our religious life and our daily life. Our life is one, lived according to the Gospel. A norm that comes to us from the time of Jesus. We are Christians, honest citizens of the country. Let us be born anew during this Advent to be more merciful and hopeful messengers of the Gospel.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Difference between Conviction and Timidity

Korea in recent years has worked hard to become a more transparent society, corrupt free. Efforts made thru the social media complaining about the direction of society, the Board of Audit and Inspection have investigated and censured many in society. Illegal collusion in society has been uncovered and the recent law against corruption and the movement for an honest society has given birth to paparazzi and other irregularities. With these words in 'View from the Ark' column, of the Catholic Times, a college professor introduces us to a problem in society.

However, this movement for an upright society requires continual disclosures and punishment and yet according to Transparency International, Korea continues to be at the bottom end of the list of OECcountries for transparency. This is the  reality for the last 7 years. We are not attacking the core reason for the problems and may be missing what is important.

According to sociologists special interests and universal interests are in conflict. Interests of the nation are important but the interests of individuals and the groups to which they belong prevail. 

In this society with the spread of the idea that punishment will solve all our problems we are getting into dangerous waters. Many are retreating into their shells for self-protection and peace at any price thinking. Civil servants will be concerned only for themselves and this thinking spills over to the larger society.

A business enterprise some years ago was sold at a very low price and those in prominent positions let it happen because of the headaches that would develop if they took another path. They were fearful of the audits, investigations, possible future reprimands and avoided the responsibility. More serious is lack of conviction.

Some of the surveys made among civil servants found the majority feel a need for pride in their work: to bolster morale and foster conviction in pursuit of their goals.

Often in society, for a person to aspire to a greater good is difficult for the fear of repercussions that come with failure. Timidity and a lack of conviction is common. If one does nothing there is no failure, but also no resiliency. 

Consequently, we have a large ship sinking and no one takes responsibility. Isn't this something that we have to guard against? We need to get rid of timidity and embrace conviction we need persons who are willing to be heroes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Leaving the Community of Faith

The number of Catholics in many countries of the world continue to decrease and Korea is experiencing this trend. In 2010, 27.2 % of the Catholics were coming out to Sunday Mass.  Each year we have seen a decrease. In 2015, 20.7 % attended Mass on average.

An article in the Catholic Times with grafts  shows the readers what appears on the outside is not what we have on the inside. The numbers of Catholics continue to increase but so does the number of the tepid who for one reason or another leave the community of faith: they don't attend Sunday Mass.

In 1961 only 4.4% were considered tepid (left the community). This number increased to 11.4% in 1971, in 1985, 22.5% and in 2009 to 27.6 %. The method of determining who was tepid was to see the results of tickets that were given out twice a year  before Easter and Christmas which period is called 'Pangong'. Those who have not gone to confession for three years are considered tepid. The bishops of Korea have decided that this was not a reliable standard and have dropped this method and look to the Sunday observance as a better gauge of practicing and not practicing.

The number of Catholics aged from 20~49 is similar to the percentage in the total population but those from 0~19 is far below that national average. Those over 50 years old are a larger percentage than the total national average.

Many of those from 20~30 who are tepid are not baptizing their children and if this continues by 2020 those who will be attending Sunday Mass will decrease to 13.8 %.

Many who have studied the problem feel the reasons are lack of satisfaction in the Christian's  desire for a deeper spiritual life, lack of programs for those who have been baptized from 2-5 years, and a lack of concern for the baptized by the pastoral workers and the community.

Leaving the community is a personal decision and whether more concern by those in the community will stop the flow is problematic. In Europe, we have the Neo-Catechumenal Way and Chemin-Neuf (Going up the new road) movements which are helping to awaken the European Church.

Need a study of the reasons Christians leave the community. When those who enter the community,  see little difference from the world or find it even  worse than what they left, chances they will leave are great.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Take and Read: St. Augustine

On the front page of the Catholic Times, we have a Korean living in Hong Kong who just finished hand copying the New Testament in four different languages: Korean, Japanese,Chinese, and English. Obviously, the task is not to have another copy of the Scriptures but a work of love and a means to meet God in his word. He is now 71 years old and is thinking of beginning again with a new language.

In copying the Scriptures not once did he ever think of discontinuing and considered it a grace from God. He was baptized while in Hong Kong in his sixties. Hand copying Scripture is writing out each sentence of Scripture by hand. A work which most of us would not be interested.

In the interview with the journalist, he mentioned that he has spent at times over 15 hours a day writing. He found the time to do it and it was not difficult. It took him 3 years to accomplish the task. The different languages all have the same meaning but different nuances were discovered.

His words of advice for those who are interested in beginning are many. Without any preparation, he feels, many will not continue long in their efforts.  Those who want to begin should  read the Scriptures at least twice before beginning.

There are parishes that require the copying of the Gospel of Mark before baptism. Fathers and mothers often give copies of  the books, to the children as a remembrance of what they think is important in life. It's a gift filled with love and meaning, they hope the children will never forget. The copied books become a precious remembrance of their parents.

Starting on the Feast of Christ the King we have the beginning also of Bible Week. This year will be its 32nd year--Nov. 20-26.The theme this year: "The Bible is God's food of mercy." The bishop, head of the committee on Scripture, uses the quote from Luke 6:36: Be merciful as your heavenly father is merciful," as the basis for his comments to the Christians.

With the many study groups in parishes, parishioners copying the Bible, reading articles on the Scriptures in the Catholic press, and spending time with the Scriptures privately the notion that Catholics don't read the Bible is not the reality. 

St. Augustine heard the words: "Take and Read" which brought about his conversion. The Catholics of Korea are taking the Scriptures and reading which will deepen the faith of the Christians and make for a strong and mature Christianity.