Monday, May 29, 2017

Spending Time in a Dark Room

When we meet a blind person we naturally feel empathy for the person but rarely consider what that would mean to us if we were blind. How are they able to live without sight is even difficult to imagine.

A professor emeritus in the science department, who still is active in many different positions writes in the Kyeongyang magazine about an experiment he had with six teachers of science. He wondered how difficult it must be to teach the blind students a course in science. He wanted the teachers to experience the blindness of the students even for a short period of time.

He made a dark room and selected 6 volunteer teachers in science who were willing to participate. In the dark room, he had the numbers on the wall in relief that would direct the teachers to their seats. The instructor would give directions once they entered the room and they would go to the table with the experimental equipment laid out before them.

They were not given any help in what to expect in the darkroom. They were allowed to talk with one another and by trial and error method to arrive at results. The first experiment was with a model of an eye. They thought at first it may be a terrestrial globe but one of the participants suggested it may be a model of an eye. They agreed and succeeded in dismantling the model. Since most of them had worked with such a model and had taught it in class,  he asks, would that have been possible if they hadn't experienced the model of the eye previously?

The second was a model of the molecular structure of ice. In our textbooks rarely would one see the molecular structure of ice and little is studied on the subject, consequently no one was able to make heads or tails of the model before them.

The lights were turned on and they were asked what did they learn from the experience. First of all, it was the first time they had such an experience. It was the first time in the lives of many of the group that they had such a feeling of helplessness and were humbled. They felt for the first time how grateful they were for the sense of sight to see the beautiful world in which we live. As teachers for the blind, they thought they knew what the students faced in their learning environment but they agreed they did not understand.

They felt closer to the students they were teaching and understood their difficulties. All the teachers learned a great deal from the darkroom time. He feels this kind of time in a dark room would be a great learning experience for many.

Why did God put us on the earth to die? The professor wonders if this is not to experience what the teachers did in the dark room. God wanted us to experience helplessness and see our faults, dwell on his mercy and come to an appreciation of the meaning of life. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Man Made Pollution

Dust has always been present in our world and very likely preceded the appearance of humanity. A Korean proverb reminds us when shaken we give off dust. Meaning we all have dirty laundry. We have always lived with dust.

A college professor writes in one of the diocesan bulletins of a very serious situation in Korea where the citizens are obsessed with the dangers of fine dust particles in the air. Korea is considered one of the most polluted countries of the world. Air pollution continues to increase. Citizens wear masks when they go outside, they check the news for the condition of the atmosphere, a topic on the lips of all.

Dust is the first to react to the presence of the wind and be moved. Everything that moves necessarily gives off some dust. Like snow, dust, however, does not just disappear but keeps on increasing.

Presently the fine dust is a reason for despondency for many. May, the queen of the months, is losing its status when we look at the ashen skies. The fragrant odors from the green vegetation are blocked by the masks worn.

On second thought the problem is not dust from   nature, but the dust human's make. We have not been bothered with these thoughts in the past. We were not reluctant to open our windows and go outside without masks. This is our present reality.

When we were children we played in the dust, our clothes were dirtied and filled with dust. Our mothers weren't pleased and let us know about it but it was personal. It was not the dust that came from nature that was a problem, but the dust we have manufactured. He is embarrassed in mentioning it. We  always want speed, comfort, more of what we have, which brings us to our present condition. 

When we cut down trees we are not concerned. When our water is polluted with impurities we don't see it. We don't want to see the by-products of our comfortable lifestyle. 

The reality is that because of our egotism we are always looking for benefits at any price that brings us to our present condition.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Worshiping Our Palates

In the first scene of the movie The Last of the Mohicans, three American Indians are climbing a  mountain in a hunt. They pass a waterfall and small stream and spot an elk. One of the Indians takes aim. The music stops and we hear a loud sound as one of the Indians shoots the elk and we see the elk fall to the ground. They rush to the side of the elk. The oldest of the three speaks: We're sorry for killing you, brother."  A religious-like ceremony follows with these words uttered. "We respect your courage, speed, and strength." They all kneel at the side of the elk and in an expression of sorrow caress the elk.

He changes channels and is presented with more of our societies concern with eating. We see all kinds of animal and plant life but it is only food for us to eat. We see only its freshness and forget its wonder and mystery. A seminary rector with these words begins his article in With Bible magazine on the phrase of the Our Father: "Give us this day our daily bread."

In the Old Testament eating of meat was only allowed after the flood in Noah's time. At creation, we were not given permission. "I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are upon the whole earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food." (Gen. 1:29). We were given permission after the flood to eat the flesh of animals but with one condition:  "You must not eat flesh with life, that is to say; blood, in it" (Gen. 9:3).

This changed for Christians after Jesus. It is not difficult to understand how shocking were the words of Jesus to the Jews when they heard:  "Eat my flesh and drink my blood" (John 6: 58).

We understand the words give us our daily bread as referring to the Eucharist but primarily it is the food we need daily for sustenance. It's not 'my' but 'our', not what we have stored but my daily sustenance. In our society food is left over and thrown away and others go to bed hungry. 

According to World Food Programme (WFP), one person out of nine live with hunger. Another statistic tells us that under the age of 5 over two and half million die of malnutrition. We know the large number who are overweight. 

35 percent of the grain is fed to animals. Over the past 50 years, the consummation of meat has increased twofold. The large amounts of meat consumed in the developed countries have accelerated the climate change. ( Many do not see the relationship between meat consumption and climate change)

We have developed a very delicate palate. Our mass media has helped to make gourmets of us all. A word that was not in the dictionary of the past we magnify to a degree that  closes ourselves off from what is important. When did our 'taste buds' become so important? We need to stop worshiping our palates  and our gourmet sensibilities and hear the cries of the suffering and hungry.

Saying no to Superstition and the Prosperity Gospel

No Korean is unfamiliar with the shaman and shamanism. However, the rector of a seminary writing in the Catholic Times wonders if they really know the shamanistic world. There are those that think they know but really don't, according to our writer.

Ordinarily, we think that those with no religion look to the heavens for blessings and that many other religious people are superstitious. In Korea, we have had no serious study of the non-believers (religious 'nones'). They have their own 'gods' and followers and in their own way, many have found liberation and a zest for life. Before we criticize them we have to ask ourselves have we found happiness in our religious life?

In all religions, we find superstitious elements, when we don't live according to of our beliefs. We have those Christians who go to fortune tellers and believe in the four pillars (year, month, day and hour of birth) as a reason for their destiny. He blames himself for not being kinder to those who have been influenced by these superstitions.

A life of faith is not like playing the National Lottery. There is a place for looking for blessings but it is not the essence of our faith life. Passion, purity of intention, and wisdom are needed. Without passion, spineless, without purity of intention, vacillation, and a calculating faith will not last long. We saw this in the recent scandals in government, looking for blessings and superstition.

We see this with some religious people, their religious articles are no more than charms and amulets to ward off evil. The Bible is in the bookcase as an ornament. Prayer is often the rattling of words when it should be the movement of our hearts to God.

We are living in a pluralistic world. With all kinds of religions, ideologies, and theories. Each with their own dreams and visions, and he introduces us to the Chinese classic: The Art of War (孫子兵法) an ancient Chinese military treatise.

Using the words from the treatise: In this pluralistic world in which we live we need to know ourselves and others if we are to live wisely. If we don't know ourselves and others it may be comfortable but it is a life of ignorance. If we know only ourselves it is a life of egoism. However, if I know only the other and don't know myself what kind of life will that be?

We have to be slow in criticizing another's vision of life and make sure to avoid parasitical superstitions and the gospel of success, wealth, and health. We don't want to be an ornamental Christian.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Catholic Mass Media in Korea

The Catholic Church in Korea has a comprehensive presence in newspapers, radio, television, the Internet and social networking. You will find it difficult to find any diocese that operates three communication media: newspaper, radio, and television.

They are a medium for the whole Korean Church but the responsibility of the Seoul Diocese. This year they celebrated their 29th anniversary. A staff member of the Broadcasting System introduces the readers to the aims of the diocese in social communication.

In the pastoral instruction on the means of social communication, Communio Et Progressio # 125 we have these words: "The means of social communication help Catholics in three ways. They help the Church reveal herself to the modern world.They foster dialogue within the Church. They make clear to the Church contemporary opinions and attitudes. For the Church has been ordered by God to give men the message of salvation in a language they can understand and concern herself with the concerns of man."

The Vatican Council for Social and Public Relations presented five tasks for the social communication media. First, the media serving people and culture. Second, media serving the world. Third, serving the development of the human community. Fourth, media serving church unity and lastly serving the new evangelization.

The communication medium needs to respect and maximize their unique functions. The means must be selected appropriately.There are a variety of means but the most effective means need to be used. You use a hammer to put a nail in a wall and not a screwdriver. Also, the nail has to be a proper nail.When the proper tools are not used we will not have the results expected.

In conclusion, he looks over his own relationship with the work in communication for almost the same length of time as the newspaper and broadcasting system itself and admits that he is embarrassed in not having always used the proper tools to convey the message over the past nearly thirty years.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Inculturation A Catholic Goal

A seminary rector writes in Window from the Ark in the Catholic Times about his impressions with the change of government. He sees it very natural to replace the leader of the country for lack of responsibility. Those who were involved have already been scattered. It's not easy to live like the Korean poet Yun Dong-ju: ("Wishing not to have so much as a speck of shame toward heaven until the day I die, I suffered even when the wind stirred the leaves"). If there was just a shred of conscience the great shame of impeachment would have been avoided.

Now thanks to the impeachment a gentle light of hope encompasses the land. Will we see a beautiful rainbow? After three years we have the raising of the Sewol ferry. He sees hope, a return to transparency, justice, experience living and seeing dreams come true.

Now the Taegukgi (Korean Flag) should stand as our emblem, not as a powerless flag. A flag that is waved at any time and place and during demonstrations seems cheap. If the sacredness of the flag was known it would not be waved at every occasion.

The writer wants politics, economy, culture to be in the Korean style.This he hopes will lead to a proper  Korean democracy, a sharing economy, and culture. He is not recommending a form of Nationalism. We have lost what was ours and taken much from other countries and lived well but now he says is time to regain what is ours and live fully.

Instead of buying from other countries and making it our own and envying other countries we need to cultivate what is ours: "(身土不二)  Body earth you are what you eat, slogan encouraging consumption of local seasonal foods for one's health, indivisibility of the body and the land because the body is made from food and food is made from the land."

He finishes the article with a wish that the Church quickly begin to work to indigenize our architecture, instead of mimicking the west with their Gothic churches and many nondescript buildings. He envies the Buddhist Temples which he sees being traditionally Korean. Nowadays it is difficult to differentiate a chapel from a cathedral.

Much of what is Korean can only be found in museums. He wants us to regain again the preciousness of what is Korean and the beauty of our culture and wants the Church to take seriously the movement within our tradition to inculturate.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sex and Responsibility

'Being alone is wonderful' TV ad for birth control pills. 'If you stay for 5 days you get one extra night' ad for sleeping accommodations. Ads of this type no longer cause amazement for they are merely reflecting our social reality.

We are living in a sexually free society. One entertainer who promised to be chaste before marriage was a big news item since it was so out of the ordinary. An article in the Kyeongyang magazine on education for responsibility in sex, interviews a college professor who started his own research center on love and responsibility. He decided to leave the classroom after noticing that many of his girl students were missing classes because of problems after abortion.

He mentions an incident where some feminists wanted to use the classroom of one of the Catholic colleges for an education program on sex. When the college realized they would be talking about free sex, contraception and abortion rights they were refused. The group had difficulty understanding the refusal for they were trying to decrease the number of abortions.

Where does this thinking come from? Our culture and economics are partially the reason but the mass media's influence is great. According to our authority, the media is a great user of pornography. 90% of our students use smartphones, which spreads a distorted picture of sex.

For the most part, sex education is mainly concerned with preventing birth. This has to move to the making of life and responsibility. When male and female meet sexually, life enters the picture, consequently, the first steps in sex education should be life and responsibility and for this to happen we need a partnership relationship between the sexes.

Movies, drama, musical videos, advertising, our popular culture and the media combine to show the romantic, pleasure-seeking happiness of sex. All have their place but often with the distortion of the true meaning of the sexual embrace, consequently, the need for media literacy. Sex education needs concern for life, responsibility, character building, and discernment.

Why is this a problem? He mentions an example of when the male knows the woman is using birth control pills and doesn't use a condom the woman feels used.  No method is 100 percent. When we have a failure we need responsibility which is not often the case. The younger generation understands that romancing requires the sexual embrace. Our authority would like to see in law, the reality in many countries, that the male be responsible for the child even if he is a minor. He wants this to be the law of the land.