Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Many Benefits of Faith Sharing

During Lent, we had the three Scrutinies for the catechumens before  baptism on Easter. The Gospels used for these rites have  deep conversations of Jesus with those who appear in these incidents. In our lives we rarely have conversations with others at this level. For Christians sharing our faith experiences and the meaning we give to life  with others is one of the deepest levels of interchange: a way of participating in group spiritual direction. 

An article in a pastoral review speaks about this faith sharing: the experience of our relationship with God and the awareness of his presence in our lives. Jesus selected his disciples to be with him and to listen and share with him.  He sent the disciples out two by two, and in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: "Two are better than one; they get a good wage for their labor. If one falls, the other will lift up his companion. Woe to the solitary man!"   A maverick is not the way of a Christian, who  believes in the natural synergistic effects of relating with others.

Society more and more is becoming individualistic, rather than discuss issues with another it is easier to do it alone,  faster, and less of a bother. We are not concerned  in looking for  opportunities to hear about other possibilities, analyze and  purify our motives.

Consequently, to find others who would be interested in joining a faith sharing group is not easy. 'Cor  ad cor loquitur' is a Latin phrase we hear often: heart speaks to heart. Most of our conversations are small talk; little time is expended  in serious, meaningful and for a Christian, talk that deepens our spiritual  development and helps to mature us to face the difficulties that invariable will come.

The writer mentions a missionary society of  priests that had a workshop some thirty years ago  that began this faith sharing among the members of the society. The workshop was conducted by a group of  Camaldolese monks for five days, after which the group committed themselves to meet once a month with 5-8 in a group for a period of six months.

They took the example of Jesus with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, Luke 24,13 as their example to follow. The topics depended on the group to select; each member of the group would be responsible for conducting the meeting. One meeting could discuss the parable that each member liked the most and to explain why? What does one do when he is faced with a crisis in life? What phrases from the Scriptures did one find helpful and why?  These would be introduced to prime the pump. One could also select  some article on a spiritual matter to use as a point of discussion. The topics to be discussed are unlimited.

The meetings did continue for over the 30 years but gradually because of the age of the participants and a decrease in the members, the last group decided to stop last year. The willingness to share the  spiritual life with others will be blessed, he says. The writer recommends the practice and although they have  discontinued he  writes the  article hoping that others will read what he writes and seek to form groups.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Farming from an Easter Perspective

Spring he thought was here but briskly Summer has entered. The magnolia and forsythia without concern for time, bloom and disappear, which makes many have a serious concern about climate change and global warming. These are the words in a pastoral  bulletin that was received recently.

The priest last year  began to learn how to farm. He has been busy with preparing the land and planting the seed and with a hopeful heart  preparing for the mystery of life. It has been a happy and precious time.

Pesticides, chemical fertilizers, vinyl, fossil fuels are not part of his farming methods.Those who have  been accustomed to the customary ways of farming told him he would not succeed, but when they saw his harvest, it made them reflect on their ways.  He wants to call this method the 'law of coexistence'.

In the area with weeds, and all kinds of bugs swarming in the  earth; grasshoppers, butterflies  and dragon flies  fluttering around; many were those who told him you were not going to get an ordinary harvest. However, he read all about natural farming and deemed it possible, and the results were a grand success. When he planted the weak seedlings, he thought the  bugs would do a job on the seedlings and not allow them to grow, but the results were not so.The cabbage seedlings that were planted after a couple of weeks showed less damage than he expected. There were signs of the presence of  insects on the leaves and stem, but it did no harm to a good harvest. One of those who said that he had to  use chemical fertilizers seeing the harvest: "Ah it's possible" he blurted out.

If, he says, he got rid of all the weeds in the area hoping for a larger harvest, the nesting place of the insects would have been eradicated, and they would have infested the plants in the garden.When we try to eradicate the bad insects by spraying with pesticide, we are also killing good insects that feed on the bad, and destroy nature's equilibrium, and we are eating our food mixed with pesticides.

Easter is a time to bring in a new value system and  go beyond the fixed one to a new hope. With natural farming, the writer could  see Easter in a new way.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Who are those who are Pastorally Sensitive?

Father Paul has a good reputation among his Christians. He is devoted, zealous in his pastoral work, and in his religious exercises. He shows a great concern for the works of charity, helping  those living in difficult straits. In his sermons, he talks a lot about the need to practice the virtue of love in our daily lives.

He relates well with the wealthy and is rarely seen with the poor  or the alienated of our society. He does not  speak with them. He does not have the opportunity to hear the cry of pain  and oppression coming from this segment of society. He is living with  security, a sense of justice or social consciousness is missing, and he does not look favorably on those with head ribbons and those shouting rallying words.

This is the introduction to an article in a bulletin for priests written by a priest. He reminds us it is right to speak about love and to do works of  charity, but at the same time it is necessary to do something about the unjust  and immoral structures and to work to change these structures. This concern has also to be shown when it comes time to vote so we don't side with those who are not concerned with the poor and the alienated of  society.

“Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life.” The priest uses these words of Karl Marx, but there are  many who agree with this kind of assessment, he says, and they have a  large following.  He explains this to mean that the books we  read or what we have learned are not as  important as the people we have met and the  environment in which we live.

Christians read the same Scriptures, and say the same  prayers and yet when  it comes to voting there is a big difference in those in the East and those  in the West of the country.  There is a tendency to be opposed to each other, and this  does not  change with the passage of years. Of course, there are  elements that influence  the individual.

He quotes another saying of Karl Marx: "God made us in his likeness... and we make him into our likeness." The poor and those who desire change,  and those who are satisfied with the status quo  have two different  images of God. What one sees as incorrect we try to justify or rationalize. We see ourselves on the side  of truth and of God. Instead of searching for the will of God, we see our perspective  as correct. Our wills are filled with egotism, prejudice, error, greed and the like.

There is the expression: "We have to see the world from beneath to see it correctly."To see justice and truth correctly we have to see our reality from the perspective of those in the lower strata of society. We will then have a social consciousness and become aware of reality. We then want to see change, and become one with those hurting.

He concludes his article with a quote from one of our Korean bishops. "A Christian is one who follows our Lord.  Jesus did not stay in one place but moved around to meet people. Different from other religious leaders, he associated with those that society  didn't want to  see, the alienated, those pushed to the sides, those that many considered the  dregs of society."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

The Desk Columnist in the Korean Times believes  Pope Francis' exhortation  'The Joy of the Gospel' will be a means of renewal for the whole Church. She mentions  Pope Francis called together the heads of the Church offices in the Vatican to discuss  how to integrate their work with the exhortation. This is what the Bishops' Conference of Korea  has done during their spring bishops' meeting.

The bishops want it to be more than just an exhortation but to have a change in the way the Church functions.  They recommended meetings to study the exhortation in all the dioceses and find ways to implement the teaching in our works.

In Korea signs of interest were seen in the number of copies of the exhortation sold. The way the mass media reported on the exhortation did help. After two weeks,  they have sold over 20,000. Usually in the past with the printing of Roman documents  they sell between 3 and 4,000, so there has been much interest in 'The Joy of the Gospel'. 

What is the reason for this  kind of response in Korea? The answer given by many, she says,  is a style of  writing different from the  past. The exhortation is appealing to read, with an easy presentation of ideas, but also she says, the feeling  many have of living in difficult times. Materialism, egotism, worldliness is rampant; the exhortation helps us to face this reality with a faith filled understanding, which is attractive. The  appeal comes also from the concrete ways we are called to be missioners in this world environment.

The pope, more than anything else stresses how we are to be a poor church. A sign of a renewed Church is the concern and love for  the poor and the promotion of peace. After the end of the Year of Faith, we have the directions given to us by the pope on how to be a poor Church.

This August we will have the visit of the pope and the beatification of 124 of our martyrs. There is the hope that the  whole Korean Church will be energized and gain a new hope for maturity and renewal. At this point in time, to  find happiness we are urged to look at the poor,  share  joy with others, show the beauty of this view to others, and invite others to the banquet of joy to which we have been called. This is the vocation that we have been given in the exhortation.

Our ancestors in the faith in order to follow the commands of God suffered all kinds of difficulties, but were not delinquent in their carrying out the command to love. They had the hope of  the resurrected life that Jesus showed us.

We are celebrating the Feast of Easter. At this time, we meditate on the happiness that the Easter message gives us, and remember what is necessary to receive this joy. Decisions necessary should be self-evident. A Happy Easter to all.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Plight of Young Korean Farmers

A farmer-poet, in his column in the Catholic Times, was invited to give a talk to a group of women involved in social work. He started by asking them a number of questions: Are your parents important to you or their property? Is your husband important to you or his job? He asked them to put their hands on their hearts, and after serious thought give honest answers to themselves.

He looked at their faces intently and thought they were having a hard time deciding. He then asked another series of questions. Would they exchange their children for all the money  in the banks of the country? No matter how lacking in talent or the trouble their children caused, they said they would not exchange them for money. However, when he asked if they would exchange their husbands for money, it was then that a smile came to the faces of the women. One women said that she would have difficulty giving up her child but the husband would not be so difficult. With that answer everybody broke out in laughter. The poet said that he did not find it a laughing matter. To him it seems that we are willing to exchange anything and everything for money.

He then asked another question. Let us suppose, he said, that you  were again a young women and ready to marry, would you be willing to go to the country and marry a poor farmer?  Would you be willing to marry a young, single farmer who was kind, honest and devoted? He asked those who would be willing to raise their  hands.  Of the 100 or so women present no one raised their hands.

The  farmer was not able to laugh. If there had been one person willing to marry that farmer, he said he probably would have managed to laugh. On his way home that evening he reflected on whether our journey was for life or for death. Isn't the journey in life, for most of us, a journey in search of money and comfort? he asked himself.

The fact is that the young men on the farms are not finding it  easy to find Korean  girls who are willing to spend their lives on the farms. Women are well educated and are able to find lucrative jobs in the city. Spending their lives on the farms is not an attractive option for many of the young women of today.

New rules require that foreign brides have to have basic Korean language skills to obtain a resident visa. This will make the  possibility of finding foreign brides for farmers much harder. In 2012, 20,637 of Korean men married to foreign women 6,586 were Vietnamese; the second most popular brides, after the Chinese. It is well-known that the inability to communicate was the primary reason for the divorces and violence in the home. Recent attempts to remedy the situation will no doubt help, but without helping  very much the many farmers of today who are looking for brides to live the difficult country life.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Violence in Society

School violence is believed by many to be one of the causes for the increasing number of suicides in Korea. In 2011, with the suicide of a student because of school  violence, we all became acquainted with this ever present evil. This is the topic of an article in the Kyeongyang magazine, written by a Catholic professor who is an authority in the field.

School violence has many different aspects: bodily injury, the threat of violence in person or through cyberspace, or any acts that are potentially or actually harmful, mentally or emotionally. One of the surveys showed that 35.3 percent of violent incidents were verbal, 16.5 percent involved group bullying, 11.5 percent violence and confinement, 9.7 percent cyber abuse, 9.2 percent taking away possessions,  5.3 percent involved forcing others to do errands, 3.5  percent sexual abuse. Except for cyber abuse, which increased, the rest were similar to the  previous year.

Nearly 30 percent of the perpetrators of the abuse say it was merely a prank, 24 percent say they did not like the person, 10 percent had no reason, 4.5 percent did it to release stress and vent their resentment.

The professor asks what can be done? Although  violence takes place in the schools it is not a problem that the school alone can solve. The violence that we have in society infiltrates the school environment. Many of those who are responsible for bullying say that it was only a joke. This kind of thinking, she says, is the most dangerous because it is the most difficult to deal with.

Though we have been insensitive to violence in the society for too long, there are those who say we are   needlessly sensitive to violence in society. The professor feels there is a need to  give this topic much thought.  We need to be sensitive to any violence that we see in the society. We have violence in the home, in the school and in the mass media, and have become insensitive to it and consider it a natural part of life.

A change to  the system does not solve the problems that we have in the school. There has to be in many cases a change in the way we think. Since my own child is not a bully, many parents say, they feel there is no need for a widespread societal concern. This thinking has to change, for all of us are potential victims of bullying. When we are an unconcerned spectator we are a perpetrator. We all have to be participators in doing away with the violence that we see. The professor quotes from James 4:17: " When a person knows the right thing to do and does no do it, he sins."

The words that we use do not only  present to others our  thoughts and feelings, but form our own    thoughts and feelings. Our children's words are very coarse.  Jargon and vulgarity is used often without anything being said;  they do not hear words of warmth, encouragement and words that give life. Parents do not make the effort to correct the words of  the children to the degree that they encourage them to study. In the schools there is a need on the part of  teachers to avoid using any type of vulgarity or coarseness in  speech.

In conclusion, she finishes with the thought that words contain our values and  our beliefs. The students in school and in families are learning more from the words they hear than from the written word and the books they read.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Healing Power of Play

"He is waiting to see the day when the side streets are again filled with the voices of children playing." These are the words of a priest, in the diocesan bulletin, head of a research center concerned with the spirituality of the young,

The priest was on a trip down-country, driving along a side street where about 15 boys and girls were running every which way, hollering and jumping. He stopped the car to see what was happening. There was no problem. They were just children absorbed in playing together. He hadn't seen anything like that since he  was a child. He was overcome with a warm feeling, remembering his own childhood.

Huizinga, the scholar, said that we can't reduce all  human  activities to the level of work. There is a principle in all cultures that surpasses work, and this is play. Play, he says, is an essential part of being human. Children absorbed in  play experience joy. Play is magical, intense, fascinating and captivating.  It is the way we most naturally express ourselves, expressing our individuality, our personalities, and revealing our anger, our weakness and strong points, our creativity--all are expressed easily when we are involved in play.  Another philosopher said that play was art.

With this  thinking, it is understood that children and the young should be given the freedom to run and holler in play. During this time, the adults should not be too closely involved. This only interferes in the children's play. In play, they express what they want to do and the way they want to live. This is the  way that life is expressed for them. They become sick, and they are the doctors who heal themselves. They squabble, have war and peace, win and lose; life and death are spread out in front of them: life in miniature is placed before them in play.  Play expands their horizon and cultivates their character. In play, they are fine-tuning themselves and forming a vision of themselves for the future.

He feels that most young people do not play enough. When they go outside there are few children they can play with. You go to the side streets, and everything is deathly quiet. Children also do not have the time to play in our society. Children who play are generally in good health; without health they rarely play. Educators seeing the children playing with enthusiasm can diagnose their psychological situation. St. Don Bosco not only thought that play was important but was also a means of healing.

The priest concludes his article expressing sadness at the lack of enthusiasm among the children he sees today, because of the burden of study most of them have to deal with. He finds joy when he sees them playing together with passion.

When will the days come, he wonders, when the side streets will again fill with the sounds of the young people playing together?