Saturday, May 30, 2015

Are We a Church of the Poor?

Pope Francis continues to be a topic of interest in even  his smallest actions and words. A fashion specialists after making a study of the pope's style calls it 'minimalism'. This keyword includes simplicity and  plainness. A Salesian,  priest columnist, who writes in the View from the Ark, examines the life of the pope and leaves us with his reflections.

Pope Francis in  his visit to Korea was using a 50 dollar watch. He was wearing shoes made by a small shoemaker in Buenos Aires, the ring and the neck piece were made with silver. In his very person he was showing us a distancing from materialism with which we are surrounded. In Korea, especially, we have the economic progress firmly compressed,  which makes the virtue of poverty difficult to practice

Jesus lived poverty but it was not a miserable life. It was a life freely chosen, which was his glory and  blessing. Poverty gave him freedom. When a person feels the miserableness of poverty than we have real poverty. Christians today need to examine this  theme in detail, we need to make known that poverty is not  something bad. We need to show that we can be happy without money, contrary to the spirit of the times. Money when it becomes the answer to everything we are on the verge of falling into big hole. We are driving our older people to the edge of a cliff, making for a bleak future.

Pope Francis in seeing the poor leaving the church is angry. The Church needs to lessen the gap between the poor and rich. A beautiful bridge needs to be built between them.Religious living the life of poverty is a good, but they need to share this with the poor.

Pope Francis is beginning to give us a  spirituality of poverty  following on that of St. Francis. The priest columnist  remembers the visit to Korea of the pope and all his travels. He showed us what humility and poverty meant with his whole body. Everyone of his actions in meeting with the poor were intimate and  natural. His visit has made for a new spiritual awakening for the Church.

We need to take his lead and work to bring about a change in our life as followers of Jesus. We don't  want to change the direction he has given us--a small, poor church, with poor and humble pastors getting close to the poor.

The pope's words continue to resound in the ears of the columnist.  We want to change the bureaucracy of the clergy at the center, and careerism within the church. We need to become a church of the old, the poor and the young. And concludes with the question: Are we making it easy for the poor to enter our communities without any feelings of discrimination and alienation?  

Friday, May 29, 2015

You Can Be A Saint

“I tell you the truth, I am convinced that if each one of us would purposely avoid gossip, at the end, we would become a saint! It’s a beautiful path!” These words and similar ones on gossip  are heard often from Pope Francis. An article in a secular newspaper mentions the direction the Church is making with 'poverty'-- the words of a columnist who mentions Fr, Jin Seul-ki, who wrote a book titled: You Can be a Saint By Not Backbiting.  A collection of the  sayings of the  pope. 

Fr. Jin Seul-ki  a Korean priest who is in Rome studying philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University translated a collection of the pope's saying under the title You Can Be A Saint.... He has also uploaded the pope's sermons to YouTube with Korean subtitles, and in the book he has the  video clips with QR code, for those who want to access the sermons. 

Pope Francis has continued to express the  need for the Church to identify with the poor of society. The article  mentions the talk he gave to the  priests and religious in Naples. He said diocesan priests do not take the vow of poverty but they should live the spirit of poverty. When profit comes into the parish life we dirty the message.

He also spoke of the danger of attachment to worldly goods. He said when priests or religious  are attached to money, they will  prefer people with money. In a humorous aside, the Pope told of a woman who was so attached to money that when she fainted someone suggested putting 100 pesos under her nose to awake her.

He also was very pointed about poverty when he talked to the bishops and priests in Korea.  When he was asked how  he viewed the Korean Church  he answered: "Your Church is a growing Church, a wonderful  evangelizing Church, a big Church. With the prophetic mission of the Church you don't want to exclude the poor. A Church rich and for the rich, a Church of well-being is not the Church you want to be." These words were sharp and bitter to hear.

In one of the talks the columnist mentions the pope said:  when we are too interested in money and its  benefits we lose our freedom to speak the truth.

He concludes his column by stating that the religious groups  are busy determining how they are to become transparent in the use of monies. People want to see clergy live a poorer life style, and reminds us that here we have the original thinking of all religions.

Spirituality Is Not All the Same

This Chinese Character  is the one we use in Korea for the Holy Spirit and spirituality in general. This doesn't fit our Christian understanding of the spiritual. Korea's shamanistic history shows itself in the way the icon expresses the spiritual. The top part of the character is the  icon for rain, the three mouths  are said to express the rain falling and the bottom character is the icon for sorceress who  dancing, asks for rain.

A seminary professor who teaches spirituality begins a series of articles in the Peace Weekly on the subject. He has the need to speak about spirituality with the modifier Catholic, because of the possibility of misunderstanding, due to the shamanistic understanding of spirituality in Korean history.

After the second Vatican council we use the word spirituality often in our teaching. Not only within Christianity but even outside of religion altogether. But the professor makes it clear that in Korea the word does have a context that is different from what we would understand by the word. In Korea the word would  mean marvelous, magical, and strange. The context in which the West understands the word is missing. He admits this is also changing in the West. The Church in Korea started using the  word regularly about 20 years ago. He says it is not an exaggeration to say that  Christians are forcing a Christian meaning on to their past understanding of the word. In Korean society all feel no restraint in using the word spirituality, which he says requires we be attentive to this reality.

The shamanistic history of Korea will continue to influence the native religions and those  from the outside and society. This common denominator  probably is the reason that Koreans have a good feeling towards the practices of other religions.   

Spirituality as used in Korean society does not have the Christian meaning of the word. If we do not understand the Christian meaning we will easily, without any discernment, have an eclectic acceptance of other religious beliefs, and the possibility of losing our faith. 

We have in recent years accepted a great deal from what we have learned from anthropology and psychology in our spirituality which is a good but we have to discern otherwise spirituality can be just the results of what we have learned from psychology.  Our spirituality becomes  a hodgepodge of the teachings of many other religions and ceases to be Christian, consequently, he concludes the need to use the  modifier Catholic when he speaks about spirituality.                 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Natural Family Planning

Back in last years of the 1970s, a retired professor from the Catholic Medical School, remembers a two day workshop he gave to a representative group of mothers in a diocese at the request of the bishop. The workshop was sponsored by the Happy Family Movement and was to teach the Catholic birth regulation methods to the women who were to spread the movement within the diocese. 

The method was the natural regulation of births, now well know in Korean society. Whether a person wants to become pregnant or avoid pregnancy, women are taught  to notice the changes during the period of ovulation by tracking changes in the vaginal discharge. Examining the  mucus would indicate the need for  avoidance or not.

After the end of the workshop he asked the group of mothers about their thoughts. He recalls the  sharing that took place,and how  moved he was. Each person gave  their assessment of the program, the common element would be the physiological mystery of the women's fertility cycle, and their surprise in hearing about it, and the desire to spread the news to those in the diocese. 

One woman in the group when her turn came had her head down and did not  arise from her seat. He thought she was overly moved by the sharing of the group, and urged her to speak out. Having no other option but to stand up, she began speaking very softly.

She and her  husband had only a elementary school education, and accepted children as they  came along. She had five and not able to take care of any more had two  abortions. Hearing  all that was needed to avoid a pregnancy was to refrain one week before and after ovulation broke her heart. Her husband was a devout Catholic and avoiding the time of fertility would not have been a problem. Would a person like me be accepted in heaven, and she began to cry. 

The hall became solemn, and the professor saw many wiping tears from their eyes. For a moment he didn't know what to do, went over to the woman and held her hand. Sister, do not worry, if God is going to get upset it will be with me  for not making the  message known before. 

People do not like to talk about abortion, contraception  and matters of sex but they are important matters dealing with our religious life and should not be neglected. The Church  spends much time teaching about these matters and what is central is the need for self-discipline and responsibility.  

These virtues are not only needed in matters of sex and contraception for they are important in all  areas of our lives. In matters of sex we are not free to do anything we want to solve our problems but need  these values  to be present--a mysterious reality of our lives.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Catholicism and Web 2.0

With the evolving Web the Church needs to adapt to the changes that continue to come. Popes have expressed  the need for us to get involved. An article in the Catholic Times introduces us to Web 2.0. The Web 1.0  was mainly static but now we have interaction and user-generated content.

With the Web 2.0 we have a new way of involvement and a challenge to the Church--a dilemma.  Catholicism is not managed according to democratic principles, it has a fixed structure. When all can create information, opinions and become owners of the new media, the one directional information conveyed approach will be challenged.

Back in the 90s most of the parishes established their own parish web-sites; today they have few visitors and many have been discontinued. New technology needs to be accepted and used. In 2000 we began using the so-called Web 2.0. Users can now create data, process,  preserve and publish.  We  have SNS and UCC (User Created Content)  and Wikipedia, Tweeter and Facebook and the like.

Korea is familiar with Web 2.0. Our diocesan bulletins  are no longer only giving information but the form and ways of  accessing  the bulletins have changed. QR code ( a code consisting of black and white squares that can be read with your smart phone) can allow one to access the bulletin easily. One can interact with the site and in certain bulletins we have a code that allows those with impaired vision to access the spoken word. Podcasts are available.

When the tools and methods of communication  change, it is well known that communication's enviroment  changes: politics, economics, culture  and society change. The way we live and think, religion too will be affected. Our understanding and behavior, the pastoral enviroment in which we live, our Christians  and the environment in which we seek to evangelize, and our attitudes change.

One of the priests of the diocese in an essay he wrote for the Catholic Times in 2004, at the beginning of the Web 2.0 era  said: "The flood of information calls for a different behavior on the part of Catholicism." We have a paradigm shift : "Catholics have to begin to  get into the pastoral work of the Church. This change has to take place before they leave the Church."

In the future we will have Web 3.0 and 4.0.  Web 2.0 is interactive, Web 3.0 will have communication, customized to the individual. If the  Church is not to lose its essential nature she will have to adapt and  plan counter measures. If we see the technological advances as only something that is adding to our comfort we  miss what is important.The article concludes reminding the readers that all those using the internet are no longer one way users of  technology.                              

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sacrament of Matrimony

Everybody likes a wedding. After Mass, with a background of flowers, when pictures are taken with the bride and groom at the front of the altar, you have many of the congregation crowding around the photographer enjoying the happiness they see expressed in the newly wed.

A religious sister writes in View from the  Ark, in the Catholic Times, about her feelings at a wedding.  Very naturally what comes to mind are prayers for blessings and graces for the married couple as they  begin their journey to the horizon.

In Asia, marriage was always considered one of the most important matters in life. Many things have changed but marriage still retains this meaning. God  made us out of love and made us in his image. He wanted to see the love that exists in the Trinity exemplified in the love that we humans freely share with others. We realize ourselves when we love. All have this calling to love, especially those who have been called by baptism.

Married couples show us how God loves us. God loves us who are so different from him, he respects this difference to love us. Couples are called to overcome their differences in loving. They are called to a bond of friendship.   

One of the biggest problems in society is communication, we understand differences but are unable to accept one another. We need to accept the other's  humanity and dignity. Families should be in the forefront in doing this. In the sacrament of matrimony we  announce this love of God, protect it, and make it  real. God's love is  like a  tabernacle that remains in the couple. "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him"( 1 John 4:16).  

Family as the basic church community is where the  the first pastoral efforts are made. This should be understood by all who are sacramentally married.   Love in the family is not the same love we know in the world;  parents love nurtures and educates the children who in turn spread this love to others.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Catholic Laity in Korea

Words determine the thoughts we have. Laypersons in the Church are the sleeping giant and movements exist to wake them up. We can call them collaborators with the clergy or we can understand them as co-responsible with the clergy. Pope Benedict expressed well the understanding the Church has about the laity. 

 "Co-responsibility demands a change in mindset especially concerning the role of lay people in the Church. They should not be regarded as 'collaborators' of the clergy, but, rather, as people who are really 'co-responsible' for the Church's being and acting. It is therefore important that a mature and committed laity be consolidated, which can make its own specific contribution to the ecclesial mission with respect for the ministries and tasks that each one has in the life of the Church and always in cordial communion with the bishops."     
Both Catholic papers had articles on a symposium held in Seoul on the work of the laity in the  new evangelization: the topic was who and to whom? 

Korea's Catholic history is different from every other country, and the laity's rightful place in church life is easy to understand by looking at their history.They brought the church to Korea, and was active in the propagation of the Church without the help of the clergy. Laity who were poor and ostracized from society, were able even to increase their numbers, during the early years of the Church in Korea. 

A seminary professor gave a talk on the poor, and the new evangelization. What do we mean by poverty,who are the poor and why does the Church have a predilection for the poor?  We should not only rid society of forced poverty but each member of the community should  desire to live voluntary poverty, and the community itself to aspire to a more simple life of voluntary poverty. Forced poverty is the poverty that comes because of the structures of society and the difficulties that come with financial matters; voluntary poverty is poverty that one chooses.                        

With  voluntary poverty we are  helping to change forced poverty. Those who are living a forced life of poverty by the way we preach the Gospel will have a new understanding of what voluntary poverty means. The professor also said  that the Church chooses the poor first because they can serve as means of liberating others. God will work through the poor to liberate all of society.

Another presentation stressed that the laity are in the world as the yeast; they are God's sign and tool to those in the world. The lay people imitating Jesus in their lives  are a sign of what God wants to do in  society through the laity. Laity are the presence of God in society, the sign of God, and this is their true identity the gift that they have received.