Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Unity Octave 2017-- RECONCILIATION

This year's Unity Octave from Jan. 18 to 25 is also the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Editorials and articles in both Catholic papers on the subject reminds us that it's different from the previous octaves.

Once every year Christians remember the prayer of our Lord at the Last Supper: "I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me" (John 17:21). We come together to pray for unity. The Roman Catholic Church at the Reformation suffered a division and the scars have never healed. Whatever the reasons that brought the division, today we look forward to a reuniting.

One of the papers has a discussion on the subject between two theologians, a Catholic and Anglican. More than concentrating on what divides us they want to focus on the joy of following Jesus and we will come to an understanding of much that separates us. The theme this year is  Reconciliation: "The Love of Christ Compels Us" (2 Corinthians 5:14).

The disunity of Christians is a great obstacle in the work of evangelization. This year they will begin the 3rd Christian Unity Academy to help Christians better understand the different denominations and one of the editorials hopes many will attend the Academy.

One of the priests who is familiar with the workings of Ecumenism within Korean Catholicism laments the lack of interest in many parishes and among priests. He writes that many feel that it is useless and not necessary. Protestants are seen as heretics.

The Second Vatican Council in one of its documents recommends that in seminaries they have regular courses on Ecumenicism but of the seven diocesan seminaries only Inchon has a course of studies for the seminarians, a sign of the little interest the Church has in Ecumenism.

He mentions that the material for the Unity Octave will be sent to all the parishes but many pay no attention to the material. What is necessary is not arguing about who is right but rather to talk about the joy that Christ brings to us. We need to get close to the others who are Christians, to study with them, work with them, and to pray together. Talking to each other is the first stepping stone for progress to take place in achieving unity in Christ.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Going Through Puberty

The Kyeongyang magazine has an article by a member of a diocesan family bureau on puberty and some lessons gathered from the author's own experience.

His daughter is entering middle school this year, they had a pizza party to commemorate her first monthly period. The father to make this a memorable day besides the party, discussed what happened with the daughter.

What did the girl experience, when did it begin, what did she feel, what did she do with the clothes, were there other girls she knew who had their first periods...  and similar very intimate questions which they discussed at the party with the family. He, the father, without any hesitation spoke very naturally with the daughter and she was at ease with the discussion.

He digresses on points of puberty which he explains for the readers. Often those beginning puberty like to go to bed late and get up late. The reason is the change in the hormones in the body. It is not laziness or lack of virtue but what is happening in the body of the child and the need for  parents to understand the changes taking place.

Studies made  show persons going through puberty need a little bit over 9 hours of sleep. He lists some of the problems that arise when deprived: growth of the brain is hampered, difficulties in studies because of memory loss, and suppression of the growth hormone a cause of anxiety and depression.

In Korea sleeping for 9 hours is difficult. Making the rounds is the myth that four hours you get your college of choice, with five hours you don't. Students required to leave for school early in the morning and return late at night is something society should be concerned.

The visual processing center of the brain is developing and children are conscious of how they are seen by others and interested in good-looking celebrities and clothes others are wearing. Interest in piercing their bodies for jewelry, if not excessive, parents need not be overly concerned, for it will pass in most cases.

The use of mobile phones for games and chatting are  a concern for parents but he doesn't see this as  a problem if parents keep in mind the reasons for the absorption in games. The games have a very clear goal with easy steps. They receive intuitive feedback, and it is a challenge they can handle. Games are not bad but they require close attention by the parents for they are addictive.

Children going trough puberty don't like to be reminded of this fact. At this time they are  becoming independent persons and parents need to help them walk this road. "Do not anger your children. Bring them up with the training and instruction befitting the Lord" (Eph. 6:4).  

He wonders if he does follow these commendations from the Scriptures. It is one thing to know this with the head and another to carry this out in his daily contact with the children. He ends the article by telling his readers that parenting is difficult

Friday, January 13, 2017

Love And Its Counterfiet

In one of our diocesan bulletins the writer gives us something to think about. Love is a word we use often but many questions are associated with the word. To illustrate what he wants to express he uses a well-known fable to introduce us to the meaning of love. 

We hear about a love marriage between a cow and a lion. Many were opposed to the marriage in the village but they went ahead.

The cow would prepare the best grasses for the lion and the lion the best cuts of meat for the cow. They both hated what was provided but each thought they were giving the other the best there was. This continued for some time and finally, they separated each one professing that they did the best they could for the other.

Each did not understand the meaning of love. They loved in their own way. They were not familiar with the technique of love. They lacked a concern for the other as other.

The article introduces us to a farmer who in a difficult time in Korean history prepared a room in a house with a rice storage bin where anyone in his village in need could come with no need for asking or making themselves known and take what was needed. The room with the rice was built so no one in the house would know who came for the rice and no one's pride hurt. The owner was concerned with the feelings of those coming for the rice. Love that is lacking concern for the other is violence and mockery. 

The farmer understood what the technique of love demanded and showed it by the way he treated the poor in his village.

Communication is a word we often here nowadays: mutual understanding in the home, society, between nations. When no problems are evident mutual understanding is not difficult, however, with problems communication often doesn't take place.

For healthy communication to take place we have first to be concerned with the other. Concern for the other is a requisite for love and understanding is what will follow.

When we thirst for communication and understanding we need to trust and prepare ourselves with silence as Jesus did before Pilate.

Our society is lacking this humility and desire for service which presents us with all kinds of obstacles in communicating. The problems we have require a concern for the other. The English word benevolence comes from the Latin word meaning wishing well of the other. In the Latin languages, 'I love you' is often expressed with "I wish you well'. Unfortunately, we use the word 'love' in Korean like in English that is often misunderstood.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fourth Industrial Revolution

In the Catholic Peace Weekly, a professor writes about artificial intelligence, Internet thing, (Internet of things) big data, all connected with the fourth industrial revolution-- cyber-physical systems and what they will mean for colleges and universities. We have already been affected with repercussions from the new wave influencing every area of our lives.

Colleges which have been the leaders in learning are now in the middle of the changes and reform. Ironically the knife of change is aiming at these schools of higher learning. The synonym for knowledge online is Wikipedia. Online we have the spread of popular free lectures on MOOC  (Massive Open Online Course). Deep Learning (machine learning) evolving new learning is putting pressure on the colleges to come up with new paradigms.

Artificial intelligence and 'Internet thing' join together with marketing and education are in a position to take away jobs from college graduates. The old pyramid like systems of the past, ignoring the middle classes and slimming down is what we are seeing. Colleges still are working with the old fashion textbook model of learning when society is looking for a creative workforce. We don't have harmony between what our colleges are producing and what society needs.

Moreover, with the widespread MOOC, we have the ability to hear first class scholars with translations,  all free on the internet: a vast treasure of knowledge open to all. At one time what was the prerogative of our universities is no longer the case. Consequently, we have the schools of learning wanting to be more in harmony with the demands of society in their course of studies: mergers, educating for cooperation and creativity, problem-solving.

However, if this reform is only of structures, they will not withstand the encounter from the 4th industrial revolution. With the continuance of the four-year bachelor's system, colleges will not produce graduates society requires: no harmony between demand and supply. The need is to educate for the practical world that they will be entering.

An English inventor James Dyson is investing his money in an engineering school. Dyson Institue of Technology will open this year in the fall. Unlike other schools, there is no tuition, and working together with their teachers, students will be given a salary. What they produce will be sold and with the profits, the running of the school. The professor sees this as a sign of the future and the direction the colleges need to go.

Colleges are no longer the ivory towers of learning. Colleges will no longer be the only ones educating those entering society. Without this change in the curriculum, the present colleges will disappear.

The dilemma, however, will be the education for the workforce in answer to the demands of society or the search for maturity and wisdom. Fortunately, the internet world and cyberspace are able to supply the demands of individuals who want an education in wisdom.

Monday, January 9, 2017

"Oh, My Papa" Venerable Aloyius Schwartz


'Oh, My Papa' is a Korean documentary film on the life of Venerable Aloysius Schwartz who began his work as a missionary priest in Pusan Korea in 1958. His Korean name was So Jae-gun. An article in the Kyeongyang Magazine by a movie critic and teacher gives us an understanding of the priest's work under the headings of mission, love, courage, practice, and hope.

The film was made from old photographs, materials uncovered from the past, memories of those who knew the priest and the places where he worked. There is no exaggeration, embellishment, monetary desire or dramatization, only the use of the microphone and camera to show us the life of the priest.

He was ordained in 1957.  He had a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother and while in Belgium for his studies often went to the shrine of Our Lady of Banneux also known as the Virgin of the Poor. He took the teaching of Mary to work for the poor as his mission in life. The destruction of the  Korean War left many widows, beggars, street children and great poverty.

His sister is quoted as saying that while in the States giving talks to raise money for his work he met some specialists in fundraising which made his raising of funds in the States successful.

His love for the poor and his work for the missions enabled him to build schools for the poor but he realized that the children needed a mother's love and founded the Sisters of Mary in1964. The homes for children have spread to 6 countries and in 10 different locations with over 20 thousand children. He was the recipient of the Magsaysay Award for International Understanding in 1983.

His life was lived in voluntary poverty. His house his clothes his manner of life was one of detachment and his community of sisters appreciated the sign that his life was for the community.

He wanted his children to someday live a life of hope and be able to join society as mature healthy citizens. Hope was given to many and many aspired to work for the good of society. Life is given to us to hope. Without hope, a person is already dead. Many did not see the children but that is why many sing with great joy: Oh, My Papa.

He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease which slowed him down but he continued working. He did wonder if he was working to accomplish his own will instead of God's. He began the work but he left it up to God to continue. It was his unfinished symphony: all was left to God.

For Fr. Aloysius the Gospel was the message of love. We are to put this love into practice. We don't want to package it up but to spread it to others, for this is the way we become one. God is full of blessings and the message that Venerable Schwartz left us.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Fox Knows

View from the Ark of the Catholic Times introduces the readers to a parish priest's reminiscences of his love of books during his early years of schooling. He remembers the joy of reading and would read everything that came his way. Comic books introduced him to the fanciful and the world of imagination.

Books on great men gave him a longing for the impossible (?) and the classics and literature as a whole such as Ivan Turgenev's First Love allowed him to dream. During the 80s when the society was chaotic, he read Korean history. Since there was no object or reason for the reading it was a smorgasbord. He was young and not able to connect what he read with the life he was living.

If there was one thing that he learned later on from his reading was that not everything that hits the eyes is all that there is. Many are the books that left him with an understanding of life and one in particular was The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

With money life is comfortable. Science and civilization have modernized our lives, machines have advanced greatly our way of living and made it comfortable. Buildings are tall and strong. Traveling with computers we  live with illusion and the way smart phones are evolving is difficult for us to imagine. Schools of higher learning are being build continually, increasing the educational level of the citizens. The GNP continues to rise but so also has the debt of the citizens.

Development of the country has been great but young people find it difficult to find work. We give a number index to even some of the highest values in life. Profit is a standard for our society. Materialism and wealth are put at the center. Technology has become so omnipresent that without machinery at our disposal we can do little. Money is what makes everything work together.

Something that looks good on the outside is also good to eat is a phrase from the past. What we can't see, the tendency is not to want to see: life, dignity, respect, love,  faith, truth,  justice, friendship, sharing, authenticity, purity, and the like. 

He concludes his article with a meditation on the words of the fox to the prince at the end of the fable. The fox gave the prince a very simple secret to remember: "you are only able to see correctly with the heart, what is essential is invisible to the eyes."  The prince not wanting to forget what he heard repeated to himself: "What is important you do not see with the eyes."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"Like a Ship Battered by Wind"

A professor emeritus, a man active in diocesan work writes in the Catholic Times on the high waves buffeting the ship of state and the society in which we live.

Comparing our times to persons on a battered ship is a good analogy for the times. In Korea the captain seemed to have turned over the ship to a personal friend; the passengers, hearing of the news, were overcome with anger and with candles in their hands, wanted the captain and supporters removed.

With the coming of the new year, we have the impeachment of the president, political turmoil, economic depression, fear of earthquakes, nuclear fear from the North, US THAAD missile system placement in Korea, fear of what president Trump will mean for Korea, and the population problem.

In the coming year, the number of those over 65 years of age will be larger than those under 14. The professor emeritus says this is not seen as a problem by many. He quotes a population expert who says that on the Richter scale this would be an equivalent reading of 9.0: a catastrophe in economics, politics, and society.

This aging population and drop in the birth rate will not only impact society but also the Church: schools will close, people fired, jobs harder to find,  production and consumption in the country restricted.

The Korean Institute of Health and Social Affairs has reported that 8 out of 10 students from 14 to 18 years of age do not think we have a just society. Collusion between Business and Government, corruption, and conflict between management and workers will continue to increase.

Choi Soon-sil Gate is far from settled. Her daughter entered a prestigious college and was later expelled because of allegations she received special treatment. Incidents of this type give credence to an unjust society. One questionnaire that was mentioned showed that half of the respondents do not see the children bettering their lives in our present society. This makes a desire for a family all the more difficult for the young.

He concludes the article by lamenting the blind spot many of the Catholics have on matters of justice and peace. We have on many different occasion received  communications from the Bishops, heard parish sermons but the parishioners have little interest.   More lamentable, however, we hear talks on justice and peace and label it leftist and Communistic.  He hopes the new year will see a change  and find the Catholics as leaders in the movement for a better society.