Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Courage is Necessary in LIfe

Recently one of the  members of the Korean National Assembly took his own life,  a politician considered by many as a person of integrity and honesty. A lawyer in the The Catholic Times' open forum, writes about his death.

He considered those opposed to his position like mosquitoes and  what was needed when they gathered to demonstrate their oposition was a can of  mosquito spray. As a leader of one of the progressive parties his efforts to get rid of long standing evils was not accepted by many. In a joking way he considered those who were against reform a swarm of mosquitoes.

Roh Hoe-chan, a generous and humorous lawmaker, committed suicide on July 23rd. In his suicide note he admitted that he received two political donations totalling 35 thousand dollars.He was not asked for any favors and neither did he do anything in return but the law requires that a political donation be  reported which he did not do; his guilty conscience  was too much to carry. He considered the failure to report, stupidity on his part.

The cleaning ladies of the National Assembly lined up and cried. The opposition  members who were against reform  also  had  great sorrow  on hearing of his death. Since he used humor and did not call call them the 'force of deep  rooted evil', the opposition  was not  turned  completely against him.

What would it be like if Mr Roh had not chosen to take his  own life?  He would be  called to a special investigation every day. Why didn't you report the money? What  did you do in return for the money? He would have  gone  throught  a tortuous period.  The mass  media daily would criticize and condemn him. "You  pretended to be an  apostle of justice and  clean but were taking bribes. You were a hypocrite."  He would have  been able to  paper his  room with the hate filled comments that  would have come his way. Eventually, he would have made the same choice after all the humiliation. He forsaw the future  and took his life.

The situation in society is of concern: we are made captive by a great deal of blind hate.Those taken in for questioning by the police continually large numbers take their own lives. It's not the torture and abuse during the course of the investigation which they can accept but the murderous criticism of the press and public opinion are too much for many.

It is clear that the 'Me Too'  movement, which has changed the male-centered thinking and system that has been going on for a long time, does not mean to create a women-centered society by using men as the enemy. However, some women insult patriot Ahn Jung-geun because he was male, pickets asking the president to commit suicide, criticizing the church's anti-abortion campaign for violating the women's right to self-determination and even the desecration of the Eucharist to try to make a point.  

Furthermore, some people who are pointed out as perpetrators blame themselves for being for a second time on the offensive when they ask for the truth through a public trial. It is not perfect, but the trial is the last step guaranteed by the Constitution, in seeking the truth.
There is no fault in this world that is so heavy that the person's existence needs to be denied. The Pope recently made this a teaching of the church which for many is a stumbling block. Life is sacred, the death of another is no longer necessary to maintain law and order. The cheapening of life is seen when we can  condemn and criticize others enough to lead to suicide. Not to hate and correcting mistakes is very difficult, but it is the way to go.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Absurdity of Filial Contracts

Have we entered the times where we begin drawing up filial piety contracts between a mother and her child?  So begins an article in the Peace Column of the  Catholic Peace Weekly by a welfare commentator.

Problems of the elderly are not recent arrivals but the words  'filial contracts' in society gives us a look at a cross-section of society which was not present in the past. The writer works in the social welfare field and hearing such a legalistic expression aroused her curiosity.

Contents of the contracts in which parents ask for money for their years of care from their children is a new reality. Things are beginning to change but parents would often give all of their savings and real estate holdings to the children or buy their houses and sacrifice all for the children and in their old age be left to fend for themselves.

Filial contracts are legal documents that make it mandatory for all grown children to financially and emotionally care for their aged parents if they have benefited from the parent's gifts. This is strange;  sadly deemed necessary because of the situation in society. The meaning of family takes a blow with the implementation of these contracts. The actual numbers are increasing.

The aging of the population is a global trend. The high percentage of the elderly population is not a big concern but Korea only took 27 years to become an elderly society compared to Europe which often took  more than a 100 years. The side effects in Korea were many. 

In Korea, the poverty of the elderly is high compared to other countries, and there is a sudden increase in the number of people dying alone and neglected. Since 2009 the suicide rate of the elderly occupies  first place among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.  

Japan quickly recognized the problems of the elderly and supports them so as not to be alienated from society.  Nursing care insurance for people who can not maintain their daily lives relieves the burden on the family and provides convenient facilities with  care for the elderly in various places. It's a policy of the Japanese government to guarantee a happy old age, and remarkably maintaining human dignity and promoting family life. 

Since 2008, Korea has been building a legal and institutional framework to become a welfare state, starting with long-term care insurance and linking care services with the local community. However, when problems arise they work to fix them but leaving many blind spots in the process. 

How has the care and preparation for the elderly progressed? We should think about whether the dignity and ethical living of the elderly is fostered,  not just pledges to seek the good of the elderly  during the election period. 

The Vatican has recognized the inequalities of elderly people, which are easily exposed in society, and called for special attention to ensure the dignity of the elderly. Pope Francis also emphasized there is no future for anyone who does not care for grandparents.

In the Christian life, "what good do I have to do in order to have eternal life?" Jesus said  "Take care of your parents." Parents are  signs of God's parenthood and motherhood, allowing us to enter  society. 

It is time to urgently improve the government's care service system in accordance with the reality along with the care culture for the elderly. We need to think as  human beings before using the  absurd and unfamiliar words of "a contract of filial piety" between parents  and a child.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The One,The True, The Good and the Beautiful

Korea has one of the best Catholic presences in the mass media compared with countries much larger and with more Catholics. The Seoul Diocese operates a newspaper, radio, television and internet resources for the whole Church but the responsibility is diocesan.

Korea has come a long way but when it comes to the internet the Catholic presence has probably been weakened because of the algorithms used. This is the way the word Catholic will be used in the search engines. From personal experience, which may be far from the reality, the sympathetic use of the word Catholic in searches has been greatly neutralized from what it was ten years ago. Not surprising but good to know. However, websites are accessed by addresses which is not haphazard and that is where we should put our interest.

The other media are doing well and growing in Korea. Just recently the Vatican has launched its Korean service (www.vaticannews.va/ko.html). The Vatican News is the official online news portal of the Vatican.

The Korean branch of the Vatican Broadcasting has been providing Korean language service since 2015 but only available through the Vatican Radio website. Recently with the addition of the Korean language to the other 33 languages offered it is now possible to access articles in Korean. Currently, about 80 percent of the original articles are available in Korean.

Search for 'Vatican News' on any smartphone and you will have the website appear. The menu gives you four categories: Pope, Vatican, Church, and World,  select  Korean as your language and you have a new vehicle to the Catholic world of news for the Korean speaking.

The Vatican, which communicated the news with the Vatican Radio website, launched the Vatican News,  to "spread the gospel using new media" a few years ago. For those interested in the website in English for the Korean Bishops'Conference, you can access it at (http://english.cbck.or.kr/).

Some dioceses have developed a smartphone-friendly internet platform so parishes can easily establish an internet presence for their parishes. Many parishes have their own homepages, the beginning is easy the continued development and search for interesting, profitable learning experiences is difficult.

One diocese has designed the platform so anybody with a basic knowledge of web pages, blogging and e-mail can easily manage the parish homepage.  Surprising how little the study of the  internet as a means of evangelization has failed to gain the attention of church leaders.

Catholics, at least in theory, should have a similar understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Sadly, we pick and choose, forgetting that faith is something given and our lives are not our own. Not  easily experienced in the 21st  century. 

Using cyberspace for the good of others and in search of what is the One, the Good, the True and the Beautiful are all attributes of Being and of God. In search of these we are in search of God whether we realize it or not.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A New Philosophy for a New Society

Over and over again we hear about the new technological revolution that will change the way we live, think and act. It will be different from anything we have experienced. We have the signs of this new revolution in our society but no idea of how it will develop.

A professor at the Catholic University writes in the Kyeongyang magazine about a new philosophy needed to understand the changes that will come. The media, like never before, tells us that the industrial revolution will retreat, information will take over and artificial intelligence will change our lives. 

What is behind this thinking? Does a Christian see the future in this way? Our writer agrees that it is an important issue for the future but our societal response is excessive. It will depend on the way we adapt and respond to the changes in society that will make the difference.

The industrial revolution of the 18th century had two faces. It brought great changes to Europe: great wealth and dominance; the rest of the world came under the control of imperialistic thinking. Colonialism became common and Korea suffered from it for many years. A period of barbarism and violence. We are still suffering from the twists and turns of being behind in the first revolution but in the world of public opinion and our lead in information cyberspace, we are very sensitive to the changes in  society that will come from the 4th revolution— artificial intelligence.

We have been in the information age for some time, but have we determined what has happened to us in the process? Our writer doesn't think we have studied the results of the information age, its meaning, or examined and meditated on the impact on humanity. We have entered the 4th revolution, not conscious of what is happening.

Our modern civilization has come to a point of change. A change in the way we have been doing business, but also because of the limitations of the worldview that came with the enlightenment— liberty, democracy, and reason and the discussions that resulted. This was shown in the many 'post-isms' that began to flood our age and a reason we will need a new philosophy for the 4th revolution.

We hear about posthumanism and trans-humanism. Scientists are talking about life science engineering. Attempts to improve ourselves by engineering on our humanity. Making supermen, and overcoming the limitations of our humanity. The movie Ex Machina is an example of this thinking and much of the science fiction.

He finishes the article with a hope that we will not be fooled by the thinking of many of the futurists who are talking about moving humanity to another level.  If we listen to this kind of talk without skepticism, and welcome it without questioning, the results will be emptiness and a loss of meaning in life.

As Christians and not only as a Christians but as human beings what will the change in industry, politics and finance do to our understanding of ourselves and society?  Christianity has the anwers but even among the Christians we have many degrees of fidelity and a philosophical understanding would give answers to many seekers in this new changing society.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Philosophy Behind Gift Giving

Gifts are very much part of the  Korean culture.  Distinguishing between a bribe and a gift is not always easy. A gift is given without any thought of return. This is usually the case. This may not be true in the world of business but in ordinary daily life, giving and receiving gifts is a sign of the regard one person has for another.

In a diocesan bulletin, a teacher writes about gifts and what they have meant to him over the years. He begins by stating that a gift is a medium expressing the feelings of the heart. Strengthens our positive emotions and solidarity between people. Nine out of ten Koreans are happy in giving gifts but not always. They can be a burden.

Traveling overseas the thought of bringing back a present was a concern. Husbands who take trips overseas, a gift for the wife looms large, especially in sorrow that she is not making the trip. Until they find the right present they will be stressed out. Once found, peace returns to the face.

On trips overseas, he has returned with gifts for his wife he thought appropriate. However, the results were not what he had envisioned. It is not easy to pick a gift that the recipient finds gratifying. Both have to lower their expectations.

Often at the school where he teaches he buys others a cup of coffee or a drink, they often after a trip come back with a ballpoint pen or a keychain or similar gift and he has a drawer full of these mementos. In the beginning, he was thankful but over time the giver and the receiver found it a burden. It took some time for this custom to disappear.

Over the years he has given and received many gifts. Many have been given with a pure heart but also even a small gift often is a burden when given to people with whom we are concerned. However, a gift from the heart moves one greatly. 

He remembers during teachers' training many years ago he was the homeroom teacher for a first-year girls' high school. It was Teachers' Day which he had forgotten and as he was entering the teachers' room he was presented with a bouquet of flowers and a red carnation was pinned to his lapel. He still remembers this with emotion.

Giving a present requires a little bit of  'savoir-faire'  a basic technique of some kind is required and the writer admits that his wife has more than he has. When he has been absent on a couple of occasions, she has changed the interior of many of the rooms and papered the walls and brought some articles which he had desired. All done without any inconvenience to the writer giving him great pleasure.

Learning an important lesson, during his wife's pilgrimage to Europe he took it upon himself to clean the bathroom. It took three days. He got rid of all the mold and dirty spots, coated the tile floor. It was a difficult task but he did it with joy. On the return of his wife, she was very happy with what she found and he decided to find other ways of giving gifts in the future.

His gifts in the past were not the kind that gave emotional joy; gifts were given mostly out of habit. More than concern for the other person was a concern for himself. In the future, gifts with interest in the other, filled with love and the money value of the gift of little importance. The amount of sincerity involved and the joy of making another person happy will be his interest.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Magdalena House of Korea

One minute after he started his lecture one of the women shouted: "Good heavens, It's annoying." A college professor was giving a retreat to the women of Magdalena House and writes about his experience in the Catholic Times.

Since 1985, Magdalena House, near Yongsan Station in Seoul, was a resting place for those who were involved in prostitution. A laywoman, a Maryknoll Sister, and priest were there to help those living in situations of violence, oppression and helping those who wanted to escape, gain independence and begin a new life.

The women who shouted continued: "Hurry up and finish." He knew in preparing his talks about the difficulties he would have and spent a lot of time preparing what to say and prayed. He didn't realize all that he was to experience and in retrospect considers the experience a great grace—he was able to share some of the hurts, scars, and tears with the women. He will never forget the experience.

They received a lot of support from benefactors,  especially the late Cardinal Stephen Kim who visited frequently and never questioned them on their life but was a friend. He was always there to help and  often said the funeral Mass for the Catholics who died.

Mary Magdalena was the first to inform the apostles who were stupefied and fearful of the news of Jesus' resurrection. In the 'patriarchal' society where men have all the power, the important role and authority in society was the male. Knowledge and virtue are appropriated by the males and women are easily perceived only as auxiliary workers. But a patriarchal society, which recognizes women's place and role only as accessories, is incompatible with Jesus' declared "Kingdom of God".

What is needed for the healthy growth of a young child is a mother's breasts and warm love, and those suffering in the world need 'divine maternal love' which reveals 'God's mercy'! The church inspired by the Holy Spirit has testified to the world the "joy of the gospel" by the actions of the spiritually healthy laypeople, religious, and clergy.

This is the 'field hospital' that Pope Francis often mentions. Magdalena House is very important in the modern history of the Korean Catholic Church. In the midst of some of the most vulnerable, marginalized and abandoned women, the church was present supporting their human rights and helping the women to become self-reliant and proclaiming everybody is precious in the eyes of God.

Unfortunately, last year, Magdalena House was closed but has been working on a variety of ways to care for and support women in these desperate situations. Today, the Korean church looks bigger, but the church doors smaller and the walls are getting higher. When the church exists only for itself, its salt will lose its taste.

The professor concludes the article praying that the place of 'light and salt' in the work of the church increases as in 'Magdalena type communities', witnessing to the joy of the gospel among the poor and needy. "I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40).

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Growing In Wisdom From Knowledge

A religious sister in the Catholic Peace Weekly, recalls a time when studying in the States, she volunteered in a summer camp program where there were a number of Korean teenages. A swimming test during the camp showed the Korean students as good swimers with the right posture, similar to the best champion swimmers.

The swimming instructor was very pleased and praised the skills of the teenagers. He took the children to the deepest part of the pool and let them jump in turn. What happened surprised the sister and the instructor for they all began to struggle in the water. The instructor quickly jumbed into the water to help the teenagers.

The instructor ask incredulously—what in the world is going on? The teenagers answered simply: "My feet did not reach the ground." What does this mean?  They never had the chance to swim in an area where the water was over their heads, even though they had excellent swimming skills.

The instructor, who learned the reason went to the place were the 6 and 7 year old American children  were playing in the water. He was determined to teach the teenagers a lesson. He connected a pole to the sides of the pool and told the children to jump in, which only after a little hesitation, they all did. Coming up they grasped the pole.

The sister seeing what was happening never forgot even after the passage of many years. What did the Korean teenagers thing after seeing what happened? She was embarassed  to see what the results of the naked Korean educational experience was demonstrating. 'Intelligence' is learned knowledge; 'wisdom' is knowledge given life by experience. 

At the campsite, little children did not know how to swim, but had the wisdom to overcome the fear of the deep water. She  was so envious. How could such youngsters, age six or seven, bravely enter the deep water? She was greatly inpressed with the instructor who enabled these youngsters to do precisely that.

Swimming is not simply a movement of hands and feet enabling the body to stay afloat. It's  finding the  wisdom of overcoming the fear of the depth of the water with the experience that comes with the ability to swim. However, our children had only knowledge  to swim and lacked the wisdom to survive in an unfamiliar environment. Experience is a wonderful teacher, which transforms stored knowledge into wisdom. Fear of what is strange and the uncomfortableness of an unforseen future is made acceptable.

We learn about life by living. It does not mean we need to learn to swim, but to go deeper in what we do and overcome fear. The difference between knowing and living is greater than we may think.
If I could only live what I knew, I would have already become an adult. However, when we hear a negative word, hear something nasty about ourselves, something we didn't want to hear, everything crumbles. My self esteem is hurt. Emotions are often products of our experiences without the learning from wisdom.

We need to go into the deep. If I swim only in the shallow places, the world will change and I will remain in the same place. I will be confined by the same thoughts and attitudes and fail to know my true self and grow. I will be stuck at home plate.