Friday, October 20, 2017

Problems in Community

A university professor writing in a diocesan bulletin recalls a meal he had with an old classmate from high school he hadn't seen for some time.

Friend 1: Did you have a dinner engagement yesterday? You look tired.

Friend 2: I guess I drank too much liquor.

Friend 1: You are too caught up in drinking. You need to cut back.

Friend 2: I really don't enjoy drinking.

Friend 1: Why are you then always the last to leave a group?

Friend 2:  It's not because I enjoy the booze.

The friend opened up to his companion. " Over the years I noticed that when a person leaves the group we begin talking about the faults of the person who left. We were all enjoying each others' company, laughing and praising each other but once a person leaves it all changes.... I am afraid the same thing will happen to me so I stay around to the end and  drink."

His friend was surprised at the remarks. In his group when a person gets up and leaves it's just the opposite, everyone has some nice words to say about the person who left.

The professor was always envious of his friend for all the bonuses that he received in his place of work. Hearing the words of his friend he was thankful for the environment in which he was working. In his environment when a person is not there the words are always kind which is a bonus that can't be exchanged for money.

In many cases, the reason a person doesn't enjoy the company in his  place of work, in the group he belongs, or in meetings is he doesn't experience any bonuses from the encounter. Is this not the reason to avoid future contacts when possible?

Isn't this the case also in our church community? What a blessing to be a member of a community without any backbiting. A person when he leaves is missed, and when we enjoy the encounter to the very end.

We are all very sensitive to hurts and enjoy being well thought of and the hurts that we have in community living make for some challenges. We are all a little broken with faults that can develop into conflicts with others. Empathy and compassion and a good portion of humility will allow us to accept the difficulties and to work for reconciliation and peace.

"Treat everybody with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor. Do not allow yourself to become self-satisfied.  Never repay evil with evil but let everyone see that you are interested only in the highest ideals" Romans 12:16.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Desires of Clergy and Laity in one Diocese

One of the dioceses in Korea recently finished evaluating a  questionnaire that was sent to 140 parishes as work on their synod continued. Participants were divided into three groups: (A)  believers' awareness, (B) (tepid) nonpracticing Catholics, (C) examination of parish life. An overall conclusion of the diocesan family was a desire for change in the way religious life was lived. Catholic Times Weekly gave much space to the results of the questionnaire.

The feeling of belonging and satisfaction within Catholicism was high, however, interest in diocesan plans and parish life was relatively low. Concern for this world's goods was more important than religious concerns and personal concerns over community interests.This was also the condition found in other religious groups, an area where the Catholic Church of Korea needs to work.

Although parishes have shown concern for evangelization the believers are passive. Pastoral workers have not shown an interest in getting the laypeople involved in the concerns of the parish. Priests among themselves have shown a high degree of communication but this has not been extended to the laity.

Interest in small community meetings in the parish is present but the young show no interest. Other age groups are more concerned with fellowship than with religious concerns, and a sense of obligation is the motivation of many.

Priests and the lay people were asked what they wanted the diocese and the parishes to do. The priests thought the most important issue for the diocese was the renewal of priests 25%, education of the parishioners 24%, concern for the tepid 14%, establish a vision for the diocese. The laity were concerned mostly with the tepid 45%, educational programs 17%, priests' renewal 8%, programs for the young 7%.

On the parish level: priests wanted renewal programs for the laity 25%, interest in the youth 26%, concern for those who have left the community 17%, training of volunteers for service 14%. The Laity considered work with the tepid important 27%, liturgical education 14%,  evangelization 14%, education for service 14%.

Laity's areas of concern was lack of interest in parish life 23%, lack of community concern 20%, separation of faith life and daily living 19% and a mature religious life 13%.

Desires of the laity in regards to the clergy: to see a humble clergy who would listen to what others had to say to the very end 37%.  Living a simple life and not concerned with material goods and careful with Church funds 16%. Not to come across as self-righteous and to work together with the laity in the running of the parish 11 % and priests who prayed 10%.

Monday, October 16, 2017

New Program for Catechumenates

The Catholic Pastoral Institute of Korea has made a study of the catechumenate in our parishes and have made some suggestions for change. The Catholic Times and Peace Weekly had articles on the study and a list of areas for change. They have studied the Protestant and a diocese in the States to help in the evaluation of the situation present in Korea.

The reason for the study is to help prevent the falling away of the believers after baptism. In a survey that was made 73.9% of the baptized did not have any experience of religious life during the period of study. The problems that were uncovered were five in number. The most serious were the lack of experience of prayer and the spiritual life. It was all in the head. 

During the catechumenate, the time needs to be spent not only in teaching doctrine and transmitting information but a time to begin an encounter with Jesus and begin the journey of faith. What we learn during the period of study should help us to experience the spiritual life and find joy and hope in the way we live our lives. Many have never moved from the head to the heart and experienced the joy of the Gospel.  A  reason why so many leave after baptism,

A program of study needs to include teaching, fellowship, worship, and service. They have become familiar in their Greek original expressions: Didache, Koinonia, Liturgia, and Diakonia. All four need to be considered and experienced during the period of the catechumenate.

Stressed was the programs after baptism a period called Mystagogy where the newly baptized reflect on their new life as Christians and continue to learn about the Scriptures and the Sacraments and how they will help in the Church's mission and experience their place in the community of faith.

Mentioned also how often godparents of the newly baptized are not taken seriously. They need to be with the newly baptized and help them along the new path they have decided to follow as a disciple of Jesus.

Most of the catechumenates last for about 6 months, 56%. 35% go from 8 to 10 months only about 2% go for a year. 102 parishes were surveyed and 1400 teachers and catechumens were questioned. The number of those baptized continue to decrease and the tepid continue to increase. The hope of this study is to see a change for the better in the future.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Overcoming Crisis with Hope

Office of statistics recently published their figures for the number of suicides for the year 2016. Numbers for teenagers has been dropping from 2011 but the  2016 statistics show an increase from the previous year from 4.2  persons per 100,000 to 4.9. All the other age groups except for the teens and those in the twenties showed a decrease.

A religious sister in charge of a center for the prevention of suicides writes about the issue in the Catholic Times for this week. She mentions that those who have studied the issue see the problem emerging because of a large number of young people out of work, the break up of families, and the lack of hope in the future.

Internet and dramas on TV have contents that incite this kind of thinking. Studies bring stress, no longer do they believe that with success in their studies they are guaranteed a good job and a good life. The dream is disappearing and they are  faced with big challenges for the future.

Problems arise for the young since they are maturing, they are not adults and do not have the experience to accept the negativity in their life and the strength and knowledge to overcome what they face. They do not find it easy to rationalize and intellectualize what they encounter and can easily blame themselves for the situation they face.

Whether this is coming from others or oneself they have difficulty facing the situation and the stress urges them on to end it all. She has interviewed many adults at the center and not a few when they were in their teens contemplated suicide. This is reason enough to work in the prevention of suicide among our young people.

The ranking of the Korean youth in comparison to other countries in the OECD on the level of happiness is at the bottom. They have been there for the last 6 years but also ranked high for  violence in the home, and both physical and emotional abuse. This is often expressed with others and can turn towards oneself and suicide.

Adults need to see the potential and possibilities of our young people and not be quick to evaluate and condemn them. They need to be respected and helped to find themselves. Adults need to empathize and  help them find their dreams.

She ends her article with a few lines of a poem by a Korean poet:"I have failed, misfortune was present but again I go toward hope for in me there are still flowers that have yet to blossom. I have worked to give bloom to the flowers that others wanted and neglected the flowers that I wanted and are  still waiting to bloom" (Literal translating of meaning).

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Education of the Whole Person

A few years ago a high school student left a note for his mother just before he jumped to his death from a high-rise apartment. The note was only a few words: "I did it." He succeeded getting the grades his mother desired and ended his life. 

Success and competition as a standard have put Korea at the bottom in ranking for happiness and high in the number of youthful suicides. A teacher and authority in the field of education gives the readers her ideas for the education of the whole person in an article in the Kyeongyang magazine.

Whole person education is a topic whose sphere is immense. However, there is a loud cry to center it on the virtue of empathy. It includes understanding another person's situation, sympathizing and going beyond to empathy.  Responding correctly to the situation with sentiments that will enable a heart to heart meeting with the other.

Surprisingly the ability to empathize with another is not that common. Gender, environment, genes all influence our actions and often fosters quarreling and conflict. Living within a community without resolving these problems we will not find happiness.

The differences between us and the other is a reality we have to acknowledge if empathy is to enter. The pivotal point is how to overcome the differences. 

There are programs used in different countries at present and the Canadian experience was mentioned where a kindergarten teacher has worked with nurturing empathy among children with the results that after a year even the frailest of the children were not exposed to aggression or any type of serious bullying. These programs are being spread to many parts of the world.

Need to understand we are beginning from different values and moral points of view. By discussion, communication we can narrow the differences. This is done with words. With verbal and nonverbal means  we can succeed in interacting with one another.

Secondly, there are those who with words can communicate with another. They have read a lot, experienced much, and have feelings that are common to many. A person that gets along with others has a wide field of understanding and is able to express this in his dealings with others. This requires reading and experience.

Empathy is different from sympathy. Sympathy is vertical while empathy is horizontal. It's walking in the shoes of the other and wanting to experience what the other experiences.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Habits Determine Our Future

"Don't live so fast!" The priest writer remembers these words of a shopkeeper on a visit to a market with his mother when he was a seminarian. On the way home, with a smile on her face: "The stranger seeing my son for the first time, sized you up correctly didn't he?" With these words, a seminary rector gives us a meditation on habit written up in Bible Life magazine.

Impetuosity was one of his faults. From a young age, he always found it difficult to patiently work on anything for any period of time. A habit that influenced his life negatively and he wanted to gain control.

He looked for tangled messes of thread and patiently unraveled them. Did this cure his impetuosity? No, it continued to be present but working with tangled messes, he was able to tame his old friend.

We should never underestimate the power of habit. On television, he recalls a program using hidden cameras that followed some performers during a whole day picking out their good and bad habits. The cameras highlighted: habits of eating salty and spiced foods, eating fast, drinking liquor at night, missing eating time, exercise, breathing deeply, and their way of sitting. We are ruled by our habits.

A habit found at three will go to eighty. A Korean proverb which shows that children under three are not conscious of themselves but this changes. Scary is the knowledge that the habits we pick up at that age will last a lifetime.

From Latin, we have the word 'fortune and virtue'. Fortune is good luck, experienced without preparation, while virtue is the selection of the good with deliberate practice and repetition, a continual choice that becomes a virtue.

Evil acts, whether it is today or tomorrow we don't know, the results will not be good. Like the evil acts, good acts that are repeated countless times will become part of who we are.

At a meeting, the writer mentions they were talking about the healthy teeth of an older  gentlemen. In the conversation that followed the gentleman gave his secret which very simply was to brush your teeth with devotion 3 times a day. Doesn't seem a very serious secret method but after some thought, he did agree.

My habits will determine my future. Not only physical health habits but also spiritual health habits. The habits of prayer, thanksgiving will make the future one of hope. Do our spiritual health habits have the same weight as brushing our teeth? They should.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Serious Reflection Needed In Choosing

When priests make their opinion known on the pros and cons of specific government policies some of the believers feel the priests are getting involved in politics and criticize them. Writing in the Catholic Peace Weekly a lay staff member of the newspaper mentions that he also gets questions on the issue from the readers.

He answers: "It would be a problem if the priests were to make political statements or take a political position. But I don't think it is right to oppose the remarks as political if it is a statement for the common good and social justice."

It's clearly a problem when priests support a certain political party but reasonable to expect a priest to make clear the Church's teachings on various political, economic and social issues to help people make right choices. Of course, judging and deciding is the conscientious choice of the believers.

How many political parties meet the ideal values that the church teaches? "It is difficult for the concerns of the Christian faith to be adequately met in one sole political entity; to claim that one party or political coalition responds completely to the demands of faith or of Christian life would give rise to dangerous errors. Christians cannot find one party that fully corresponds to the ethical demands arising from faith and from membership in the Church. Their adherence to a political alliance will never be ideological but always critical; in this way, the party and its political platform will be prompted to be ever more conscientious in attaining the true common good, including the spiritual end of the human person" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine #573).

Change of government started five months ago and still has a high approval rating with the citizens in its efforts for reform and getting rid of corruption. Many citizens approve but there are those  with expectations who are concerned and waiting to see.

Our columnist doesn't like the direction the government is going and is concerned. Seven high-ranking candidates failed to be confirmed for government positions. The thinking among many in government says those appointed must have the right national philosophy.

The problem is that with this sharing of the national philosophy those who have helped give birth to the new regime are preferred over those with expertise in their field, competence, and morality. If the help the candidate gave the party is more important than qualifications for the job then the columnist feels we are just bringing more corruption into the system and asking for trouble.