Friday, October 24, 2014

Global Family

A priest professor at the diocesan seminary writes about the Social Gospel in the Peace Weekly.The topic this week was living together with the world's family. He had just arrived for a talk at the Seoul Cathedral Parish, and had time so he looked around at the recent landscaping in front of the Cathedral.  In the past he would see  many Catholics who would be going into the Cathedral to pray, but on this day Chinese tourists were taking pictures outside the Church. The Cathedral had become a famous tourist attraction.

After the talk he left to go back to the seminary and it took him almost an hour to get out of the city. A trip that would ordinarily take 10 minutes. On the way home he reflected on how changed Korea was from the past. Korea is no longer a small country on the outskirts of a world society but a country with many foreigners: a globalized society which he found hard to believe.

When the priest was a child he remembered the foreigners as being an important part of the Church. Outside the church life he would rarely see a foreigner. It was in the church that he would see the foreigner. Once a year he would come in contact with  Maryknoll Bishop William McNaughton who would come on the  pastoral visit and for Confirmation.

The professor was baptized as an infant by a Maryknoll priest. He was confirmed by Bishop McNaughton.  He also entered the seminary and was ordained by the bishop. His first parish assignment was as an  assistant to a Maryknoll priest. He thanks the missionary priest for helping him during the first year of priesthood. He learned some of the ways of the West and pastoral methods from the priest. After this one year, he left for Rome to study and the year with the  foreigner did make his life in Rome easier.

Today it is not difficult to encounter foreigners in our daily life. There are many from other cultures who are living with us as neighbors.We see many foreigners in the work place, and in our colleges for overseas studies.

We no longer can speak about a homogeneous country or people.  We are part of the world family--globalization is part of our reality. But  still many   have a stereotypical and intolerant  mind cast  which brings shame on the country.We hear in the news  stories about the difficulties of the foreign workers and the prejudice shown to other religions.

In a  world of over 7 billion people we have many different ethnic groups, ways of thinking, and religions. We can't trample on the dignity and look down on the values of those different from ourselves.  The darker the skin color and the poorer the country they come from are reasons for the different degrees of prejudice that is often shown.  
"The world community must be presented, over and over again and with ever increasing clarity, as the concrete figure of the unity willed by the Creator. The unity of the human family has always existed, because its members are human beings all equal by virtue of their natural dignity. Hence there will always exist the objective need to promote, in sufficient measure, the universal common good, which is the common good of the entire human family” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church #432 ).

The seminary professor concludes that if we want to be a member of a happy family we have to not only think of ourselves but of the global family. We are all members of this world family and need to work for the common good, the way to world happiness.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Facing the Challenge of Puberty

On the spirituality page of the Catholic Times a priest columnist remembers a professor who was a great help to him in his education. He was both honest and devoted to teaching, but also human, humble and modest. All who knew him were moved by his warm manners and quiet demeanor, he left many with a good feeling.

He was always a valued member of the study groups, and cultural excursions. Two day trips were always memorable with the professor's erudite information and his pleasant conversations which added joy to the  trips. On these trips you could see him, when out of sight, sending  a text message to his wife. He was always a sensitive and understanding husband.

One day he came to the office of the priest for a cup of tea. They spent time talking about this and that, and the priest asked the professor about his son. The professor sighed deeply and said his wife was having some discord with the son which was causing some anxiety. The priest trying to give some comfort to the professor responded.

"When the children are small  they are precious and beautiful but when they grow up they are difficult to control aren't they? Especially when they talk back and defy the parents: 'If you are going to raise me this way why was I born?' When you have these kinds of responses it's difficulty not to be upset."

The professor in his answer went in a completely different direction from what the priest intended.

"Father, that is not the problem. I have been very happy with the relationship with the child. The child has given me much joy. He has given me reasons for being sincere and diligent. Now that he is at the awkward age, with continual back talk, in all honesty, it is not difficult to accept. The boy who is going through puberty is making us be more the kind of parents we should be, and the results will give evidence of that. Efforts that are made during this period will also determine our outlook on life  and the way we will face the future."

Hearing these words the priest was bewildered. The priest thought he was doing the right thing to console the professor by disparaging his son, but it backfired, instead the priest appeared to lack understanding.

The professor was looking on this period of transition for the son as a challenge given to them by God, a gift to make them better parents. The priest's way of looking at the situation was quite different from the father's attitude, and finishes the article with a chuckle. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Entering the World of the Spiritual

"That was really interesting." " I was bored to death." "Not that difficult to understand."

The above and  similar expressions are often heard after hearing the same talk. A religious sister who has a weekly column in the Catholic Times writes that listening is the way into the world of the spirit.

The more contact with the social network service, she says, the more difficult will be our listening. Speaking is in first place and listening comes second. When everyone wants to talk no one is listening. The word, more than a tool for communication is more a means to entertain isn't it?

We do not listen with the ear, but by activating the intellect. We help the listening process by reading.  Without the reading we are inclosed in our own small world. Reading helps us understand the world.

Within SNS we are living in the world of feeling and sensation, and think we are experiencing the world by the words we use. The written words in SNS are more like the spoken word. They have not been filtered or examined like the written word but are expressed with emotion and improvised like spoken words. Actions that we examine thoroughly are quite different from the  actions we read about. Accustomed to the words of SNS the more quality like words and literary expression become strange.

YouTube was a big change to SNS and we know the shorter the better. Over 3 minutes the ability to concentrate on what is seen diminishes. When something is long and we are confronted with difficult words they tire us. SNS hampers our ability to listen. Those who speak are in the drivers seat, and listeners are often not focused. Communication has more to do with the  listener  than the speaker. To be a good listener requires reading and encounters to enter the intellectual world of the speaker.

Before we were able to  utter a word, in our mothers womb we learned to listen. Sister wants us to remember this fact. The unborn child hearing the mother's voice and other sounds the brain is activated and the body develops. To that extent listening is the making of the person.

She  concludes  that a listening person opens their heart and knows how to humble themselves.  Listening enables one to enter the world of the spiritual.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Giving Life to Others With Organ Transplants

A doctor writes in the Seoul Bulletin about his over thirty years in kidney transplant operations. On March 25 of 1969 Myeongdong St. Mary's Hospital had the first successful kidney transplant in Korea and he joined the team at the end of the 70s. He recalls the time he was on night duty, in the intensive care unit, to check the amount of urine from the kidney transplant patients and to care for them.

St. Mary's Hospital in Seoul has had 2300 kidney transplants and Dr. Mun the writer of the article,  participated in about 2000. He remembers the circumstances and the emotions that surrounded the operations: persons were given  new life. He can't forget especially a case at the beginning of last year. 

A healthy young man in his twenties was in a serious accident. The young man was a Sunday school teacher, and dreamed of being a religious. After the accident he was moved to the intensive care unit of St. Mary's Hospital where it was determined he was  brain dead, and was moved to the center for organ transplant where the committee, determining brain death, agreed.

The parents of the young man knew of his desire to be a religious, and his service to others, decided to give his organs to those in need. Mr. Kim's heart, liver, pancreas, kidney, cornea and other organs would give new life to seven persons in need. His mother with much sadness had some consolation in knowing if the operations were successful her son would even after death be helping others.

In the United States  for every million there are 35  who donate their organs but in Korea it is only 7. There is a great lack, and the doctor hopes that we will see the need of giving life by donating the organs of  those that are brain dead to others who need them to live.The young man who wanted to serve others did it with his death and the doctor says God looks on that with favor. He finishes the article with a poem written by Robert Test an American Poet.

"The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress located in a hospital; busily occupied with the living and the dying. At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.
When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don’t call this my deathbed. Let it be called the bed of life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby’s face or love in the eyes of a woman.

Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.

Give my blood to the teenager who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.

Give my kidneys to the one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.

Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk. Explore every corner of my brain.

Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that, someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window.

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weakness and all prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil.

Give my soul to God.

If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Importance of Eye to Eye Contact

"I am a happy driver."  "I will look often into the eyes of the baby." These are the resolves the unmarried mothers are shouting out in the school for mothers conducted by the diocese. The priest president of the New Life Center in a diocese begins his article in Window from the Ark of the Catholic Times, with the above short phrases and explains the importance of gazing into the eyes of the newly born babies.

He began reading some of the books he had in his library. One of the books was written by Christine de Marcellus de Vollmer who came to Korea in 2011 to receive an award from the Seoul Diocese Committee on Life.

Science, he says, has shown us a new understanding of the importance of the brain especially in the first 6 years of life. The cerebral cortex grows according to the stimulation and not automatically during the first 6 years of life. We tend to give credit for a person's talent and temperament to the family history, but even the cortico-limbic lobes develops with stimulation given to the baby during the first years of life. Simply expressed, the brain develops by the concern the baby receives: the self-consciousness, feelings, discipline, peace and happiness are all related to the love and caresses the baby receives from the mother.

The priest introduces us also to Dr. Allan Schore whose ideas on the brain and emotional life of a child  are epoch making. The time the mother spends gazing at her child are important for emotional growth. It is a mutual gazing. When the mother  gazes into the eyes of a baby she is transferring her energy to the baby which in turn stimulates the brain of the baby. This transaction between the mother and child brings about a neural biochemical reaction that releases endorphin and similar matter which helps to develop the brain but also makes for a happy mood in the child resulting in a smile.This reaction will allow the mother to know how to react and give the baby a chance to return to a more quiet state. The baby will be asking for more stimulation with growth which the mother can respond to.

In Korean society today both parents in many cases are working and have to put their children in nurseries and day care centers. The priest is not against the woman's  desire for self realization by entering society, but hopes that they will find quality time to spend with the babies.

Not only the mother but all the family members should be conscious of this reality. He recalls seeing a family in a restaurant where everybody was busy with their smart phones and nobody was talking. We have to put people first in our culture and see the importance of the eye to eye contact between husband and wife, parents and children. 

When Pope Francis came to Korea his words were important, but his eye to eye contact, his clasping of hands and embracing of many had much meaning.  The pope's dream to see a culture were persons are at the center should also be our dream and we can begin  to work for this realization by our eye to eye contact with those whom we meet, especially those who are having difficulties in life.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mission Sunday

In the Catholic World, today is Mission Sunday. The  Peace Weekly carried an article on the 'Francis Effect' after the visit of Pope Francis to Korea.The religious figures who have the most influence on Korean society,according to a recent survey, are Cardinal Yeom, deceased Cardinal Kim in number two spot, and number fourth was Cardinal Cheong. Pope Francis' visit to Korea has noticeably nourished the Church.

One of the signs that many have noticed is the increase in the number of those attending Sunday Mass. Catechumens  attending  classes at the Cathedral parish in Seoul in the month of September have increased twofold.

The Cathedral parish in 2004, in one year's time, had 771 baptized, after the death of John Paul II the number increased to 951, and in in 2006, 1351 were baptized. After the death of Cardinal  Kim there was another jump and now it has leveled off at about 1100 a year and this is expected to rise again after the  pope's visit.

The number of those tepid, and want to return to the community have also shown an increase, and this is  true for the whole country. There are reports from parishes that  the lines for the confessional are longer and the numbers returning to the Church have increased.

There is also an increase of interest in the work of  evangelization. "Let us call upon him today, firmly rooted in prayer, for without prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty. Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence (Joy of the Gospel # 259). In the pope's exhortation we have five steps for evangelization that the article outlines.

First, a need to pray. Secondly, confidence and zeal, without conviction and love  little can be done. Thirdly, we have to be concerned for the good of the other.Fourthly, begin with the marginalized and the poor. Fifthly, do all with joy.

In today's Gospel we heard what Jesus told the first community of believers. He wanted them to go and make disciples of all nations, and teach them what he has commanded. He would remain with them until the end. The mission is not only to gain heaven after death but to enjoy the gift of life that God has given us now. Jesus is the  way the truth and life and he wants us to enjoy this gift now and for all eternity.

One of the Korean proverbs expresses a feeling about the life here on earth very graphically: "Even if I have to roll in the field filled with dog excrement this earthly life is good." We who are Christians are able to say this with much more meaning. Life is not fair for many. There are many difficulties, problems and crosses that make up this life, it is not a level  playing field, but with a correct attitude and the trust that God is always walking with us the obstacles add to our glory.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Sacrament of the Sick

Extreme Unction was the term we used for the Sacrament of the Sick previous to the Second Vatican Council. It was the last anointing and always attended with a certain amount of urgency. A pastor writing in the Catholic Digest recalls the Sacraments of the Sick he  administered in the past with surprising results.

In one of his mission stations when he was an assistant, after finishing the morning Mass, and ready to eat breakfast he was approached by one of the Christians asking for the Sacrament of the Sick for one in the community. He wondered if he could finish his breakfast before leaving but decided it was best to go. The trip took 30 minutes to walk to the house, along a narrow  path separating paddy fields.  

When he arrived at the house, the sick person was out in the yard ready to greet him. The priest was a little bit put out for not having finished his breakfast  for there was no great hurry. The sick person also knew that he didn't have his breakfast and expressed regret. He gave the Sacrament. They probably were taking advantage of his visit to the mission station to give the Sacrament to the Sick. He went back to the mission station and took the bus back to the parish.

As soon  as he arrived at the parish he received a telephone call. The person who received the Sacrament had just died. He found it hard to believe. As soon as he received the Sacrament he died and a family member went to the mission station to tell the priest, but he had just left on the bus for the parish. The family member waited for him to return to the parish before telephoning.

Another sick call was to a mother. She was living with her 60 year old daughter,both widows living together. They were respected and loved by the community. Two o'clock in the morning  he received a call from the daughter asking for the Sacrament of the Sick. He had just given the mother on a visit to the home the Eucharist, and was surprised at the call, but he got ready and went to the home.

The grandmother was unconscious and her hands were cold.The daughter speaking loudly in the ear of the mother told her the priest was there to give her the Sacrament of the Sick. She showed signs of understanding, and he gave her the Sacrament of the Sick. It appeared that she was on the point of dying and the grandson was ready to cry when the mother told him that he was not to cry. The daughter told the mother that she had received the Sacrament and should be at peace, and it was alright to go.

The priest also thought that she was near death, and  said the prayers for the dying. After the prayer he returned to the parish; went to bed but couldn't  sleep, and prepared for the morning Mass. After Mass while he was eating breakfast a telephone call came from  the home of the grandmother. The grandson,  was on the phone. He thought it was to notify him of the death and asked: "Did she die peacefully?"

The unexpected answer: "Grandmother regained consciousness and is now eating. He was ready to laugh at the ludicrousness of the situation. He had prayed in all earnestness for her to die peacefully and... Even after he left the parish he heard that she lived many more years. The ways of God are not our ways.