Sunday, March 26, 2017

Striving For The Ideal

A priest writing in a pastoral bulletin for clergy mentions an incident on a trip to an island some years ago. A grandmother was carrying a heavy load and would put it down every few steps. He saw it all and in his own mind the thought was present to help the woman but no movement of the feet. A woman behind him ran up ahead to help the grandmother and took one of the packages.

Why seeing the woman's difficulty did he not offer to help? Why didn't the heart and body move? He is always talking about love but those who are less concerned with talk are often more sensitive to the needs of others. He reminds us of the famous words: "the greatest distance in travel is from the head to the heart and the heart to the feet."

Associating for the most part with people with leisure he is not close to the poor consequently the motivation to help is missing.

The famous Russian novelist Tolstoy and his wife Sophia had 13 children. His wife mentions in her writings that he wrote often and eloquently about the love of Jesus and thought a great deal about it but it was not practiced in his life.

Living with high ideals and to feel the love in the heart is important so we read the Scriptures, spiritual books and listen to talks and mistake this for actual acts of love in our lives and think that we are doing much.

He is now up in age, has traveled much but most of what he has learned has stayed in the head. When he sees the acts of others and their concern for others he is moved but making a decision and carrying it out correctly is not easy.

Helping others is important but the way they are helped is also important. Giving of money is not always the best way to help. If a person is not helped to be strong in heart they may be hurt by the help given. He feels that to help the movements that are concerned for the poor may be wiser.

As an individual, he has no reason with his personal history, appearance, or way of life to receive the respect and love of others, his position in the church, his priesthood has made all the difference.  Actually,  not only his priesthood but also all those who have lived the priestly life in a sacrificial way and have moved the hearts of many has influenced the way many see him. To repay what has been received is to live in the manner that they did.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sewol Tragedy Revisited

On the morning of April 16 of 2014, the Sewol ferry sank on a trip from Inchon to Jeju island. The ferry capsized carrying 476 people, mostly high school students, 304 died. This tragedy has continued to smolder in society and a reason for the unfavorable impression given by president Park to many of the citizens.

The National Assembly with more than two-thirds majority voted to remove Park from office on charges of corruption, misconduct, and negligence. All eight of the Constitutional Court justices supported the actions of the National Assembly to impeach the president. Interestingly the allegations of negligence related to the sinking of the Sewol Ferry were seen as troubling but not a reason for impeachment. 

A series of articles in Bible and Life visited the issue again in a Before and After headline for the articles. One writer questions himself: if his daughter had died in the tragedy what would he have done? The feelings aroused with the sinking even after three years are still smarting. For many, it is the lack of transparency and the feeling that efforts are made to hide the reasons for the tragedy.

Why did the ferry capsize? The ferry was carrying more passengers than allowed and many points of illegality were ignored. Why didn't the passengers escape? Many who were in charge of the ship were temporary workers, with little training but took most of the punishment. It was shown that all of the passengers could have been saved if appropriate measures were taken but the confusion and failure in coordination and misinformation were reasons for the tragedy.

The families of the Sewol victims have been critical voices in movements for democracy in Korea and a reason for the mobilization of the citizens asking for the impeachment of the president. The yellow ribbons have been a sign both of mourning but also remembrance and a desire for social change.

Raising of the Sewol ferry had been delayed but just a few days ago, accomplished. There are many questions that will be answered with the raising of the ferry. There are still 9 victims whose bodies were never found, a difficult situation for the grieving parents. One writer mentions in his article the collapse of a gymnasium just a few months before the Sewol tragedy killing nine, added more pain to the Sewol sinking, and the citizen's desire for a new way of being Korea.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mission and Vocation

The recent impeachment of our president prompted a Catholic Medical School professor to bring to the attention of the readers of the Catholic Times his thoughts on vocation and mission.

We are persons who are answering a call. This may be an individual call, a societal or one we feel comes  from God. The call confirms our relationship. It's a call to go out into society but each in their own way. When the call is from above we call it a vocation, and when we act we call it a mission. I am always the subject of the call.

In society, vocation is used as occupation, profession, a way of life.  In a religious understanding vocation is a sacred call. Mission in society is seen as our task or duty that we carry out. The individual call, the societal and the call of God may be seen as one.

Traditionally, a person's name contained the expectations of the person. A proper attitude developed from this.Therefore, the old scholars have focused not only on public life but also on personal life as well. The human personality is manifested through work and confirmed in human relationships. We have seen how injustice was revealed recently in our own society, destroying human relationships and harming society. Vocation and mission were missing.

The call to an individual awakens his or her identity of who they are, the call of society shows the importance of social life and the call of God leads to a full life. The call can be seen as a series of calls and the response, one.
This may be seen in the Scriptures. God called Adam, Abraham, and Saul. Adam and Eve recognized their sin and worked to take care of the earth and bring new life. Abraham becomes the father of all nations and Saul who persecuted the Christians becomes an apostle proclaiming Jesus as Christ.

If we recall the implications of our calling and mission, we Christians need to consider three things about the work we do. Is the work we are doing one that God has uniquely assigned to each one of us, is  it for the people of the world or giving life to God's truth?  If our lives fit into these three ways, whatever we do is a mission. If you look at work from these three perspectives, everything that a person does is holy. Labor that is engaged in production, work that creates, and activity that enriches life through social participation are all holy.  

This is because it is the fulfillment of the Word of God in direct and indirect ways. We are at the forefront of the task to establish a new way of life. It is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and accept our vocation and mission. God 's call is faint but clear, and our response is weak but sincere.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Living a Happy Married Life

Who are the happily married couples? Many examples of 'lovey-dovey' couples come to mind. So begins an article in the Kyeongyang magazine by a layman who works closely with married couples in the Seoul Diocese.

Often we are under the illusion that what is needed is to maintain a passionate and romantic relationship. He quotes the world famous John Gottman known for his work on marital stability. He considers two traits that make for a happy marriage.

The first requisite is to be a sincere friend to your spouse. What image arises when the word friend is heard? An easy, comfortable, strong, without reservation relationship, is it not?

"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth. A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds; For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself" (Sirach 6:14-17).

The second requisite is when you fight, do it wisely. Not to fight is not possible, the only way not to fight  between two equals is not to marry. Since we are all different in makeup and living closely together to have conflict is only natural. When we hear that a couple has never fought usually it's because one of the spouses doesn't have the mental freedom to do so.

He lists ten things that should be addressed:

1) Don't let the problems amass.
2) Don't touch each other's sore spots.
3) Don't attack the other's physical complexes.
4) Call a time out when one is overly agitated.
5) Stay away from abusive language.
6) Don't compare with others, don't touch the other's self-respect.
7) Don't fight in front of the children.
8) No violence.
9) Never bring up the word divorce.
10) Put yourself in the spouse's shoes.

When there is no conflict the relationship is dead. When we have areas of conflict the relationship is alive. When the couple fights in a wise manner the relationship can become stronger. "A wife does not belong to herself but to her husband; equally, a husband does not belong to himself but to his wife" (1 Cor. 7: 4).

The article concludes with a reminder that a couples' goal is not happiness but oneness. When my spouse is happy I am happy when sad I am sad. Until we are separated in death we are not alone. Isn't this a reason for the happiness couples should have. Aren't we too quick to forget this?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Harmony Between Speed and Slowness

Harmony between speed and slowness is the topic of an article in the Catholic Times by a seminary rector. Korean society is conscious of the attraction they have for speed. The old Latin axiom 'Festina Lente' (Make haste slowly) is not admired by society. Many are the articles that we see on the subject not only in the Catholic press.

He tells his readers that speed is part of their DNA. Overnight we see changes. A street traveled and familiar, in a month's time it's difficult to find. One enterprise that does not fail is the home delivery service. We want our deliveries to get there quickly.

He mentions when he goes overseas how frustrated he is with the pace of society. Internet news is slow, the lines at the banks are slow. Even presently as he writes he is conscious of the speed of his writing. He's Korean after all.

One can't say that speed is necessarily good or bad for both have their place in our lives. Korea is a leader in both the information technology and in mobile services showing the value of speed but we also see the mistakes and damage done with a desire for speed and taking shortcuts both in one's personal world and in business.

Korea became a financial world leader in a short period of time but this was not done without cost. Workers were sacrificed and we had many unreliable results of work. You can get drunk quickly on a boilermaker with 'one shot', however, what about health and family? The answer doesn't come easily. We can get to a destination in a car quickly but at the risk of life. Why have we been so enamored with speed?

Speed fits the world of sports. It is not something we need in our daily lives. No reason to have qualms of conscience on the matter. Improvisation and adaptability are all good but that is not all of life. In the classroom, he has to correct the students at times for cheating for they are missing the opportunity to learn and to memorize.

The social community is formed by certain essential steps. This, however, leaves us with a feeling of something missing. We need to follow the path of virtue. It's not a first class society or a top notch society but a grace-filled society that we desire: where no one feels left out, everyone a neighbor. Necessary is the personality change of those who only think of themselves. They need to be formed to have concern for others. All the rest will fall into place.

We don't want to praise slowness unconditionally. When there is no need for slowness, slowness for its own sake when others are involved is not a virtuous act. When we have harmony and togetherness the problems faced will be solved. Speed and dependability working together will have good results. Nimbleness and prudence working together will always bring a better solution.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

If the Bugle's Sound Is Uncertain...

A priest writing in View from the Ark of the Catholic Times reflects on his life as a seminarian and priest. Priests with whom he has  studied, lived with and related with over the years are different from one another. Not a very brilliant discovery and yet our writer's reason for grieving.
We have all been born, brought up and matured in different environments which obviously means we will live in different ways with different attitudes. However, this did give him much to think about and brought sadness. Not only does he feel a difference from the priests in other dioceses but also with the priests in his own diocese, those who attended the same seminary and his classmates.

All have gone through the same courses of studies in Church teaching but on the human person, work, politics, the nation... viewpoints are different and even in the understanding of the Gospel and Church we have opposite positions. Understanding the situation takes some time and pain follows.

There are 7 Seminaries, and 5019 priests in Korea, 1706 parishes, and 761 mission stations and about 10% of the population is Catholic. With humor, he tells the readers that with only 3.1% concentration of salt we have salt water in our oceans, why the absence of any taste of God's kingdom in society? Reality is different to a degree that hurts.

With over 5,000 clerics with different thoughts and values, we have parishioners also shouting out different slogans and values. The present impeachment of the president and political situation in Korea has the pro-con dynamics working well. In the same area, we have those with candles and those with flags. This is not only a division of society but also of the church. How can this be when we have the clear teaching of the Church in the social Gospel and yet many feel more comfortable expressing their own values and opinions rather than the faith beliefs
of the community.

He feels anger at what he sees and tells himself that the Church is made up of many people with different thoughts and opinions. He needs to understand this and resign himself to reality. Since the priests have differences of opinion it's natural that the Christians will be divided but this makes him feel all the more frustrated.

Catholic means universal but the words coming out of the mouth of believers is not one even in essentials. Our gaze is not on Jesus but each on their own security and well being so our voices are divided. We need to become interested in the situations in which we find ourselves, know what is going on, before we become engaged. We are called to be on the side of the poor as was Jesus and a need to remember the words: "If the bugle's sound is uncertain, who will get ready for battle?" (Cor. 14:80)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Education in Virtue

Differentiating a gift from a bribe is not always easy. Size, reason, motive are important in determining whether we are dealing with a gift or bribe. At times it may be a mixture of the two for we are all imperfect human beings.

A gift is something of value given without any expectation of return while a bribe is given with the hope of a future benefit. We can see, in many cases, how easy it is to blur the difference. Gifts are open to a wrong impression and a very innocent gesture can be interpreted as an attempt to win influence with the receiver of the gift

Korea last year passed the 'anti-graft act' which puts a limit on the value of gifts, meals, and congratulatory and condolence money for public officials, journalists, and teachers.They are forbidden to accept meals worth more than 30,000 won about 27 dollars. This is only one of the possible situations where the law may be broken. 

In Korea, gift-giving is an important part of the culture and where the oldest person often pays for the meal, the conflict of interest situation is often present and makes many uncomfortable.

A writer for the Catholic Peace Weekly reminds the readers of the present situation in sections of Seoul where stores have closed because of the efforts to eradicate graft and bribery in society. This will also impact the farmers whose products will not find the way to the market.

Often to cure we cause pain. Overcoming problems in society require steps that will hurt but are considered necessary to bring justice and a level playing field. Bribery in Korea was part of the way business was done and a desire to put an end to this type of corruption has been present for many years and finally, a law was enacted but the adverse effects of the law have begun to show.

Last year with the implementation of the anti-graft law we have a slow down in many areas. Flower shops, farmers, restaurants see a drop in income because of the law.

The government does see the results are not helpful for the economy and we will probably see an increase in the money that may be spent for gifts and the price of meals, and gifts allowed to be given to public officials increased. However, the intention of the law was good but we need more than the external use of law to influence society and more the integrity of the person and a desire for virtuous living.

We all know that gifts should be gifts. We talk a lot about unconditional love, and similarly, gifts that are truly gifts are without strings attached: unconditional. Our educational programs should be interested in educating the virtuous man whose internal barometer can quickly distinguish between what is a gift and what is a bribe. Laws are necessary but so is an education in virtue.