Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Nobody Wants to Die

A radio performer writing in a diocesan bulletin gives us her thoughts on death. She does a lot of traveling and during her night trips which she takes often there is one person she remembers. He is the author of the well-known, The Little Prince--Antoine de Saint-Exupery. 

He studied architecture at the School of Fine Arts and became an aviator. In his bestseller The Little Prince, he did his own illustrations. The book quickly received the love of many in the different cultures of the world. His image was on the French 50 franc paper currency indicating the respect and love he received from the French people. In 1944 on a flight over the Mediterranean he disappeared.

When the writer was in her twenties she was sorry seeing that he died so young but since he mysteriously died similar to the way the Little Prince exited from the narrative she found this charming. Like the stars in a desert that keep on moving they both returned to the stars....

However, a few years later on a night trip to South Africa, her thinking changed. She no longer considered Saint-Exupery's death something beautiful but painful and lonely: leaving this world in deep darkness and alone.

She believes these thoughts on death come to her now because of age. She was talking to her friend about the blessings of death. Her friend is ready for death if it comes in her sleep. She is prepared for it now or if it comes in 10 years she will welcome death.

The writer, however, is not so open about the situation. We are all afraid of death. We all have to experience death for the first time and bribes don't work. Just a few weeks ago while in bed she had an excruciating headache that prompted her to even think of calling 119 (emergency telephone number). While in that condition she was overcome with drowsiness. She asks the readers if they could imagine what was going through her head at that time.

She didn't want to go to sleep for she feared that she would die in her sleep. She couldn't help but laugh at her thoughts. She hadn't written her will and wasn't ready to die. She got up the next morning with the sun and gratitude in her heart.

She remembers a French popular song from the 1980s: 'Tout le mond veut aller au ciel mais personne ne veut mourir."  Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.

Monday, September 18, 2017

'Me Alone' Society

A survey that was recently made shows that in the year 2025 we will have over 30 % of the citizens living alone. 'One member household', 'eating alone', 'individual economy', all new ways of expressing a new social reality. We moved from the extended family to the nuclear and now the living alone situation. A priest professor writes in the Kyeongyang magazine on this new reality. In his opinion not a temporary phase but a new cultural reality.

A broad definition of culture would be the mold for the life we live. Consequently, once we change the culture we have all kinds of confusion in society. Korea was a nation with the extended family and respect for the elderly, filial piety was a great value. We passed very quickly to the nuclear family and to the one person household: single life, divorce, the death of a spouse, either willingly or not we have independence and isolation for many different reasons.

Korea for over 500 years during the Joseon dynasty, outside of politics and economics, stability was present. These days we have the  philosophy of individualism spreading and taking hold in society.

Individualism challenges tradition, cultural practices, established structures, and religion, with contrary values. Heidegger, the German philosopher, called this losing your hometown. Now everyone does their own thing.

Individualism of the West has matured and is embedded in society. Korea without any preparation is made to face this new way of being and the results are selfishness and immaturity. Also, we have chaos in society and many find it hard to cope: develop mental and identity problems.

This new culture of aloneness is not within the monastery but in the life of the city. On the foundation of individualism, an absence of security,  technological advances in communication, development of women's issues and the like which become part of city life.

In Sweden 47 %  of the citizens live alone. In the capital Stockholm 60 % live alone. Individualism and independence have supported the culture. However, they live alone but form communities, recreate together, eat together, simply expressed they are authentic and altruistic and have a well-developed welfare network.

The individualism of the West is based on a Christian foundation and contains a respect for humanity, and a person's autonomy and a high degree of welfare for the citizens. Korea has a shamanistic underpinning and outside of the individual, a universal concept is not well developed. A universal concept allows for devotion and a high degree of altruism and concern for social welfare. A  'me alone' society is concerned for itself. Money and time are missing for the interacting with others. We are so busy with our own needs that it's difficult to be concerned with others. This is not true with those with money and leisure.

Across all strata of society, there is a need to work on  identity, confidence in one's dignity and to increase a person's autonomy. A sense of joy in life will work to increase our concern for welfare. Happiness comes when others are also happy. Hell is  isolation and heaven, solidarity with others. This is true for those living alone and those living with others.

'Me alone society' has to be cognizant of this otherwise we are heading for disaster and for the writer this will not be easily avoided.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Foreign Workers in Korea

Korea is no longer a homogeneous society and has come a long way from the days as the  hermit kingdom. In a article in a diocesan bulletin the writer reminds the readers that Korea has over two million migrants but has not acknowledged this reality. Stories of racial discrimination continue to appear in the news.

Since we have no laws protecting the immigrants, the children of Koreans married to immigrants and the migrant workers have a difficult life. Korea needs to understand the multicultural reality of society and begin adapting to it.

Korea is an aging and low birthrate country, consequently the need for  workers and the need for mates for their citizens which requires foreigners not only as workers but as spouses for many of  the country areas, making for a multicultural nation. Many see them as a necessary evil and do not accept them as helping to build up the nation.

Society needs to see the problems associated with the large numbers of  foreigners in society and understand the difficulties that the migrants have in adapting to Korean life: the lack of a sufficient knowledge of Korea makes for difficulty in relating and having a harmonious family life with the spouse and children. This often results in conflict over small issues and  the break down  of family life and divorce. 

The children within this family have difficulty in school and are often bullied and not accepted by their classmate. All making for future social problems.

Korea has also to deal with refugees. They have different kinds  of obstacles to face. Korea has one of the highest entry barriers for refugees and the numbers are few but the migrant worker problem is a different dimension. Korea needs workers who are willing to do the difficult, dangerous and dirty jobs that Korean are unwilling to do.

The country has not come to grips with the immigrant integration problems because the foreign born population is still small and temporary. More efforts are made to prepare foreigners with a basic knowledge of Korean and the culture. The migrant workers have helped the country to prosper and  some are  proposing  an increase of  foreign workers on a more permanent basis. A sign that we made see changes in the near future.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"Reading" in Korean Catholic History

During the Jeoson Dynasty (1392-1897)  book reading was fostered. Wise kings would do much to  increase learning  and put the wise sayings and doings of the sages into print. The  government  would control everything.  Kings for the most part would  at least hold as an ideal the life of scholars. An article in the Catholic Peace Weekly on the subject written by a literary critic reminds us of this history.

Interestingly during the Jeoson Dynasty the king with his retainers would have something similar to a forum to discuss philosophical and political questions. This was considered very important and  looking back in history the  wise rulers were readers and would never miss a forum to discuss questions with their retainers. The ideology behind it  was Confucianism a religion of the book. Scholars did not just memorize the teaching in the texts but practiced in their lives what they learned. Through their reading they wanted to meet the wise men of the past: Confucius and Mencius

When Catholicism  entered Korea this was the culture they found. Yi Byeok (1754-1785) played a important role in the beginnings of the Roman Catholic community  of Korea. He on his own studied the teachings of the Church. He was absorbed in reading  books from China on western  learning. He was the person who convinced  Yi Seung heun,  Peter  (1756- 1801) to be baptized. On his return he brought many books and religious articles which helped spread the teaching in Korea.

In the reading of these books they became familiar with the teaching of the west and called what they were acquiring western learning rather than Catholicism. Because the historical times were very propitious to learning from books this made it easier for the spread of Catholicism. The way the ancient scholars and sages acquired knowledge in the past was the way that Catholicism spread.

What we describe as Lectio Divina  the reading and meditating on the Scriptures the scholars who were showing interest in Catholicism were reading the new books and putting what they were reading into practice and finding  change in their way of living.

The first printing house for the Scriptures came in to Korea from Japan in1886. The Daughters of St. Paul and the Benedictine press  started later, and we have the increase in the number of religious books published. He concludes his article by asking how much reading our we doing.? The number of those reading continues to decrease and he asks  the readers to imitate the early Christians and their love for reading.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Deliver Us From Evil

Recent movies made, show that humans can no longer live on the earth as they once did: nuclear war, technology, climate change. The earth that we know will no longer be  living space with which we are accustomed. We will be controlled by machines,  robots with alone be ridding us of trash, and earth people will be going to other planets to live so begins  a seminary rector article in With Bible.

According to a  survey that was made in 2016  of the 14,900 nuclear weapons 93 % are possessed by Russia and the United States. France,  China,  England, Pakistan,  India and Israel each of them, it is surmised,  possess from 80 to 300 and North Korea would have under 15. Pope Francis reminds us in the first chapter of Laudatio Si that  the earth "is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us." And  yet we have enough nuclear  fire power to destroy the world   a number of times over.

Nuclear power plants likewise are  dangerous. He mentions the Chernobyl  Fukushima and the Three Mile Island accidents. At  present we have 442 nuclear power plants. The  spent fuel will take 10 thousand of years  before declared safe. They are not safe and or not economical and are not friendly to our environment.

We pray to be delivered from evil Matt. 6:13 scripture scholars  remind us this is not subjecive  evil but human evil that will harm all of us. At the time of Jesus people thought that the devil was the cause of much of sickness, Evil  brings about division and death, People doubted the dignity of those who were sick and were treated as sinners. and where isolated from the community. Jesus worked against this to reunite  people to the community.

We no longer believe this to be the case but the devil has found in recent times a better way to bring about division and death  with more efficient methods: wars, development of munitions, military installations,  corruption,  lies, violence, conflict,  destruction of the environment. 

He conculdes  the article with the mention of a Paris Foreign Mission who died recently at the age of 78. He spent the last 16 years in the seminary as a teacher  and friend to students. He asked the students in his talks do you bring to prayer the things you read in the newspapers? Regretfully many Christians separate the religious life from the daily life and privatize and individualize  what they hear and see. They do not see Jesus suffering  in what is happening in the world. When we are indifferent to the suffering of our brothers and sisters we are indifferent to God.

He remember on a trip to the Holy Land  in a room where the Lord's prayer was commemorated he heard the missioner crying. He asked  him the reason for the tears and he replied: "Why is it that we all recognize God as our Father  but can't do it together. When will that day come?"

May we be delivered  from the indifference  to the suffering of our brothers  and sisters. Deliver us from the exploitation and the destruction of the creation you have given us only in search of profits and mammon.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Support For Families After Suicide

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day and a religious sister, who is the chairperson in suicide prevention in the Seoul Diocese writes her thoughts in View from the Ark in the Catholic Times.

The World Health Organization and the International Association for Suicide Prevention to emphasize the preciousness of life met in Stockholm Sweden in 2003 and together established the Suicide Prevention Day. Korea since 2007, each year remembers the day with academic meetings and programs for the prevention of suicide.

For the last 12 years according to the OECD, Korea continues to be the leader in the number of yearly suicides. In 2015 Korea had 13,513 suicides. Considering that the average family is 4 we have over 50,000 who are affected by the death.

According to studies made, compared to others, depression is 7 times more frequent and the danger of suicide is over 8 times more frequent in the families of suicides. Not only the deep sorrow but for those that remain, a feeling of guilt and helplessness for failure to prevent the death. The contrary feelings of anger and resentment towards the dead person are also often present. The living have to take responsibility for the debts that were incurred.

Consequently, we need to work for the prevention of suicides, work with those who have attempted suicide, and show concern for the families of those who have died by suicide. Society and the church need to be involved.

Since suicide in the church is taboo, those who contemplate or the families of the suicide, instead of receiving help, they feel alienated and afraid to be hurt again, many  leave the church. Often the families try to hide the death because of the stigma associated with suicide in the understanding of many and the need, she emphasizes, for the church to be concerned.

In the 1917 canon law, those who died by suicide were forbidden a church funeral but this was changed in the revision of 1983. We pray for those who take their life and the families that they can get over their sorrow and despair.

The 'One Heart and One Body Movement' of the Seoul Archdiocese has a retreat and meetings of those who have suffered this loss.Those who have left the church are enabled to return and begin life anew. Many were able to exist a dark tunnel and return to a normal life.

She concludes with the hope that we will always be sensitive to the hurting of others and be quick with a smile of recognition and our outstretched hands, ready to listen to them and participate in their sorrow to give strength.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Peace Apostle to North Korea

The recent edition of the Catholic Peace Weekly had a one page interview with Fr. Gerard E. Hammond, the Maryknoll Fathers' local superior. He recently received the highest honor given by the Knights of Columbus, "The Gaudium et Spes Award for his work with the Eugene Bell Foundation an ecumenical movement which brings medicines to tuberculosis patients in North Korea.

The award was given in the United States in recognition of  the work of Fr. Hammond with the sick of North Korea. The first recipient of the award was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He is the 13th person to receive the award and the first priest. He will receive an honorarium of $100,000 which Father plans to use in building homes for the sick.

Father Hammond who came to Korea in 1960 and is now only three years away from his sixtieth year of priesthood, began his trips to North Korea in 1995. He has now made 56 trips to North Korea as a trustee of the Eugene Bell Foundation. They have helped over 250,000 sick  and are now taking care of about 2000 patients.

In response to a question on his feelings in receiving the reward, Father responds that what he did and hopes to continue doing is what any missioner would do and he receives the award for all missioners.Korea is a country that has suffered much. Jesus is with the suffering of those in the North and  the missioner needs to go. He quotes Pope Francis in showing solidarity with those who are sick.

They are taking care of about 2000 patients and taking the medicines they have 80% who are returned to health, 20% die from the disease. Every six months they return to the North to give the medicines. Plans are in progress to build about 20 convalescent  homes on the outskirts of Pyongyang which will cost about 70,000 dollars each and he plans to use the honorarium money to help build these buildings. Each one will accommodate about 50 patients.

To the question whether he has made any friends in the North he answers that he has only been concerned about the work. They are all Koreans just like the ones in the South. When he was younger they called him comrade but now he asks them to call him grandfather and he calls them his grandchildren.

He tells the interviewer that in his opinion they are not starving. They also like all other societies have some poor but they seem to have a leisurely life all with their hand phones.

Why does he continue his work in the North?  Fr. Hammond replies that Maryknoll began work in South Pyongyang Province in 1923 and the diocese was established in 1927. When unification comes he wants to be one of the first to be with those in the North.

The division of the peninsular engenders a great deal of anger what does he have to say to the Catholic Church of Korea? It's a dangerous time in Korea right now. If a war breaks out we are all destroyed. Three things  should be remembered: we need to maintain peace, without conditions we work for peace. Secondly we work towards reconciliation with the North and thirdly, we continue to work for dialogue between the North and South. Prayer for peace on the peninsular and for the suffering church in the North not only this month of the martyrs but continually.

Fr. Hammond's interview continues with his growing up years and personal reminisces of life in Korea. He concludes that he would like to continue what he is doing: working with the Eugene Bell Foundation with TB patients of the North. It's a bridge with the North and he hopes that in November they will be able to return to the North and asks for prayers.