Thursday, October 30, 2014

Migrant Women In Korea

With Bible magazine has an article on women who have come to Korea as immigrants and are married to Koreans. The writer recalls her knapsack trip to Europe with her best friend some twenty years ago. They visited the paternal aunt of her friend in Germany. The aunt was one of the Korean nurses that went to Germany in 1970 and remained, marrying a German. She was  a migrant woman living in Germany. The visit was not to a  big city but a small village in the country and she remembers the stares of the villagers seeing these strange faces from Asia.

The uncle, the German husband, brought them around and introduced them to a grocery store run by an immigrant from Turkey. The Germans needed workers so they welcomed those from Turkey, but as the numbers grew, they were taking away work from the Germans and they were a drain on the welfare programs of the country. They also did not mix in with the Germans  but remained attached  to their own cultural ways; grocery stores with Turkish products began to appear everywhere, which caused a lot of comment. Germany had the same problems that Korea is facing today.

Today back in Korea when she hears talk about the migrants in Korea she remember her days back in Germany some 20 years before. Eight percent of the marriages in Korea in 2013 were with foreigners.  70.5 percent of those marrying were Korean men marrying foreign women. In 2005 it was 13.5 percent and has gradually decreased. Today it is one out of ten and usually foreign  women are the largest number.The government is helping these women  in many different ways to make them feel at home in Korea. This does not solve, however, all their problems.

In 2009 the educational level of the women migrants: 42.3 percent were high school graduates, 27.7 percent middle school, and 20.6 percent college graduates and higher. With the men we have 40.1 percent with  college or better, 34.5 percent  with high school, and 18.9 percent middle school. The educational level of the men was much higher than the women.

Different from the ordinary immigrants those who have come to Korea for marriage are relating with those from the mother country; outside of the family in which they married the contacts are few. This does not change, she says, with the length of time they are in the country.There is less prejudice shown to the foreign workers and the Chinese compatriots living in Korea. A large number of the women have been bought which adds to the problem and the reason they are often mistreated in the families.

There are wonderful stories about women who have made the transition successfully but most of the talk is about women who have been bought and find it difficult to adapt to the thinking and culture, and  abused by their husbands.She confesses that if she were one of them she would not be able to remain in such a union.

Last year a summer study was made by the Buddhist Research Center on the  place of Buddhism in a multicultural society. Catholic of the three religions studied: Buddhists, Protestants and Catholics, the Catholics had the most favorable relationship with the foreign workers. Would you be able to be a friend with a foreigner?  Catholics answered 45.3 with a yes, Protestants 39.4 and Buddhist 38.6. I don't want to get close to them: Catholic 1.2 percent, Protestant 3.6 percent and Buddhist 5.5 percent.  She says we should not look at this with pride for when she thinks how many Catholics would be willing to be friends to a migrant she feels depressed. 

She concludes the article with a reflection that Our Blessed Mother was a migrant in  a foreign land. She knew no one and she compares the situation of Mary with the women who are married to Korean men. These foreign women are hoping for a new life and need the courage to bring it about. Let us all figure out, she asks, what we can do to make contact with these woman, and help them to make the transition to Korean life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Love is Everything

A priest working in religious education for the diocese writes about  going beyond objective and subjective thinking in an article in Bible & Life. His office was a five minute walk from his sleeping quarters; last year for a number of reasons he moved to the diocesan rectory. Now, the trip to the  office takes him about 20 minutes by car and if he takes public transportation, the 12 kilometers, round trip, takes about one hour of traveling time. Most people would not  consider this a long distance. For him, however, it was long.

He recalls the words of a  song that mentioned love and friendship: "the distance was far from love and closer than friendship, not a lover nor a friend it was an awkward distance." He wants to see the distance he has to travel to the office more or less with this understanding.

The distance he has to travel is just perfect to  protect, defend and excuse himself. When he is late for a meeting, the long distance becomes an excuse, and  when he begs for a ride to his sleeping quarters it is then, only a short distance from the office, it wont take long. He admits having the shameless courage to utter these words. For the priest the objective reality of the distance has no meaning. He can make it mean what he wants. His subjective needs always come first, the objective concedes.

One day on his way to work at one of the  intersections, waiting for a green light  his attention was riveted on a beautiful melody he was hearing on the radio. When the light changed, without thought, he put his foot on the accelerator, and slightly hit the bumper of the car in front. His mistake.They pulled off to the side of the road and checked the damage. There were no scratches on either bumper. Since there was no damage they took pictures and  exchanged addresses and telephone numbers. The driver of the car was a young woman on her way to  work; she said she would notify him.

That day there was no call from the woman and he thought that all was resolved, but that evening about 8 o'clock a call came from a man who said he was the young woman's older brother. The accident, he said, so frightened his sister she was not able to do her daily exercises, she will have to go to the hospital tomorrow. He then mentioned the damaged  bumper and on he went, making  no sense to the priest.At the end he said let us agree on 300 dollars, and he gave his  bank account number and hung up. The priest was at fault and no matter what he thought, said or did wouldn't make any difference. He was angry and it took him, he says, much time and effort to calm down.

He was in a  similar accident some years ago when  a woman in her 50s hit his bumper in the rear when  they stopped at a red light. The shock was great but no big accident. He got out of the car to look at the bumper there was a  little scratch. The woman driver was ready to cry. He told her all was well, to regain composure, sent her on her way, and told her to be careful.

He was big-hearted, able to understand the difficulties of the woman, to comfort her in her distress, and here now he is filled with anger. He thought of all the bad things about the situation and his own carelessness was forgotten, and just thought of the blackmailing(?) of the brother and sister, and finally,with difficulty, put the issue aside.

Everything that happens to him he resolves in a subjective way and the reality of what happened always gives in to these subjective feelings. Love is no different. What I think is love is love, and little concern for what the reality is. Another person's pure act of charity often comes to him as hypocrisy.We can't give a numerical number to an objective act of charity. There is no fragrance that comes to us from these acts. Even judging on these acts in a subjective way is not sufficient. "There is no limit to love's forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure" (I Cor. 13:7). Love is everything. Without any partiality or bias when I am able to  fill myself with the above that will be love.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Death that Brought Back the Life of Faith

Atheism comes in many forms: weak and strong. Often we hear of those who abandon their atheism for religion and religion for atheism. The reasons are varied: some  are intellectual and some emotional. An article in With Bible magazine, a weak atheist  puts aside his  atheism for a very emotional reason: the death of his  80 year old  grandmother who he dearly loved and wanted to see again, and writes about the change that came during the three day wake service.

The grandchild had in the previous months lived with great doubt about God and felt resentment, and turned away from him. He gave up on prayer. Let's us grant that there is a God than all he could do was pray, he wouldn't see the grandmother again. 

He paraphrases the words of Blaise Pascal the writer of the Pensées on God's existence. "If we consider that God does not exist, and he doesn't exist, there is no gain or loss by my life. However, if I live my life without God,and he does exist than my life is a big  minus. In the same manner of speaking if I live believing there is a God, and there is, than I will have great joy here and hereafter." These words gave the writer peace and consolation. 

The grandmother, he tells us, lived with the rosary in her hand and the Bible beside her. She raised her children with a faith life always recollected and  conscious of God.

To realize the hope of seeing his grandmother again the priest in his funeral sermon gave him the way. In his sermon to the  bereaved family: "You must show in your lives that what your grandmother believed and valued was true by the way you live your lives."  

When he went to the grave site he learned it was not  only his grandmother with these values but there were many others buried at the site with baptismal  names that were inscribed on the tomb stones that went back to his great, great, great great grandfather. 

Catholicism came to Korea in the 18th century and from these early days the faith was  passed down to his immediate family. Grandmother had family members who had died as martyrs and she wanted to hand on this faith to her own family. The grandchild at the grave site was determined to put aside his  unbelief and to start living his faith and to pass it on to his children. 

The writer wanted to meet her again, without any embarrassment; this was the gift that she gave him with her death: returning to the faith that he had lost with a new understanding of what he had abandoned.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Extraordinary Synod On The Family

The two Catholic papers had editorials on the Extraordinary Synod on the family that was recently concluded. The Korean Church was not upset as many in the West, divided into different camps and with different understandings of Church. The Pope at the end of the Synod did take the middle road and had critical words for both the traditionalists and the progressive and liberals.These camps, within the Church, are forming in Korea but they have not reached the level of the West.

Korean Catholicism doesn't carry the baggage of the West so they are able to read what is said and accept it with little trouble. "Whatever is received, is received in the manner of the one receiving"  and Korea as a young Church, strong in faith, helped by the  martyrs and with a great love for the pope are an obedient Church.

Both papers mentioned how the Synod was not only interested in the communion for the divorced and remarried, and  acceptance of those with a homosexual orientation, but with all the problems that married persons have to contend with in life. The majority did accept the two paragraphs on the married and homosexuality of the final revised report, but not with the 2/3 majority required for inclusion in the finally paper, but the two paragraphs will be part of the discussion at next years synod.

Family is the smallest church, and societies' smallest unit; at the same time the origin of many of our  problems, and  where we need to find fundamental solutions. Consequently, we all know that if we don't foster healthy families, the roots and trunk of society and the church are in danger.

This year with the end of the Extraordinary Synod we will begin  preparing  for the Ordinary Synod next year. Korean Catholicism will begin preparing for the Synod with a greater understanding of the problems of family begun years earlier. One of the editorials  was concerned with a possible too literal interpretation of the catechism.

The Church did not begin in the temple, or the synagogue or in the desert, but in a  room of a family house. The Last Supper was in a room of a house and the Holy Spirit descended in a room of a family house.

The Eucharist is the 'salvation here in the present'. The Eucharist is the coming together of God and the Church. We are here given the sign that we have  been saved. The pope  wants to find ways to bring back to the fold those who have been excluded by the regulations of the Church. The editorial mentions that Jesus' standard was not the law but the good news.

One of the editorials concludes with the words of Pope Francis that we should never be afraid of treating the wounds of those who are hurting. We should not overlook persons who need God's mercy. How to do that without opposing the words of Jesus  will be the task of the next Synod.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Natural Fertility Regulation

Natural fertility regulation is the way a woman interprets her natural signs of fertility to become pregnant or avoid pregnancy. Also called the Billings Ovulation Method, developed by Drs John and Evelyn Billings. The method has been accepted even in China with great success but there are many in the West who find it too much trouble and prefer the artificial means and possible risks to health.

Catholic Times' article shows how the couple can have more satisfaction in their married life, add more meaning to their sexual love relationship and family by using the natural method of fertility regulation. Lee Theresa the  representative of the Korean Happy Family Movement stresses that  the natural method of birth regulation opens one to see the wonders in the gift that God has given us, to understand the gift, and strengthens the love of the couple.

Both husband and wife accept the natural cycle of fertility and work with it. They go beyond the bodily pleasure to achieve a oneness in their spiritual understanding and concern for each other, and in temperance, grow in respect for one another. In practicing NFR the couples notice a positive change in their relationship. Theresa wants it known that  "conversation between the couple increases, sensitive issues are discussed.They learn other ways of expressing their love, more than with the emotions they become more intimate and there is a greater respect for themselves."

There are many who have a wrong understanding of  the natural fertility method: too complicated, difficult to learn, the period of abstinence is long, an unreliable method of regulation etc..The biggest misunderstanding, she says, is the use only to avoid pregnancy or to avoid artificial means.

Many Catholics despite the teaching of the Church are ignorant of the method or are lazy or do not understand what real love between the couple should entail. This is not only true, she laments, of the couples but pharmaceutical companies and doctors who recommend the quick and easy methods of preventing pregnancy.

How can one ignore the feeling of love that arises and refrain from expressing this in the sexual act? She believes that those who think this way confuse love and the sexual act as the same, and in extreme cases there are those that see them as opposite to each other. 

We all have a respect for life but do not know concrete ways to realize this in our lives.There are many cases in married life where sexuality becomes a problem. The understanding of each others sexuality and the changes that occur are not always easy to accept.

In conclusion of the article, Theresa says that couples who use the natural methods are giving the children a wonderful lesson in sex education. Like the lessons given by the parents at the weekly attendance at Mass, natural family regulation practiced by the parents will be an important aspect of family life.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Silence is Golden

Silence is golden is a well know axiom and in the present society not overly appreciated. In her Catholic Times' media ecology column, the religious sister recalls a trip she was making from Pusan to the outskirts of Seoul, and was accompanied most of the way by a young man, sitting behind her, who was on the  mobile phone, with only a few rest periods, chitchatting.The sister tried to read, pray and think but found it difficult.

We from the time we were born have enjoyed muttering. We were born with the capacity and the desire to talk. A joy only humans enjoy. Since we  enjoy talking we increase the amount. Children who talk are developing their brain, creativity, powers of thinking, and socializing ability: forming their personality. When we become adults we no longer speak to satiety like a child. We regulate our feelings and our thoughts so that our personality comes out in our speaking.

We speak, she says, too much now days. No matter how much they try, some can't help but be a chatter box. Scholars have a name for this sickness: logorrhea. We do a lot of it now with our cell phones. Once in the hand there is a need to talk. With the phone we can not transmit our feelings and our body language; possible only when we are speaking face to face. 

When the phone is not ringing the person is always waiting. Fingering the smart phone in the hand and never putting it down for fear they will lose  contact with humanity, and feel empty and lonely. If there is no one to talk to they will go to their friends in SNS, an unlimited number of possibilities with whom to  communicate. She wonders if this is not a case of addiction to the word.

Much of the fare on TV is made for the understanding of a  13 year old child, and yet we see many who without any discipline are on their smart phones laughing and watching without thought of where they are and those around them.

We do not give words to all our thoughts since we are responsible for the words we utter.There are words we need to speak and those we refrain from speaking, words we use in different places and with different individuals.

'A wise person who values reading is careful in the use of every word and gesture', an axiom from the past. Why is this so? she asks. The words we speak come from the words we read. Reading becomes the  thinking that forms our words. Our thinking becomes deeper and the words we use have more weight.

When we feel that we are talking too much she recommends we put all aside, and begin reading. We will learn more than we expected; like prayer we will encounter the language of silence.

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.