Friday, December 18, 2009

Inculturation of Catholicism in Korea

The word 'inculturation' has been used for many years in what is seen as trying to adapt the Church to the culture. The word used in Korea is made with the characters: becoming like the earth- to indigenize, to adapt to the culture. This is a very difficult subject, how much and where, are questions that are are not easily dealt with; there are many problems and disagreements on what is acceptable.

The Catholic Times in an articles on academic awards had some interesting opinions expressed by the recipients. The Sister who received the primary award said that when she entered her community she had in her bag along with the Scriptures , the Analects, Lao Tzu, and the Book of Changes. The Sister said that her dream was to graft onto Christianity the spirituality of the East that would enrich both of them.

After graduating from Harvard, receiving a doctorate in Comparative Religions, she assumed a teaching role and continued the study of inculturation. She has written much on Christian understanding of the Analects of Confucius and Lao Tju's teachings. She is now working on the Book of Changes. She received much strength and insight from these three classics and has expressed this in her writings.

She believes that the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu is a rough sketch for spirituality of the 21st century. "We should take from the area of abundance and add it to the place of need," this she feels goes right along with the central teaching of the Social Encyclicals. She reflects on the three treasures from Lao Tzu if we want the blessings of heaven: love, simplicity and humility; this she says is the same as the teachings of Christ which were the foundation of the first community.

In Korea because of the plurality of traditional customs and variety of religions we have a fertile soil allowing us to adapt our evangelization and helping us in our dialogue with other religions. She hopes that with this climate in Korea there will be many theologians who will produce original and beautiful works from the intellectual fertile soil that we have in Korea.

This word inculturation is considered a religious word used much in Catholicism. Jesus in his incarnation came to live with us and is an example par excellence for its meaning. We do not find it easy to inculturate the teachings of Jesus to the many different cultures in which the Church has taken root but it is a work that continues.

The bishop who was present at the ceremonies and gave his impression said that when he was in Rome studying he was asked about the inculturation of the Church in Korea, but all that he had to say was he was " more Roman than the Romans." Embarrassed he he did not know more of his own culture. He thanked Sister for her work in this area.

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