Monday, June 22, 2009

Decorating the Parish Church

One of the professors from the School of Art in the Diocese was invited to help in the remodelling of a parish Church. As he entered the parish grounds he noticed a number of statues of the Blessed Mother in different parts of the parish courtyard. "Father why in the world do you have so many statues of the Blessed Mother out in the yard?" To the question the parish priest answered that he asked for a donation for a statue and 5 parishioners, who could not be persuaded otherwise, left him with this problem of conscience. He couldn't give the statues away and could not destroy them, so the predicament.

In Korea the Protestants have difficulty with statues and crucifixes for they see them as images that are prohibited from their reading of the Old Testament. The Catholics have heard this but pay little attention. You also see at times a statue of Jesus or Mary on the top of a church building that turns to different parts of the parish. The professor of art would not see a difficulty with using statues and images but the place and surroundings should be considered in their placement.

In conclusion he reflects that we are influenced concretely with the connection we have with time and space. The images that we see affect the mind and heart that we do not see. No matter how good the image is, it can never express the reality that we want to see. That is why we have to be very careful with our images. That is true, he says for the images that we have outside the Church but more so for the images that we have in the church.

We should not attempt he says to decorate the Church in the way we decorate our homes. The Church is the place where we keep the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lord is the master there, present in silence and in word those of us working pastorally, he concludes, should always remember this.

She Never Heard of Jesus

From the People I Love by Roman Theisen.M.M. (Incident took place in 1990)

Miss. Lee met us at the airport in Shanghai, China. She would be our official guide for the next 15 days. We were meeting officials in the Korean speaking region of North East China to discuss an invitation for Maryknoll Missioners to teach English in Universities there. Our itinerary included important tourist spots, such as the Great Wall and the archaeological sites of Xian, as well as sites sacred to us, including the chapel in Shanghai where the first Korean priest, St. Andrew Kim, was ordained in 1845.

As we toured China we visited seminaries and Churches of the Catholic Patriotic Association, the government supervised portion of the Catholic Church which has no contact with Rome. Both we and the Patriotic Association leaders were careful to obey Chinese law, which allowed us to say Mass privately in these Churches, but never in public. One site of great significance to me was the cemetery in Beijing in which are found remains of Father Matteo Ricci and other great Jesuit missionaries of the early 1600s. Their memorials are protected in the "back yard " of an official Communist office building.

Miss Lee continued to observe closely everything we did and said, and even attended our Masses. She impressed us as a highly intelligent and well educated woman. I was surprised when she approached me one day with a question that troubled her. "Who," she asked, "is this Jesus Christ? Is he a leader in your Church and does he live in America? And the Apostle Paul whose title I saw carved on one of the Churches as 'Apostle to the Nations'... Is he like your Foreign Minister? And does he live in America, too?"

I explained to her who Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul is. It was the only time in my career as a missionary that I've had the privilege of proclamining the Good new of Jesus Christ to someone who had absolutely never heard of Him before.

Miss Lee stayed with us until we finally boarded a boat of Panamanian registry at Weihai on the northern coast of China, for an overnight voyage over the Yellow Sea to the P0rt of Inchon, Korean . Out trip to China had been successful We now have four Maryknoll priests teaching in the Korean speaking Universities of North East China. (formally called Manchuria. )