Saturday, October 31, 2009

Belated Recognition of a Patriot


Yesterday while teaching our catechumens I was asked how is it that Ahn Jung- geun, patriot, is considered a hero even though he killed the Resident-General of Japan in Harbin station? "The Church teaches that we have to follow the ten commandments and here is a case where Ahn deliberately murdered someone. Isn't that forbidden by the Ten Commandments?" It is an easy question to answer after the fact but those faced with the decision, a person with Ahn's sensitivity, have to be tormented by what they plan to do. The times have changed a great deal from those of Ahn's and I think we would have an easier time of making judgments after the Two World Wars, the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq conflicts and the Rwanda genocide.


This month is the 100 anniversary of the assassination; the Korean society has embraced Patriot Ahn close to their heart. Even though he was a devout Catholic the Church came very late to acknowledge his deed as patriotic and justifiable. The
catechumen had a lot of company in thinking the way he did.

The Catholic Church's teaching on this issue is not that clear and there are so many distinctions that are made that it is not easy for the ordinary person to make a quick judgement on what is allowed and not allowed. The Catholic
Encyclopedia does have a paragraph which does give one a feeling for what is involved:

While actually attacking the powers that be, a tyrant by usurpation is a traitor acting against the common weal, and, like any other criminal, may be put to death by legitimate authority. If possible, the legitimate authority must use the ordinary forms of law in condemning the tyrant to death, but if this is not possible, it can proceed informally and grant individuals a mandate to inflict the capital punishment St. Thomas (In II Sent., d. XLIV, Q. ii, a. 2), Suarez (Def. fidei, VI, iv, 7), and the majority of authorized theologians say that private individuals have a tacit mandate from legitimate authority to kill the usurper when no other means of ridding the community of the tyrant are available.


Union of Catholic Asian News has a summary of the reasons for the change of course on patriot Ahn. Click here to see the article. Below is a free translation of the letter patriot Ahn wrote to his wife before his death. It appeared in the Catholic Peace Weekly on the front page.

To the mother of Benedict:

Blessed be Jesus!
Both of us in this world filled with tears and vainity have been joined together
as husband and wife by God's providence. And now by God's will, separated, but by God's grace shortly we will meet again in glory in God's eternal heaven.

I pray you are not overcome by emotion, you trust in God's providence
and remain zealous in the faith, give your obedience to mother, live in harmony with the two brothers, work hard at the education of the children , cope with life take care of your spiritual life in peace, having hope for eternal happiness in the next life.

I want you to know that I have decided to strive to have our oldest son Benedict become a priest, please do not forget and offer him to God and prepare him to become a priest when he grows up.

I have many words to say to you they will have to wait until we get to heaven and meet with joy and happiness, at that time I will be speaking very deeply to you, that is my belief and fervent hope.

1910 Feb. 14
Your husband, Thomas




Friday, October 30, 2009

Korea the Beauty Capital of Asia


Korea is the cosmetic capital of Asia: the home of skilled practitioners of the art of beauty making.The Chosun Ilbo in a three part series on this very lucrative and popular new area of competition covered the area rather completely. The competition is not only between the practitioners of the art but those who want to enhance their 'lookism' compared to others

The article mentions in recent years there is no longer any embarrassment in having a beauty job done on one's face. You will find women shopping and going to cafes with their faces still swollen from the surgery. Today it has become common even among the men, it is no longer seen as a flaw , but an act of kindness to others to improve your looks.

The paper mentioned that they had 6 medical specialists go out on the streets of some busy areas in Seoul to make a survey of how many have had these surgeries. They did this on two different occasions and have come up with the figure that 836 of 1800 have had surgery. They also asked those who went to an Internet homepage dealing with marriages and surveyed those who visited. Between the ages of 20 and 30, 4 out of 5 women have thought of having the procedure done. In short, it is part of the culture.

There is little need to go further, the desire to look good is part of our psyche and in Korea they have a very thriving entertainment business : the faces you see are beautiful. Seeing facial beauty daily, does make you reflect on your own face, saddened on what you have to see in the mirror every day.

'Lookism' is part of the society we live in. The way you are seen is going to determine the jobs you get, the money you make and even the person you marry. This is the 'lookism' society that we have made. Those of us with a Christian world view, feel a sadness but the facts are such that many feel little esteem for themselves, they have not been accepted for what they have interiorly made of themselves and are judged on their appearances. They have recourse to those who can help this exterior and it is difficult to say they shouldn't be doing what the culture is requiring. This deep seated 'lookism' is not only located here in Korea but an accepted part of the life we live.

The mass media, the lack of depth in our thinking and spirituality are partially the problem but the facts are the facts and no matter how we try to see things differently ㅡlife is not fair: this we should try to face and teach. There are many other things that are more important than our looks but for success in this world we can't ignore the obvious but only hope for efforts made to see life in its totality. The last years when appearance is not that important should always be part of the picture.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Korean 'Ki' and Religion


Over the years I have heard the word 'Ki' or 'Chi' used in many different ways and have no intention in trying to explain what the Koreans would understand by the word. I do believe there is a difference in the understanding of this concept by China and Japan distinct in certain aspects from the Korean.

When a person is sick many feel that the 'Ki' is blocked so the attempt is to get it to flow again. You have all kinds of methods to do this: acupuncture , finger pressure, deep breathing, selective eating, the marital arts and other ways. Something is jammed and you try to get it unloosed.

'Ki', is defined as energy, spirit, vigor, vitality, stamina, will-power. Some of the words that begin with 'Ki' would be: back bone, guts, elation, mettle, windpipe, balloon, air, breathtakingly, temper, soul, sentiment, appearance. When someone has a tightness in the chest, feeling of nausea, difficulty in digesting food then the thought comes that the 'Ki' is not flowing correctly and something has to be done. The Chinese Character for 'Ki' has the rice plant covered by the steam that comes from a pot of rice being prepared.


This whole area of 'Ki' can take the aspect of religion and it does so often in Korea. Many years ago one of the bishops sent a memorandum to all the clergy in the diocese warning about the ambiguity and danger of the 'Ki' culture. He mentioned the need for discernment: "When 'Ki' formation touches the religious realm going beyond its dimension which is health promotion, it becomes dangerous." ...If they insist that people can reach salvation by themselves, this is a serious mistake because salvation cannot be obtained by any human efforts or techniques, it (can) only be achieved by God."

"Priests and religious who have contact with 'Ki' culture believing that it helps them for meditation or health, should act with discernment recalling that their attitude can bring confusion to the Christian life."

We have in Korea the 'well being movement' the 'culture of self-cultivation', which at times are part of the 'Ki' culture. In the States we would see much of this as the alternative medicine movement: often a very healthy alternative to the main stream medical approach. In Korea these movements do enter often the domain of religion and nationalism.

The Western concept of religion is much narrower than the Korean and following our criterion the whole area need not be seen as religion but many of those in the Church do see the overlapping and are concerned.

A professor who teaches social sciences at Korea University and is an expert in the area said: "Its members believe that 'Ki' is the ultimate principle and nature of the universe." Explaining why Catholics may be attracted to this 'Ki' culture he said: "As a liturgy-centered religion, the Catholic Church does not satisfy the spiritual desire of the faithful to experience God: this is why many Catholics want to be compensated by 'Ki' culture.

We have no idea how many Catholics are moving over to the 'Ki' culture but it would seem some are dabbling with the movement not realizing that it has anything to do with their religious beliefs. They are searching for something that they have not found in their Catholicism.

The professor concluded that "the Church should listen to what her members say and desire. With its 2,000 years of history and tradition, I believe that Christianity has many means to respond to the spiritual needs of the faithful. For instance the various spiritual programs of contemplation and meditation of religious institutes and contemplative communities can be shared with the lay faithful."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Help in Sermon Preparation in Korea

Preparing a sermon is a very important part of a priest's work and a very rewarding part, but not infrequently the sermons fail to make contact with the congregation. One of the criticisms is that they are not addressing the problems that the Christians are having at that particular time and place. We are talking to ourselves and of little help to our Catholics.


This is a position that many of us find ourselves in and it is not an easy fix. To ask a representative group of the parish to preview the sermon and give their suggestions is certainly a very beautiful idea but not many of us would have the leisure of mind and humility for such a confrontation every week. It certainly would be a help if one were prepared for such an approach to sermon preparation.


One priest who experienced frustration in preparing sermons that were not speaking to the congregation in their needs decided to do something about it. The Catholic Times has an article on a pastor in Seoul who did select a group to review his sermons. He has two two groups that monitor his sermons and help in their preparation, meeting with them every other week. He has found that it has helped a great deal in getting the attention of his congregation.


They meet on Saturday mornings and discuss the readings for the Mass on Sunday. The pastor started this monitoring two years ago and has found it very helpful. Besides the readings, they discuss the problems in every day living and many other assorted topics that can be fuel for the preparation of the sermon.


The opportunity of getting some interesting incidents from the life of the people that can mirror the difficulties the people are having, and have the readings reflect this, is always of interest to the people. Having a group of people immersed in the life of the society that will be a sounding board will be an important influence on what will be said on Sunday.


I do not think that this will catch on too quickly but it is an example of what can be done to improve the sermons. Priests do not have any great press on giving good sermons and anything that can help improve the efforts should be looked upon favorably.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are Koreans Stingy in their Greetings?


Often we hear that Koreans are stingy in their greetings to one another, unless they are dealing with persons they know well. They are not as quick with their thanks as we are in the West.
In an article in the Korean newspaper the writer did critique his compatriots as slow in greeting people for the first time, such as taxi drivers, people at toll booths, in department stores and restaurants. He mentioned how free we are in the States to great those we meet, even if we don't know them with the
"Howdy" salutation. Koreans would not be as free and he feels it may be due to the formality of the culture.

Koreans are rather effusive he says to an extreme with those they know or want to please and quite the opposite to those they are not on familiar terms. Many years ago I entered a small store and was never even greeted by the owner, even though I was the only one in the store. Things have changed a great deal, the marketing world has made it clear what is necessary to stay in business. "A man without a smiling face must not open a shop" says an old Chinese proverb, understood by all these days. The customer is king.

Many years ago one of my fellow priests gave his altar boys a jacket for Christmas and not a word of thanks from any of them. He found this very hard to understand and mentioned it to the Korean Sister. She told him, "Father, the boys from the day you gave them the jacket they have been wearing it and if you could have looked into their eyes you would have know how thankful they were." The Koreans are not as quick with the words 'thank you' as we would be but they have their own way of thanking and sometimes we miss it.

Koreans often thank you with a gift; more often in this culture than in our American one. The Korean culture does influence them much more than the American culture does us. Their culture is the same for all, we in America have a multiplicity of cultures that have influenced us, giving us much more freedom than the Koreans have.

The writer mentioned that all those who come to Korea and study the language learn very quickly three Korean words: 'hello', 'thank you' and 'I am sorry'. He would like all his compatriots to learn to use these same words. The more we use them the more those who hear them will give answer and we will see change.

__________________________________________________________________

Just to keep you informed on trips to North Korea.

The North Korea Ministries of Foreign Affaires and Public Health have fixed the dates for the two Humanitarian Aid trips to North Korea.

1. November 11 14, 2009

2. November 23 December 8, 2009

The first trip is a U.S. Aid Project for 3 General Hospitals in South Pyong An Province. The Generator Project is designed to insure local hospitals an adequate supply of electricity for critical care sectors such as surgery, diagnostics and lab work.

The second trip is to bring medical supplies for T.B. drug resistant patients and medical equipment for 20 Peoples Hospitals in North and South Pyong An Provinces also Nampo City which is the port city for Pyong Yang. The multi-drug resistant tuberculosis medications have given much hope that even difficult cases of tuberculosis can be cured. As a result, chronic tuberculosis patients are beginning to seek out Care Centers where we collect specimens to test for MDR TB.

Asking for a remembrance in your prayers.

Jerry Hammond



Monday, October 26, 2009

Catholic Korean Church's Labor Position


Last week the Korean Catholic Church had a group discussion sponsored by the Bishops' Justice and Peace Committee on temporary workers in the labor force. One of the participants a Columban Father with many years experience in labor work, said that the role of the Church in finances and labor is important and arises from the moral law of the human person.


He goes on to mention that the Church from 1960 to 1980 was involved in these societal problems. But in recent years the Church has entrusted this work to the labor unions and other groups in Society and seems to feel uncomfortable in getting involved.


The Church is now part of the business world in competition with others with hospitals and colleges . The Church's influence in society has increased and labor problems have become more difficult and complicated. When the Church starts talking about the Church's teaching on temporary labor and shows solidarity with labor there is not only a conflict with the government but with persons within the Church who have power and influence. But despite these facts the Bishops' Committee in 2008 did give us a statement on temporary workers. In the following we have a summary of the teaching:


1) When we discriminate in the treatment of the regular and temporary worker, we are not following the Church's teaching.


2) When there is a difference in the pay for the regular and temporary worker doing the same work, even if this is legal it is not just.


3) All the material wealth is for all and when the businesses create new jobs the companies have the duty to use the wealth they have.


4) The Government has to get involved when it is for the common good.


5) The Church should not only be concerned about the migrant workers but also the nation's workers and should get involved in the pastoral care of the workers, especially the temporary workers.


6) The Church's actions in this area should speak louder than the words. The Church in all its institutions and with all its workers should work for the improvement of their condition.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

10 years of Ecumenical Cooperation

Back in the beginning of the 70s, in the country area in which I was a pastor the ecumenical relationship with the Protestants seemed very healthy. We got together on the big feast days of Easter and Christmas for some type of ecumenical service. We would parade together singing hymns, carols, and meet in some school yard for a joint service. The relationship with the Protestant Pastor was friendly, we would meet occasionally and I recall him talking to our Catholics and I to his congregation. This changed when I went to the city for pastoral work.

The Peace Newspaper had an editorial with the happy news that the Buddhists , Protestants and Catholics in an area of Seoul have been getting together for the last 10 years sponsoring a Bazaar to help children with incurable diseases.

In Korea we do not have the strife between religions that we often seen in other countries. This is a great blessing. On the "Day of Buddha's Coming" we often see congratulatory messages at entrance to Churches and the same at the temples of Buddhist on our big feast days. Each one showing respect for the other.

However, getting together with other religious groups to sponsor a bazaar is going another step and this has been going on for 10 years. There are three communities getting together and it seems this may be spreading to other areas of the city and the country.

The group has helped 159 children to deal with their diseases and given hope to some for a cure. Over the years they raised close to half a million dollars. The hope is that this will continue to spread and break down some of the walls between different groups in Korean Society.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Korean Anglican Reply to Rome's Initiative


Checking some of the blogs here in Korea to see the response to the recent proposal from Rome was an interesting experience. An Anglican Priest in Seoul had a very fair an honest appraisal of what it will mean to the Anglicans in Korea. I have sumarized some of the points he makes in the paragraphs below.

He feels that a great deal of the problem is that the Church of England has been stalling in their response to woman priests and bishops, which brought this whole thing to a head. Anglicanism in Hong Kong has had women priests from 1944 and the Church has still not made an official decision.

It is true that many Anglican clergymen move over to Catholicism but there are many more Catholic Priests going over to Anglicanism because of celibacy and the whole idea of woman priests which they favor; many Catholic woman have entered Anglicanism precisely because of Catholicism's stand on woman priests.

This proposal from Rome has been in the works for a long time. TAC (Traditional Anglican Communion) have been asking Rome for many years to be accepted. The head of the TAC who was a Catholic Priest became Anglican and is now leaving for Rome: Archbishop John Hepworth, the twice-married and divorced Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, what will be his future ?

The Anglican Priest makes very clear that this is not something new in Catholicism but there is a history of this way of dealing with other religious groups. This happened with the Eastern Churches that wanted to enter Roman Catholicism. There are groups who follow the Anglican Rite and have accepted Catholic teaching,who are following the Anglican Use Rite in their parishes.

The Anglican Church in England is the Established Church; the only one in the whole world that has that relationship with the country it is in. The Church in England has tried to be the Church of all the citizens and this has been one of the problems: lack of any identity.

This Roman initiative is in a way good coming out of evil. Those who have been dissenting about woman priests, bishops and homosexual marriages will now have the chance to leave and that should enable the Anglican Community throughout the world to go on with its way.

"We should not try to hold on to those that are leaving . It is sad to see them go. We have been scarred but they are doing what they think they should and we can go on doing what we think we should. We are thankful that they have found a home in the bosom of Catholicism."

He finishes the blog with a statement in which he says Anglicanism is clearly a gift of God. Anglicanism has accepted women priests and acknowledges homosexual marriages. The Anglican Church should continue doing things in the Anglican way, have respect and patience for other ways of seeing things; this is the message given to other religious groups with their traditional ways of looking at things This is the Anglican way.

He finishes saying this is his own private opinion and is open to any corrections. I thought it was a very fair appraisal, looked at from an Anglican perspective. It is hard for me to understand the reasoning behind all of this and that is precisely why I am a Catholic and he remains an Anglican.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Cross is the Center of Our Faith



The Cross has been a very important symbol to Catholics from the earliest centuries. It is a sign of God's love and the paradox of life: the instrument used in capital punishment for the worst criminals in Roman society, sign of humiliation and ignominy becomes for us a sign of love and glory.

We sign ourselves with the sign of the cross before prayer, it makes known to us that we belong to Jesus, it reminds us of our baptism where we are signed many times with the cross. There are some differences in the understanding of the cross according to the cultures but for the most part, a profession of faith and a prayer for blessing.

Tertulian who died in A.D.220, is quoted saying: " In all our actions, when we wash, at our meals, before sleep, we make on our forehead the Sign of the Cross.These practices are not commended to us by a formal law of Scripture, but tradition teaches them, custom confirms them, and faith observes them. "

In the Eastern Church they cross themselves from right to left, the way the Western Church did until the 14 th century when we in the West went from left to right. A very small matter but considered important at the time of the Schism.

One of the Korean Priests from Taegu, collects crosses from all over the world as a hobby and has a collection of over 340. The Catholic Times has a brief article on the exhibition he recently had in his parish, a display of about 200 hundred of the crosses that he has collected over his priestly life. They come from all parts of the world. He says: " in his priestly life the Cross is everything, a profession of faith, and his future. I feel that God has not given this interest that I have as some thing private but wants it to be used, so that many will relish the meaning of the cross."

The priest feels that the Eastern Church with its iconography has developed a deeper spiritually surrounding the Cross. The Protestant Churches as a rule do not have the figure of Jesus on the Cross but some words of Scripture which give another quite different meaning to the Cross.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Foreign Brides for our Korean Men.


My pastor mentioned the difficulty he has with a Vietnamese bride of one of his Catholics. She can't speak Korean and he has to prepare the necessary paper work for the marriage. This is not an uncommon occurrence in Korea these days. One of the newsletters mentioned a priest who went visiting one of his parishioners who is Vietnamese with a Vietnamese Religious. They seemed like a happily married couple, poor, the daughter in law faithfully studying her Korean. He left with a prayer that this happiness he saw would continue.

There are over 127,000 foreign wives in Korea.They come from ethnic Koreans in China (48,888), China (30,845), Vietnam (20,942), Philippines (7,601), Japan (5,949), Taiwan (2,043), Russia (877), the other countries (6,806). Taken from Ministry of Public Administration and Security for 2008.

Some of these are happy but many of them are limping along. There is often age difference, language, culture, the mother-in-law problem, poverty, the desire for the homeland. A priest who has the responsibility for social issues in his diocese was very upset by the part the brokers have in recruiting brides for the farmers. He maintains international marriage brokers are responsible for much of the unhappiness experienced by migrant wives. A considerable number of Korean men pay large sums of money to brokers: their foreign wives are considered possessions they have bought and demand obedience from them. Many of these brokers consider themselves saviors of the farm youth and the foreign girls who want a better life. The girls are sacrificing themselves for the family to get a dowry but most of the time it is a pittance. The brokers are in it for the money and many times our Christians are in this trade. There is not sufficient time to get acquainted; they want the money and rush matters which is not good for the union. The farmer has a debt to pay back and the young woman does not know what she is getting into. This does not foretell a happy life.

The priest's dream is that the farmers get a good price for their products, the Korean young girls stay on the farm to marry and the brokers find other work. Males outnumber the females in Korea: in 1998 for each 100 females at birth there was 110.2 males. This ratio has been reduced but the men will be dealing with these figures for some time to come. The government knows the problems that this is having on the country and family life and doesn't know what to do. They have taken some steps to regulate the brokers, and to educate the brides and even programs for the husbands but it will take a great deal more. The government has tried hard to help the farmers but it seems like a losing battle. The Korean farmers do not have the land under cultivation to be competitive and when free trade comes it will be an impossible situation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Anyone Not Against Us Is With Us

A meditation by a priest in a recent newsletter on the words of Jesus in Mark 9:40 : "Anyone who is not against us is with us."

We live , are brought up and die in a society that considers our affiliations very important. The writer loves to travel with his backpack and visit the different villages. When he meets some one at the entrance of a village he spends some time in small talk and goes on his way. In conversation an older person will often ask for his surname. When he responds and the person who asks has the same name, often there is rapport that wasn't there before; when the name is not the same there is a distancing in the relationship that he can almost feel. (The most common Korean surnames are Kim, Lee and Park and these are the names of almost half of the ethic Koreans in South Korea. )

Why should that be? he asks. The same name, hometown, school, same military bind us together. If we do not have these common elements there is a wall that can intervene and separate us. They can also separate priests from one another. When we begin to separate into factions we are far from wise: if he belongs to my team I am interested if not, I am not.

When this becomes a way of life it doesn't matter what a person does but to what group he belongs. It doesn't just stop here but those who are on the side lines are made to join. Are you with me or against me? And even worse forced to either be on the team or get lost.

This is an ailment of our society. There is no effort to embrace the other: are you with the flow or against it? There is a polarization that makes the wall even higher and makes us less wise .

It is necessary to have a vision. With a vision we want to embrace, work for unity, move peoples' hearts, work for solidarity: we begin to walk in the same direction.

We as Catholics know well that Jesus wanted us to be one. It was his last words. We are Catholic, a very beautiful word, beginning with a small letter: magnanimous open, universal, broad, comprehensive, global. With the capital letter it should mean all of these and more. If we consider this our vision as Catholics then it will overflow into our relations to others who are not Catholic: a community that is open, understanding and loving even when we do not agree. This is possible.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Overcoming the Disabality of Deafness

In the latest Pastoral Newsletter Kim Ki Chang (Peter) was mentioned as a good example of one who was a mentor to many disabled people. At the age of seven, the result of Typhoid Fever he became deaf. He attended school but his deafness prevented him for learning, so he spent the time drawing in his notebook. The mother seeing the notebook introduced him to a famous artist for instruction. The mother a very devout Christian was a teacher in a girls' school. She instilled in her son the courage he would need to surmount his disability.

One day coming home from school, in a dejected mood, the mother took his hand and wrote on it: "even though you can't hear don't lose your passion for life." Not long after his mother died from a heart attack. It was a big blow to Peter and he lived through a very difficult teenage period. He often reflected on what his mother wrote on his hand. In his reminisces of his younger years this is the way he expressed it. "I was made fun of by the village children and the object of their stone throwing. I made a decision to become a Judo 3-dan , started working out and began to practice not to cry."


He became a famous artist,the painting in Korean style at the beginning of this blog is a good example of his religious art. He received many awards, taught many disciples, helped many in society who were disabled like himself. He died in 2001 and at the Mass in Myong Dong Cathedral Cardinal Kim in the sermon mentioned the many difficulties he had to surmount and the help he gave to others in similar straits .


We have the recent history of the first deaf Korean who became a Catholic priest,the first in Asia, despite insurmountable odds against him-
check this article. There are many in our society who have shown great strength of character, overcoming serious disabilities. The example of the first Korean deaf priest shows very vividly the trials that one has to face doing something for the first time. Those who follow will have an easier time thanks to the trailblazers.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Korean Catholics in Mission Overseas


The Catholic Church in Korea is young and ready to begin in earnest going out to others. Many young people in the future will give themselves to the mission effort of the Church. We mentioned in yesterday's blog the words of the archbishop of the Orthodox Church in the way he looked at evangelization. He mentioned a number of times that you can't force the faith on anyone. The Orthodox Church does not have the history that we have in this area. That is probably one of the reasons they are so adamant in not wanting the Catholic Church to proselytise in Russia. We say that we are not but that is not the way it appears to the Orthodox. We did follow the guns and swords of the conquistadors in South America and the results are there for anyone to see.

In Korea the faith came without that baggage but with the blood of the martyrs. It suffered which
made it a strong Church. The future of the Church in Asia will depend a great deal on the Korean Church.

The Catholic Korean Mission Society was established in 1975 and now has 56 priests and 34 seminarians. Two Maryknollers are helping them in their formation program. They have missioners in Cambodia, China, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Taiwan , Russia, and Mozambique.

Besides the men who are sent out by the Mission Society we have many other men and woman sent by the diocese , religious groups and societies of apostolic life. The Colomban Fathers have a lay missionary program working in the formation and sending of lay missioners overseas.

In this present issue of the Catholic Peace paper there is a brief sketch of Fr. Han Yeong-wan (John) who as a seminarian in 1985 for a diocese here in Korea offered his services to the diocese of Guayaquil, Ecuador. He was accepted and the following year left for Ecuador. He was ordained in 1988 worked for 5 years in a jungle area, two years on the Amazon River working among 5 native tribes and in 1995 became the first pastor of the Sacred Heart parish in which he worked for 15 years. It is about half the size of Chejudo Island with 40,000 Catholics and 60 mission stations. He returned to Korea this May for a heart operation and to recuperate and will return next year to Ecuador.


The work is very hard and despite 500 years of Christianity they are far from the status of Korea with a much shorter history. They all have their children baptized within a year but it is to ward off the punishment of God. It is like a charm against evil that the Koreans are familiar with. "Let alone knowing about prayer and sacramental life, not a small number even know how to make the sign of the cross," he says. They need the help of missionaries to educate them to what they have received. There are 120 Korean priests, religious and lay people working in Central and South America at present.

This sending of Korean Missioners is just beginning. The Protestants have many times the number of the Catholics but there is a noticeable difference in the approach of the Catholics and their efforts to follow our Lord's mandate to evangelize. A foreign missioner seeing this ferment in the Korean Church adds great joy to his last chapter of life.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Eastern and Western Ways of Evangelization in Korea


Today is Mission Sunday in Korea and a time to reflect on the last words of Jesus to the Church. We will be hearing many different talks during the Masses on Sunday but let us look at the mind of the Eastern Orthodox Archbishop in Korea. His words were the head piece of the Catholic Times this week.

The Orthodox Church with its Russian presence is the closest to Korea but it was the Western Catholic Church that came to Korea. The Easter Orthodox have never been strong in the kind of evangelization that the Western Catholic Church is known for and listening to the words of the archbishop one easily sees why. They were in walking distance to China but it was the Western Church's books on Catholicism that the Koreans brought back.

The archbishop in his words to the interviewer defined evangelization as a life of humility, a life of witness and of light. In asking the missioner and cleric what is the meaning of evangelization he answered, "Giving a good example, we can't force faith on anyone. Jesus said to his disciples follow me only if you want,that is all."

The Orthodox have been in Korea for over a hundred years and have 14 parishes with 3,000 Christians. Their way of looking at evangelization is certainly not the same as the our Western approach. However there is some very attractive elements in this passive attitude. One of the sermons for this Sunday a priest mentioned the martyr Hwang Il Kwang's words: "I was born in the lowest segment of society and up to now have never received the respect given a human being. In becoming a Catholic it was not any teaching or human wisdom but the Catholics' way of life that taught me the truth of Catholicism. For me there are two heavens. One of these I have yet to reach... the other is this present life. The yangbans (higher class of society) treated me, who was considered no better than an animal, as a brother, a member of their family, when we recited the rosary to God our Father and the Blessed Mother, we did it together and we suffered together. If I die now I have no regrets"

There probably should be a lot more of the eastern approach to Evangelization in our western methods. Jesus certainly wanted us to speak and to go out to others when the occasion warrants but it would be affecting change in a deeper way if evangelization began with ourselves and was the motivating focus of our communities.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Korea Against Sexual Abuse of Minors


The Catholic Press is mostly concerned with internal Catholic matters be they local or worldwide. They leave for the most part the concerns of our larger society to its press. In recent weeks in cyperspace a great uproar, crying out to heaven for redress: sexual crimes against our young people. The Catholic Times has an article with the heading: "Our embarrassing self portrait 'our insensitivity to sexual violence against minors'."

Last December there was a horrible incident in which a 57 year old drunk, recidivist, raped an 8 year old girl in such a way that the girl will be an invalid for life. When the Court sentenced him to 12 years in prison and the electronic anklet for 7 years and this became public, the uproar was great.

This incident circulating in cyberspace and the petitions, have been making the rounds asking for a harsher punishment. In one day on one of the portals, there were more than 200,000 who signed.

The United States has been enlightened to the price these young people and their families have to pay when these crimes are committed. It is not a one act and all is over incident, in the lives of these victims. The Catholic Church unwittingly and unwillingly was center stage in the unfolding of this part of our recent State-side history. Hopefully the clerical abuse was so upsetting that it gave all a new awareness of what sexual abuse entails.

Korean Society is beginning to realize this is an area that has not been allowed to see the light of day. Most of the society does not know what is involved in these crimes or how frequent they are committed. The number of such crimes against children has also increased over the years. Men seem to be more callous. The articles mentioned that many men do not commit sexual crimes against minors but when they buy sex are committing a sexual crime. This is tolerated in Korean Society although illegal.

The gist of the article is that there has to be a change of thinking before any thing will happen. The clamor that we have been hearing will subside and every thing go back to normal unless an effort is made for change. One has to know what is involved in sex crimes and change our thinking on what is to be done. There is no safe area or safe person when it comes to these crimes. The Koreans are a very understanding people when it comes to sexual offenses and this is often a plus but not in this area of minors.

This is an area that has to be probed . Children are taught to be obedient to their elders, part of the culture, but as the article stated when persons start to touch the bodies of the children they should be taught to say stop I don't want you to touch me. This will take time and a long period of reeducation and change.

At present many of the crimes are settled with the mutual consent of the parties with parole, or fine, only about 27% go to jail. This will undoubtedly change but the area of sex in our society has to be examined beginning in the home, church and society and grasp what is happening in this important area of life.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Humble Will be Exalted


The words of Matt. 23: 12-13-"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, but whoever humbles himself shall be exalted," we hear often and many are the ways we explain it. Here is a Korean's understanding of what is meant and not meant.

1) A life of unconditional declining.

2) No matter where one goes to take the last place.

3) Always refuse to be praised.

4) To walk with heads down, backs bent and eyes to the ground.

5) None of the above.

The author of the above says it is surprising how many would subscribe to the 4 above.
He goes on to explain that we have to see another dimension to what is being said. To use spiritual language it is not to inflate ourselves. It is not to lie or see ourselves as more than we are.

How does one know he is inflating himself ? He then lists some of the characteristics one would be showing . He uses the persons opposed to Jesus in the Gospel as the foil to explain what is meant.

One who has an authoritarian attitude. and does not allow for disagreement.


Those who are fastidious about their dress.


Those who try to raise themselves at the expense of others. Those who see the world ending any day now with God ready to punish. They are passing themselves off as the the just ones, the exalted.


This is a different way of looking at the words of Jesus but with good reasons for their understanding.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lectio Divina by the Bishop of Incheon


A few days ago I received in the mail the third book of meditations written by our bishop Choi Ki-San of Incheon. The meditations are of Old Testament readings that the bishop selects and after reflection writes his thoughts down for publication. The first book was, "Words that call out for Happiness", the second, "Words that call out for Victory" and the last one, "Words that call out for Hope". I have translated these in my way, hopefully, they will not be far from the intention of the bishop.


The diocese of Incheon has about 420 thousand Catholics and 111 parishes. It is a big diocese with much to do but the bishop has taken quality time to immerse himself in Lectio Divina which has benefited not only himself but others.


Pope Benedict XVI stated: "I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church - I am convinced of it - a new spiritual springtime."

The five steps of Lectio Divina.

Lectio: reading the scriptural passage many times.


Meditatio: reflection on the words of the passage or part of the passage, thinking and letting the Spirit move us to grasp what is contained in the Scripture.

Oratio: Opening our hearts to God with a prayer a dialogue with God on what we have read.


Contemplatio
: A loving focus on God. A long loving look at what has transpired. A wordless contemplation of God and rest in His presence.


Operatio: Have this change the way we live-metanoia. We are in someway changed by what has transpired.


The bishop has been involved in Lectio Divina for many years; despite the busy life he makes time for this prayer, a good example to those of us in the diocese.




Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Korea needs Fathers and Mothers


In continuation from yesterday's blog, Korea has been fighting the low birth rate and has taken steps to bring about a change. Yesterday's Chosun Ilbo had an article with the headline: monthly birth of new born babies on average dropped 1800-from last year. The number of marriages also dropped 7% from last last year. This means this year, Korea could see a birth rate of about 1.1, France (2) Sweden (1.37). The average of the economically developed countries would be 1.73. Korea's rate is the lowest in the world.

The government is seeing things getting worse. The economic conditions of society play a part, fewer marriages of the young, the difficulty of getting a job will affect the number of marriages.
A sharp increase in the percentage of unmarried women in Korea is a factor behind the country's low birth rate. The article mentioned the spread of the "swine flu" is also responsible for a decrease.

Following Korean Astrology those born next year will be under the zodiac sign of the tiger and this is a concern for some government officials. The sign of the horse and tiger in Korean astrology are not good signs for girls: Korean folklore is still influencing the society even despite the role of Christianity.

The government has taken steps but have not proven helpful.
"Our efforts will focus on raising social awareness of falling birthrate and encouraging couples to have babies,'' said a spokesperson from the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs. "We will launch drives to prevent abortions, protect maternity in workplaces and encourage marriages.''

The article ends with the note that the birth rate could fall to the lowest in Korean history, with a rate of 1.o in 2011. There is sadness that our Christian families are not influenced more by their faith than things we would consider extraneous to a truly Catholic view of life.


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reducing the Number of Abortions in Korea


In the Chosun Ilbo,yesterday, there was a good and frank article on abortion in Korea. The tone of the article very sympathetic, came shortly after the New York Times featured photos of aborted babies on front page with a fair story of the pro life movement in the U.S. This was a surprise to many. The Korean article mentions that about 680 gynecologists from the 4000, have bonded together to do something about the number of abortions in Korea.

In Korea abortion is illegal. The Mother and Child Health Care Law gives a number of exceptions permitting abortion: if the spouses suffer from a hereditary physical or mental disease, cases where the mother's health is at risk, the baby to be born has severe birth defects or the pregnancy was caused by a sexual crime. This makes it rather easy to have an abortion fit the law.


The group of about 680 young gynaecologist have set a goal to lower the number of abortions in Korea by eliminating illegal abortions. This is a very noble and courageous move on the part of these doctors knowing the difficulty they will have from other doctors and the pro choice movement in Korea. This is the first time that anything of this type has been done in Korea.


This is an area of silence in Korea. Everybody knows that it is being done but little concern. The culture knows it is wrong but "times have changed". It is an uncomfortable subject to talk about. Nobody wants to see what is going on. The article mentioned that in a recent year, for the 450,000 births there were 350,000 abortions. It is with this background that the young doctors have begun the fight against illegal abortions. One can easily see how this is going to cause a problem with the many other doctors who consider this one of their lucrative specialties. The doctors' campaign is to clean up the area of OB/GYN. Those who continue to perform illegal abortions they will denounce in the court of law.


You have those in society who want to change the law to allow abortions, you have those who feel that it is women's right to do what they want with their bodies and you have the unconcern of the public which the doctors will have to contend with. More power to them and thanks to the Chosun Ilbo for the very happy piece of news.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Catholic Church Use of Temporary Workers

The growth in the number of temporary workers in Korea is a serious social issue. It is presumed that about 1/3 of the work force is temporary. The bishops of Korea have in their recent Justice and Peace Committee decided to deal with the problem since the Church has many who are temporary workers.



The temporary workers are not protected by law and are contracted for a period of time at the end of which they can be fired if they do not become regular workers. The Korean law mandated that after two years the temporary worker should be considered a regular worker; this was drawn up to help the temporary worker but has rather caused many to be fired.




Research has shown that temporary workers are paid less than regular workers, face poor working conditions and are denied various social insurance benefits. It was also found that most temporary jobs called for female workers and the number of female temporary workers was increasing sharply.




The bishops have acknowledged that the Church itself has hired many temporary workers and has benefited from the low wages and easy control and not following the Church's teaching on these issues. The bishops' committee have made it clear that if what the Church says in this area the Church itself is not an example, then we are speaking empty words and we will not be listened to.




Since the Church is faced with the same problems that the larger society has,the Church will have to marshal the cooperate wisdom of those involved and become an example of what can be done. This will be happy news to those who are poor and to the larger community.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Plight of the Handicapped in Society


The Journalist Notebook of the Korean Times has an incident of a deaf and dumb grandfather leaving the Seoul Catholic Mission for the Deaf and Dumb after drinking with a friend. He tried to take a taxi but could not make himself understood , went to the nearest police station for help. The police officer in charge thought he was a drunk homeless person and since he couldn't understood what he was saying acted violently towards him. The grandfather is now in an unconscious state.

This is hard to believe, he goes on to say of the action of one who is to protect and serve the citizens. Even the family was deceived by the police station's efforts to hide what happened.

Because of the families continual entreaties and demands, the truth gradually came out. They had the CCTV tape which they finally made known which showed the deaf man giving the police officer his memo and being pushed. The police have made know that they will review the case.

There is a fear the journalist says that many will say 'those things do happen" and just ignore the lack of sensitivity to the plight of our handicapped people . It can be written off as just a case of a police officer having to deal with a drunk and losing his cool.

The conclusion is that our society according to the journalist, still has some way to go in our treatment of the handicapped. The way we treat the handicapped is a sign of the maturity of our culture; it is the responsibility of all to be concerned for the alienated.

Korea has come a long way in the treatment of the handicapped. The continual efforts of the mass media and members of society in exposing some of the affronts to those with disabilities will help us all to be more sensitive to their difficulties in being accepted as brothers and sisters.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

An Award For Protesting Trappist Nuns


Trappist Nuns are a cloistered community living a life of pray and work according to Benedictine Rule. It is not easy to imagine them doing anything that would merit an award given unanimously by the subcommittee on Environment of the Bishops' Justice and Peace Committee, but that is just what happened.



On Oct, 7
th the head of the Committee, Bishop of Incheon, presented them with the award. The committee in giving the award said that the sisters in opposition to environmental destruction were following the lead of the Church and the teaching of their religious community. They were not only able to read the signs of the times but gave a prophetic voice to the concerns of the Church and were an example to the citizens and the Catholics.



The city originally planned to build apartments for the residents who live around the reclaimed site in the
Sujeong-ri section of Masan, a city in the south bottom tip of the peninsula. The City changed the plans being strapped by finances to allow a ship building company to build a shipyard on the land.



The superior of the
Cistercian Order of the Strict of Observance had to receive permission from the Trappist Central Administration to be part of the opposition and depart from their rule of cloister for the time necessary to be in solidarity with the villagers. It is very possible that without the help of the sisters the city and the shipyard company would have had an easy time of getting their way.



In receiving the award the superior of the sisters said in the two years of opposition to the city of
Masan and the ship building company she saw greed and tyranny of the administration, and the shamelessness of the shipbuilding company: it's always the poor and the weak that have to suffer. She mentioned win or lose they will continue to fight with the villagers to the end.



On another occasion she said, "Our
charism is prayer, of course, but living the spirit of the Gospel, which is love for neighbor, is our priority." She explained her nuns are concerned about the plight of the local community and the area's natural environment.



This must be the first time a cloistered community has even received an award from a Justice and Peace Committee for efforts in ecological environmental involvement.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Korean Priest's Reflection On A Bus


A priest in our diocese writing for the Pastoral Newsletter recounted his experience riding on a city bus some years ago. It was late morning, the bus had plenty of empty seats, at the next bus stop a woman with two bundles got on . She put one of the bundles on the bus and went outside again for the second one. The bus driver with an irritated tone "is this a freight car!" he yelled.

The woman very sorry for the delay tried to get everything in order, pay her fare and get to a seat. Since she had two bundles unless someone helped her it was going to be a problem. A woman advanced in years sitting behind the priest quickly came up front to help with one of the bundles.

Since the the priest was the closest to the front of the bus he said that the thought never entered his mind to help. His only thought was one critical of the woman for carrying more bundles than she could handle. It was only after some thought that he realized the woman was poor, not able to travel by taxi, and forced by circumstances to travel with her bundles.

It is true that a man of advanced years in Korea is not expected to help a woman in such need; although it is not considered a fault he had misgivings. He considered that the main reason was his living as a priest and being the object of other peoples services that kept him at his seat.

He says Mass everyday, prays, reads the Scriptures and this in order to love more. He gives many talks on love and realized that when it came to acting in a loving way he was not ready.

The woman behind him did not read as many books on love or give talks on what it means to love but acted in a loving way when the occasion was presented. Her life was one of receiving and giving and when the occasion came she knew what to do.

We can fool ourselves he thought into thinking that because we have read many good books and have a theoretical knowledge of what is required that we are just wonderful. No matter how much theory we have in our heads that is not going to help us acting in a loving way.

Having high ideals is good and many are the people who act on these ideals. But if we do not live with others; do not make the effort to act on what we believe then just reading good books and praying will do little, he concluded, to enable us to be concerned for others.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Catholic Korean Pastoral English Magazine


The author of Blessing of the Rainbow ( can be ordered in English) and founder and head of the Future Pastoral Institute, Fr. Dong Yeop Cha, will have an English edition of the Korean magazine Catholic Pastoral Information.The September issue will be the trial issue with the first inaugural issue in October. It will try to facilitate the exchange of ideas on ministry with those with experience in different parts of the world.

The first publication of 500 copies will be for Europe and the United States, 40 countries and 240 dioceses and the concerned Vatican departments. It will also be sent to all the foreign missioners in Korea. The articles are taken from the existing Korean Issue and will be in digest form in the English edition, It will be an exchange of ideas, cross fertilization of experiences in pastoral work.

Fr. Cha feels that since the Korean Church is acknowledged as being in the forefront of evangelizing in Asia, Korea should take a lead in making known our experience and results to others.

Bishop Choi, the Bishop of Inchon, proposed the idea for such a magazine and hopes that it will be the means of not only helping the development of the Korean Church but help others by sharing the strong points of the Korean Church.

The Catholic Korean Church has been on the receiving end for many years with information, theological studies, research results and has learned a great deal. It is now time for us to share with others in ministry what we have learned and help others.

The Future Pastoral Institute has as its founding principles: be led by the Spirit, new approaches to information, and living in hope.

The vision:

1) Not to work alone but with others- Lay Apostolate.
2) From a waiting Church to one in search- from come to us - to going out to others.
3) From a belief of duty to one of grace- animated with life.

Five Works:

1) Study for a model of Church that is life giving.
2) Educating and giving talks on the integral life of faith.
3) Study and research for new leadership.
4) Research new methods of evangelizing.
5) Make pastoral aids for those in the work.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Proposals for Seminary Education

The Korean Church has 7 major seminaries. The number of seminarians in these seven seminaries is 1,413 as of 2008. Just this year the Seoul seminary decided to extend its priestly formation by six months to facilitate work for the graduate program.



The Suwon Diocese Seminary had a recent academic symposium in commemoration of its 25th year with an examination of the past, present and plans for the future. Both Catholic Papers had articles on the symposium. Those present on the panel were very candid in what they had to say: not much change from pre-Vatican II ways of thinking. One panelist mentioned there has to be subjects that will enable the students to be messengers of the Gospel to the society in which they live.




The making of the man was also stressed as being very important. One of the panelist mentioned there has been complaints of pride , authoritarianism and other character faults that come from a lack of interest in character formation of our students. Shouldn't the very public thinking of what are considered faults of the clergy be taken into account in the education of our seminarians?




The faculty unlike those in outside colleges do not see the results of their training for they are often changed to other assignments in the diocese. The faculty should be full time, devoted to study, and the recruitment should transcend the diocese , the provinceses and even the country. We should get the best available.




Another panelist mentioned that the changes in knowledge, and teaching has been extraordinary over the last 30 years but he thought the seminary has not kept pace. An effort should be made to form a committee working on the improvement of the curriculum. He stressed that if the education is to been successful, the faculty , the students and the the teaching process has to be first-rate. It is important to have stability in the recruitment of the professors, improve the research meetings and work to get better students. He also mentioned that the number of subjects should be reduced to make room for other areas of study.




Time has to be spend in character building and getting spirits of the Seminarians to shine. Another one thought it was not right to just think that seminarians are waiting to be formed, they also have the obligation to work to form themselves.




The president of the Seminary thanked all present and mentioned the seminary can not be oblivious to the demands of the times and the symposium will do a great deal to prepare the ground for reforming the seminary education program.




The Church in Korea is open to new ideas and better ways of doing things. They are extremely well organized and once they see a need results do follow.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Communion and Communication


Korea has seven Catholic seminaries, and although this helped to open the way for more vocations it has also divided the clergy into different groups. When they had only the Seoul seminary they all new each other and when the Kwangju seminary was built it was the first division but now we have seven and for some, in a very homogeneous and well organized society, hard to accept.

For the religious this is a bigger problem for they have experienced community and are not easily able to fraternize with their fellow Korean religious-divided as they are in formation, among the different seminaries.

One of the religious in an article thought that (communio and communicatio) communion and communication are two very important elements in the life of priests. He would recommend a proposal that has been around for some time that after the course of studies for the priesthood is finished, all end up at one place for the final year for communion and communication. He feels that this is necessary for renewal, they have a need to build community and through communication to work towards renewal, an ongoing sign of the health of the Church.

Although this has many approving of the idea he acknowledges that it does not seem feasible. There are just too many obstacles to overcome to have it see the light of day.

The whole idea of communion and communication does present one with a good blueprint for life in the Church. A problem that we have is a failure to communicate and possibly the first step is communion. Unless we know one another and make an effort to understand and talk to one another from the heart, divisions that we have will continue.

Cardinal Avery Dulles had one of the models of Church as a Community. The six that he proposed need not be independent of each other but help to make for an integral vision of Church. The problems we have in parishes, dioceses and communities is the absence of a desire to talk to one another at a deeper level. The communio is missing and the lack of communication naturally follows.

Here in Korea where we still have a very uniform society it is still noteworthy to see some in the Church desiring an almost impossible dream. It is is a beautiful dream but the obstacles are just too many to overcome - having more communion , however, is not something that we should ignore because of the difficulty.

Seeing in a Different Way


Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc (after this therefore because of this) thinking is very common and one of the fallacies which we are prone to commit. The Post Hoc Fallacy is committed whenever one reasons to a causal connection between two events merely because they follow one another in the order of time.

A columnist in the Catholic Weekly had some thoughts on this fallacy for our enlightenment. He is not using our Latin words but Korean equivalents and asking us not to confuse before and after with cause and effect. Just because something precedes doesn't mean it is the cause. Because I lit a candle in the house and the house burnt down doesn't mean the lighting of the candle was the cause. When I have sinned the punishment that may follow was not necessarily caused by my sin. It could be the instrument for my glory.

Often when help is given to others in difficult straits many think they will get grace or be blessed. This is not correct. The very fact that you have helped others means that you were helped by grace.

When some of the Catholics in the parish have returned from some work or service to the poor many expect some kind words from the pastor and if they don't receive it they are dejected. Even when we do a good work we want that recognized , encouraged by words of compensation.

It is thought that for the parish to be revitalized it is necessary to have a great pastor. Take the example of a class in school, learning is more dependent on the quality of the students than the teacher. That would be true also in a parish.

When we criticize others it is more a reflection on us than on the person who is criticized. Little is really ever accomplished. Let us try to see things differently. We have to get away from our ego centrism and empty ourselves for that is what our life of faith is all about.

Let us see things differently. Get rid of selfishness and stubbornness. Ask for the Spirit and move ahead. No pretence in our laughter, no severity in our service, no meanness in our kindness, not desiring compensation in our concern for the other, no ostentation in our justice, no showing off in our giving , no self admiration in working for justice. This is only possible with the help of grace and maturity of mind, the starting point is humility.

If we have been looking ahead in haste let us now stop for awhile, look both on the right and left and see if we can see something different. Our lives will be happier.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Evangelization Jesus' Way

In continuation of yesterday's blog there is a great deal to be said about evangelization:what to do and what not to do. We are not good carriers of the message that Jesus gave us. Catholics are not united as we should be, although in Korea we do have a certain type of unity; there are serious divisions among Protestants, and in recent times, not obvious in the past, fundemental issues separating Christians in the different Churches. The unity a very important part of Jesus' message is not considered important enough to make it central to our thinking.


This lack of unity is no help in the work of evangelizing that Jesus gave us to do. One has little difficulty seeing how mystified are those without religion looking upon us with religion. In Korea as in other parts of the world the numbers of those without religion is becoming one of the largest segments of society very likely most of the blame belongs to us.


In the presentation that was made at the symposium on Evagelization the conclusion was to do a better job in presenting our message. One of the suggestions was to use the three Cs approach to evangelization which is taken from the business world: Content, Community and Commerce. The case was made that in our world it is no longer duty that speaks but grace, gift. One has to experience the gift of grace or else we get nowhere. We have to use the operating methods of the market. The competition to bring people to Jesus is great, there are just too many out there doing what we do and those who do a better job in the marketing will get more followers, we are dealing with consumers.


The conclusion was to have a diverse spiritual product that fits the culture. We have to draw plans that fit the mental world of our people and build the future community.


This reminds me of Maryknoll's own attempt many years ago to use some of the know how from the business world to do a better job as missioners. I have forgotten the order but some of the words we were using were: aim, plans , targets and goals. We can learn a great deal from business and other areas of life but grace will always be what it is all about.


Catholics have to be the example of what it means to be persons of grace. The life of grace has to be seen: persons of joy, peace love... the gifts of the Spirit. The future will have the product speak for itself. It will not be words or our selling but the attraction of what we are. What we need is saints who can show us the way of grace. That will be attraction enough. It was Jesus' way.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Religion and Politics in Present Day Korea

An academic meeting on 'the relationship of the state and religion in the present society' was reported on by the Catholic Peace Weekly. Professor Kang of Hanshin University maintained in his delivery that the influence of any religion decreases in proportion to the growth of its political influence.


The professor mentioned that many who are of the conservative bent in religion feel that it will be profitable for them to get involved in politics but in doing so lose the confidence of the people and the good feelings toward the religion decreases.

He showed how this has worked out for the Protestants from the 1940s on. There was a decrease in the number of Protestants from 1940-1945. At this time many of the upper classes of Protestant society favored the Japanese: there was a drop in the number of Protestants.

In 1955-62 when Syngman Rhee was in control many of the Protestants who had studied overseas were given places in the government and again a decrease in the number of Protestants. In the United States Provisional Government of the 50 Koreans who were given high positions 35 were Protestants.

Again from 1995-2005 there was another drop in the numbers. President Kim Yong Sam an elder in the Protestant Church was followed by Kim Tae-chung and the Sunshine Policy and Roh Moo-hyun who continued that policy but most of the conservative Protestants were against the policy and we had another drop in the numbers.


The professor has cited two principles that he feels are necessary for a religion to get involved successfully in politics. One is the trust of society, the society has to acknowledged the virtue of the leaders of the religion. Secondly, mutual understanding between the society and the religion. They have to use words that both understand, and in harmony. The professor feels without this the religion is going to receive a death blow.


The Professor feels that President Lee Myung -bak as an elder of the Somang Church has involved the conservative element of Protestants and given the impression of selfish interest instead of the common good. He has also divided the conservative and progressive elements in Protestantism and brought division between religions and within groups in society.


There was a very serious period when the the Buddhist took to the streets which is not their way, after they felt and rightly so, that they were being discriminated against. There was a very noticeable pro- Christian bias in the selection of his cabinet and filling places in government, along with slights to the Buddhists. He has publicly apologised and has attended a Buddhist event for the first time since in office. It seemed to be a reconciliatory gesture aimed at mending the bridges. Korea has had a fairly good history of toleration and the President, belatedly has acknowledge the results of his actions and taken measures to remedy the situation.

Proposals for Korean Catholic Church


The Catholic Press this week gave good coverage on what transpired at the symposium on Evangelization sponsored by the Korean Bishops' committee on Evangelization. It was an honest appraisal of what is happening and the signs are far from positive. It seemed clear that we are going the way of the West . In the headline for the article in the Catholic Peace Weekly, the grade they gave the Catholic Church was, " external splendor internally empty".

Here are a number of proposals that were offered by the head of the Woori Theology Institute:

1) The program that we have for the military should be strengthened so that those who are baptized know what they are doing and are led to a change in life before baptism.

2) Those in the upper middle class should be an example of Catholic Morality and share their time and material goods with others.

3) Help those who are entering the Church to continue to renew their faith life.

4) The family has to make their faith life part of the family life and stress this with the children.

5) The Church has to emphasize its activity in the larger society.

6) The older Catholics have to be inspired to become interested in participating in the work of the Church

7) Help the woman between the ages of 30 and 40 to get involved by being more concerned with them and changing the way this group was approached.

8) Take note that the polarization does not increase in the Church between those who have and those who don't. The Church should be concerned for those who feel alienated and get involved in society to help them.


The head of the Institute mentioned the parish is not the possession of the priest and this thinking has to be eliminated . The pastoral care of the parish is not to be run according to the likes and dislikes of the pastor but according to the short and long term plans of the community.

These thoughts have been heard and in print for some years but it is getting heard now by an even larger audience. The contents of the symposium was reported in both the Catholic papers this past week. This will no doubt be the concern of the Bishops' Committee for years to come.

There was in the same issue of the Catholic Peace Weekly a press report that the Bishops will be taking a greater interest in those from other cultures who have immigrated to Korea. There will be a meeting of priests from the different dioceses in Masan in the middle of the month, to discuss the pastoral approach to these immigrant groups. This will continue for the future.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Chuseokㅡ Remembering the Dead


Today is the 15th of the 8th month of the Lunar Calendar, the August Moon Festival known by the name Chuseok or Hangawi. It is one of the more popular festivals deserving of three days of rest from work to be with family. Since we have the older generation here in the mission station there isn't the exodus to the country that you would have in the city parishes.


The morning of Chuseok there is the memorial service for the ancestors and if nearby the visit to the grave. The phrase is often used in English of ancestor worship but for a Catholic more correctly would be respect or veneration for the dead . It is a beautiful custom and although arrived at late by the Church , by many torturous paths, the Church has accepted this into the liturgy as the inculturation that is part and parcel of the teaching of Vatican II


Before Vatican II the National Holidays were not celebrated in the liturgy but since the 1960s we have a Chuseok liturgy in all the Churches of Korea. This morning at 10:30 am, during the Mass, the Catholics approached the altar, putting a stick of incense in a cup filled with rice to remember and pray for their ancestors. After the sermon we also had the short office for the dead. All those who have died are remembered in the Mass. To celebrate the day we also had a meal together to exchange our joy in a more material way.


The Church has decided that the Gospel of the day would be Luke 12:15-22. It is about the foolish rich farmer who was perplexed on what to do with the great harvest. One of the points of the parable is to be rich but of things that count and do not end with death. We are blessed in Korea to have a number of these festivals remembering the dead, that have become part of our liturgy. We still have the Feast of All Souls on November 2nd but the Feast of New Year and Chuseok does give Koreans more time to reflect on the most important aspect of life which is death.