Friday, January 22, 2010

"Everything is Good" Even Death

Daily we see death in situations that some have difficulty accepting. Why would a good God allow the destruction and death we have seen in Haiti? A question of the ages, one that continues to be asked at the death of a young person, a person who has so much to live for but dies: a question even if not vocalized on the minds of many.

Fr. John Lee Tae Seok 48 years old, worked in the Sudan of the South as a Salesian missionary, a doctor , a teacher, a musician, a man with many talents doing so much good, loved by many, building hospitals, taking care of hundreds of sick daily, started a school , brass band, and died here in Korea of cancer on Jan. 14, after fighting cancer since 2008. In God's providence all things work together for the good and as a Christian this is the hope that we have when seeing the ups and downs of life, the good and the bad. Fr. Lee even at the end, with his family present, was able to say: "Everything is good," consoling those who were at his bedside.

As a child Fr. Lee read the life of Albert Schweitzer and was moved but more so by the words of Jesus: "Whenever you did this to one of the least of my brothers you did it to me." He went on to medical school and after his medical degree entered the Salesians. While in Rome for studies and ordination to the diaconate he spent a few months in the Sudan for exposure to the works of the Salesians in the Sudan. After ordination he returned to the Sudan to begin his work as a doctor, starting dispensaries and working tirelessly helping the sick and those in need. A man of many talents he was instrumental in building a school, and even starting a brass band in the area in which he worked.

He wrote two books during his years in the Sudan: "The Rays of the Sun in Africa are Still Sad" and "Will You Be My friend?" Fr. Lee mentioned in the two books two questions that he often received: "Why did you choose to become a priest for y0u could have helped many people without being a priest ?" "You have many poor people you can help in Korea why come to Africa?" The answer he gave was that he really didn't know, it was the beautiful fragrance of the life he believes was the reason. Beauty is an attraction all by itself, and a life for others had great beauty for Fr. Lee.

They called him Fr. Jolly in the Sudan because his surname was Lee and his Christian name was John, and for the Sudanese putting these together became Jolly. A name which fits him well, since he always had a smile on his face. His life was short just ten years of priesthood but they were years filled with doing good.

There are many ways of preaching; the least effective is using words. Using visual aides and getting to a person's senses we have more success, but the best way is to get persons involved and to experience what is being said. Fr. Jolly was able to live what he preached and his memory of what he did will be an alarm bell to many of us who have not been able to do anything else but use words.


  1. A great man. There's not even an english wikipedia page for him yet. I hope that changes soon. The world needs to be aware of people of this quality. Very inspirational!

  2. I cry for Jolly
    God alone knows why He took him to be with Him as a sweet smelling Rose in His presence.
    The children and old folks alike, love him.
    We need many more Jollys in Africa and the sun rays will be bright.
    I cry for Jolly.

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