Monday, May 3, 2010

The Place of Mary in Korean Catholicism

In Korea, in the eyes of many, the Catholic Church is known as Mary's Church. The Protestant Church would be Jesus' Church. The reason for this is not difficult to understand since we see statues of Mary in front of Catholic Churches and in many Catholic homes. There is a great love for Mary among the Catholics of Korea.

This is the month of Mary, and we will have many events showing our love and respect for Mary during the month. The assistant bishop in Seoul has an article in the Peace Weekly explaining the reasons why Catholics honor our Blessed Mother. He points out that Catholics make distinctions when using the words "worship," "honor" and "veneration." For Catholics this is not a problem but the bishop does admit that there are excesses. The distinctions that Catholics make on this issue are difficult for Protestants to appreciate; they find the differences hard to grasp. The abuse, however, should not diminish the traditional honor that Catholics have given Mary from the time of the Fathers of the Church.

In our teaching, we make it clear that we are asking Mary and the Saints to pray for us. We are not praying to Mary but with Mary to God.

The 5 reasons the bishop gives for honoring Mary:

1) Christians, from the time of the founding of the Church, have loved the Blessed Mother. In theological language this is the Sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful)-- the feelings Catholics have towards our Blessed Mother. We have theological reasons for honoring Mary, both intellectually and from tradition, but the feelings of Christians are also important for it is something that God would want.

2) Mary is the mother of Jesus, the one we love and respect more than anybody, so it is natural for us to honor his mother.

3) She is of all holy places the holiest because her womb was Jesus' home for 9 months, and he lived with her for 30 years.

4) She is the example of what a follower of Jesus should be; no one has carried the cross that Mary had to carry. (This is the reason we consider her the disciple among disciples.)

5) The honor of Mary is taught by the Scriptures.

There are many Protestants who have a great deal of respect for the Blessed Mother but in Korea you do not hear much talk in Protestant circles of the role of Mary in our Lord's life. In the past you would hear the word Gi- Dok-Gyo, meaning Protestant in opposition to Catholic; Chun-Ju-Gyo would be our designation. However, this is no longer the case; Catholics have taken it upon themselves to make it clear that we are all Gi-Dok-Gyos-- Christians who believe in Jesus. This was probably part of the reason many thought that Catholics were not Christian. That thinking has, for the most part, disappeared.

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