Saturday, July 31, 2010

How Should Catholics Use the Media?

Most of us spend time everyday  viewing the  news or getting information from the many forms of the media: radio, TV, newspapers and the internet. We all have different ways  of getting our news and information. The Kyeong-Hyang Catholic magazine gives us this month  some helpful pointers to look for when going to the media for information.

From his office the writer has a clear view of South  Mountain in Seoul, but there  are two windows, and each has a  slightly different view of the mountain.This he compares to the way information comes to us. Information comes to us packaged  by those who give us the news and information.

Media give us the windows through which we see  world affairs directly or indirectly. The same incidents will be reported differently, and we understand what is happening  according to the way it is  being reported. When one goes to the news at 9:00pm at KBS or MBC you are given the way each one of these look upon what is happening in a different way.

We are influenced either knowingly or unknowingly and this in turn influences the society in which we live. The  choice we make in the way we receive  our information is not only a personal matter, but it also influences the society in which we live. We  should make sure that the media we are using are not influencing us in a  harmful way. We need the help of a  code to help us in making decisions. Ethics in Communication from World Communication Day 2000 is such a code.

 "The first duty of recipients of social communication is to be discerning and selective. They should inform themselves about media-- their structures, mode of operation, contents-- and make responsible choices, according to ethically sound criteria, about what to read or watch or listen to." (#25)

"Everyone deserves the opportunity to grow and flourish in respect to the full range of physical, intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual goods. Individuals have irreducible dignity and importance, and may never be sacrificed to collective interests." (#21)

"Thus, while social communication rightly looks to the needs and interests of particular groups, it should not do so in a way that sets one group against another--for example,in the name of class conflict, exaggerated nationalism, racial supremacy, ethnic cleansing, and the like. The virtue of  solidarity, a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, ought to govern all areas of social life, economic, political, cultural, religious." (#22)

"Another relevant principle, already mentioned, concerns public participation in making decisions about communications  policy. At all levels, this participation should be organized, systematic,, and genuinely representative, not skewed in favor of a particular group. The principle applies even, and perhaps especially, where media are privately owned and operated for profit." (#24)

He concludes that the influence of the media  on our lives is enormous. The use of the media can be for the good or for evil. We have the responsibility of making the right choice.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Korean Martyrs of Japan

In the recent Catholic Times a Korean Sister gives us brief sketches of  15 Koreans that are listed among the  205 Japanese Martyrs. They were familiar with  13 of the Korean martyrs but the list has been extended to 15. They go back to the time when Koreans were forcibly taken  to Japan  during the invasion of Korea in the last part of the 16th century.

These Christians built a Church in 1610 in Nagasaki for the  Korean Catholics, the first Korean Church. This year marks the 100 year of the annexation of Korea by the Japanese and the 400th year of the building of St. Lorenzo Catholic Church; it was torn down  in 1620 when Christianity was banned in Japan. To commemorate the event a Mass will be celebrated on the Feast of St. Lawrence on August 10 by the archbishop of the Nagasaki Diocese.

The Koreans who are in the group of martyrs that were beatified in 1867 by  Pius IX  were beheaded  or  burned at the stake. The first was martyred in 1619 and the last  in 1627.

The first Korean martyr on the list is Cosmas Takuea taken to  Japan as a prisoner of war. He was a devoted servant to the master who brought him back to Japan;  he was given his freedom and his owner also bought him a house. This gave rise to jealousy on the part of the Japanese. He was picked up for sheltering two Dominican Priests and remained with them in prison.  He was burned at the stake showing great strength right up to the time of his death. His wife Agnes and son Francisco were beheaded three years later.

Blessed Caius has been written about rather frequently. He was looking for the truth by going to a temple and living the hermit's life  when he was taken as a prisoner to Japan. He was freed by his master and he  returned to a temple where he was baptized by a Jesuit priest. From that time, he lodged with the Jesuits and wanted to enter the Jesuits but did not receive permission. He did receive permission just before he died:  first Korean Jesuit Religious. Before his death, he was told that if he ceased  spreading Christianity and baptizing he would be freed. He replied that  while he has life he will continue teaching and baptizing. This is the way he went to his death in 1624 by burning at the stake.

The cruelty exhibited in Japan in the persecution would be difficult to match in the history of Christianity. The Church in Japan is still a very small percentage, but it is a strong community. The Koreans are well represented in the martyrology of Japan, and the Koreans even have their first Korean Saint in the 26 martyrs who died by crucifixion  in Nagasaki--  St. Leo Karasumaru. He was baptized by the Jesuits in 1589,  became the first  Korean Franciscan tertiary and chief catechist for the friars. Born in Korea and died in Nagasaki in 1597, he was canonized on June 8 1862 by Pope Pius IX.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Leadership That May Surprise

 A few days ago a woman came for a visit, and before she left presented me with a problem: "What do you do when you find it difficult to work with another?" It was affecting her health and the health of the other members of the group.

The head of the parish co-op was a very capable woman but had difficulty accepting others less capable, in a working partnership. The members elected her for the job because of her talents, but they paid  a high price for that talent. My visitor was asking what was she to do?

A recent article by a priest in the Catholic newspaper tells us about a pastor that considered himself without talent. His sermons did not move hearts, he had no leadership qualities but for some strange reason, he thought, all went along fine. The parish had a lot of vitality, many participated in the many activities. The pastor was of the opinion that the Christians made up for his inability.

The writer tells us the priest listened to the Christians and was always present to them in their works, which gave them confidence and  encouragement to give of their time and efforts for the community and  society. Absence of ability that the priest thought he lacked was cause for the  vitality of the parish. He was a laid-back leader and with no conscious effort the force behind the life of the parish.

Talents are not always the kind that you write about or others take note of,  but when examined closely  talents or gifts come in all sizes and shapes. Most of these gifts are not recognized by the individual, but they are in many cases the reasons for the harmony and the success of many  works.

Members of the society at the next election should elect a virtuous member  without  obvious  talents, and all work together to help her function as leader. If the membership is united in trying to make the co-op grow, they may be surprised at the great change that takes place in the new leader and in the group working together in partnership, and united in their goal. There are many types of leadership and staying in the back and helping others to take their place in the front lines is not a type of leadership that may  get kudos from others, but in Church groups especially , it develops leaders, and  elicits cooperation that may surprise.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

East Like the West Uses Common Sense

Continued from yesterday.

Advice for fostering orginality
51) Get rid of preconceived ideas that you had up until now. Receive all with a clean slate.
52) Cross question--why, how.
53) See yourself objectively.
54) Make sure of your goal and with determination head for it.
55) Do not be intimitated by the situation but go ahead with freedom.
56) See what the signs of the times seem to signify.
57) Be open to all kinds of information.
58) Be ready to receive inspiration and hints from novels and art.
59) Broaden the number of your acquaintances
60) Take regular time each day to think.

Advice on how to free yourself from pressure of daily life
61) Be positive in your thinking
62) Leave your selfish ways and find ways of doing something meaningful for another.
63) Make a stardard for life and don't depart from it.
64) Make concrete long and short range targets for your efforts.
65) Find someone in your field who is skilled.
66) Make plans that fit your capabilities.
67) Make a mind picture of what you are thinking and want to do.
68) Prioritize and write down what you are planing to do the next day, before going to bed .
69) Individualize your love to others.
70) Even in despairing circumstances, never give up your hope.

Advice for getting younger
71) Keep on growing.
72) Hold on to your dream.
73) Have a sunny disposition.
74) Meet new people, have new hobbies, read new books.
75) Be big hearted
76) Let young people stimulate you.
77) Be busy.
78) Be ready to work on a different plan.
79) Do something good.
80) Volunteer in a great work.

Advice for communicating with another
81)Listen carefully to the other and be ready to respond.
82) Listen to the way the other person is making his points.
83) Make an effort to understand the other, and keep an interest in what is being said.
84) Recognize the other's values.
85) Encourage the one you are talking to and and speak postively.
86) Do not make known his secrets.
87) Speak about weighty things only at the proper time.
88) Make your emotions, feelings, and your inner scars known by your words.
89) Don't prejudge by your standards what the other person is saying.
90) Show that you are listening.

How to spend a satisfying day
91) Think simply.
92) Don't be too afraid of results.
93) Enjoy your work.
94) Have a wholesome hobby.
95) Find satisfaction in your present life.
96) Speak positively and with delight with the persons you meet.
97) Face your difficulties; don't run away from them.
98) Adorn the present moment with success.
99) Live within your plans.
100) Forget the unpleasant quickly.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

East Like the West Uses Common Sense

Some of the e-mails I receive regularly come from anonymous sources and often contain words of wisdom written in Korean for Koreans. The following maxims, from one of those emails, are based on common sense readily accepted by most of us. "The East is East and West is West and never the two shall meet" may have been true at one time but with globalization this is rapidly changing.

If we could accomplish what these maxims propose, we would be better for it. For the Christian, however, there are some zingers that would make us hesitate. Listed below is the translation from the Korean, part one; part two will follow tomorrow.

Advice in becoming alienated
1) Laugh at the person behind his back.
2) Talk only about yourself.
3) When somebody is talking, interrupt and talk about your own deeds.
4) When someone says something not to your liking, let your contempt show.
5) Instead of being concerned about the other's interest, talk about your own.
6) Always be more interested in yourself than the other.
7) Consider the other as of no value.
8) When meeting another, argue and always intend to win.
9) Point out another's faults and try always to correct them.
10) Never say sorry for your faults.

Advice in being a charming person
11) Be joyful and never lose your sense of humor.
12) Listen carefully to the other.
13) Do not play favorites.
14) Keep a promise as you would your life.
15) Always be thankful.
16) When necessary don't hesitate to do what you have to do.
17) Go in search of your dream and always strive to the utmost.
18) Be careful of your appearance.
19) Be careful of your speech.
20) Don't be stingy.

Advice in avoiding stress

21) Get up 15 minutes earlier than usual. Begin the day with some reserve time.
22) Have a plan for the day.
23) Carry a book with you and read when you have the opportunity. Avoid being bored.
24) When you have a problem, consult with someone.
25) Be careful of your appearance.
26) Have space for yourself.
27) Do not fret by thinking about your worrries; write them down on a piece of paper.
28) Do not put off doing things that you hate to do.
29) Take a bath and get plenty of sleep.
30) Do some daily exercises that will make you sweat.

Advice to accomplish what you want
31) Do what you have to do before what you want to do.
32) Give all your energy to the work you are doing until done.
33) Do not give up on it even if you do not see any change.
34) If you fail, try again, and if you fail again, look for the cause.
35) Look for someone with the same objectives.
36) Daily record your progress on a project and renew the goal.
37) Even in the worst of circumstances, do not give up.
38) Use the knowledge and the information you have received.
39) Adhere to what you consider right and never let go.
40) Do more than you are expected to do.

Advice in not losing your self respect
41) When you want to do something, don't ask for permission, do it.
42) Look the other in the eye.
43) Make sure of your position and speak it out honestly.
44) Do not use useless words.
45) When you refuse something, do it clearly.
46) Don't become a victim; if you don't like something, say so.
47) If someone doesn't listen to your opinion then don't associate with him.
48) Make clear that you are ready to meet the superior of the person you are talking to.
49) Take a cool attitude towards a person trying to use you.
50) Do not consider yourself a strong person.

Monday, July 26, 2010

4th Lateran Council and Drinking in Korea

They say the more things change, the more they stay the same; in the following case that may be true. A Korean priest writing to other priests goes back to the 4th Lateran Council (1215) for advice on problems with drink.

In Canon 15 of the council, "All clerics shall carefully abstain from drunkenness. Wherefore, let them accommodate the wine to themselves, and themselves to the wine. Nor shall anyone be encouraged to drink, for drunkenness banishes reason and incites to lust. We decree, therefore, that this abuse be absolutely abolished. In some localities the drinkers bind themselves suo modo to an equal portion of drink and, in their judgment, the hero of the day is the one who out drinks the others. Should anyone be culpable in this matter, unless he heeds the warning of his superior and makes suitable satisfaction, let him be suspended from his benefice or office.

The prophets were also strong on the dangers of drinking. "Woe to the champions at drinking wine, the valiant at mixing strong drink" (Isaiah 5:22).

In Canon 17, "It is a matter for regret that there are some minor clerics and even prelates who spend half of the night in banqueting and in unlawful gossip, not to mention other abuses, and in giving the remainder to sleep. They are scarcely awakened by the diurnal concerts of the birds. Then they hasten through matins in a hurried and careless manner. There are others who say mass scarcely four times a year and, what is worse, do not even attend mass, and when they are present they are engaged outside in conversation with lay people to escape the silence of the choir; so that, while they readily lend their ears to unbecoming talk, they regard with utter indifference things that are divine. These and all similar things, therefore, we absolutely forbid under penalty of suspension, and strictly command in virtue of obedience that they celebrate diligently and devoutly the diurnal and nocturnal offices so far as God gives them strength."

Drinking is something that Korean men enjoy and is not a small part of the many problems in family and society. The drinking culture is pervasive and difficult to avoid if you want to associate with others. There have been some changes over the years, but the culture still pressures many to partake in the drinking ritual even if they feel it best not to. Relating with others is thought to be easier when everyone is sharing a drink, and perhaps dropping a few inhibitions as well.

Not wanting to be misunderstood, the priest finishes his article by quoting from I Timothy 5:23, "Stop drinking water only. Take a little wine for the good of your stomach, and because of your frequent illnesses."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Work of Love-- Copying the Scriptures

A columnist on the opinion page of the Catholic Times tells us of her time on the Internet. Each day she goes to the Seoul Diocesan Catholic Good News site ( where the whole Bible is online and available to copy, but any mistake made, and you cannot proceed until it's corrected. She was thankful to those who developed such a wonderful program.

It is helpful, she realized, not only in studying Scripture but also in language study. More than 20,000 have used the program, with 500 being less than 15 years old, surprising her that so many young people were involved with the program.

She mentions that she has set aside time both in the morning and evening to continue writing. Depending on what she is writing, she experiences joy or sorrow, hope or consolation.

Recently, when she finished writing the last sentence of the Apocalypse: "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen!" she received words of congratulations and was told that she started writing on Jan.30, 2008, and finished on June 18, 2010. One person copied the whole Bible in 15 days; one person did it 17 times.

The very next day she went back online to begin writing again and has progressed to Abraham. Many parishes invite their members to participate in these programs by using their own parish websites. There are four ways to participate: copying the Gospel of the day, copying some or all of the Bible as an individual, copying by different groups, each participating as a community, and copying as a member of the Good News group that works as a community.

The Bible sold in all Catholic churches, and bookstores is the one used in the liturgy. Having a number of Bibles to compare is a plus but using one Bible also has advantages. In many of the parishes, parishioners come to the pastor after finishing their hand written copies of the Scriptures to be signed by the pastor, including the occasional parishioner who has copied the whole Bible. It is a difficult task but many receive blessings from the undertaking, a sign of the devotion of many Catholics to live their spiritual life on a deeper level.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Atheism in Korean Life

In a pastoral column, a priest mentions a middle school girl who for many years never missed Mass and was very active in catechism class. She didn't talk much but on a number of occasions was a big hit with everybody. Whether taking the role of the Blessed Mother in a musical or playing other parts in religious plays, she always stood out. However, this soon began to change, with the priest thinking that she was just growing into womanhood.

One day on returning to the rectory, he heard voices and found the girl fighting with some boys and using all kinds of foul language, which surprised him. He was planning to talk with her, when a couple of days later, she came on her own to see him and asked, "Father is there a God?' How much absurdity had she seen in her life, by the time she was in middle school for her to ask that kind of question, the priest wondered. She was better prepared to believe in the devil, she said. She talked for two hours and then put her face in her hands and started to cry. She finally got up from the chair, laughed, thanked him, and said, as she left, there has to be a God.

The priest mentioned that the young girl lived with her grandmother in a basement single room. The grandmother made enough to get along by picking up discarded rubbish in the neighborhood, so it was a hard life for the young girl. There are many like her who the priest hopes will find strength and be able to feel the presence of God in their lives.

Some months ago, there was a movement, like in the West, to advertise on buses against Christianity. They used a quote by Einstein: "I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures." The Protestant protest was so loud that the bus company discontinued the ads. (See UCAN.)

Atheism will make inroads in Korean Society in the years ahead, as it has in the West, with more movements organizing for this purpose. The society we are making, with the breakdown of traditional values, will be fertile ground for this type of nihilism.

Korea is already considered to be one of the countries that is atheistic; surveys show that over 50 percent have no religious beliefs. Little thought is given, however, to the fact that "no belief" does not necessarily mean atheism. Korea is a country where the unseen world for many is very real. Though this does not always translate into a religious belief, it is far from being atheism.

Friday, July 23, 2010

True Leisure is Not Easily Found

This is vacation time, and many will be thinking of going to the beach or the mountains with family for rest and renewal. To work well we need time to rest well, which is most easily done in a mutually satisfying relationship that sustains and benefits both activities.

A priest from the Taejon Diocese gives us some Scriptural verses that help us to see the importance of rest.

In Genesis 2:2-3, God rested. Genesis 18:1-5, Abraham invites three strangers to rest awhile under a tree. Exodus 23:12, Rest is for all of God's creation. Isaiah 28:12, This is the resting place, give rest to the weary; here is repose but they would not listen. Isaiah 57:20-21, But the wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot be calmed. No peace for the wicked! says my God. Hebrews 3:18, To whom but to the disobedient did he swear that they would not enter into his rest? Mark 6: 31, Our Lord said to them, "Come by yourselves to an out-of-way place and rest a little."

As one possible leisure time activity, the priest recommends taking the family to a retreat house. Vacation is not only limited to the beach or mountains but can be a quiet place where the family can get together to talk in a way they have never done before, creating, in the process, a new atmosphere of togetherness.
The editorial in the Peace Weekly quotes St. Bonaventura from the 12 century saying: "Pressed by too much work you blunt the workings of the soul."

We often hear that in this present age we live to work and not work to live. This is something we all know is not the proper meaning of life but many have little hope in changing what has become a routine habit of many.

When I arrived in Korea, people had all kinds of leisure time, but they were poor;
they are no longer poor, but they have little leisure time. Was it a fair trade off? We are too involved in the society we have made to make a fair judgement, but the future will.

Leisure time is without a purpose outside of itself. It's meant to be enjoyed solely for the leisure time. I don't think this kind of thinking comes easy for Koreans. It's foreign to our pragmatic and goal-oriented society . Even our pleasures are competitive and goal centered.

Labor that God gave humans to do is sacred. ( work and pray, say some monastic traditions.) The leisure that we are talking about does not demean the toil and concerns of everyday life. Our daily work routines require leisure time to better prepare us for the daily work we are committed to do with joy in our hearts and as healthy members of society.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reason for Korean Harmony and Restraint

The game "Scissors, Rock and Cloth," with the words in the order used by the Koreans, has a history that is not very clear. China would seem to be the originator of the game that is now played in various versions throughout the world. It came to Korea from China and then to Japan, and from there spread to the West.

Though most are in some way acquainted with the game, a simple explanation follows:
At a determined count, the players extend their hands in a certain gesture. For scissors, one extends the index and middle fingers separated. Rock is an extended fist, and cloth is the hand with all fingers showing.

The surface meaning of the gestures goes something like this:
Scissors cut cloth, therefore scissors defeats cloth.
Rock breaks scissors, therefore rock defeats scissors.
Cloth covers rock, therefore cloth defeats rock.

If both players choose the same gesture, the game is tied and the players throw again.

An article from Andong mission station leaflet had a meditation on the game. The writer feels that the Koreans learned their basic philosophy of life from this game, which they've played from early childhood and known by all. The simplest of all their games, there is no need of anything but the one hand. He expressed his feelings about the game in free verse (below); hopefully, my translation is not far from the writer's intention.

Different objects in opposition to each other:
Scissors, something to cut cloth.
Rock, something hard and heavy.
Cloth, something soft and enclosing.

Sharp (scissors), heavy (rock), soft (cloth), can symbolize personalities.
We played the game from childhood.
If we think a little we can see that the philosphy of restraint and harmony are contained,
And we have learned this from childhood.

A sharp personality can temporarily overcome a soft person,
But is threatened by the heavier, serious person.
A serious (heavy) person can control a sharp person,
But can be enclosed by the soft person.
The soft person can cover the serious person,
But the sharp person can threaten the soft person.
This is the understanding we had from childhood,
And continue to keep in mind as our philosophy of life
On how to relate to others, and all learned in a game.

In life, there are times when we can be truly defeated
But in certain circumstances, we allow ourselves to be defeated.
One knows that to lose is also learning the way to win.
Living is often having to wait.
And while waiting can often see and take advantage of opportunities.

When a person puts on airs and feigns knowing it all,
To play the fool is not all that bad;
Isn't he, after all, the one that knows?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Giving Joy to Children Taking Exams

In Korea, Christians work at presenting their message in many different ways. Evangelizing is an important part of Catholicism. When someone has a message that gives happiness, it is natural to want to give it to others.

I have heard of many different ways of trying to approach others with the Christian message but giving lollypops to students was not one of them. In a recent Peace Weekly, a priest tells of his experience in doing just that.

At the end of the school term when students have exams, he goes alone or with his parish sisters, and sometimes with the Sunday school teachers to pass out lollypops. In the beginning, he went right after Mass in the morning, wearing his cassock. The parish sisters, seeing him dressed in the cassock, told him that it was the first time they ever saw a priest wearing a cassock in public. The next time he wore his clerical suit.

In the beginning, he had difficulty getting rid of one box of lollypops, which contained 150. The following year he prepared 4 boxes and that was not enough. The students were curious to know who were these strange people giving out lollypops, and would ask the Catholic students for more information. Often, after hearing about the Catholic Church, they would tell their Catholic friends that they would be going to Church, and asked for more lollypops.

The priest felt that he could read the faces of the students and make some pretty good calls on who would be asking for the lollypops.He would notice students who were uneasy about being there, trying not to make eye contact.

He would often say something like:
"Take this lollypop and eat it. By the way, what is your baptismal name?"

And responses would often be something like:
"My name is Peter but I am not going to Church these days...."

"No problem," he would say, "take this lollypop and do well in your exam, take courage."

No matter how bad the weather was, the priest went to the playgrounds during the days of exams to give out lollypops and offer encouragement.

Did the giving of lollypops help in the evangelizing? There's no way of knowing for sure, but the Mass for the children was crowded--it was a pleasure to hear their voices in praise--and students that were not coming out to Church began to show up. This made the priest happy, but at the same time he found it hard to accept that these good and bright young people would be judged only on how well they did on those exams.

He also kept thinking of those lollypops bringing joy into their lives; it was, of course, puzzling and not so puzzling: the priest was not only handing out lollypops but reaching out to the students with his concern for their welfare. And, not surprisingly, they responded.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

10 Books Presented to Korean Catholics

The Peace Weekly. in its campaign to get Catholics to read, recommends ten books from a list of 100 Catholic Classics. In subsequent issues, the newspaper will continue to inspire and prod readers to take up the habit of reading. The ten books will be familiar to most readers, and all have been translated into Korean.

1) The Confessions of St. Augustine.( 397-400)

His autobiography, from his birth to the time after he becomes a bishop, but written not as a bishop but as a suffering human being in the presence of God. Justly famous for its remarkable candor.

2) Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis (1418)

A very popular book in Korea, it is written for religious but everyone can benefit from the ideal that it presents of the spiritual life.

3) Pensees of Blaise Pascal (1670)

Reflections on the sad state of humanity without God, and on the state of happiness with God, using logic to support his reflections. Published after the death of the French philosopher and mathematician.

4) The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. (1693)

Written by a brother of the discalced Carmelites, who lived a very simple life as a cook and repairer of shoes, this book contains his spiritual maxims and his letters, centering around the existence of God and what it meant to him in his daily life.

5) Diary of a Country Priest George Bernanos (1936)

Considered a masterpiece in the Catholic culture of the 20th century, it tells the story of a sickly priest in his first parish who found it difficult to mix with his people--people closed in on themselves and not disposed to his way of life or he to theirs--and about the change in his life in the anti-religious and atheistic France of that time.

6) Keys to the Kingdom by A.J.Cronin (1941)

A popular novel about the life of a Scottish missionary in China and the difficulties he was able to surmount. Cronin presents an ideal human by describing the daily life of a remarkable priest as he interacts with his people.

7) Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton (1948)

The autobiography of Thomas Merton, who writes of his struggles and temptations before he entered the Trappist monastery. Focuses primarily on his inner life and the way God led him to himself.

8) Silence by Shusaku Endo (1966)

A novel about the persecution in Japan of Catholics and the response of one Catholic to the silence of God. It tells the story of a priest who goes to Japan to find out what happened to one of the Jesuits who had apostatized, and his struggles to understand that decision.

9) Way to God by Anthony de Mello (1978)

Drawing on Scripture and different traditions, De Mello has created 47 exercises to improve contemplation. It is an effort to lead busy people of our age to a new way of experiencing the presence of God.

10) Why become a Christian by Hans Kung. (1985)

Tells us what a Christian is, making us reflect on the central mark of a true Christian. How does one live who wants to be a true Christian? Kung says, be a true person.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Problem In Korean Catholicism

Not knowing the cause of a disease makes healing the disease difficult. This is the problem the Church is facing with tepid Catholics, those not going to Church for one reason or another. The number of Catholics going to Mass on any one Sunday is about 1/4 of the total; the number of tepid Catholics is slightly more at 27.6 percent. Present signs indicate that this will continue to increase. What has happened in the West will likely be the future of the Korean Church.

The Future Pastoral Institute, with the Peace Weekly and Peace Broadcasting, is studying the situation and interviewing those who have left the Church to determine what steps are necessary to get them to return. Although it's not easy to pinpoint the reasons for leaving, many of the responses put work and study (too busy) in first place, followed by doubts of faith, lack of knowledge, personal interests, and family problems.

These responses can be summarized as the difficulties of life, the culture of postmodernism, the personal scars incurred as a result of unfortunate experiences with religion, and the obligations of being a Catholic.

The Pastoral Institute believes that healing the scars of those who have left the Church would help half of them to return. Until recently, we looked for ways of convincing the tepid to return, but times have changed. Instead of telling them what they are missing, we need to listen more carefully to their concerns. If the scars they received from the Catholics are in such a prominent place, efforts to teach our Christians how to listen to their stories and to sympathize and understand their situation would see many returning to the Church.

Even though the surveys show that individual problems are the prime reason for leaving the Church, the organization of the Church and the way the parish is run are not without influence in contributing to the problem. Both have to be considered in the attempt to decrease the numbers of tepid in the Korean Church.

The reasons they became Catholics in the first place did not fulfil the needs of the person. If some became Catholic hoping to find happiness and did not find it, then it is not difficult to see why they are still searching for the happiness they expected to find in the Church, and did not.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Farming That Is Life Giving

Today, the third Sunday of July, is Farmers' Sunday. The president of the bishops' committee for Justice and Peace issued a message on the theme, "We are Peace Makers and Agents for the Preservation of Creation." The problems facing farmers are many and serious, he said, stressing the importance of choosing an ecological lifestyle and rejecting the consumption-oriented life.

The editorial in the Peace Weekly reports that Korea's rate of food self-sufficiency is 26 percent, needing to import most of its grains. The United States produces enough food to feed itself, and France produces 300 percent of what it needs. Of the countries who are members of OECD, Korea's rating in food self-sufficiency is one of the lowest.

The news that the country is considering using its surplus rice for animal feed is a concern of many different groups in society. Although the rice in reserve is more than adequate to deal with emergency situations, consumption of rice continues to decrease, which poses problems for the country and for farmers.

This is the first time that a government official has publicly announced that excess rice can be given to animals, reflecting the rising cost of maintaining huge stockpiles of the staple grain.

The life-giving farming movement is spreading. But what the Catholic Farming Leagues need more than policy statements are priests who are interested in the problems of farmers. In the city, sister relationships have been set up successfully with farming parishes but all too often when a priest is changed, the interest in keeping these relationships also disappears. The relationships are important not only because of the buying and selling of farm produce, but also because of the life-giving programs exchanged between city and country.

Farmers have to consider not only current market realities, but these life-giving programs and what the future will mean for their children and all children, by preparing now for a healthier environment and, ultimately, a safer world for all.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Our Habits Make Us What We Are.

In Korea, many see life as being directed by a mysterious force or energy called destiny or fate, over which we have no control. This is not the Christian outlook, although a guest columnist in the Korean Times thinks there are Catholics, in larger numbers than one would think, who are influenced by this way of looking at life. Instead of entreating God, they go to fortune tellers or shamans for help, and often leave the Church.

The columnist, reflecting on his own life, admits to having seen many things incorrectly and being embarrassed by the results, but that at other times, when seeing correctly, there were good results. He remembed a time when he decided to run as a candidate for his college presidency, after being assured of the support of many. But when it came time to vote, he lost. He was overwhelmed with distrust and anger toward the college community. Locking himself in the research room, he vented his frustrations to God, the only way he saw open to him. God did give him peace and another way of seeing what happened; the results were very satisfying to him personally.

He mentions the case of one of his younger college classmates who lost everything in a large business operation, even causing financial loss to his older brother. He was fleeing to Seoul with the intention of killing himself, when his daughter's image flashed before his mind's eye, and the words, "let's live," changed everything. He returned home, and with a new determination and effort, he was able not only to recoup his losses but expand his operations to other countries.

He reminds us that in Korean the word for suicide is made up of two sylables; when read with the last sylable first, the word means "let's live," which requires a change of thinking, a new attitude towards life.

Many pray as if everything depends on God, forgetting that we should act as if everything depends on us, otherwise we will fall into the same frame of mind as those who have a fatalistic way of looking at life.

The writer concludes his opinion piece by telling us that we live by habits that have become part of us. The time we spend thinking about the spiritual is limited, but we can continue to work zealously at what we do daily and also increase the time we spend with God: meditating, thinking about spiritual things; praying, conversing with God; and spending sacred time at Mass with Jesus. When we think about the words of our Lord and act on them, God will change what we think is our unfortunate fate to one of blessing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fleeing Daily Life for Silence--Retreat

Retreats have always been a part of Catholic life, and at this time of the year there are many kinds of retreats being offered for the Korean Catholic. The Catholic Times set aside a full page to list them all, with an introduction that briefly highlights the benefits of each one.

By "retreat," we mean leaving our daily life for a period of time to commune with God. In Korean, the word retreat is formed with two Chinese characters: one meaning to flee and the other silence. One flees a busy life to go to a place of silence. On the front of one of the large retreat houses, there is a stone with the words, in Latin, "All welcome, remain alone and exit as another.

The Church in Korea has developed a very organized way of introducing the priesthood or life as a religious to students; it's an important focus of Church life and the results have been encouraging. Many retreats are for teenagers who are thinking of a vocation. These retreats allow prospects to briefly experience the life they are interested in, and at the conclusion of the retreat, those who wish are given the opportunity to keep in contact with the group by internet.

There are also retreats for families, for children, and even retreats that include experiencing life on a farm or visiting historical sites, and others that are not specifically spiritual.

Retreats are organized in different ways: directed, preached or private, in the Ignatian style, with lectio divina, or retreats that follow the traditional methods of the sponsoring groups.

The Korean Bishops' website has a detailed list of all the retreats. These opportunities to deepen the life of our Catholics have proven to be very attractive to many Koreans, who have a natural desire for the spiritual.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How The Catholic Church Sees North Korea

The plight of the North Koreans, especially those not having enough to eat, is a problem we have had for many years. It is not getting any better and with the North's response to initiatives from the rest of the world being so negative, there has not been much sympathy for their unfortunate situation. The efforts of the North to bolster their nuclear capabilities and the sinking of the South Korean warship have made the problems more difficult to deal with.

The Catholic Church in Korea has tried over many years to work for reconciliation. The Bishop of Masan, the president of Caritas Korea, in an interview with Fides, said "Even if hope for reconciliation seems to be impossible to humanity, it is not impossible to God."

There are people in Korea who do not want to dialogue with the North, especially after the boat incident. The Catholic Church has made it clear that humanitarian aid for the sick and starving should not be politicized but must be carried out regardless of the circumstances.

In recent articles and in an editorial in a Catholic newspaper, this position of the Church has been emphasized. Caritas International, in its recent meeting to discuss programs in North Korea, said the current situation has made it more difficult to draw attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the North: "The North Korean Government's militant attitude provokes further hard line stances among political sectors in the South and other countries involved. A vicious circle of aggressive actions might lead to further unintentional damage in relations...."

It is very clear to many that without more help now for the North, despite all the problems--even forgetting the humanitarian and Christian response that we are called to give--there will come a time when the many problems of the North will be a massive burden for the united Korea of the future. If the efforts of the South to help the North are not greatly increased, the results of this lack of commitment will have to be confronted when the day of a united Korea finally dawns.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Migrant Workers In Cucumber Farms

Since I do a little farming, I enjoy reading about the joys and difficulties of the farmer's life. A writer in her weekly Catholic Times' opinion piece mentioned getting a box of cucumbers from a friend, and putting the smaller ones aside to pickle and eating the larger ones. The cucumbers started her reminiscing about the trip to a farm the previous year.

On her trip, she saw a number of foreign workers on the farm. Some were thinning the cucumber flowers, others were picking the small cucumbers and throwing them away, and others were looking for the large marketable ones.

She recalled a Korean proverb that said you can spot the signs of genius at an early age. This made her sad knowing that so many cucumbers were not allowed to mature but were picked and disposed of because not big enough or pretty enough for market. When not producing for the market, one can be unconcerned about the appearance of vegetables, but, sadly, farmers need a product that is marketable. Vegetables and fruits have to look good, being as perfect as possible so the farmer can ask for the best possible price. I was told at last year's harvest that very few of my sweet potatoes and peanuts were marketable; they were either too ugly or too small.

The writer felt sorry for the foreign workers after seeing their living quarters and the worn out bedding. She made a search of her kitchen and gathered together unused kitchen utensils and bedding that had piled up over the years, finding it difficult to give them even to the parish bazaar. Now she filled a number of cartons with them and notified her friend of her intention; the utensils and bedding were gratefully received.

Many foreign workers are working illegally in Korea, doing work that Koreans do not care to do, like farming. With its long hours and physical labor, it's work Koreans prefer not to do. Another reason for hiring foreign laborers is the increasing age of the population and the low birth rate. The fear that more jobs for foreigners mean fewer jobs for Koreans is no longer valid, for it actually gives Koreans more opportunities to work thanks to those who are doing the dirty, difficult and dangerous work. This enables many Koreans to continue working at more skilled jobs, otherwise many of these jobs would be going to other countries with cheaper labor costs and an abundance of workers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Interview with the Bishop of Wonju Korea

The Wonju Diocese, one of the smaller dioceses in Korea (click here for an overview of the statistics), was the subject of an interview, written up in the Peace Weekly, with Bishop James Kim Ji -seok, the second ordinary of the diocese.

The interviewer asked about the foreigners now living in the diocese, those who are married to Koreans.

The bishop said this seldom happened in the past, but now we need to be concerned with families from different cultural backgrounds, and to get rid of the idea of being a homogeneous people concerned only with our own problems. We shouldn't forget who we are, our cultural heritage, but we have to become interested in learning the culture of those who have chosen to live among us, and they also have to become acquainted with ours. So far, there has been little progress, but we have to continue our efforts to accept those from another culture as Koreans and as Christians.

The diocese of Wonju has 10 percent of their priests working in social welfare projects; the bishop was asked the reason for this emphasis.

He said that Bishop Tji Hak-Soon, the first bishop, was very much interested in the poor and the alienated in the diocese, that the nation has a responsibility to help, and that it is also a concern of the Church.

He was asked about the large area of the diocese and the many mission stations and what he, as bishop, thought of the pastoral care of these mission stations.

The bishop agreed that there were many mission stations and that the area was large. The catechists and the volunteers are doing much good work but there is much not being done. I have, he said, for the past few years tried to get retired sisters to come and live in the mission stations, to pray and to teach; their presence alone helps to evangelize. One of the mission stations with the sisters in residence has come to a point where it will become a parish.

The interviewer asked a question (on the minds of many) concerning what our position should be when it comes to politics, the environment, and our relationship to North Korea. He stressed that there are all kinds of viewpoints, and it's difficult to know who is right or wrong. How are we to decide from among so many?

The bishop said it's not an easy question to answer. Everyone has his own way of thinking about these subjects. This is a fact, but when it comes to problems of life we have to have one voice. This teaching on life is very clear. To preserve life is the absolute duty of the Church. This does not change with the times and is a standard we should be united on.

The bishop was asked for some words that he would like to address to his Christians.

This Diocese is a small diocese, he said. At some of the diocesan functions we have had about 100 people attend. Because we are small, we have the opportunity to be more like a family; any Christian can easily meet and talk with his pastor. This is a sign of community. Those who leave the diocese find they very much miss this communal atmosphere. I pray that this feeling of community does not change.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Visit to Flower Village Korea

For the last two months, we have a new Internet TV Station that is going out to the world from Kkottongnae, meaning Flower Village, a Christian community, which provides the homeless and the abandoned with care and love in the hope that they will realize the love of God and find peace as the children of God.

In 1976, Fr Oh, the founder of Flower Village, saw 18 beggars living under a bridge in the parish where he was assigned, and decided to do something for them. He thought: “It is God's blessing that one can have the strength to beg for food”; he built a house of love, started accommodating the beggars at the house, the beginning of Flower Village.

With the help of many it has spread to other parts of Korea and the world. The work has proven a great blessing for the country, and for many who come in contact with poverty so great that it leaves one helpless. Kkottongnae is a heaven for many who are working in welfare: a place to send those who are homeless, who will be loved and taken care.

The Peace Weekly has an article describing the new Internet venture of the Flower Village. They have a small studio where five Religious of the Community are working in planning, production and implementation of programs, with the help of a volunteer who worked for a major network and directs the operation.

They introduce the different events of Flower Village, the facilities, recorded lectures, their work, the sponsors and many other areas that would be of interest to friends of Flower Village. Korean is the main language used, but you do have an English menu. The story of the village, in English, is done in animation for those who would like to hear and see the progress of the Flower Village from the beginning.

The head of the program, a lay volunteer, says they do not have the equipment and the necessary help the operation needs, so they have scaled the operation down to fit the situation. It does show the work and the spirituality of the Flower Village.

The dream of the founder was to have a world where no one gets abandoned, everyone is respected, and everybody loves the other as they love themselves. This dream is now being introduced to the world. For those who are interested you can access the Internet TV Station at

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Korean Catechetical Summer Camps

For many years, Catholic parishes in Korea have spent a great deal of time and money on summer camps for students enrolled in the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Pastors have tried all kinds of programs: sometimes including family members, separating the students into groups by age, and also having them all together from grammar to high school. The editorial in the Catholic Times this week stresses that it is not so much the contents of the programs that are important, as it is making clear to the students the reasons for having the programs.

Camps are an extension of the Sunday school programs that we have in all the parishes. The programs are not intended to give students all they want during their summer camp experience, but an effort to cultivate their learning abilities and heighten a Christian awareness of the meaning of life.

Understandably, the students often want to have more time for play. However, the primary reason for these summer camps is not to alleviate the stress that the students have built up during the year by focusing solely on playing games. Play is a means to the goals the camps are intended to achieve. The editorial judges that we have prepared these camps in years past with too much emphasis on play, and the unfortunate results can be seen in our churches and Sunday school programs. How many of our children, the editorial asks, have experienced God in some way by going to these camps?

One of the slogans of the camps: "Together With" refers to bringing teachers and students closer together, but how many students become closer to the teachers in understanding what was planned for the camps?

A quote from Pope John Paul: " Humans to mature must know the value of virtue, love it and become habituated with virtue." Are we being successful in getting summer camp students to know and love this value, making it a part of their lives? The answer, for the most part, would have to be No. The editorial was critical of teachers for not having done their job well enough, suggesting that more effort should be made in the future to have our teachers trained in spirituality. The power of example needs to be emphasized. Bringing the students closer to Jesus is the core task of the teacher and is what the summer camps are all about.

The editorial gives us an ideal but pastors have difficulty getting volunteers for the parish catechetical programs. To find teachers who are willing to give their time, and have the necessary knowledge and spirituality required is a colossal job. However, the effort certainly should be made, and prayers for all those working in education would also help.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Needs For A Good Summer Vacation

A columnist for the Catholic Times gives us ten commandments for a good summer vacation.

1st: Let us get rid of unnecessary baggage. While we laugh on the outside, inside we may have many things bothering us. Let us get rid of them and be content with our light baggage.

2nd: Let us bring our souls along with the body.

3rd: Let us get rid of confrontations. The knife we aim at others, let us use only in disciplining ourselves.

4th: Let us empty ourselves. The road to virtue is humility. When we empty ourselves, the world appears differently.

5th: Let us get rid of greed. Happiness and greed can't exist together: the more greed, the less happiness.

6th: Let us change. And not demand that others change.

7th: Let us study. Bring along some spiritual books.

8th: Let us be open to meeting others. If we approach others with a welcoming attitude, they will respond with a welcoming attitude.

9th: Let us go in search of the road of virtue. Get rid of all anger; criticism is of little use.

10th: Let us see all with a new light. Vacations can be discoveries of something new. If up until this time we have seen the sun only peeking through the clouds, let us get rid of the clouds and see the true sun, Jesus.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Sad Story Too Often Heard

A columnist in the recent Catholic Times gives us something to think about. He described the conversation he had with an ex-convict whose greatest problem was trusting others. Living in a world he found threatening, he grew up believing he must be strong and, if necessary, violent; it got him into prison.

He told a story that goes back to his 5th-grade grammar school days. He lived in a city and on one occasion relatives came to attend a wedding, staying overnight at his house. Since the group was in the city, they thought it a good idea to do some sightseeing before returning to the country. That evening he was invited to sing and, imitating a famous comedian on TV at that time, he was a big hit with everybody.

The next day when he returned from school, his mother, without a word, slapped him three hard blows to the face. He couldn't talk, it hurt so much. Money had been taken from a wallet of one of the relatives, and she thought he was the culprit. The young boy remembered the reception he got for singing the night before, and now to be slapped in front of them all for something he did not do was an insult he couldn't bear. The relative had placed the money in another bag and found it later. But no one apologized to the boy for the false accusation and his mother never seemed to give the incident a second thought.

When the boy was hit, he couldn't forget the feeling of wretchedness, the look on his mother's face, and the laughter of his relatives. He can still recall the whole scene without difficulty, and understands how they all felt, thinking he was the thief. The difficulty is that no one, at any time, said a word of apology or showed any sadness for what happened. Why didn't anybody express regret, he wanted to know, for the false accusation. He broke down and cried. The columnist also cried.

It's a sad story that could easily have had a different ending. Many times a word or two of sorrow expressed for some hurt we have caused others can change how a troubling situation is ultimately perceived. But these words of sorrow do not easily form in our mouths. We hope that our kindness in the future will take care of the scars, but it doesn't usually happen that way. The incident is often repressed, and those who have been hurt do not forget. Those in our family and in the communities to which we belong are usually the ones we find the hardest to apologize to. Ironically, those who intend to do the right thing at all times, the perfectionists among us, have the most difficulty saying, I'm sorry. These few words would make a big difference in society. Spoken when necessary, these words can often defuse a threatening situation that otherwise might linger with us, causing problems--as it did for the ex-convict--for many years,and maybe for life. .

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Young and Old in Korea

"Why are the kids acting up so much? And wearing the clothes they wear? And no longer respect their elders." A typical response from an elder.

"Why do elders say, 'when I was young,' as a matter of course, and keep on repeating themselves?" A typical response from a young person.

In the eyes of many, there are in Korea two groups of people having little contact with each other: the young and the old.. And the breach and failure to understand each other keeps on growing. Society does not show any interest in doing something about the generation gap, and neglects the numbers of old people living alone and the abuse that they receive; 14 percent of those over 65 have been mistreated.

The Catholic Church, however, has taken an interest, and the Seoul diocese recently had a symposium on the generation gap and the discord that currently exists between the young and the old.

The changes that have taken place in Korea in the last 50 years are such that one can't help but expect this discord. The old have had as their goal in life to eat and live well. Those born after 1980 are searching for happiness and meaning. It is no wonder that they have a different way of looking at life. What took the West hundreds of years to achieve, Korea achieved in 50 years.

The older generation grew up in large families and were taught to be independent; most of the younger generation are treated like royalty by their parents. We should not be surprised when the consequences of this upbringing become manifest.

One professor who spoke at the symposium said that older people should see the young with an open mind and the young should try to understand the older people's way of thinking. Attending the liturgy and events together should help break down some of the differences. .

Another professor presented some interesting statistics: 2nd-grade grammar school children seem to be the most understanding of older people, and those after middle school seem to have the most trouble with them, perhaps due to the heavier burden of school duties.

The article reporting on the symposium concluded that we should show more consideration for elders, create a friendlier society for them, and more welfare programs, and that the public media show more sympathy for the problems of the elderly.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Why Does Korea Have Such A High Rate?

The Here and Now website, Nahnews, has some comments on the latest celebrity suicide. The suicide didn't make any sense. He was a popular movie star and singer. Well known in countries outside of Korea and seemed to have all that anyone could desire. He left no testament and left many puzzling about what went wrong.

Recently, Korea has had a number of celebrities killing themselves. Statistics show that among the developed, OCED, countries, Korea is leading by far in this unfortunate statistic. Every year there is an increase, but what we do not hear much about is the elderly suicides, where the rate is increasing every year. The average would be 26 persons for every 100,000; the rate for those over 80 is 112.9 persons for every 100,000. The number of the elderly over 60 who have taken their lives would be almost 33% of the total suicides.

Why would a country that has made such great strides economically have so many finding it difficult to live? As important as it is to be friendly with older people--talking and being kind to them in public places, in buses, in subways and in stores, whenever and wherever we have an opportunity to do so--alleviating the symptoms can only be a temporary solution; we must look for the underlying causes if a permanent solution is to be found.

Many of the elderly have seen the breakdown of the family; they are living with an economic strain and illnesses that are too hard for them to contend with, which prompts many of them to take their own lives. Depression is a very big part of this picture.

The structures of our society have not kept up with the improvement of our living conditions. The article stresses that the quality of life in Korea has deteriorated in the past 20 to 30 years, and asks what happened during this time. We have become sensitive to our rights more so than any time in our history. Have we ever had a time with more prosperty? Have we ever worried like today over the excessive nutrients the body has to deal with?

It is difficult to try to make sense of what is happening. The prosperity we have achieved can also bring sadness into the lives of many. Are we making a society where the survival of the fittest will be our reality?

The current reality for many is the heightened interest and enormous resources devoted to develop the economic sector of society. It would be unrealistic to try to put a stop to this, but at the same time, interest has to be directed to understand the reasons for the death wish of so many. In Korea, and undoubtedly in other countries, families do not want to talk about these untimely deaths, and asking about the causes brings no satisfactory answers, only more sadness. What is needed is an attempt to look into the reasons, make them known, and work to eradicate the causes if we are to have a healthy society.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Benefits of International Schools In Korea?

In a letter to the editor of a daily newspaper, a Religious Sister, principal of a Catholic School in Incheon, expresses her opinion on international schools that are now opening in Korea. Songdo International City in Incheon has received permission to go ahead with its international school and accept Koreans as 30 percent of its student body.

This is well received by many since it will allow many families to send their children to these schools, have the benefits of study overseas, allow parents to be protective of their children and save money in the process. The results of the product of these schools will be for the future to make clear.

The Sister plainly states that, out of pride, it is difficult to accept that we are going to turn over the education of our children to foreigners. She doesn't know about the propriety of middle and high school education overseas, but in the earlier years, it seems to her problematic to have children educated by foreigners in a foreign language, in a foreign culture, with foreign values and done here in Korea.

At this time of life, children are preparing themselves for maturity. It is during this time that they find out who they are and, hopefully, developing a coherent and worthwhile value system that will build their character. It is not like Koreans living in the States and sending their children to American schools; these children are living in Korea and are taken out of their home environment to go to school.

Schools, of course, do not teach only language and the usual intellectual subjects but emotional health, culture, values, among other things. If this is globalization why teach only English? To deal with the problems that will likely arise, it is necessary that the Government becomes involved and not leave the solution solely in the hands of the different districts.

Sister sees education dependent on the whole of life. It is easy to look at one area of life and forget the others. Utilitarianism, for example, would see education mainly useful in getting a good job, making more money, having access to the right people. This may be important to achieve these limited goals but if one doesn't find the expected happiness and meaning in life, then danger lurks ahead. Knowledge is just one part of the educational process. We tend to isolate it from the other parts and think that it alone will bring success. We must not forget that education begins in the home; we are educated more by what we experience in the family, in reading, relating, and pondering over the mysteries of life than we are by our schools. If we are orientated to getting good marks, degrees and jobs, then our schools will likely fail us in guiding us to a more meaningful life.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Father And Son In The New Korea

The mother of Mencius, an interpreter of Confucius, moved three times to help her child. They lived, first, near a cemetery where the son began imitating the mourners; then they moved near a market where he was influenced by the ways of the market, and, finally, they moved near a school where Mencius started his journey in scholarship.

Even today, parents will do anything to get a good education for their children. A good education is thought to be the road to happiness. The young are no longer protected by family from being influenced by what is going on in the outside world, so the problems are quite different from the past.

A priest, writing for the Pastoral Diary column in the Peace Weekly, tells us of two incidents that are frequent in the Korea of today.

One evening, late at night, a teacher from the Sunday catechetical program came to see the priest, with a first-year high school boy, guitar in hand. The teacher explained that the boy was thrown out of the house because he wanted to study music and his father wanted him to go to college. That evening the boy had no place to go and the teacher had no room in his house for the boy, so he came to the priest for help. The priest called around to find a place for the teenager. He had the teacher call the mother to tell her not to worry; they had found a place for the son to sleep.

In this case, there is a young man in love with music. In the old days, music was not considered an occupation parents would consider for their children. This has changed but there are parents who haven't. The father wants the boy to go to college; the boy is interested only in music. So who gets his way?

In the other case, a boy has a temper tantrum, causing a serious commotion in his classroom. The priest spent hours with the young man, with the boy ending up crying. It was a problem again with the father, and in frustration the son took it out on others.

The priest concludes that fathers have to listen more compassionately to their children. It has not been the Korean way, but times have changed and fathers have to change as well.

Dialogue is still not something parents find easy to do in the home. The relationship of husband and wife is stronger than the relationship of father and son in the Korea of today. Still the pain that an older son can inflict is felt as in the old Korea. In the cases referred to, the boys want to do something the fathers consider unacceptable. Dialogue has to begin, with fathers seeing other possibilities than those they originally preferred.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Letter From Prison, St. Andrew Kim Martyr

Following is the letter sent by St. Andrew Kim to Christians while he awaited death in prison. In translating the letter, I wanted to experience the feelings of the Saint before his death. It was an attempt to relish the words that he used in his farewell letter to the Christians. The letter has been adapted to the Korean usage of the present, so liberties were taken with the original text.

Fellow Christians let us look and see.

Think, think of these things. God made all things and among these, he made us in his image to live on this earth. Let us reflect on God's great will and ponder it.

If we think of all that has to be done on this earth, there are many pitiful and sad things that come to mind. (Ecclesiastes 1-2: Vanity of vanities, says the preacher. All things are vanity!) Seeing this miserable and wretched world in which we are born, if we do not know the God, who made us, then we will not know the fruitfulness of life.

However, even if we know the God, who made us and have been baptized and have not lived as his disciple, then we will not find satisfaction, but we will have ingratitude to God, and we will be in a position worse than those who have not been baptized.

Let us look at the farmer who plants his field: he takes no notice of the heat and tiredness; at the right time, he plows the land, fertilizes it, plants the seed, and takes care of it. God does the same. He accepts us as seeds; grace can be considered the fertilizer and he waters us with the blood from Jesus' passion. If we take what is given and have produced fruit, at the judgement, we go to heaven. If we have not bourne fruit, then we become his enemy and worthy to be punished for all eternity.

Dear brothers and sisters, listen carefully!

Our Lord Jesus Christ came down to us and took upon himself much suffering and in the midst of this anguish established the Church, and the Church by suffering grew all the more. After the Ascension, from the time of the Apostles until now, the Church has been persecuted. The Holy Church has been in Korea for 50 to 60 years and has gone through many persecutions. Even now, many Christians, I along with them, have been arrested, and we continue to suffer. Christians, let us face this bravely. How can it be that we face this torture without difficulty? This forced separation from our parents is difficult to accept. However, in the Scriptures we all know that God tells us he is concerned about even the hairs of our head. Is this not all part of God's providence?

In following the will of our Lord with complete trust, and united with Jesus, already the devil has been struck. As we are now undergoing this time of strife, let us brace ourselves and with all our strength and with all our capabilities--using our weapons, the Rosary, Scripture, and Sacraments like strong soldiers--let us fight the good fight, and we will win.

Please let us not forget our love for one another, help one another and with patience overcome the suffering. Twenty of us are in prison. With God's grace holding us up, even after death don't forget our families; take care of them. I have much to say, but it can't be expressed with words. We are ready to go out to the place of execution. We will prepare well and meet you in heaven.

Please do not give in to the persecution, brace your hearts day and night, ask God for help, fight against the world, the flesh and the devil, and overcome these difficulties and give glory to God and save our souls! This trial is a way of gaining merit. Think of it with thanks. Let us imitate the life of the men and women saints and give glory to God. Let us give ourselves to one another, become one, and ask for mercy. Let us wait for the time of grace.

Since I am in prison, I can't say all that I want to. Let us meet in heaven. I pray earnestly that we may all enjoy heaven for all eternity.

1847 end of August, Kim Andrew

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Dowsing in Korea

Koreans have an attraction to many areas of life that do not ordinarily enter the western mind. The search for underground running water is one of these. In both Korean Catholic newspapers, you have advertisements on how to neutralize harmful radiation that comes from underground running water, and even to protect yourself when sleeping by using beds with stone slabs.

A priest who with over forty years as a dowser, wrote an interesting article, some years ago in one of our Catholic Magazines. Since he is called the "doctor for wells" he felt an article explaining what he does would be proper. Judging from his experience, about 4 out of 10 are sensitive to the radiation from underground running water, causing health problems for many.

The priest has been asked to find water for municipalities, colleges, churches and schools, the farming and industrial sectors, and for homes. The article mentions the case in Incheon where he found drinking water in ocean land fill. He was elated with the results, as were those who were present.

He believes that those who are sensitive to the radiation will usually have health problems. This is accepted by most Koreans. He mentions that trees by a well will be twisted or bent and concludes these are the effects of the running water below. With his knowledge of where the underground running water can be found, he has helped many recover their health.

Dowsing is not considered scientifically proven, and many still feel this is a belief from the past that is no longer acceptable to most enlightened observers --superstition. Koreans do not agree. Dowsing began in Korean in 1836, when a French foreign missioner started investigating its possibilities; when the concordat with the French was made in 1887, dowsing was taken up my many. And still today, many are involved in looking for underground water and freeing many from radiation that may come from this source.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A New Chapter On Naju

Naju is making the news again; an old story that does not want to die. The ordinaries of the Kwangju Archdiocese have studied the events starting in July 30,1985 with the weeping statue of the Blessed Mother, and made it clear there is no evidence that the events are supernatural--perhaps they show some preternatural power. However, there is another chapter with a so called "miracle" in Rome written up in an Italian Magazine.

An archbishop and Cardinal, who spent time in Korea as Apostolic Delegates and have returned to Rome show sympathy for what they saw on their trips to Naju. They have accepted what is being said by the supporters of Mrs. Julia Youn, who has been receiving the messages from the Blessed Mother. The archbishop was even present at the so called miracle in Rome, and they both considered the miracle in Naju as authentic when they were here in Korea.

A priest from Kwangju Diocese has made a study of Naju for his master's degree in Applied Theology, and concurs with the results of the Naju Investigation Committee that sees no evidence of the Supernatural. This paper is now being distributed to the dioceses that want to inform the Catholics on the occurences at Naju.

Rome has not changed their opinion about the phenomena and respects the decision of the Diocese that has studied all the facts. However, with powerful men who are in Rome the supporters of Julia Youn have made a DVD and sent them throughout the country and also overseas, so the confusion is going to continue. The DVDs include the words of the archbishop and the Cardinal in support of the phenomena which is in opposition to the decision of the Ordinary of the Diocese. The Diocese has excommunicated all those who participate in the events at Naju but this has not stopped the visits. The Cardinal and the archbishop are speaking as individuals, and it is not a decision of the Church, but it is easily seen why some of the Catholics have difficulty understanding what is going on.

Supporters of Naju see those in opposition as part of the liberal segment of the Church in Korea; they are dividing the liberal and conservative elements as if the conservative would support Naju. It is a private revelation and there should be a certain amount of humility shown in accepting the wishes of the Ordinary of the Diocese. However, the Cardinal and archbishop do not feel bound. Those who wish to disobey the wishes of the archbishop of Kwangju have easy access to people in high places, which makes the position of the Korean Bishops awkward.

To many, even if the Blessed Mother was speaking to Julia Youn, she would want the Catholics to listen to the Bishop of the Diocese rather than her, but that kind of thinking doesn't seem to have any persuasive power in these days of dissent and personal opinion pushed to center stage. Both Catholic newspapers have covered the story this week, and the Church will do its best to try to keep the Catholics informed but people like to hear miracle stories.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tweaking Globalization To Make It Human

Once a Hermit Kingdom, Korea has now developed to a point where she is a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Group of 20, which met in Canada this past week. Economically, she is one of the stronger countries in the world thanks to globalization, but this was not all for the good.

With globalization, the world is more connected than ever before: trade, money, and people move easily to all parts of the world. But along with the benefits of globalization, there are problems. An article in the Kyeong-Hyang magazine suggests there are more cons than pros. The writer sees the spread of violence and anti-democratic movements on the increase. The traditional acceptance of sex, marriage and the family is being rejected and the traditional values of religion are being questioned.

Moral theologians tell us what has to be considered in the future of globalization. And the writer follows up on this by making three points: first, we have to rethink the place of finances in society. Companies have to have another way of looking at what they are about; not only increasing profits but finding ways of easing the struggles of the human family. Second, there has to be a new understanding of politics. It should benefit not only the elite but should be truly democratic: helping all in society. Third, efforts have to be made to strengthen a sense of community throughout society.

He believes the Church's role in society is to further the common good and work for solidarity, which is in line with the social gospel. Those who have been marginalized by society have to be brought back by a more equitable distribution of wealth.

The Catholic papers and magazines are sensitive to the failure of the catechumenates to teach the social gospel. This was readily seen in the way our Catholics looked upon the problems that society had to face. The effort to make up for this oversight is now shown by the effort and space that are given to this issue in the Catholic media.