"The learning I shall now discuss is a learning entirely to do with the inner life and which is for oneself–in a word, it is that learning whereby a man is made whole."
--Matteo Ricci (利瑪竇) (1552-1610)
Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary and one of the founders of the Jesuit China Mission, wrote "The Cheonju Sileui" (True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven), the book that persuaded some Confucian Korean scholars to study Catholicism, and so began the Church in Korea.
This year, on May 11th, we will celebrate the 400th year of Ricci's death. Though he lived in China only 28 years, he had such extraordinary success in his missionary efforts that it makes one gasp at what he was able to accomplish.
In the early years of his stay in Peking, when enjoying the friendship of highly placed scholars, Ricci brought out "The Cheonju Sileui," a catechism translated into Chinese by Ricci which deals with the divine character and attributes under eight heads. Using the dialogue format, he presents a conversation between a western and a Chinese scholar to show the similarities between Christianity and the teachings of the Chinese literati.
The editorial in this week's Catholic Times mentions that the Church in Korea has not given Matteo Ricci the credit he deserves for the beginnings of the Church in Korea. However, the Jesuits in Korea will have a symposium and other events that will highlight his spirituality and his life. This is particularly welcomed since the Church has not made the necessary efforts to make him known in Korea.
There are few missionaries who have had the influence of Ricci on the Catholic Church of Korea even though he never stepped foot in Korea. Without him, we would not have the present Catholic Church of Korea. The early leaders of the Church were all indebted to him for what they learned about Catholicism. His way of doing mission has also influenced the Church in its attempts at inculturation in the present day.
The editorial ends with a reflection that the has made much of the life and mission of Matteo Ricci by recent exhibits in Rome. We must not turn over to Rome what we must do here in Korea.