Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Preparing for Korean Catholic Youth Day

On August 12th to the 18th, the Uijeongbu Diocese of Korea will host the 2nd Catholic Youth Day.The 1st Korean Youth Day was in the Diocese of Cheju in 2007. It drew the youth from parishes throughout the country. It was also a preparation for the World Youth Day in Australia in 2008.

These Youth Days are organized like past International Youth Days. The host diocese organizes daily conferences, discussions and prayers, and celebrates Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation. Attendees stay with local families or in places designated by the host.

The youth commission of the Korean Bishops Conference will sponsor the event with the Diocese doing most of the preparation. Uijeongbu Diocese has over 260 Volunteers that have attended the inaugural Mass and have started preparations with numerous meetings, seminars, and rehearsals.

The event will be held with the theme: "Hope In God" (Isaiah 26:8).

The next World Youth Day will be held in 2011 in Madrid, Spain, and in 2012, the Korean Catholic Church will host the Asian Catholic Youth Meeting, which is held during the years when there is no International Youth Day celebration. Hosting the Asian Catholic Youth Day should be good preparation for the Korean Church, when they have the chance to host the International Youth Day. As organizers, they are hard to beat.

The Church in Korea is justly concerned about the youth. They are the future, and statistics have shown that many of them are no longer going to Sunday Mass or show any interest in the spiritual. The need to work with the younger generation is urgent, but the postmodern world view that is so predominant among the young makes it difficult to reach them. An important aspect of this world view is the belief that so-called 'truths' have caused us only trouble, and thus the attraction of relativism for the young is easy to understand. The efforts of the Church to get youth to come together to discuss and reflect on life can't have anything but a positive effect on the future of Catholicism in Korea.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Social Gospel In Catholicism

Leaders in the Catholic Church in Korea, from before 1987, have been interested in the consequences of what has been called the social gospel of the Church--applying the truths of the gospels to solve or alleviate social problems. This has spread to the lay Catholics, helping to democratize and humanize culture, according to a professor writing in the Catholic Times.

He goes on to tell us that this is the way we make the Gospel live in society, in the family and in the Church. The Church in Korea started teaching its social doctrine to lay people after the Asian Lay Assembly in 1994: a 15-year history of the social gospel. In many areas of the Church's work--the family, moral life issues, pastoral youth work, welfare, justice and peace issues, ecology, working with immigrants, mass communication and national unity--it is the social gospel which gives the principles on which to judge and the guidelines to direct the activities.

The professor laments that there are only 5 dioceses in Korea that have programs for teaching the social implications of the Gospels. Seoul has been the leader in this area, and over the last 15 years they have had 65 different courses, with nearly 4,000 attending.

In recent years there has been a drop in attendance. An effort needs to be made to reverse this trend by recruiting interested Catholics to attend and also to find teachers who will conduct programs throughout the country.

The term “social doctrine” goes back to Pope Pius XI and designates the doctrinal teachings concerning issues relevant to society which, from the Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII, developed in the Church from 1891. This Encyclical Letter marks the beginning of a "new path" for the Church.

Those who have been educated in this new way of seeing our society become our modern day Apostles. They see something they did not see before. The Catholic Church is considered by many to be part of the anti-Democratic and anti-humanistic elements in the modern world. This viewpoint is easy to understand: the Church's record was far from prophetic. In attempting to preserve the good it was seen as against.

The Church was not the first to change to meet the problems that developed but neither was it the last. Becoming acquainted with the Church's Social Teaching does open up areas of our Christian life that goes back to the Gospel, and gives us a theology that shows how we are to look upon our society and be leaven, salt and light in today's world.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Korean Nostalgia For The One Country

After an absence of 44 years North Korea appeared in the World Cup, and, as expected, did not impress, except for the fact that they made the event. Beaten by Portugal 7 to 0, they showed why they were the biggest underdog of the tournament, but they did attempt the impossible.

With the sinking of the Chonam and the sadness and cries of the families of the victims still fresh in the memory of the South Koreans, the jubilations of the world cup games come with mixed feelings.
Many Koreans in the South were born in the North so the love of their place of birth is strong, despite also feeling anger toward a government that tyrannizes its people.

In the Catholic Times, a columnist who was born in North Korea, said that she fell asleep watching the North Korean and Brazilian game but still checked the internet next morning to find out what happenedl; she was pleased to see that the results of the game were favorable to North Korea. "Before 1960 we all lived on the same peninsular, and belonged to the same people," she said. "We can't hide that fact."

A Korean resident of Japan on hearing the North Korean National Anthem, started to cry and the columnist writer mentioned that it also brought tears to her eyes. She now understands how the Jews of the Diaspora felt. The only relative that came South at the division of the country was her mother's sister. Her parents had died and the relatives that meet for family celebrations are just six.

This year, her thoughts of the family in the North turned to her uncle, a priest, her father's older brother, who is now listed among the 38 who are being proposed for canonization by the Church. Her uncle was imprisoned in Pyongyang in 1950 and when the North Korean troops retreated to the North, they took their prisoners on a death march during which many died.

Seeing the North Korean team on the soccer field brought her back to her early years growing up in the North. She hopes that for the next world cup Koreans will see a united team playing for one country.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Korean Ode to Water

In a meditative study on water in a recent Catholic Magazine, the author helps us appreciate the role of water in our life. When we get away during the summer and go to the mountains and sit beside a stream or go to the seashore, the sound of the water never interferes with what we do--it's a welcome relief from the sound of machines. Water was our first natural habitat; we were all surrounded by water in our mother's womb.

Even in life, most of our body is made up of water; it was there from the beginning. Water was the womb from which God created. When our telescopes explore outer space, the presence of water is considered a sign that some form of life will also be present. Water gives life. However, it is also the reason for punishment in the Scriptures. It cleans and removes dirt and debris. The Jews used water as a sign of cleanliness. We as Christians continue this with the waters of baptism that give us new life.

Both in the West and in the East the nature and attributes of water have been acknowledged and eulogized. In Korea water was seen as containing four virtues. It gives growth to all life, cleans from dirt, flows through all things--it is gentle. Water does not care for the turbid, seeks the bright and cleans the dirty--it is just. Water is soft, and, although seemingly weak, has to be respected for it can easily overcome the strong--it is brave. Flowing with reason, water accommodates, embraces and relates harmoniously with all--it is humble and wise. .

Lao-tzu compares water to the Way. The highest good is like water. "Because water excels in benefiting the myriad creatures without contending with them and settles where none would like to be, it comes close to the way."

During this vacation season, the author recommends that we do the following:

1) At a little stream in a ravine, put your feet in the water and go back to the time you were in your mother's womb.

2) Throw a leave into a stream and let your spirit go with the leaf out to the ocean.

3) Recollect the attributes of water and ask God for the grace to imitate them.

4) Let us remember that when we dirty water, it is water that we need to drink; let us keep all waters clean.

5) Water is our common possesssion. Let us conserve it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Preparing for the 50th Anniversary

The diocese of Incheon will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary next year, and it was a sign of the maturity of the diocese and the need to manage the many works of the diocese that Rome finally appointed an auxiliary.

The Cardinal of Seoul, in his congratulatory speech, praised the work of Maryknoll Bishop McNaugton (retired bishop of Incheon) for his many years of service to the diocese. Back in 1961, there were only 9 parishes and 23,169 Catholics; today there are 113 parishes and 437,621 Catholics, making Incheon the 4th largest diocese in Korea. When the diocese was established there were no Korean priests, today there are 260. Since Bishop Mc Naughton was not present, the Cardinal asked us all to clap loud enough for the Bishop to hear us in the States.

The head of the Bishops Conference gave a congratulatory talk that was far from the staid and conventional speech that you would expect on such an occasion. It shows that Bishops can surprise even in Korea.

He began with a joke. A lay man went to heaven and was met by St. Peter who, without much ado, let him enter. Soon after, a Relgious Sister arrived and Peter gave her a bouquet of flowers. And then a bishop arrived and there was an orchestra to greet him. The lay man spoke to St. Peter about the unfairness of the receptions. He thought heaven would be different and was annoyed at the discrimination. St. Peter explained that this bishop was the first one they had seen in 100 years.

He went on in this vein telling us that when a person becomes a general in the armed forces, he has 80 or more things that change for him. Becoming a bishop also means many changes: a red cassock and hat, a miter, a ring, gloves, and a shepherd's staff--to keep his fingers busy--a driver, a secretary, and the best places at events.

He concluded his talk by reminding us of St. Ignatius' example of the two standards: Jesus and Satan. On one side, poverty contempt and humility; on the other side, riches, honor and pride. Sometimes, it's difficult, he said, to distinguish under which standard one is working. He congratulated the new bishop and asked him to be sure to check which standard we (the bishops) are working under. Let us make sure it's not every hundred years that a bishop gets to heaven.

Not taking ourselves too seriously and being able to laugh at ourselves is not out of place even at a bishop's consecration. The bishop made it clear to the new bishop what his priorities should be in a humorous but effective way. These are also what our values should be as disciples of Jesus.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fr. John Edward Morris, Maryknoller

An article in the July issue of the Kyeong-Hyang Magazine introduces us to the first Korean Religious Order established in Korea: the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, founded by Fr. John Edward Morris. He was a Maryknoll priest who was sent to Korea in 1923, a difficult time in Korean Church history; he was made the Ordinary of the diocese in 1930. We are told that he was the first one to have seminars for lay people with interest in mission work and had helped many in his diocese overcome the difficulties of living in a country occupied by the Japanese.

He started a monthly magazine, "Catholic Studies," to encourage the work of evangelization, and improve the way the diocese and the parishes were run. He was also instrumental in giving hope and a long-overdue sense of empowerment to Catholic Korean women.

Right from the beginning, the Sisters were exposed to Continual Lectio Divina: regular study and reading of the scriptures. This was their charism, and they continued with this dependence on Scripture in their many works, guided by the words of Luke 18:41: "Lord, that I may see."

Wanting to know more about their founder, the Congregation sent a representative to Rome to gather whatever information was available, but learned that the time for release of the material has not arrived. So the Sisters will have to wait to see what the documents covering that period in Korea will reveal about Fr. Morris. .

Since Father Morris was ordered to resign by the Superior General of Maryknoll in 1936, there has been on-going discussions on what really happened during that turbulent time, when the "rites controversy," a complicated issue, was being hotly debated. Missioners were on both sides of the issue, intensifying the problem, a problem that led to the resignation. It was not an action initiated by the Vatican but rather by Maryknoll because of the dissension among Maryknollers in Korea. It was an attempt to bring peace and harmony back to the diocese.

At the funeral Mass for Fr. Morris, Fr. Sheridan, who knew him well, said that Fr. Morris, "Never sought to be vindicated but some day, please God, it will come about and perhaps soon." That would be a welcomed and long-awaited gift to the congregation he brought into being so long ago.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Is it Wrong to Pray on the Soccer Field?

Watching the World Cup games, most Korean Catholics are pleased to see players make the sign of the cross after scoring a goal. Appreciating the joy and gratitude after such a feat by making a sign of the cross, if not by some other gesture of elation, seems a natural thing to Korean Catholics. Making the sign of the cross is a regular part of their lives; even when snacking, many precede the eating by the sign of the cross.

In recent months, one of the Buddhist groups asked the soccer league to stop the religious ceremonies on the playing field. In response, a journalist for the Catholic Times wrote: "Is it wrong to pray?" Apparently, a league official of the FIFA had asked the players to refrain from any religious displays on the field, considering them out of place on the soccer field.

The players were not happy with the request and made it clear that there was nothing in the rules that would be against expressing joy after a goal. The regulations prohibit political acts, or acts that demean opposing teams or incite the crowd, but there is no prohibition of prayers and rituals.

One of our Korean players, a Protestant, after a goal gets down on his knees to pray, and in Europe and South America, you will occasionally see players making the sign of the cross. For a Catholic, the connection with those players is somewhat closer.

Besides religious displays, there are also displays that involve kissing a ring, doing a jig, somersaulting, and whatever else the player feels properly expresses joy and gratitude for the success of the moment.

These are ways of adding a little more luster to the sport. The journalist is hoping to see many making the sign of the cross, since many of the teams participating in the World Cup games come from predominantly Catholic countries. He is surprised that some have difficulty with these rituals and believes this is a very pre-modern way of seeing what is happening on the soccer field.

For a non-religious person, what is seen is considered superstitious, a return to a previous pre-scientific age, and therefore a childish way of acting. Many see these religious displays as divisive and tend to separate us, but they may also be seen as acts that show us how much larger life is than what we have come to make of it. We need not agree with the expressions we see, but we should be big enough to appreciate what moves others to express what they feel in their hearts. Without this understanding, life becomes drab and joyless in a separate, self-limiting world, instead of a life that opens up to a larger world we can joyfully share with others.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Times of Difficulty for Catholicism

On pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, one of our Diocesan priests was walking alone when he saw a girl waiting for a group to join. They started walking together and he introduced himself as a priest to put her at ease. She called him by his first name, which was Peter. Every time she introduced him to others, it was always Peter from Korea. On his return to Korea, he mentioned to some Irish priests about meeting this girl and was told that in Ireland, because of the sexual scandal, the trust the Irish previously had towards priests has greatly diminished. .

The priest, in a bulletin written for Korean priests, had a great deal to say about this issue in Korea in comparison both to what it was a few years ago and to what exists in other countries.

A priest who lives in the Netherlands, told him he no longer introduces himself as a priest. Even in the States, where priests were respected for years, bishops and priests don't feel the same walking in their clericals. The sexual scandals have changed the environment for all Catholic clergy. China and Russian and other countries under communist rule, because of their indoctrination, have never been friendly to the clergy. Religion was seen as the opium of the people and priests lived, as they saw it, by exploiting this deception.

Another priest mentioned going to the American Embassy for a visa and being given a rather difficult time during the questioning by a young woman employee. He had mentioned he was a Catholic priest; with a sarcastic look on her face, she said: " Do you want me to believe all priests are to be trusted?"

In the world today--outside of Korea, the Philippines, Africa and South America--there are few countries, besides the poorer ones, where the priest would receive respect because of his position.

Korea, however, is a country where priests still receive this respect. Financially, in comparison to many other Catholic countries, Korea treats their priests with great generosity. In 1980 a survey was taken on what occupations in our society the Koreans found most trustworthy, Catholic priests were listed as number one. This is no longer true, according to the priest; Buddhism is ready to ready to take the Church's place.

In Korea Americans and Westerners are still respected. Koreans have accepted the culture and religion from the West and their missionaries. Elder priests, especially, have helped to set a good example. During the years of totalitarian rule many of the priests went to prison for protesting the repressive regime when many citizens found it difficult to speak out. This speaking out for justice and truth has remained in the hearts of Koreans.

Overall, religion is greatly respected by an overwhelming majority of Koreans. One of the reasons is the history of the Catholic Church in Korea. A great deal of suffering and sacrifice were necessary to maintain one's faith during those early years. This is still a vivid memory of our Catholics; hard to imagine that this will change, but public opinion is not easy to determine.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Called To Expand Our Vision

A Maryknoller writing in a bulletin for priests recounts the incident that happened when he arrived in Korea back in 1969. He was a blue-eyed foreigner, which drew the interest of many. Staring at him, a child asked, "How does the world look to you with those blue eyes?" The missioner never forgot the question, and the question he asked himself in response: How do others see this world that I am in and see as my world?

The missioner left the States and a culture he knew well, and soon found himself confronting a new reality faced daily by Koreans. He feels that he has been called to view the difficulties of the Korean reality with a broader angle of vision than he had in the past.

He has worked with workers and refugees, has seen the difficult living and working conditions, and now shares their viewpoint. A few years later he was involved with abolishing the old family headship system, with its paternalism and authoritarianism, that began under Japanese rule, and became interested in the partnership system of leadership. With the spread of American military forces in different parts of the world, he became interested in the movements for peace. And his interests continued to expand to include working for the health of the ecology, as it became evident that the environment was being systematically destroyed by our short-sighted drive for development.

The Maryknoller feels we are all called to broaden our understanding of what is possible. Our Lord has shown us how by his own life. A sign of the mature person, one who has broadened the range of what is possible, who has, he feels, this expansive vision, is the person who is able to love and show compassion.

A child starts with concern only for itself but gradually becomes interested in the immediate surroundings, the family, the school, the neighbor. As the child matures, interest soon widens to include one's country and religion, and, in time, expands even further to include other countries, other religions, and all of God's creation.

In the Beatitudes Jesus asks us to get rid of some of our common sense beliefs and expand our vision to the unseen world. He invites us to read the scriptures with a new eye. The Maryknoller has made this journey and found it liberating. He is asking us to rid ourselves of our narcissim and begin to reach out with compassion and love--to see life anew.

Monday, June 21, 2010

In the recent Pastoral Bulletin, a priest reminisced on his days in grammar school and the times he refused to eat rice cakes. It was the custom when there was a family ceremony in the village to offer a dish of rice cakes to the neighboring households. Since the priest's mother was an old Catholic, she would refuse the cakes that came from shamanistic practices or from ancestral memorial service rites. Even at school he would tell his friends, "Our house goes to the Catholic Church; we don't eat that kind of rice cake."

As a boy he was very much interested in what was done at these services and would ask his non-Catholic friends for information. This interest remained with him even when he entered the seminary, became a priest, and went on to Rome for studies.

During his studies, he took an interest in inculuration and did a lot of reading and translating in this area. On his return from studies, he taught in the seminary and continued with this interest and was happy when the Church approved the rites for the ancestors.

However, he mentions a number of problems with the ceremony. In many families, when they hear that others are having the rites for the ancestors, there is often bickering. The Church has said the rites are good, but it has not said that you have to have these rites for the dead. It is here that we have misunderstandings. Some take it so literally that they want to go to the Confucian books to find the correct way to set up the table, what foods to prepare, and how to bow.

The priest reminds us that the Church has not given permission for the Confucian rites. When we have a rite according to the Confucian world view, these views are different from our own, and we are bound to have problems. Inculuration is important but there should be much thought given to what we are doing, and the Church should have guidelines for what is permissible.

And there are such guidelines on what may and may not be done. Over the years, however, the guidelines tend to be forgotten, or we lose interest and simply go along with what others are doing. The Catholic view of the afterlife is different from the Confucian, and without making allowances for these differences our understanding is bound to be affected in some very important areas of daily life: suffering, moral principles, beliefs, relationships, views on material goods, dealing with crises, death, and appreciating the beauty of the life. These are all important issues and how they are understood will affect our value system as followers of Christ; this could be changed by what we do in the rites for the dead.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Go For Broke-- All or Nothing Syndrome

In an essay in the daily newspaper, a Korean in the States gives her opinion on the reason why Koreans become addicted to games and cosmetic surgery. She feels Koreans enjoy competition and want to be number one.

This desire to succeed in competition has enabled Korea to achieve much in such a short time. It is one of Korean's noble traits, and this desire permeates all of society. Parents have great expectations for their children, which also makes for much unhappiness.

When children are online and game-playing with their rivals, they see the points registering and this stimulates their desire to succeed and gives them a great sense of satisfaction.

Over half of Korean children want to be in the entertainment world. They know the exhilaration that comes with holding a microphone in hand and experiencing the adulation of their classmates.

The writer mentions that a friend, teaching in an academy in Korea, told her most of the girls wanted to be stewardesses because they were considered beautiful. These young girls knew that beauty gave them power.

Why is it that women, and now more frequently men, are frequenting the cosmetic surgery hospitals for a change of face and even for a change of body? Is it not because of the intense competition that we now have in society?

She mentions her own competitive drive. She was a well-paid lawyer in a big company but gave it up to become a writer. She looks back and sees it as something she did without a great deal of thought.Her son discovered hundreds of letters of rejection from her publishers. It took her 11 years before her first novel was accepted. She is doing something, however, that she enjoys.

The Korean temperament thrives on competition: winning is all important, and is the main reason, she believes, there is so much unhappiness among the children.

She wonders how this competitive climate might be changed, and proposes that there be more opportunities to succeed outside of studies. She doesn't think there is a need for more opportunities to have more star athletes, more famous musicians, more successful entrepreneurs. She hopes that more will see the beauty of life and look for the opportunity to experience failure and success in other areas of life.

Her thoughtful commentary was refreshing to read. The "All or nothing" attitude that she feels best describes our young people is bound to frustrate many--few ever become number one.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Growth In Faith Not Always a Given

Ranking Christians in some kind of order is not an easy undertaking, but one of the columnists in the Catholic Times did make the attempt, and although such a ranking has no objective basis, there were some interesting observations.

Sampling some Catholics in his neighborhood, the columnist assessed the quality of life after baptism, designating that life as one of four types: A, B, C, and D. He looks on the life after baptism as a continuum looking for blessings, the period of trial, and maturity.

Type A Catholic is one who is faithful to his duties, gives generously to the Church, and then suddenly stops practicing the Faith. His sample Catholic had a son who was not accepted in the university. This Christian is looking for blessings. When they don't come, his response is to leave the Church. The columnist finds this Type not insignificant in the makeup of our Catholics.

Type B Catholic was practicing for about 10 years but a couple of years ago started to miss Mass, giving as his reasons: work and hobbies, the priest's sermons were of little help, those working in different service areas of the Church were, he thought, arrogant, and he didn't care for them. He calls these Catholics Nylon Christians. They have problems with the way the Church is run and not interested in having a deeper relationship with God.

Type C Catholic was a woman who was devoted to her faith life and did a great deal of volunteer work in the parish but had little time for prayer and study of the Bible in the home. Mass was just an obligation and when problems came, she prayed, but rarely found consolation and peace in her life.

Type D Catholic was a man the columnist met during his Legion of Mary's work. Always concerned for the other and willing to give a helping hand; he was an outstanding example of a mature Catholic. At one time, everything, he owned was burned in a fire. His neighbors and friends were speechless at his misfortune. But he went to our Lord with this burden and found the strength to start over again, and now has no financial problems. He has faults but is considered saintly. .

The columnist feels that we have to cooperate with God's grace by upgrading our faith life. There are plenty of opportunities to do this: programs in Scripture studies, charismatic renewal programs, M.E weekends, Cursillos and countless other programs. God gives his gifts in the present; we miss opportunities by putting off what we should be doing now.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Life Of Blind Starting to Change

In Korea like any society, there are many who are not able to partake of the good life. The Peace Weekly, in a recent article on some who are having a difficult time coping, told the story of a woman who was born blind and was left in front of a hospital shortly after birth. Now 30 years old, she is in school studying music.

She was in the orphanage attached to the hospital until the age of 7 and then transferred to the school for the blind. She tells us: " I was lonely and wanted to talk to others about my situation, but I kept it to myself even during the years of puberty. I have a grudge against my parents. However, there must have been a reason for them to hand me over to the hospital. They got rid of me, but I want to forgive them."

She graduated from high school at no expense because of a government subsidy which also pays for her current music studies, but leaves nothing for her use.

In order to earn some money for her living expenses she has worked in massage parlors but most of them are places for sex. Only the blind are legally permitted to give massages, but the restriction is often not taken seriously.

When she got chubby, she was fired and then decided to work in the field of music. She's been told she has talent but living in a culture that is not very understanding of the handicapped, she often is frustrated by the responses she gets when she expresses her desire for a career in music. There are signs that this unfortunate situation is changing: we will soon have our first blind lawyer in Korea.

The Japanese, by training the blind to practice medical massage, were instrumental in opening the way for the blind in Korea to work in this area. This has now spread to other parts of the world. The blind make good masseurs; it is a shame that the image of the massage parlor is no longer what it was.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

An Jung-geun Not Only Patriot But Saint?

The Seoul Diocese will begin the process to canonize An Jung-geun (1879-1910). This was made known at a press forum at the beginning of the month by the auxiliary bishop of Seoul. The long process of looking into the life of the patriot to see what his faith meant in his efforts for justice and peace will take time, but it should bring an appreciation of Patriot An to more Koreans. He will then take his rightful place in the Catholic Church's understanding of one of their very spiritual members.

In 1993, Cardinal Kim of Seoul made it clear that what An Jung-geun did in killing Ito could be seen as righteous self-defense. Cardinal Chong, speaking at a memorial Mass celebrating the 100th anniversary of the death of the patriot, emphasized the spirituality of the patriot: “Thomas An was a devoted Catholic and we cannot understand his life without his faith. That’s why we celebrate this Mass remembering his death."

China has always seen An as a patriot, believing the killing of Ito not a grudge killing but an effort to find peace. It is surprising how long it took Korea to understand the motivation of the patriot. His decision came only after much soul-searching, and was prompted by what he understood as his faith commitment to Jesus. Part of the reason for the long delay in appreciating Patriot An's actions was the Catholic Church's collaboration with the Japanese during those years.

His fight against imperialism was not only for Korea but for peace in East Asia. He was a true patriot, an independent freedom fighter who took upon himself the effort of doing something that others found hopeless. A great deal of information is available on what motivated him. He knew the stories of other fighters for independence in other countries, which prompted him to return to Korea and work for peace not only with Japan but throughout Asia. The canonization process that is beginning will help us to understand how difficult it is for a person to do what he feels is right when many in the society of his time did not have his vision, courage and commitment.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Korean Attempt To Solve A Serious Problem

Pastors in Korea are asked to do many things but those who have special jobs in the chancery also receive requests from lay people. One priest responsible for youth work in a diocese brings to mind a problem we see quite frequently in Korea.

A woman the priest knew asked him to visit a home she had been helping because of the family situation. The father had a stroke and was not able to walk, and the mother spends her day working to support the family. The son who was in the 6th grade grammar school stopped going to school, and spends his day playing video games. The woman wanted the priest to get him to return to school.

The priest was not happy with the request. He was not a pastor, and to liberate one from their addiction is no easy task. "Father you know these problems well, just meet him once! Ha, ha" giggling, off she went.

The priest didn't know what to do. Meeting the boy once is not going to get him off playing the video games. Will his visit bring joy and hope into the life of the boy, and bring any kind of peace into the family?

Since the priest is responsible for preparing teachers for the catechetical programs in parishes, he does get requests for help dealing with the youth. "Father you have a great personality and a sunny disposition, children follow you" are words he has often heard, but, he tells them to look at his face and see how he has aged and what worry has done to him.

After much thought he decided to contact the boy and invite him to a meal. He went to a family restaurant and had the boy choose anything he wanted. The boy, "This is the first time I have been here." To the question how is the meal he was not answering. The meal was important, but he was thinking how to use the situation with his classmates as something to give him face.

The conversation at the table was difficult, everything had to be related to something in his life. During the conversation, you saw a tear drop from the boy's eyes; the priest turned his gaze towards the window as tears came into his own eyes.

The article did not mention the result of the meeting, but the problem with video games is serious. The government has banned playing video games after midnight and the government will put a 'slowdown system' that will reduce the internet speed of any underage user who plays the virtual video games over a certain period of time. Some have difficulty with this type of censorship, but when you are faced with a problem of this type, attempts of the government will be welcomed by most parents.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Importance of Resiliency In Our Lives

The Catholic Times in their weekly column on some aspect of spirituality, focused this week on the necessity of resiliency in life. A recent study concluded that young men brought up in an environment that ordinarily fosters delinquency and societal dropouts were often able to survive unscathed when they were not committed to a rigid way of thinking and behaving..

What made these young men overcome the obstacles they faced growing up? The columnist believes the answer was a flexible attitude. They had the ability to accept or reject whatever they encountered in their environment--the good or the bad--as they assimilated experiences and created their value system. When used for their growth, this ability enabled these young men to see the world positively.

Our Church should attempt to find what fosters this flexibility, this self- resiliency, and then find ways to encourage its growth. Determining how much and in what manner our environment affects us would also be helpful.

Some of the questions to gauge flexibility might be: Am I able to accept myself humbly, at whatever stage I now find myself? How much of what has happened to me will I accept as resulting from my choice? Am I into the blame-game? What I am now is because of my parents, or my grandparents, or my brothers or sisters, my difficult family relationship, the poverty of the family, the bad atmosphere of my neighborhood, my school teachers, a certain friend--the list is almost endless.

We need to change the above to a different list: because of God, because of my belief, because of God's love for me. This list is never changed by circumstances of our life and can be available to all no matter their environment.

Also helpful in bringing to mind the need for a resilient attitude is to repeat, as often as necessary, the well-known Serenity prayer: "God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Knowing How To Read Statistics

"Why do I, standing in the shadow of this large and splendid Cathedral, feel so cold?" were the beginning words of an article in the Chosun Ilbo yesterday that reported some interesting and disturbing statistics on the Catholic Church just published for 2009.

Catholics are now 10.1 percent of the population, with an increase of baptized Catholics over the previous year. Participants to an academic meeting, which evaluated the statistics, see the figures as possibly indicating both a period of stability and a warning sign for the future- that a decline may be immanent, unless preventive measures are taken.

The group wants to focus not only on the positive but on what the statistics may tell us about a not so positive future. In the year 2000, 29 percent of Catholics regularly attended Mass; in 2008, 24 percent were attending.

One of the presenters was quoted as saying that the efforts at renewal are insufficient to keep the loss of faith from spreading. Signs of the stabilizing process: Loss of faith and secular ways of thinking are spreading, better living conditions of our priests and religious, increase of leisure time, and the weakening of the prophetic in our faith life. If we continue to neglect this situation, according to the consensus of the group, we will enter a period of decline. .

One suggested that we can no longer continue with priests at the center of our faith life. Lay people have to take their rightful place, participating fully with the priest in what is going on in the Church.

Another said we shouldn't concern ourselves with numbers but with how many Catholics are following our Lord. A layman from the Korean Catholic Cutural Center noted that the Church in past years had few possessions, was not well organized, and priests and religious were living in poverty but, paradoxically, the Church received more respect. And yet another participant thought that the communication from the established dioceses has to improve if the situation is to change.

What begins imperceptibly without being noticed often brings unexpected and disastrous results. It is like the frog in lukewarm water, enjoying the swim, raising the heat slowly, the frog will not realize the small increase in temperature and, without concern, will die in the boiling water.

Both Catholic newspapers in recent editorials mentioned that the signs of a possible decline for the Korean Church, similar to what has happened to the European Catholic community are ominously clear. The hope is that the Bishops will do something about the anticipated problem. Perhaps a few more saints would also help to show us where we have gone wrong and to point us in a new direction.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Time Has Arrived for the Electric Car

For some time, grandmothers have been coming to church with their electric cars. On many Sundays, there are at least three parked in front of the Church. It seems that Korea is now ready for the family electric car.

A half page spread in The Peace Weekly gave us a run down on the latest car with zero CO2 emissions, the e-Zone. It was a gift to the seminary by the company that is the leader in electric car manufacturing in Korea. In the world of environmentally friendly cars, Korea clearly intends to be among the leaders. .

The e-Zone is already the most popular car on campus among professors, religious and seminarians. And on a recent visit by the writer to a showroom exhibit, he found the e-Zone the center of attention for many of the Japanese visitors. .

With a speed limit of under 60 kilometers per hour and its compact design, the car is ideal for city use. It is powered by an electric motor and batteries, which can be recharged with ordinary electricity. Recharging takes about four hours and will go on a single charge up to 70 kilometers. Car price ranges from $8,000 to $16,000, and less than 10 dollars a month if the car is driven no more than 1,500 kilometers a month.

CT&T, the company that built the e-Zone, has a history of working in this field and is beginning to export and build factories in other parts of the world. That the company is small and not part of any of the established conglomerates is a pleasant surprise. It would be encouraging to all small, independent companies to see such a company competing successfully in an industry that has been dominated by giants for so many years.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Collaboration in the Apostolate

Vertical leadership by priests has to give way to a more horizontal style of leadership if small groups are to be effective in achieving their goals. The priest needs to consider all those he is working with as friends, co-workers sharing the same goals. In the process, religious and lay people will have the opportunity to exercise both their autonomy and their independence.

This was the way the article in The Peace Weekly recounted what happened in the 9th Small Group Apostolate meeting, sponsored by the Bishops' Committee, that met for three days during the last days of May. A total of 276 attended from 14 Dioceses. The theme was taken from John's Gospel 15:15, "I will call you friends."

A layperson, in his address to the assembly, stressed the importance of having a horizontal understanding of authority, getting rid of rank and seeing all as brothers and sisters. Laypersons should not be waiting to take orders passively from the priest, but using their own initiative to set into motion imagination and creativity in the service of evangelization; the apostolate of the layperson has to be acknowledged.

A Religious Sister, in her presentation, said she sees a problem with the Confucian cultural understanding of authority that is a leftover from earlier days, but admits that she also falls into this way of relating in the parish. When the Religious feels that proper respect was not shown, the way to resolve this is to have the Religious be conscious of their own identity and autonomy. They are not shackled to the priest.

Religious should always be concerned with their life of faith, not as authority figures but as servants in the manner of our Lord: always open, discerning properly and clearly, and able to express this in their life. Seeing one's own faults, willing to forgive, and having a big heart allowing one to give up their position for the unity of the group.

A priest, in his presentation, compared the relationship of the layperson, religious, and the priest to a three-legged stool. When one of the legs is shorter or longer than the others, a problem develops. When they are all even and equal, there is equilibrium. Similarly, when the relationships are right, there will be collaboration in the apostolate and a solid foundation for future development.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Necessity for Media Literacy

Media Literacy is the subject of an article in the recent issue of the Kyeong-Hyang Magazine. The writer, a priest, wants us to be more critical of what we allow into our homes. The media gives us much that is good but also, especially when depicting violence and sex, much that does not help us to grow in a healthy and mature way.

Dramas tend to make more money, producers know, when plenty of violence and sex are depicted. A popular Korean movie "Friend," a drama about gangsters, loyalty and betrayal, with a great deal of violence and sex, was, at the time it came out, the biggest money maker of all time. The characters became idols to many of the young and there were those who copied some of the violence. The movie was skillfully done, well acted and directed, so that viewers could easily sympathize with the characters--making it all the more dangerous to youngsters who are often looking for role models to imitate. .

The writer also feels this is true with "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,"the American TV drama series that is now showing on Korean TV. Filled with violence and sex, the series has been used as a textbook for crime by at least one serial killer in Korea, who confessed that he learned how to get rid of the evidence from watching CSI.

Stories in the press have also been used by youngsters in a copy cat way. Middle school children making porno films with their classmates, indulging in acts of violence, even murders--all have been traced back to some media coverage.

The writer, in addition to asking for more vigilance concerning what is watched and read, suggests that TV stations be notified when programing is not proper.

He concludes the article with a quote from the Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II, The Rapid Development, section 13.

"The great challenge of our time for believers and for all people of good will is that of maintaining truthful and free communication which will help consolidate integral progress in the world. Everyone should know how to foster an attentive discernment and constant vigilance, developing a healthy critical capacity regarding the persuasive force of the communications media.

"Also in this field, believers in Christ know that they can count upon the help of the Holy Spirit. Such help is all the more necessary when one considers how greatly the obstacles intrinsic to communication can be increased by ideologies, by the desire for profit or for power, and by rivalries and conflicts between individuals and groups, and also because of human weakness and social troubles. The modern technologies increase to a remarkable extent the speed, quantity and accessibility of communication, but they above all do not favor that delicate exchange which takes place between mind and mind, between heart and heart, and which should characterize any communication at the service of solidarity and love."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Feminist Working Mother With No Regrets

A feminist doctor, writing in a recent column in the Korean Times, explains what she understands by the term "working mother." She says that her biology and her role in society do not in any way make her, as a working mother, feel handicapped or victimized.

She realizes that society does not treat women equally with men, especially in the workplace. And as a working mother she knows this first hand, but says that this is a problem of society, not her problem.

She is proud of her biological individuality, her place in the family as a working mother, and her femininity; whether society realizes it or not is immaterial. Her position in society is quite different from many other women; she has a good paying job and admits she is in no position to appreciate all their problems.

However, there are feminists, she feels, who reject the role of women and belittle their unique characteristics. Is it an embarrassment, she asks, to be a woman? Is birthing and raising children an unfair burden amounting to mistreatment and a loss of freedom--women becoming tools of a capitalistic society? Accepting this way of thinking is to look down on the role of women, sometimes expressed by assertions like the following:
Since men are not doing their part in raising a child, I will not either.
Men do not feel responsible for the birth of the child, I will not either.
Men do not partake in housework, and I will not either.
Society does not help in raising a child, and I won't either.
Society makes it hard on a working mother; I will work but not give birth.

The thinking behind these statements is often the understanding that women are giving birth not for themselves but for their husbands or society. Is a woman, she asks, a birthing machine for her husband and society?

The writer hopes that women will work for a society in which a husband and wife will share responsibility for raising their children. When the husband does not act responsibly, the wife should bring it to his attention. Working mothers should ask their husbands to help with the housework. When society does not act as it should, efforts should be made to change society. And, perhaps most important, working women should not look down on the birthing and raising children. She dreams that some day society will appreciate the role of a working mother, seeing it as it should be seen--as magnificent and respected.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How Catholic Koreans Feel About Unification

This is the 60th year of the outbreak of the Korean War. The Suwon Diocese with a questionnaire examined the thinking of the Catholics about North Korea. Since the sinking of the Chonam navel ship, a coldness has set in, and we have a hardening of the different ideologies to the North.

Those who would like to see unification irrespective of time were 93.2%, and those who like the situation as is, was 4.6%. Those who thought it impossible were 2.1%. A Gallup poll made earlier this year found that 26% found the situation now to their liking. The Catholic response was decidedly for unification.

The question, whether you would be willing to pay on an individual basis to see unification, 58.6% said that they would accept the burden. 25.7% didn't know and those not willing were 15.6%. 72.3% of the men and 44.9% of the women were willing to finance the unification.

38% thought that aid should not be given, unless they knew how it was going to be used. 37.1% thought aid should be given unconditionally. 24.1% thought aid should be given on the North's advances on the way to peace.

If we had religious freedom in the North 39.2 % would be willing to volunteer for a certain period of time. Those 20 to 30 showed the greatest interest. 37.6% would be willing to help out monthly in supporting those working in the North. 7.6% would go North to evangelize. Half of those over 50 would be willing to support those working as missioners in the North.

To the question what can the Church do to prepare for unification: 33.8 % thought the church should prepare those who will be going North to evangelize. 24.1% wanted to help the people in the North stabilize their living conditions. 19.8% felt that building hospitals and schools important and 14.3% thought priest and religious should be prepared to go to the North.

The Catholic Church has accepted seminarians who will work in North Korea. The Church has also taken an active part in helping the refugees from the North to accommodate to the South. Maryknoll continues to help fund the work in North Korea with the tuberculosis patients in cooperation with the Bell Foundation. After 60 years of division besides the physical needs, the North will have to take time to become part of the world.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What Makes a Virtuous Enterprise?

This month's Kyeong-Hyang Magazine continues with a series of articles on economics. The writer, a priest from the Andong Diocese, presents a concept of doing business he calls the "virtuous enterprise." He begins with a statement from a past president of Korea: "It seems that the authority of the government has gone over to the market." This bitter confession has prompted many to want this authority reclaimed by government.

The big enterprises in Korea needed the government's help in the beginning, but they have grown to a point where they have thrown off regulations and government control and follow only the dictates of the market. The influence of business has expanded beyond the world of finances into politics, society and culture, and continues to grow.

The writer imagines what the future would look like if companies become socially responsible--become "virtuous enterprises." They would not be interested in making more money, as if that is their only responsibility to society.

Although it is awkward to talk about the success of these companies, it seems they are having success. The buying public has a preference for these companies and will look for their products. People of talent are even ready to sacrifice pay to work for them.

A professor from an American University was quoted as saying that companies of this type are able to internalize the motivation of workers. Their workers feel proud to be part of such companies and will work zealously to make them successful.

As an aid in achieving this goal, there is a Christian equity index, which includes companies that are considered ethical and are recommended for investment. In Europe, there are 533 companies whose revenues come from approved sources. Groups that make money from pornography, weapons, tobacco, birth control and gambling are excluded.

The goal of socially responsible companies may be a dream of the writer and of most of us, but it is an ideal that is actually finding many who want to partake in this new way of doing business.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ode to the Earth

The origin of life and its habitat is the earth. Earth is where God wanted life to begin. A pastor in Andong, the smallest diocese in Korea, reflects in the Diocesan Bulletin on life and the earth.

97 percent of the food we need to live comes from the earth or, more exactly, the soil. From the time that we began to farm there has been an effort to make the earth more fertile. The mystery of earth life is a matter for much thought: "A man scatters seed on the ground. He goes to bed and gets up day after day. Through it all the seed sprouts and grows without his knowing how it happens." (Mk. 4:26-27).

Working with the life forces of the earth, humans produce our life-giving food stuffs. In nature, there is no waste--all is used. By using, as much as possible, these same natural methods of the earth, our farming will likely lead to better health for us and for the environment. The earth is one of God's greatest gifts to us, and when we work with the guidelines given to us at creation, we can expect to live in harmony with creation. .

The writer includes a poem by the very extraordinary Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). She was the first to coin the word green for God's life-giving world.

The earth is at the same time
Mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human.
Mother of all, she contains in her the seeds of all,
All moistness, all verdancy, all germinating power.
In all ways fruitful, for all creation comes from her.
Yet the earth forms not only the raw materal for humankind,
But also the substance for the incarnation of God's son.

For over forty years, farmers have taken up industrial and chemical farming methods. In the beginning, this was enthusiastically accepted by farmers. It made farming easier and the harvests more abundant. However, over time it was discovered that this was against life. Use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weed killers were killing the organisms in the earth that would fight off diseases and pests and keep the earth fertile. Dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides is an escalating process that increasingly harms the natural fertility of the soil, neutralizing and removing many of the minerals that were making the soil fertile.

In addition, this use of chemicals has done much to pollute our rivers and lakes, even the oceans. Although switching over to natural farming is a desire of many farmers, habits are not easily changed and the loss of produce in the change-over is for many too much of a risk to jeopardize their livelihood. In Korea, in 1983, about 10 million were working on farms; it is now about 3.5 million. The Andong diocese has made farmers their number one priority. Other dioceses will wait with much interest to see what they will accomplish in helping farmers make the transition to natural farming.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Eucharist-- Truly a Sign of Unity

The Feast of Corpus Christi presents us with the teaching of Trinity Sunday, and another example of how to live in community with love and unity. The Korean experience of Church has been 'top down'--a very obedient Church. The word hierarchical has not yet received the pejorative meaning that other countries have accepted. Part of the reason is the Korean culture and the way our Catholics have been formed.

The Catholic Times editorial for this issue brings to the reader's attention the meaning of the Eucharist. When we see disunion and division, we are not living the Eucharistic Life. We do not give witness to what we believe. This kind of talk in Korea has little trouble being understood, but not easily digested in other parts of the Catholic World.

Understanding of Church is no longer so easily defined as in the past. We have those that want to see more from below and those who have little difficulty in listening to those who are in a position of authority. Those with a hierarchical understanding of Church (Korean Church) find the Eucharist and its call to unity easy to understand. There are many variables that have to enter the equation, but the outline is clear for the Korean Catholic.

The editorial does add that the Eucharist calls all of us to get involved with the works of justice, peace, and to be with the poor. The Eucharist ties us together in a oneness to work for a "new heaven and a new earth".

After the consecration at the Mass, we have the words: "In memory of his death and resurrection, we offer you, Father, this life-giving bread, this saving cup. We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you. May all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit."

What does it mean to be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit? It is here that there are many and varied opinions. In Korea we are spared, at present, the problems that are envisioned in other parts of the Catholic World. Hopefully, we will have time to work through the differences that will come, and include them in the formation of our Catholics, so the Eucharist will continue to be the sign of unity and love visibly seen--between Jesus and his body the Church.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Smoking and Drinking of Korean Youth

Since we are going to smoke and drink, what is wrong with starting early?"
"I know it is not something good, but it's not something that takes effect immediately."
"Smoking one cigarette--does that make one a delinquent?
" I am thinking of stopping smoking, but there is no problem with drinking is there?"

Just some of the thoughts about smoking and drinking from adolescents written up recently in the Catholic Times. It was evident to the writer that they understood the problem with narcotics but considered smoking and drinking differently.

According to a survey made online, about 25% of teenagers drink, with little differences between the sexes. The percentage of those that smoke will be lower, about 13%; of this number 16.8% are male and 8.2% are female. Korean teenagers start smoking earlier than in the past and many start around the 13th year. Grammar school is no longer a safe haven. The writer believes adults are not sufficiently familiar with the problem.

In addition to the ever present peer pressure, the younger generation is exposed to more virtual reality than previous generations. They are influenced, and habits formed by an almost constant stream of risky behaviors that are routinely depicted in the mass media.

There is a general unconcern about the ill effects of alcohol and tobacco, the evidence clearly shows there is a higher percentage of delinquency and crime among drinkers and smokers, and, when depressed, youngsters who drink have a higher rate of suicide. And sexual experimentation, with its attendant problems for the young, has also been shown to be connected to alcohol and tobacco use. The sad truth is that there are good reasons to be concerned about this growing habit among our adolescents.

Society, according to the Catholic Times article, must accept some of the blame for this worsening condition. Adults are too tolerant of smoking and drinking by the young. Those under 19 are not to be sold cigarettes or alcohol but this is very loosely followed. They will always find a place where they can buy what they want.

And we must not forget, in this effort to help our young people kick the habit of dependence on drink and tobacco, the important part played by the movement for life.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Very Vunerable Life Span

An e-mail was received in praise of the United States with the following poem, along with pictures of President Obama relating with his opponents in a friendly manner. The theme of the poem (translated freely below) is particularly relevant in these turbulent times when the potential predatory nature of nations is all too visible. The history of nations should remind us that world powers have a limited and very vulnerable life span.

There was a hunter some time ago,
His bow in hand, his eyes on an eagle.
The eagle not conscious of his imminent death
Was preparing to grasp a snake.

The snake was staring, with no awareness of the eagle,
At a frog who was glaring at a ladybug,
Motionless, unaware of the frog,
Its attention firmly fixed on a tick.
The hunter dropped his bow
And quickly turning he thought to find
What might be eyeing him from behind.
Was he, like they, both predator and prey?

Not seeing anyone, the hunter saw
In a flash of insight
The silent predator, time's hourglass.
It preys on all of us.

Koreans have great respect for the way the United States government seems to change with little ill feelings between the two competing parties. There is hand shaking and a calm acceptance of defeat--all done with class. There are no fist fights or violence in their deliberations, and if one party does not get their way, they go to the people and willingly abide by their decision. This is not so readily done here. The transition to democracy in Korea is a very recent phenomenon, and seeing the States with its melting pot of nationalities getting along so amicably is a challenge. The dream is that Korea soon will be the home to this type of democracy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Catholic Korean Community in Germany

The Catholic Church in Korea has sent priests to all parts of the world to care for the Koreans living abroad. About 150,000 reside in 66 nations on six continents, according to the Committee for the Pastoral Care of Koreans Living Abroad. The number of Catholics in South America is the greatest and in Africa the least.

One overseas Catholic community that has been covered lately by the press in Korea is the Korean Catholic community in Germany. It had its fledgling start back in 1960, when many of our nurses and miners went to Germany to work. As with the beginning of the Church in Korea, they began to meet weekly, conducting services without a priest, similar also to what is done today with mission stations.

The Frankfurt area is also home to the second-largest Korean community in Europe; they will be celebrating 40 years as a Church this year. In 1970, with the coming of priests and religious, who were in Germany for studies, the community began in earnest.

On a visit to Germany In 1971, Cardinal Kim was asked for priests to take care of the Korean Catholics and 3 priests were sent to begin 3 parishes. Since that time, the Frankfurt community has grown to 1000 with 4 mission stations. All together there are now 6 Korean parishes in Germany.

Presently, the Frankfurt Church has been using another church building for their Masses, but is in the process of building their own church. Parish work remains very similar to how it was done in Korea: pastoral council, altar groups, working with the elderly, and the very important small group meetings, called Basic Christian Communities, that gather in different areas of the parish. One big difference from the other German parishes is that most of them receive help from the government because of the religious tax paid by Germans. The Korean community is completely independent of that money and is considered a new model of Church in Germany.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Patriot An Seen by Japanese Catholics

On March 26 a Mass was said in China at the Lushun Prison in Dalian where Patriot An was put to death. Ucanews article gives the details. The recent issue of Gaudium and Spes tells us about Bishop Daiji Tani of Saitama, who went to China with 51 Japanese Catholics.

When the bishop was a young man he took part in movements advocating for more rights for Koreans, denouncing the rampant prejudice against Koreans living in Japan at that time. It was then that he heard about An Jung-geun and, later, after making a trip to Patriot An's memorial museum, was greatly moved and decided to study his life.

"An was," said Bishop Tani, "a very devout Catholic who felt that there was no other path but killing. I have given much thought to this situation and can sympathize with his pain. Dialogue and talk about peace were of no avail in stopping the Japanese aggression. This year is the 100 anniversary of Patriot An's death and I wanted to visit Lushun. I want to have that same desire for peace."

Although many Japanese still consider Patriot An a terrorist, the bishop, surprisingly, some may think, made the trip to the prison in China and spoke glowingly of An's life and aspirations. There are many Japanese bishops, like Bishop Tani, who have made known their love and desire for justice for the Koreans. During the Koreans' fight for human rights, the Japanese bishops were on the side of the movement for freedom, and on a number of occasions gathered funds to help those in prison. When past president Kim Dae-jung was condemned to death, they worked to save his life. The effort to be on the side of those who are oppressed in another country is not an easy task, but during those dark 10 years the Japanese bishops worked for the oppressed here in Korea.

The writer of the article, after talking with Japanese priests, sees a big difference in the two Churches. In Japan, it is hard to distinguish bishops, priests and lay people when together in a group. The difference shows up in the roles they play in the church; rank is not considered important. The Japanese Church, in this regard, has a great deal to teach us.

Here in Korea the feelings against the Japanese are still present in the minds of our people. Some of the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese are often recounted to ignite the passions of our Koreans. This seems to be a way we get back at those we have little sympathy for. It would be better for all of us if we could get into the habit of reevaluating these 'truths' from the past. People do change, as do companies, societies, communities, governments and nations. We must give them all a chance to change and allow ourselves the right to change as well. Hopefully, we will then react differently than we have in the past.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Cardinal's Feelings On Keeping Peace

Cardinal Chong Jin-suk of Seoul was interviewed by the Chosun Ilbo as part of the series on the Korean War, "I and the Korean War." "Just seeing the title of the series," said the Cardinal, made me recollect the past. Ordinarily, I don't even want to think about it... the whole thing was so tragic I thought I had forgotten, but no, reading the series, I experienced it all over again."

At the start of the war, the Cardinal was studying at Seoul National in the Enginering Department. He wanted to be an inventor. Experiencing the cruelty of the war, he changed his mind and decided to become a priest.

Those who have experienced war have an understanding quite different from others. For them, he said, justice and peace are necessary for forgiveness. The interviewer mentioned that the Cardinal rarely speaks about personal matters, but felt that the matter being discussed here was important enough to prompt the Cardinal to share some of his feelings.

When the interviewer asked the Cardinal for his understanding of forgiveness in Catholicism, he replied, "Since I am a religious person, there are those who will want me to say that I should forgive unconditionally, but forgiveness has conditions. In the Catholic's understanding of confession, there are five steps. Reflecting on what was done, expressing sorrow, resolving not do it again, confessing publicly, and compensating for what was done. If one does not have these requisites, it shows no real desire to be forgiven and the forgiveness is without meaning.

For young people who have not experienced war but want peace, the Cardinal quotes the Latin phrase: Si vis pacem para bellum (If you want peace be ready for war). Peace does not come naturally, he said. Our history shows us if we can't defend ourselves, we will lose both freedom and peace; we have to be able to defend ourselves. Preparations for self defense are necessary.

In speaking of war and peace, it is easy to make it sound very complicated with all kinds of conditions. The Cardinal was very blunt and clear in what he expressed, but with so many variables on this issue it is difficult to come to a consensus. Over the centuries, the Church has developed the just war theory and until something better comes along it is a good starting point. War should only be a last resort when all conceivable alternatives have been tried and have failed. Hopefully, the recent Chon An incident will have the input of the United Nations before any unilateral action is taken. We can dream and pray for a different world order, but until we have a consensus on disarmament, it's good to keep in mind the Cardinal's Latin phrase: "If you want peace be ready for war"-- defense will always be part of the present wisdom.