Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Trying to Bridge the Gap between East and West

The Catholic Times has interviewed the only Korean teaching in the Gregorian Graduate School of Missiology. She  supervises master and doctorate treatises on Asian studies at the school and at the Angelicum and the Lateran where she also teaches.

Her special interests are inculturation studies and fostering dialogue between religions, both of which are useful not only for Asia but for the universal Church and for deepening our spiritual journey. To prepare for this, she switched from a physics major in college to study theology, believing that progress in the study of theology is progress in her faith life. Language study, however, was difficult and she was humbled by it. She persevered and soon after received an offer to teach at the Gregorian in Rome, living in the city for the last 19 years.

Her doctoral study compared mankind's beliefs in a transcendent reality with Buddhist views on the subject, and the place of revelation in Asian thought generally. She researched the beginnings of the New Age Movement and the reasons for its growth, and now is  gathering material for a treatise tentatively titled: "Theology, Culture and Religions of Asia." A timely topic since Asian religions have been introduced recently to the rest of the world because of globalization. Many westerners feel an emptiness in their lives and are searching for an experience that will fill this void. For some, the teachings of Buddhism have filled this void.
Many who come to Europe to study other cultures and beliefs develop a better understanding of their own culture and religious tradition and take more of an interest in it. She feels that it is important to have an understanding of Asian spirituality, philosophy, and direction of life; they are not in opposition to the teachings of Catholicism, and can be a way of deepening our own faith life. One of the  greatest hindrances in serving God, she feels, is holding on to an inflated sense of personal importance: the 'nobility obliges' attitude taken in its  bad sense. There has to be ways of uncovering this trait and  work to rid oneself of the consequences of such  an attitude in formation.
She firmly believes that the study of theology should be not only for religious and priests, but for all.  It is necessary for lay people to take an interest in studying theology and share this knowledge with others. She sympathizes with the Korean Church which is not like the Church in the West where you have many criticizing the Church. There is a different attitude towards the Church, and  Korean  laity  will have  much to add to our understanding of Church; she hopes this will be part of the  future.