Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Welcoming North Korean Refugees in the South

Refugees from the North now living in South Korea have increased, and the recent attack on one of our islands, coming after the sinking of the Cheonan, will soon tell us what affect it will have on refugees. Distrust of the North Koreans is understandable and this recent incident could make matters worse. There are now over 20,000 North Koreans living here. A columnist  for the Catholic Times gives us background information highlighting some of the potential problems.

Over 80 percent of the refugees are women. Until the year 2,000, women refugees numbered under 50 percent, and the ages were from 20 to 40. Difficulty of life in North Korea prompted many of them to leave for China and from there the trip to S.K was less of a problem. The men have to spend about 10 years in army service, which makes it more difficult for them.

The number of women who have found employment is much lower than it is for the men. The government knows about the problem and has changed the law recently to be of more help to the refugees. However, from the tone of the column, the plight of the refugees is greater than in the past because of the larger numbers. A survey of 222 refugees revealed that over 56 percent were not making $500 dollars a month, the government's figure for sustainable life.

Because of the difficulty of making it alone, many get into prostitution or line up at the marriage bureaus to find someone to make their life easier--a sure sign of how difficult it is to make the transition to life here.

The columnist compares the refugee problem in Korea to the problem in Germany after unification. Many of those that stayed in East Germany suffers even now from the after-effects of the hunger they experienced, while those who went to West Germany, risking life in the slums, became part of that society. The present Chancelor of Germany, Angela Merkel, is one of this group.

A recent visitor from Germany, a member of the government, mentioned that it will be very important to know how well the North Korean refugees are doing here in the South, for it will determine the ability of the South and North to come together someday in the future.

The columnist feels that there is more the government and different organizations in the South can do to help. He also feels that the Catholic Church should be doing more to help the refugees in making the difficult transition to life in the South.

Individual Catholics have taken refugees into their homes to ease them into the South Korean culture. It gives them some time to learn about life here from fellow Koreans and about the work possibilities. This is a good way for our Catholics to get involved in a great work of charity and to prepare for the day of unification.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Saving Marriages with the Retrouvaille Movement

Like all countries Korea has its share of divorced families. The daily papers tell us stories of married couples that live in the same house but are living with masks-- they are no longer couples. Some time ago a  TV program dealt with couples living together and not talking to  each other for years. This has been  sufficient reason for divorce in the court of law. They stay together for the sake of the children.

Of the countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, (OECD), Korea has one of the highest rates for divorce. It has been reported that the divorces by agreement  have declined, but those submitted to the court of law have increased.

One article  mentions alienation in the marriage  begins with criticism of the other, defending oneself, contempt for the other and finally the walls go up-- communication stops. The Church in Korea has made the break up of the family  an important issue in their pastoral programs.

The Peace Weekly introduces us to the Retrouvaille  movement, an attempt to save these unions from  the complete breakdown. On average in Korea,  according to the article, 342 couples divorce daily, and 49%  have irreconcilable differences in personality. On the outside many seem to be without problems but  are on the verge of divorce. This movement tries to return them to a normal married life. The two keywords for the movement are trust and forgiveness.

The weekend that  starts the process is similar to the Marriage Encounter Movement which is for harmonious couples that want to deepen their relationship. The Retrouvaille Movement is for couples that are in crisis. To get a good idea of the movement which a Columban Missionary was instrumental  in starting in  Korea go to his article

The weekend is time spend  sharing their experience, and to encourage one another to seek change in their lives. After the  initial program, there are others to help them to apply what they have learnt to the marriage. Here in Korea they have been able to save 40 marriages.
The  program requires a great deal of those who conduct it, but it also is very satisfying to have done something that enabled the couples to stay together. Hopefully, it will spread throughout the country.

The  program requires a great deal of those who conduct it, but it also is very satisfying to have done something that enabled the couples to stay together. Hopefully, it will spread throughout the country.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

The First of the New Years.

Today is the start of a new liturgical year, Advent. Here in Asia, the Catholics start off with their first New Year's celebration with resolutions for the new year. They will have their second chance as world citizens on Jan. 1st, the Solar New Year, and again as Asians on the Lunar New Year, Feb. 3rd. The least important of these new beginnings would be the liturgical year, followed by the Solar New Year. For many, the real New Year will be the Lunar New Year. Attempts have been made to make this less important, with little success; it is given three red days on the calendar. The Bishops' pastoral message has helped form our own resolutions this year, and we have the opportunity of renewing them in each of our three New Years. 

Both Catholic papers mentioned in their  editorials the resolutions addressed by each Bishops' pastoral message.  The idea emphasized in each was the new evangelization, which was to be approached with  passion and renewed dedication.  Each bishop had his own message for the diocese but all had the new evangelization as the center piece of the message.

The Peace Weakly laments that the pastoral messages are not taken seriously by the diocesan Christians. They seem not to be interested, and the editorial gives a great deal of the blame to the pastors, who also do not make much of the message; yet this is the direction that the Bishops have set for their dioceses.

Here in Incheon we will be celebrating our 50th Anniversary as a diocese and the bishop, in his message, thanked all the foreign missioners who have worked in the diocese over many of those years. The diocese started off with nine parishes and 23,000 Catholics. Today there are 114 parishes, about 450,000 Catholics and 262 diocesan priests.

The present bishop thanks the first bishop of the diocese, Most Rev. William McNaughton M.M., who was the ordinary for 41 years, and also thanks and expresses his love and respect for his predecessor.

The pastoral message addressed three main concerns. First,  the bishop thanked God for the many graces the diocese has received.  He thanked all for their cooperation in building the Spiritual Retreat House at the pilgrimage site in Kang Hwa.

Second, he stressed the importance of building for the future, as well as expanding our efforts to work for the new evangelization, the reason for the existence of the Church. This will require more love on the part of all of us. We have to be an example of Christ-like living if this is to have results, he said.  And grammar, middle and high school children, along with our young people, must be encouraged to enter the community of Faith.

The third concern was for the family. The family is the smallest yet most vital community in the Church. The acceptance of divorce by society is now widespread and many of our Catholics have accepted it as well. To counter this trend, all of us must make the bonds of the family stronger, the bishop said, in an effort to sanctify the life of husband and wife so that they may overcome the difficulties they face.

Along with the family, we must be concerned about the very serious problem of suicides in Korea. This is  something that is increasing  and efforts have to be made to have the culture of life permeate all segments of society.

The bishop ends his message by expressing gratitude for the graces received and urges everyone in the year ahead to have firm resolutions working together and dreaming of a new tomorrow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Following the Hexapla of Origin

The Peace Weekly introduces us to Fr. Lee, a priest-scholar with a doctorate in Old Testament studies from the Catholic University of Paris. He is preparing a multivolume, multilingual  edition of the Bible. Each double-page spread will have, in parallel columns, texts in Korean (a modern translation), Latin Vulgate, Greek, English, and a traditional Korean translation, ending with the Hebrew text; when there is space a French translation will be included.

The Old Testament will be published in 21 volumes and the New in five volumes, with a production cost of about  $2,500 per volume. It's a massive undertaking but the priest feels it to be necessary. During his days in the seminary in Korea his professor would have to mimeograph the Hebrew text for the students to use in their studies. Now, there will be no need to have six or seven books to make an in depth study of the Scriptures.

Fr. Lee used the Hexapla of  Origin (185-254) as the model for his own work. The Hexapla is made up of six columns of parallel texts: Hebrew text, Hebrew transliterated into  Greek, the Greek version of Aquila, the Greek version of Symmachus, the Greek version of Theodotion, and the Septuagint. It was Origin's intention to correct the corruption of the texts in his time by putting all that was known about the Old Testament into one volume.

Six volumes of the Old Testment are now finished, to be followed by 15 more volumes of the  Old Testament and five volumes of the New, which will complete the Bible in 26 volumes. In all, there will be 100 copies made. 10 copies of the finished work will go to each of the seven seminaries, and the remaining 30 copies will go to those who have helped sponsor the work. 

In his work of running a parish and teaching Scripture, Fr. Lee found the lack of easy access to the original texts a problem. Now those interested in deepening their knowledge of the Scriptures will benefit greatly by this effort. He hopes the Church will take an interest.

And for the last 40 years the Church has shown a greater interest in the study of Scripture. Many programs are now being offered in many different parishes and organizations to encourage more interest in this area of study. With Bible Week this year, the Church has provided another stimulus to assist those who want to use the Scriptures for living a more mature faith.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Bribe or A Gift?

The  giving and taking of bribes is a common practice in all countries of the world, and Korea is no exception. The daily news brings it to our attention much too often.  While the difference between a gift and a bribe is not always easily made, some contend that, whether they are  gifts or bribes, the practice has helped to lubricate our business society and helped to develop the country.

Korean society is very quick to appreciate favors and to return thanks in a material way. What is a gift and what is a bribe may be known only by the one who  gives and the one who receives. And it may not at the time be clear even to them. Gifts, in contrast to bribes, are most often given for favors received, for good work, as a gesture of congratulations or condolences, and, sometimes, simply for the joy of giving.

One of the columns in the Peace Weekly mentions the number one reason for dismissal from government service as the receiving of bribes. When does a gift become a bribe? It is now being discussed in the political arena in Korea. How much can one receive as a political gift without it being a bribe?

This is not only a problem in today's world but goes way back into history. The column mentions an incident in Egypt, 1500 years BC, where someone was reprimanded for giving a bribe to obtain a dishonest decision in law. And in ancient China a noble person did not accept bribes.

Usually, one who receives a bribe will consider it a gift so it can be accepted with a clear conscience. However, a gift is just that, a giving that expects nothing in return, while a bribe is giving in order to receive. The Bible has many entries in which bribes are castigated: "Never take a bribe, for a bribe blinds even the most clear-sighted and twists the words even of the just" (Ex, 23:8).  It compares bribes to black magic: "A man who has a bribe to offer rates it as a magic stone" (Proverbs 17-8). 

The column gives other quotes from Scripture that show the evil of bribes but comments that in all the quotes it never refers to the giver of bribes but always to the receiver. This is conjectured to be because the one who gives is weak and the one who receives is strong and influential. At the time of the Scriptures those who received bribes where those who  could give some advantage to a person, and  also had a say over matters of life and death.  "There are those of you who take bribes to shed blood. You exact interest and usury. You despoil your neighbors violently; and me, you have forgotten, says the Lord God" (Ezekiel 22:12).

To receive a gift is always pleasant and can't help but dispose one to see the person giving the gift with benevolence. This is the danger even in receiving a gift which is truly a gift. You want  to return the favor, and this is where the problem comes in. If the gift changes the way we treat  others who have not given us gifts, then that gift works like a bribe, and our actions are unjust.  It is a serious problem.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What Kind Of Parent Are You?

Recently a middle school student set his house on fire killing four members of the family. The boy wanted to go to art school but the father was opposed. His habit of hitting  the boy to get him to study was another reason given for the boy's action. His father had the patriarchal notion of authority and wanted his son to do what he desired. Talking about the problem with his son was far from his thoughts. A columnist with the Catholic Times used the incident to reflect on this serious problem in society.

In this case, she says it was the father's use of authority to disciple the son without showing love that triggered his rebellious action. The problem often begins with parents who are not interested in what the child wants but only what they deem necessary for them, believing that the parent knows best. The consequences of such parenting is that the child does not learn to express his or her feelings but just accepts what is said and obeys, often with hostile feelings toward the parent. This does not bode well for the future; the way the parent acts towards the child will often result, when the child  reaches puberty, in the child acting in the same way toward the parent. Resentment will tend to explode like a volcano and words the parents used with the child will come back to them like a boomerang. If, for example, a parent says: "What do you know about this, just listen and obey." Similar words might be used by the child when responding to parents: "What do you know, leave me alone, that's how you can help me." 

Parents have to learn how to listen to their children to learn what the child is feeling; they will then be better prepared to direct the child correctly. The columnist titled her article "Before  being student parents, they are parents."  She  quotes from a public service advertisement she saw: "Parents tell the child to look to the  future, student parents tell them to look at what is in front.  Parents say associate with the  other students, the student parents tell the child to get out in front.  Parents tell their children to dream and student parents don't  give the child  time to dream." Are you a  parent or a student parent?

She hopes being parents of children comes before being parents of students. Parents who do not listen to the desire of their children and  force them unconditionally to study are not raising children but treating them like animals. When children are raised with love, they become loving human beings, a gift from God. Children are not the possessions of parents. Parents should find out what the dreams and desires of the children are and help them to achieve these dreams.

Having a strong desire for an education is considered a blessing in Korea, but it is also a reason for much sadness. Effort is being made now to change the overly competitive environment students face, but the expectation of parents and the competition to get into the better schools are so strong that until parents and children can separate education from its use simply as a means to get ahead in the economic world, the problem will be with us for some time.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Learning to laugh

Eventually, what is in vogue in other countries will make its appearance in Korea and usually improved. The Global village is a blessing or not depending on our ability to discern. 

Recently, we have been hearing about different programs  dealing with laughter in our society: laughter therapists, laughter coaches, laughing Yoga, and sensitivity programs  bringing more laughter into our lives. Could this be a sign that there is not enough laughter in our society?

The editorial in the Catholic Times mentions a program  a group of religious attended receiving  accreditation in being teachers for laughter. The programs are welcomed by individuals, organization, companies and now finding a welcome in the church.  The title of the program was: "awaken laughter that sleeps within." Anything that will help us to be more authentic and happier is certainly welcomed.

Some years ago the editorial tells us a Religious Sister with a yellow butterfly necktie over her religious garb played the clown by moving her body every which way, rattling on and singing. She had the many thousands gathered to hear  talks on spiritual subjects  riveted  on the Sister, overcome by laughter. At the time they did not know what to make of what happened, for they  were there to hear talks on spirituality and  this Sister during one of the rest periods gets up on the stage acting the clown. However, looking back in retrospect, they did pay  more  attention to the spiritual talks and were relieved of much stress by her time on the stage.

This past week there was a training program only for religious. The religious recently have begun to reflect on the relationship of laughter to their spiritual life, but they express that it is not easy for them to join others in their programs. The usual programs have little to do with spirituality.

The religious learned during their training program the deeper significance of laughter: laughter of the body, laughter of the spirit, and the happiness that comes with the ability to laugh. This time together allowed them to look within and uncover areas of life they were not familiar with and to rid themselves of the obstacles that prevented laughter from entering their life.

The editorial hopes they will continue to be therapists of laughter. If the religious can add this role to their other duties, as they minister to thousands of people, they can be conduits of laughter within the  Church.

The Korean Church has imported many movements from the West; we have all  the Catholic movements that exist within the Church.  Many of the programs may have lost vitality in the countries of origin, but in Korea, they are going strong. In the years to come there is hope that the Koreans will develop their own programs that will help us  spiritually, and export them to the rest the world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Catholics Who Are Not Seen In The Pews

Two Korean Priests traveling in Europe on Christmas Eve some time ago found themselves in a large metropolitan city and made their way to the Cathedral Parish to attend Mass. Their experience was written up in a bulletin for priests. During the sermon, sirens were heard; probably, from the security system, the priests thought, and after some effort on the part of those present the sirens ceased only to start a few minutes later. During the Cardinal's sermon, some of the church-goers got up and walked out. The Cathedral at the beginning of Mass was only half filled  but by the end of Mass only a few remained. The sound of the sirens was too much of a distraction for most of them to pay attention to the sermon and for other unknown reasons the congregation diminished in size.

This scene made a big impression on the priest. Did the Cardinal realize the congregation was not listening or could not hear what he had to say? He concluded that the seats in the congregation were too far away from the altar and the pulpit--meaning the congregation was not tuned in on what was going on in the sanctuary.

The priest feels that the Church in Korea is where the Church in Europe was 50 years ago. The Church saw what was happening in Europe and decided to examine the causes and to make changes. It was a chance to see the world differently, a new way of seeing culture and language. Recognizing that a materialistic civilization had begun to influence the Church, it decided to "opt for the poor."

The problems encountered by the European Church have not yet come to our attention. The Church here, instead of seeking the causes of these problems by a rigorous self- examination, is wondering why Christians are not listening, and is surprised at the response. The priest wonders if he is  the only one who feels this way.  The basic problem, is that the Church doesn't seem to see the poor in society, or is it, he asks regretfully, that we don't want to see.

We are fortunate in being in a Church that is filled with energy. The ghetto-like atmosphere that had been present is breaking down. We are ecumenically sensitive, dioceses are looking beyond their borders, the Church is actively welcoming religious orders; efforts are also being made to go out to other parts of the world.

It is true that we have become a middle class Church, and many of the poor no longer find the Church a place where they feel comfortable.  Because of the growth of the Church, money is needed to build churches and start programs; this puts pressure on those who have difficulty meeting their needs to survive. The need for money was not as necessary in years past when it was a simpler and poorer Church. There are first and second collections, monthly collections (denarius cultus) to bring in money for the up-keep of the parish and diocese. Even the fine clothes that many wear to Sunday Mass make it difficult for those who can't afford to dress as well to think of going to Church. How to solve these well-known problems is not easy.  Some within the Church are more aware of this reality than others. In time, we will be getting our Dorothy Days-- those who will make us more sensitive to this other world. Wasn't this what the priest-visitor to Europe was telling us?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dialogue With Other Religions Is Mandated by Love

Korea's reputation as a country with a good record of interreligious harmony is deserved, but recently there was an incident at a Buddhist temple where some Protestant young people did their best to tarnish this reputation. They entered the temple and held their service there, asking God to destroy the temple, which they considered a place of idol worship.  They made a  video clip which was available on the Internet.  It was not only an embarrassment to all believers but to the majority of Protestants. This prompted an editorial in the Peace Weekly and articles in the Catholic press.

The Protestant minister responsible  did go to the temple with the young people to apologize to the monks; the apology was accepted but this did not stop the many blogs that responded to this senseless act. The Buddhist authorities responded with a simple statement, lamenting the action:  "What was done threatens our pluralistic society and our peaceful coexistence. It shows not only that a conflict exists between Buddhism and Protestantism but that it a problem for our society."

Two articles in the Catholic Weekly make clear the importance of  understanding and  respecting another's religion. History gives us many examples of the harm done by self-righteousness and cliquishness. Even in our own times, terrorism and wars are on the rise, instigated by our failure to understand those different from ourselves and to accept this difference.

We as Catholics have the teaching of the Church that makes dialogue between religions imperative for peace. We must make a greater effort to understand and respect those who are different from ourselves, but we must at the same time realize this does not militate against our desire to want others to join us, and we respect the same feeling on the part of others. It must also be understood that we do not look forward to making all religions one.

Catholics see the dialogue between religions as the way to strengthen each religion. Cardinal Francis Arinze was quoted as saying:"Members of the different religions can positively stimulate  each other."  When we see faithful Muslims praying 5 times a day it helps us want to be more faithful in our own prayer life. When we work together with other religions we are working for justice and the progress of society, and also expressing our love for others.

One article observed that for those who do not have a strong foundation in their own religion there is a danger to accept a relativistic view of life: all relgions are the same, they are just different ways of going to God. There is also the eclectic approach of trying to make them into one religion. When a  person does not have a good grasp of his own religious tradition, dialogue is meaningless. 

A Consolata father, a member of the Bishop's Committee for Interreligious dialogue  ends the article by saying "Before Christians begin the dialogue, we have to keep in mind that God is the father of all and that we believe God loves even those who do not believe. Dialogue between religions is putting into practice the love that God has for all.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reading the Scriptures With the Heart and the Head

Starting on the Feast of Christ the King to the Saturday before Advent, the Korean Church will celebrate Bible Week. It will be an opportunity for Catholics to do more reading and living with the Scriptures. This year we start the week with the apostolic exhortation of Pope Benedict's Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord), a reflection on the 2008 Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church."

The two Catholic papers had editorials and articles on how we can make Scripture a part of our lives. This year the emphasis will be on living the Scriptures rather than simply knowing what they say.

The Peace Weekly, along with their article, had the picture of a young Japanese woman who had received the prize for  excellence in the Suwon Diocese Scripture Competition.  She had only been baptized  a year and yet, in the parish preliminaries, was picked to represent the parish in the diocesan competition. She was also made a small community leader.

In 2008, she was in a traffic accident that required a  serious operation. This made her think about her purpose in life; she realized not everything was under her control. Although she had no interest in religion, she went to the Catholic Church and asked for instructions. She finished the course and was baptized with the  baptismal name Rita.

She  met her husband in Canada, where she was studying English, and were married in 2003. Her husband was a tepid Catholic, who had been away from the Sacraments for 15 years. Seeing his wife's effort to learn about Catholicism motivated him  to return to the Church.

The day before the finals of the competition she was notified that her maternal grandfather had died. She didn't know whether to forget the finals and leave for Japan or to stay and compete in the finals. When her husband said he would get the tickets and arrange  everything, she felt better about staying, which allowed her to finish the competition and win. This brought joy despite the sadness of her grandfather's death.

This is just one example of how many Korean Catholics have taken the study of Scripture seriously. In the  past they have used many catch-phrases: "let's read, write and be close to the Scriptures." Now, the words are: "Let us live the Scriptures." After many years of effort in getting to know the Scriptures, we have learned to appreciate the necessity of approaching the Scriptures less with the head and more with the heart, if we are to bring meaningful change into our lives.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Do We Need Guidelines on How to Die?

During this month of November Catholics think of death and  pray for those who have died. The trees are shedding their leaves, and nature  goes to sleep, which makes thoughts of death come easier. The secular press does not spend much time reflecting on the meaning of death but the Chosun Ilbo has an interesting account of a book, "Dying in the Hospital."

Written by a Japanese doctor, the book chronicles his 16 years attending 300 persons who died in the hospital. It convinced him that it was not the place to spend one's last moments on earth and that when his time came, he would not spend it in a hospital. Although those dying in a hospital have access to all kinds of life-support equipment--to help them breathe and receive nourishment--their days are neither  living nor a dying. It is not dying as a human being and meeting death with dignity, so the doctor says.

He tells the story of a 40-year old man who, after he was told he had terminal cancer, left his hospital bed and went home to spend his last months with his family. This time with them was the  most important of his 40 years, he said, and the kind of message he wanted to leave behind for the family.

The columnist refers to a survey of 298 cancer patients who were receiving anti-cancer treatment six months before death. In Korea 95 percent of cancer patients would be receiving such treatment; in the United States, it would be only 33 percent. He believes the reason for this discrepancy is that Koreans have a strong attachment to life and the  denial of death is pervasive. When death comes suddenly into their life or the life of their loved ones, it is difficult to accept.

The column ends by mentioning that the Korean Institute of Death has published guideline material on how to prepare for death. It begins with instructions on preparing the last will and testament, how to inform others of one's impending death, how to improve the relationship with the doctor, and what the family needs to know. That we in this modern world need guidelines on  how to live, the columnist understands, but that  we need them for dying left him perturbed. However, in this world where extraordinary measures are often taken to live well, it is also important  to know how to die well.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Korean Purgatorial Societies

In most  parishes, a group of parishioners are responsible for helping those who are nearing death.  Stateside they are often called purgatorial societies. Members pray, have Masses said, or do good works for the dead. However, in Korea these societies have been 'Koreanized,' doing much more than is commonly expected, which shows the importance of death in the Korean psyche.

These Korean societies assist the family in every way possible and arrange for the priest to come, if the one dying has not already received the Sacrament of the sick. At death, when the undertakers were few and the people poor, the members of the society would do the work of the undertaker as a voluntary work of love. They would wash the body, clothe it, take care of the rites for placing the body in the coffin, and pray the office of the dead (yeon do); when sung, this takes about one hour.  This was a  great consolation to  the family, for many would not know what to do. They would also make the funeral arrangements and be on call for the bereaved family until the burial and even after, if the family wanted.

Some parishes have their own mortuaries where the body remains until the day of the funeral. Members of the purgatorial societies  are usually the older parishioners and not infrequently,the largest group in the parish. They have motivated many people to return to the Church, seeing the devotion of these Catholics as they went about their duties during times of  bereavement. Their presence at the home of the deceased or in the mortuaries  giving strength to the bereaved families is truly a beautiful sign of God's love.

During this month of All Souls, many articles on death and dying  appeared in the Catholic press. The  Peace Weekly interviewed a 53-year old who has been a  member of the society for ten years.  When she joined at the age of 43, many of the older members thought she would not be reliable, perhaps believing that at her age, she would not be able to have sufficient empathy for those who are facing death; they expected she wouldn't last long. However, they changed their minds soon after she became a member. They now call her Mrs. Kim, the undertaker.

She travels to different parishes giving lectures on the office of the dead and how to recite it. Having a mother who used to walk an hour every day to Mass helped her to follow naturally in her footsteps, and seeing death often as a child also helped. At the age of 10 she saw a woman who had hung herself in her garden; at 13 her younger brother died suddenly, and in high school, she witnessed the death of a street person. When she saw people stepping over him on the sidewalk, she had her first doubt about the dignity and goodness of humans. All of it, she believes, was a preparation for her work as a member of the society.

These purgatorial societies are an important  part of the Church but probably nowhere in the Catholic world, outside of Korea, would you have a purgatorial society that expects so much from its members. We are  grateful to them for their selfless dedication in performing a difficult task so well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Understanding the Word Self Respect

A columnist in the Catholic Times reflects on a new word that now frequently shows up in our conversations: ja jon gam--a feeling of respect for oneself. The word we have been using, ja jon sim, also means  self respect, but she believes that most of the time ja jon sim has been used negatively--being concerned that others may look down on us. The two words mean the same as in English: dignity, self pride, self esteem, but in Korean the 'sim' form of the word also has a negative connotation in most cases.

It  would be good for those that are fearful of what others may think to put God in the place of the other; life would then seem very different. However, she has no difficulty with the 'sim' word. She feels that only when we pass ourselves off to others as different from what we are does it become false self respect.

She looked up  'gam' in a large Korean dictionary and couldn't find it. She does not get into the reasons for this, but it could be that the 'gam' word has only a positive connotation, and we needed a word to express this.  She tells us of the benefits of having respect for oneself, crediting the success of many to this feeling of self-respect. Parents, family, teachers should be encouraged, she says, to help instill this feeling of respect. And even if it is not given by others,  God can make up for this  lack in our lives.

As Catholics, the way we express ourselves at times can be misunderstood as demeaning ourselves. Our language may not be psychologically proper, but it is very spiritually proper, although not readily understood without the context of Christianity. The paradoxes of Christianity--when weak we are strong, by dying we live, and the last will be first--are not easy to understand without this context; a context of humility that sees reality as it is.  Korean Catholics realize we are  members of Christ's body and in each  Mass we pray  to partake  of Christ's  divinity.   There  is no greater motive   for the respect that we should have for ourselves or for humility.

The word face is often used in Korean, and 'losing face' is a very hurtful experience. We all desire to make a good impression on others but here again, we are dealing with something very natural.  No one wants to look foolish or be hurt. The natural feelings that come when we lose face can be overcome by respecting who we are and acknowledging our dignity as God's loved ones. 

The columnist ends with this commentary: Only when we respect and love ourselves will we respect and love the other.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Magdalena House

The Peace Weekly recently interviewed  the custodian of Magdalena House, a Catholic shelter for victims of prostitution. It  provides counseling for those who are trying to leave the life of prostitution and return to a normal life in society. The woman in charge of the House, Consecrata, told of her work to help those who have died while working in the sex trade.                   

She remembers the many women who have come to the shelter and have died. Their pictures were shown to the interviewer, and she heard  Consecrata  reminisce about each one of the women. Each picture had a story to tell. One woman, who had lived as a prostitute but left the life to begin her own small business, was killed in an auto accident.

Since  1987 Consecrata has been involved with the funeral rites for these women. One woman was accepting a male visitor up to the moment she died. Consecrata  was told that it was a heart attack. She told the police she believed it was murder and asked them to investigate. She was told "You must accept what was said, what do you know about this anyway?"  Even the family did not  want to know the reason for her death. She said prayers for her at the mortuary and took the body to the crematorium.

When she hears of prostitutes who are sick she goes to help them in their last hours. When she helped with the  burial and the funeral arrangements, on returning  to the shelter she was considered unclean and they would spread salt around the premises. But seeing the way she has given of herself for others, this attitude has gradually disappeared.

Last month, three  women died. When she went to the crematorium she was met by one of the workers who guessed what it was all about. You do not see women carrying the coffin in Korea, and he offered to help.

The members of Magdalena House on New Year's day and Harvest Festival prepare a table for the rites of the dead. She is asked by some of the women: "When I die will you do the same for me?" The death of a prostitute is of little interest to others, but to Consecrata the time and energy spent in caring for those who are dying is a work of love.  She is often told, "You must not die before me." The rumor that prostitutes have to sell their bodies for experimental purposes to have enough money for the funeral is no longer circulated. If the woman has no family, Consecrata takes care of all that is necessary; she doesn't want to be the custodian of an unknown grave.

When the anniversary of their death comes around, she often gives friends of the deceased money to buy vegetables to prepare for guests. These women have lived a difficult life, filled with shame. Consecrata  tries her best to be with them when sick and facing death, and to fulfill their wishes for the funeral rites. In a Buddhist funeral, the more bows the better, and on one occasion, she bowed so often she returned home with her legs  shaking.                                                                                                                       

These women have been treated as objects.  Consecrata's desire is to make their final moments on earth like all the others in society. She sees  their dignity and is  responding to it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Catholic Lay Theologians of Korea

Right after the start of the Apostolic Church those that went to the gentiles with the Gospel were laity. In the early Church those engaged voluntarily in the study of theology where lay persons. This was also true at the start of the Church in Korea: lay persons studying the teachings of the Church, living it, and bringing it into their faith life.  
The editorial in the Catholic Times introduces us again to these facts and reminds us that in a pluralistic society we will have many more lay Catholics getting involved in theology and taking  their rightful place within the Church.

The winner this year of the Korean Catholic Scholastic Award went to a professor who has been working in the field of history for the last 30 years. This is the second time that the award went to a layperson.
Within the Catholic Church in Korea we see the laypersons’ maturity coming very much to the fore: not only in scripture, history and ecclesiology but also in other related fields of special interest to lay theologians. The laity are not receiving much support, however, from the Church, especially in preparing an encouraging atmosphere for lay theologians. 
With the  deepening of spirituality,  they will help to evangelize our society and also carry out the mission to go out to the rest of Asia and the world.  Support for promoting spiritual maturity and theological studies will be necessary if  they are not to  flounder. Without this proper pursuit of learning and  mature spirituality,  progress will be building a house of cards.

The presentation of scholastic awards is a sign of growth. It enables the Church to acknowledge those who are prominent in their field of study and to encourage others in their study. However, it is not sufficient to give awards if we don't also support our lay theologians; this must be given more attention and support by the Church. The editorial recommends a permanent research institute that will contribute to the formation of lay theologians and lay leaders.  

The clergy and religious have been so closely identified with the Church that there has been a tendency among the laity to feel like inferior members of the Church. We are all members of one body and the laity are the  members whose function is to spread the Gospel in  the world. With the continued growth of the Church and increased finances, we should soon see the lay person coming to center stage and making more contributions to the life of the Church.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Prophetic Voice of Catholic Media

The 11th symposium of a pastoral group met recently to examine the prophetic voice of the media and its place in the life of the Church. The topic was "With the word, we see the way: Obligation and reflection on the media and the Church." Both Catholic newspapers covered the symposium and gave brief summaries of the proceedings.

One participant mentioned that if the media is to give the citizens joy and hope there has to be media reform. Legislation should stop the influence of big money and control of the media. Public opinion and religious groups have to be mobilized to work for an independent media. At present the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and much of the blame, said the participant, belongs with the media. After receiving help from the International Monetary Fund, Korea accepted neo-liberalism (no government controls on economic development) and we now have in Korea, according to the participant, 20 percent of the population who are well off and 80 percent who are struggling to make ends meet. The media does not educate the public on the effects of neo-liberalism and by their silence the citizens remain ignorant of the root problems and why we have them.

Another participant directly involved with the Catholic media said that Catholic media needs to be more conscious of Gospel values, and stay away from dealing with disputed societal issues. That should be, he believes, the work of the secular press and the specialists, with the Church restricting its interests to fundamental issues and causes. The media does have a prophetic role, he said, and should not--as the prophets of old did not--stay in the back room to pray but go out to the people to reprimand those who had done wrong and make known God's will. The job of the journalist is not easy to begin with. It is even more difficult when taking on the role of a prophet. This is what Catholic media should be doing in today's world but fitting the prophetic role of a journalist with love, forgiveness and reconciliation, is not easy.    

Media is a business, with the inevitable turmoil of competing in a market economy. Talented people are needed. The quality and quantity of production considered; money, advertising and government involvement are all areas of concern.

The situation is made somewhat easier for the Church by having a good "brand name" in its favor. We do not have serious divisions, in-fighting and control by business, so we are free to go after the facts and truth. This allows us to work for the common good, and be the much needed prophetic voice that will educate the public on issues that the secular media covers poorly or not at all, or does so from a narrow ideological perspective.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Catholic Layperson in the Church

Layperson Sunday will be celebrated in Korea today, one week before the  Sunday of Christ the King.  It will be the 43rd time since its inception  back in 1968. On this Sunday, a layperson gives the sermon, which is usually sent from the Lay Apostolate Conference for use in the parish if desired. This year the topic is "A new way of evangelizing has arrived."

The sermon informs us that of the world's population of over six and half billion four billion live in Asia, and only about 3 percent are Catholic. And in many countries they are persecuted and face other difficulties in worshiping openly and freely. It is not sufficient only to pray; material aid and lay missioners are also needed.

Mention was made of the documentary film "Don't cry, Tonj," depicting the life of a Salesian priest-doctor, Lee Tae-suk (1962-2010), who volunteered as a missioner to the Sudan.  He died Jan.14 at the age of 48 from colon cancer. This film is a powerful portrayal of what it means to love one another and what evangelization should mean to us.

The Pope in his Mission Sunday message  tells us that the call of Jesus is a response in mission  by "priests, consecrated people, catechists and lay missionaries in the constant  endeavor to encourage church communion.  Even the intercultural phenomenon may be integrated in a model of unity in which the Gospel is a leaven of freedom and progress, a source of brotherhood, humility and peace." The Pope reminds us that fellowship within the  Church is an important part of mission.

The sermon on Layperson Sunday, using an example from Korean Church history in the last years of the 18th century, tells us that a catechist,  in order to save the life of the only priest in Korea, a Chinese priest, gave up his own life. The priest, six years later, seeing the suffering of the Christians, gave himself up to the authorities to help lessen their suffering. This is a good example of the traditional  fellowship within the Church, the sermon emphasizing that the fellowship of priests, religious and lay people is important and necessary.

A Religious Sister quoted in the Catholic Times mentions the challenges the Church has in Asia: increasing our solidarity with the poor, promoting interreligious dialogue, and moving forward with inculturation--making the Church more Korean. The challenges for the layperson are found primarily in how best to prepare for awakening to the call of mission in order to respond to the needs of the  present by a unified pastoral concern. Activation of the various lay groups and an understanding of layperson and religious as companions in the mission of Christ must be stressed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Singular Vocation to the Poor of Korea

A young woman of 23 came to Korea back in 1959 after a 5-week boat trip from England. She came with 7 pianos that she was going to give to the Taegu Catholic University music department that she heard lacked pianos. She was invited to come to Korea by the archbishop of Taegu and although she was engaged to a doctor, after arriving in Korea she sent the engagement ring back with a note expressing sorrow, but she had decided to give up marriage to work for the poor in Korea.

The Peace Weekly has an article on her receiving an award from the Paradise Welfare Foundation: a secular foundation that is awarding Susannah for her many years of service to the poor. Susannah is now 74 years old and will be given the award even though she is a foreigner. She is an example of service to the poor and a foundation stone for the social work that developed in the Taegu area.

Susannah comes from a wealthy and illustrious English Family. She converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism when in high school and desired to work for the poor. After graduating from Oxford and learning of the persecution of the Christians in Korea, she decided to come to Taegu to be part of this history.

During her time in Korea she was a teacher of English at the University, prepared meals for the shoeshine boys, helped homeless girls, and founded a vocational school for girls.  She felt a singular vocation to help the Archbishop in his work to help the poor.

The article mentions that it was not always easy for her. One of the irksome problems was to understand that 'yes'  does not always mean what it seemed to mean. The Koreans will often say 'yes' for reasons of politeness, not wanting to hurt  feelings, but in other ways indicating that they mean 'no'.  She finally came to understand this saying something and meaning something else. The words we use to express our feelings may be different for each of us but the feeling of love which prompted the expression is often the same.  

She is now a permanent resident of Korea and is present at the baptisms and weddings of many converts to Catholicism, for whom she has a special fondness. It can be said that England is her maiden-home and, in place of a conventional marriage, she found her marriage-home here, in her beloved Korea. Now the work is in the hands of Koreans and she intends to encourage them. "If we are to understand God's unconditional love," she says, "then human love is necessary. By means of human love we know God's love."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pope's Words to the G-20 Summit in Korea

Following is a loose  translation of the message sent by Pope Benedict to Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who is hosting the  G-20 Summit of 2010, which convened yesterday in Seoul.

The Pope writes that this meeting, being held in Asia at the beginning of the 21st century, is a fitting acknowledgment of Asia's importance and responsibility to the international community. And that, in addition, selecting Korea, a first-time participant, to host the G-20--the first among those not belonging to the G-8 to do so--is also a recognition of Korea's significant economic development. After the recent crises, this will be a Summit that will take the lead, according to the Pope, in deciding many  complicated issues.  Future generations will  depend on your decisions, and therefore, will require the participation and agreement of all nations. Dignity of all people the primary and central value, is the ultimate goal. This is basic and will require the  cooperation of the international community.

The Catholic Church, in accordance with its mandate, wants to share in the concerns of the leaders who are participating in the Seoul Summit. The Pope encourages them to struggle with the serious problems we all are faced with, keeping in mind the deeper reasons for the economic and financial crisis, and come up with policies that will be just and sustainable. The policies that are decided, if they are to be ultimately and truly effective, will have to be for the authentic and integral  development of the whole person.

The attention of the world is on the meeting, the Pope said. He hopes that they will not decide on matters that will favor some countries at the expense of others. And hopes they will decide on appropriate measures to solve the problems we face.  We are all living together with many different cultures, financial systems, political groups, and  even though harmony will be difficult to achieve, history teaches that when we have respect for the person and work together to achieve this harmony, we will have satisfactory results. Thanks to the crises that we have today, we are able to recognize that civilizations, cultures,  economic, social and political systems, will come together in a vision we all can share, and show our maturity to the world and future generations,  provided, we respect the laws and demands of God the creator, in bedded in the  nature of things.

The Pope hopes the G-20, by considering the many and sometimes conflicting issues facing the world today, will respond to the expectations of all of us by showing a desire to search for the common  good and by a willingness to cooperate in achieving it. He ends his message by invoking God's blessing on all participants in the Seoul Summit. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Violence of Words

On the spiritual page of the Catholic Times a columnist asks,"Do our words make others fearful? He recounts the story of a friend who lives with his mother and often has difficulty understanding her feelings; she continually upsets the emotional life of the family. The son would like to have his mother go for therapy but  is afraid this will develop into a problem and keeps quiet. The columnist indirectly asks what does he  fear?

From the time they were children, she would tell them, when they did not listen to her, that there was no reason to keep on living, or she would tell them it would  be better for her to leave. This so frightened them that they obeyed, but feelings of oppression and  despondency became part of their life.

When the columnist expressed sympathy for his situation, he broke down crying. He told the columnist how his mother had no relationship with others in the neighborhood, and that she would repeat many times during the day all that she had done for them. And how disappointed she was in them for not doing what she expected.

It was only in later years that he learned  his mother was taking medicine for depression. The columnist tells us that although the son was well-educated, he was suffering from the unhealed scars of his early years and was often overcome by feelings of  immaturity. When he saw the letter 4--to a Korean, a number associated with death--or someone writing a name in red, they would remind him of death and bring on feelings of despondency and fear.

The columnist  tells us that when we try to control another person's feelings with what we do or say we are using a form of violence. This would be especially true when dealing with children. We must learn, he says, to be more conscious of the power of the words we use. A person with a good heart will use words that give life, helping both the  speaker and  the hearer to live the resurrected life. Our Lord tells us in Luke, "Each man speaks from his heart's abundance."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Office for the Dead: Korean Rap!

Korean Catholics at the death of a parishioner meet at the home of the deceased to extend their condolences to the family and sing  the office of the dead--yeon do. In recent times the yeon do  would be recited in the hospital's mortuary, at the cemetery, in church, during visits to the home after burial, and also at the home of the deceased on the anniversary of the death.  

A priest columnist in the Catholic Weekly introduces us to the meaning that the yeon do should have for Catholics. Many Catholics think it's a prayer only for the dead but he mentions an old book, written in Chinese, that explains the yeon do and gives three reasons for the prayer.

The singing of the office more easily lifts our thoughts up to God, helps us to compose ourselves, and increases our hope. Secondly, obedient to the directions of the music and with our sincere intentions, we are fighting off the devil and other distractions from the world outside. Thirdly, at a funeral we tend to be sad and anxious but with the singing, our uneasiness becomes easier to accept than it would be for those without hope.

The yeon do is composed of psalms of repentance, petitions for deliverance, and confessions of faith. More than prayer for the deceased it's a prayer for all of  us.
The old Christians would pray the yeon do as an evening prayer. With the singing of the office our frustrations, sorrow, anxiousness in the presence of death are changed into thoughts of the Resurrection.

The priest mentions that in singing the office our minds are set on the resurrection. In the recitation we reflect on our life, our frustrations, failures, and feelings of guilt. Listening to the music we are consoled.

In the United States recently for lectures, the priest was explaining the yeon do to second and third generation Koreans; on hearing the melody and the singing of the yeon do, they were overcome with pride for their forebears in faith.

One young man asked, “Father, how is it that 200 hundred years ago our ancestors were able to make this calm and   beautiful rap? This was the period of the persecutions, wasn't it? Would it be alright to introduce our yeon do rap in English to the young people?" (The yeon do does sound very much like rap music.) "Of course,"  the priest replied.
For many American missioners this was a  distinctive part of the funeral service. It was very moving with an atmosphere for prayer that allowed one to reflect on some of the more important concerns in life. A beautiful custom that, thankfully, does not seem to be changing with the times.                    

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Purgatory Makes It Easy on God

Writing on the opinion page of the Catholic Times a columnist asks what Catholics feel proud of when introducing Catholicism to Protestants. She lists the Mass, Eucharist, Confession, devotion to the Blessed Mother, all important, but for the columnist it is  purgatory. 

How difficult it would be for God if there were just heaven and hell.  Compassionate and merciful it makes it easy on God having a place like purgatory where those who were somewhere in the middle can go.  
When she walks along the streets and sees placards proclaiming "A friend of Jesus, heaven. No belief, hell," she averts her eyes and feels frightened.
She tells us she lost her parents at an early age and wonders at times where they are. Will I meet them in the next life? They did not know Jesus. Will they be in heaven? In the Old Testament, salvation was found by living according to the law, and in the New Testament by knowing Jesus.
She brings to our attention the passage in II Maccabees where the followers of Judas prayed for the soldiers who had died: "In doing this, he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view..."
The Catholic teaching reiterated at the II Vatican Council tells us not only Christians but those who follow their conscience go to heaven. What wonderful news. But she still has concerns, whether her parents followed their conscience. This is a subjective matter, but every time she recites the Apostles Creed she says she believes in the Communion of Saints: all united with those in heaven, in purgatory and on earth, so that her office for the dead, Masses and other prayers are of help to her parents.
From the time she learned this, she has prayed for all her ancestors. No matter how busy and how tired at the end of each day, she has set aside time to pray for the dead. Up until two years ago she had always performed the rites for the dead in her house; she has changed this to having Masses said. This was not easy but she feels that praying with others is more beneficial than praying by oneself.
This is the month of All Souls, and Koreans, like all Catholics everywhere, remember their dead with special prayers and visits to cemeteries. It is another way of being united to all those who came before us and of preparing ourselves to join them-- a beautiful thought.   

Monday, November 8, 2010

In All Things Charity

A problem we see often is the difficulty of showing charity to others we disagree with. Some avoid the difficulty by being uncritical and accepting of everything heard and read, provided it does not hurt another. This is not a Catholic way of seeing life, yet politeness and good manners are always called for, especially when dealing with others within the same faith community.

A priest writing for other priests reflects on the hundreds of talks he has heard on spiritual subjects and on retreats and the many spiritual books he has read. But admits that in his own life he has not lived in a loving way, even to his follow priests. Despite the talks and the readings and repeated efforts to be more open and loving, most of the time he has not been able to do so.

This lack of charity, of civility, is becoming more evident recently throughout the Catholic World. We hear words that express distain and negativity, verging on personal attacks against other Catholics. Disputes and disagreements are a part of living together but we should not forget the simple rules of civility. The priest mentions an incident that has remained with him that was worth hundreds of spiritual exhortations.

A number of priests in a diocese wanted to gather together for a Mass, to talk and pray with the Catholics of the diocese about the problems of the country and what could be done to solve them. They asked a priest for the use of his parish to say Mass. He gave his permission but was not present for the Mass. (Many Catholics and priests disapprove of this form of demonstrating opposition to the government.) When the Mass was over and the priests went into the sacristy, the pastor was there to greet them cordially, inviting them to partake of refreshments that he had prepared for them. He remembers this as a lesson in how to disagree and still be hospitable.

Here was a display of kindness toward others even though there was disagreement with their thinking. All Catholics who are united within the Church  have a basic understanding  of what being a disciple of Jesus means, but the method of attaining this  may be different; we may choose to disagree and vehemently, but respecting the other in the way we do it.  A good rule to follow in our community of faith: In essentials unity, in accidentals freedom, and in all things charity.

It is possible that what one thinks is essential is not so for the other. This does require discussion and at times strong disagreement, but respect for the other as a human being and as a Christian requires that we distinguish between what persons say and who they are.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Working for Harmony Among Religions

"Prejudice No, Understanding and Harmony Yes" was the headline in the Catholic Times article on the 14th Religious Cultural Festival held last month in Seoul. The theme was: Let us go together with one heart.  Seven religious groups participated: Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Won Buddhists, Chondogyo, Confucianists, and the Korean traditional religions.

Each religion had a booth where those interested could learn about its teachings. One Catholic said, "it was nice to see the different religions coming together without prejudice and to get to know something about them." There were also artistic expressions of each religion. The Catholics had liturgical displays and information about the Mass and the making of rosary bracelets. There was also dancing, singing and fun things to do. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about each others' religion. One of the journalists on the opinion page said that Korea was the only country where religions get along harmoniously. That may have been an exaggeration but they do make efforts to get along, for the most part, in a way you do not see  happening in many other countries of the world.

Here in Gyodong the Methodists, who have been in Gyodong for well over a hundred years and have churches in many different villages on the island, have a program preparing  lunches for those over 65 who are poor and living alone. Since the Methodists are the only other religious group besides the Catholics with Churches they asked the Catholics to help with the lunch preparation and we were happy to oblige. Before and after Mass on Fridays our women prepare the lunch boxes which are later distributed by the Methodists. It's a small thing but it is a sign of interreligious cooperation in an area that shows our common love for the poor, with Jesus as our common teacher.

Recently there was an article in the daily paper mentioning that some Protestants were praying for the destruction of Buddhism and demeaning it by what they were saying and doing. The Buddhists have thought it important enough to meet on the issue. This will always be the case when you have groups within groups that feel they have a better understanding of the issues than others. When you have so many different religions and believers, unanimity is impossible; bickering between religions seen from the outside, is difficult to accept and leave many  with sadness. And yet Korea is an example of a country that is working to find harmony between religions.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mental Health and Religion

Are we happy because of our faith? What is the meaning of faith in our lives? Do we believe we have a happier and fuller understanding of life when God enters?  These are the questions posed by a columnist in our Incheon Weekly. It's his belief that most therapists, from their many years of experience with those who come to them for help, are convinced that for optimal health God must be part of any successful treatment.
The aim of treatment for psychological problems is to achieve mental health: peace, inner freedom, self-development and growth. This can appear to be something spontaneous. Often a person, after consultation with a therapist,, will feel his problem has disappeared and resumes a normal life but another problem often arises that brings him back for more help. Health is a life long search for integration and, like life itself, is an on-going process.

Religion points the the way and gives us guidelines for health and happiness. Religious maturity and a life of faith will often determine a person's mental health, his self- knowledge, self esteem, inner peace and happiness. Not surprisingly, studies of the relationship between mature religion and mental health have shown this to be true.

With religion, we have a unique Supporter. We may be weak, lacking much and sinful, lost in a desert of meaninglessness, feeling no one loves us, but with the correct attitude we  know that God loves us and that makes for a joyful and hopeful person.

Essentially all treatment and healing comes with being loved. Knowing we are loved opens the way of hope, even with the difficulties and scars inflicted by life. The Church community also allows us to share and communicate; traveling the same road we can depend on one another.

Once we know God, are we happy? Answering yes to this question means we must also make an effort to plant this same faith and joy in the hearts of others, especially the children. The development of faith requires effort if it is to guide us to a mature faith life. If we work to raise our children's grades and self confidence, we should also consider the essential part faith life has in maintaining their mental health, as well. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mistakes Are Not Sins And the Difference Is Important

The columnist who writes on spiritual matters for the Catholic Times suggests that we all would be better off if we acknowledge our mistakes, laugh and enjoy life. He recounts the story of a boy who spilled soup on his clothes while eating and anxiously tried to erase all signs of his carelessness.  The child was asked why he was so anxious to clean the spot. He said his friends would make fun of him, and the columnist said his friends would not even see the spot; there was need to worry, but the child was not convinced.

We know what the columnist means for we have had the same experience. If  we splatter something on our clothes we want as quickly as possibly to change our clothes.  We feel awkward. We know that nobody will see the spot or be interested or concerned, but still it bothers us.  It's not the spot that really is the problem.

Humans make mistakes. That is no surprise and is to be expected. But we freguently are overcome by what we have done, are ashamed, blame ourselves and worry about what others will think; and here we are not talking about big issues but trifles. If one is mature and has his emotions under control, he can admit to mistakes. And if he has hurt someone, humbly admit it, be sorry and apologize. By doing so, we do not lose our peace of mind and can be more attentive to the needs of others.

At times  like the child, many blame themselves for small mistakes and are embarrassed to a degree that is beyond reason; we try to erase what was done but that only magnifies the incident, and in an effort to escape feelings of guilt we may blame circumstances and even family.

This effort to eradicate the memory of what was done is exhausting and ultimately self-destructive. We should be thinking of the present and not the past. Even though I can make a mistake anytime, and probably will, and unknowingly hurt someone, that should not paralyze me. Being open and magnanimous will make amends for the faults that I have and make up for my failings.

We should jettison our list of past mistakes and start living in the present. As Catholics we do understand what sin is and  how harmful it can be to ourselves and others.  With  sorrow and a willingness to change, we know we are forgiven.  However, when we make a  mistake or some fault is committed and we let that bother us as if it were deliberate,  we are not understanding who we are and making an error in judgement that can be very harmful in our lives. The difference between a sin and a mistake is not a small difference--they are worlds apart. Keeping them separate, refusing to confuse the two, will make a big difference on how we see ourselves and how we live our lives.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Korean Church Use of the Social Networking Service

One of the priests who have been active in cyberspace in Seoul and now in his own diocese explains in his article in the Kyeongyang Magazine that the Church would benefit by using the internet's social networking service. This online platform allows us to share experiences of daily life, thoughts, interests and information with those who are interested. An example of SNS is the mini blog, Twitter, that began several years ago and has surprised everyone by how it has grown. It only allows the sending of a message with 140 letters (characters) but has  been used by many celebrities helping its phenomenal growth. It will also in the immediate future be the service to watch here in Korea.

However, he reminds us that not all is positive with the service. Though there can be instant communication within seconds with anyone anywhere, there can be plenty of negativity, abusive language and false news. This is of course true for most areas of life and it should not deter us from its use.

Though his intention is not to push either Twitter or Facebook, the two most popular SNSs, he explains that  Twitter's  growth is due in part to its ability to connect with  smart phones; he makes clear that Twitter and Facebook are only two SNS out of over 110, and  this number will continue to grow.  He is happy to see that there are many Koreans using Twitter. Many Catholics are also using the service and a small number of priests but  would like to see these numbers increased. He believes  the Church should take a more active interest in utilizing the country's expertise in this area of information technology to strengthen its pastoral work and net working within the Church.

He tells us that many use Twitter merely to send messages and do not take advantage of all the possibilities and the different codes. He admits that for the beginners who want quick mastery there are problems. He then spends time explaining the different codes and their uses.

Although the Pope on a number of occasions has asked the Church to become interested in this new way of communicating, the priest feels the Church in Korea has not yet taken this to heart.