Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wanting to Live a More Meaningful Life

There have always been persons who want to live the Christian life more fully by cultivating an interior life. Many join a religious order or society and some join  lay  communities of men and women, which are often ecumenical, sometimes have a religious orientation, and sometimes have no beliefs. But most persons who join these lay communities want to share their life and material goods with others. Though the communities may be composed of Catholics, families as well as individuals, they are not formally recognized by the Church. The one thing they have in common is their dissatisfaction with the ways of society.

We are introduced to such a  community, the Community on the Mountain, in the recent Kyeongyang magazine, by a priest who works on the pastoral committee of the Seoul diocese. He begins by telling us that  society is made up of  all kinds of innovative minds that continually  surprise us with their discoveries: today we have smart phones, robots, cosmetic surgery, even the possibility of changing men into women and women into men.  No one knows what surprises will come tomorrow.

The Community on the Mountain has over 30 members and is working on two  projects that the priest describes by posing two questions that the community is in the process of answering: "Can we, without working for money, discover the art of being  happy? And can we, without  competing with one another, find success?"  When the answers to these questions have been found and put into practice, he says the earth will shake, and the first signs of the change will likely be that we will lose interest in having the finest education possible, or getting the highest paying job possible.  He then relates a few of the things that  the group thinks important to reach their goal.

Children in the community are required to work, besides going to school. They have to feed the animals, clean the chicken coops, and help with the many tasks of the community. In the past, learning and labor were not separated like they are today, where children are not to work but  study. The writer feels that for a person's mature growth work is required.

In Japan, one of the communities that required the children to work was featured in a TV program that accused the community of abusing children. The journalists had no idea of the value of labor for helping to nurture creativity and spirituality. They saw working with the hands as something lowly and for those without education. Without work, the priest says,  knowledge does not have  soul.

Another point he makes is that the children eat only after the adults have eaten. This surprises visitors to the community, but the priest explains that in our society children often consider themselves as being the center of the family, which is not the way it should be.  If we are truly to respect our children and help raise them to be responsible adults, we have to show them they are part of the human family. If they do not learn that lesson they are easily spoiled and will be difficult to discipline.

He finishes the article by contrasting what parents would say to a child leaving for study abroad: "Let us  know immediately when you need money." And what a Christian would say: "You should be in search of God's justice and  practice justice yourself." Teaching  our children the art of true happiness is the first principle behind education for a person of faith, which means becoming the person God wants us to be, a  complete human being. As expressed in Luke 2:40, "The child grew in size and strength, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him."

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