Friday, August 31, 2012

The Eucharist not a 'Hot Button' for Many

The Korean language has a word that signifies a person's 'hot button' and when touched an angry response is sure to follow. This hot button should have been set off by Catholics when they heard of the recent incident in Jejudo.

The incident occurred at a Mass celebrated outside the construction site of the controversial naval base.  Many inhabitants of Jejudo do not want to see the island militarized, increasing, as they believe, the possibility of war, as well as not wanting the beauty of the island  destroyed.  Riot police dispersed those at the Mass, and some of the hosts fell to the ground; a policeman was seen stepping on the Eucharist.

The news of the  incident, by way of the social network system, was carried throughout the country and made front page news in the Catholic Times. The journalist, a young Catholic himself, found it difficult to understand the indifference of the Catholics regarding the incident, especially on the part of the young, and expressed his surprise at the lack of an appropriate response.   

He concedes that we are all entitled to our opinions and that we need to respect the rights of all to express themselves. Some commentators on the incident would like to know why Mass was being held in such a location in the first place, where there was a greater possibility for the disturbance to happen. Others do not think what happened was any big deal. To those who side with the first observation, the columnist would answer by reminding them of the central place of the Mass in the faith life of Catholics. In answering the second observation, he would question whether they fully understand what is involved when they receive the Eucharist.

The journalist ends his article by noting that for Catholics the preciousness of the Eucharist is our hot button. When we remain silent on this issue, he wonders what others are going to think, knowing that non-Catholics see the Eucharist only as a wafer. To make sure this kind of incident is not repeated, he suggests that we speak out whenever such incidents occur, not only because of the nature of the offense, but for our own spiritual health as well.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Burial Culture

At one time the Church opposed cremation because of the anti-religious beliefs of some of its proponents: denial of immortality and resurrection. However, the Church no longer forbids the practice. And in Korea, among religious groups, close to 70 percent opt for cremation.

Cremation and the new burial procedures that come with the new burial culture was the topic of a recent Peace Weekly editorial. Because acquiring land for cemeteries is no longer possible, the priests' council of the Seoul Archdiocese decided to include, in the burial plot for priests at the main diocesan cemetery, a mausoleum for the interred remains of priests. Standard burial procedures would  continue as usual, but after twenty years the remains would be removed, cremated, and placed in the mausoleum. The cremation procedure will begin with the interment of priests, a decision by the archdiocese that was very much praised by the editorial.

Hopefully, this will be the start in the diocese of a new burial culture among the parishioners, as well. The many cemeteries within the diocese are now filled, and the only possibility left is to convert these cemeteries to this form of burial. The example of the priests should help the parishioners to take a more informed look at what is now being done, which should help them see the need for the cremation procedure.

Although there are many problems associated with conventional burials, few cemeteries are interested in changing over to mausoleums and crypts. The main reason is the opposition of many Koreans; death is not a subject they, or anyone, for that matter, like to think about. If, however, the new burial culture does catch on here and more mausoleums are built, which are often beautifully constructed, these buildings alone may help us experience more directly how death and life are part of existence.

The example of the Seoul Archdiocese should help make cremation a more acceptable option than it currently is for many Koreans; that was the hope expressed by the editorial, adding that visiting these mausoleums may also be a spur to increasing their growth in spiritual maturity and spreading the new burial culture throughout the country.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Concern for the Alienated in Korean Society

"Who in our society are the most alienated?" It's a question she  often asks herself. " Since society is not interested," she says, "we have to find  and help them."  Park Sun-young (Teresa), a former  lawmaker, is recognized for her work with the marginalized in Korean society.  Called the Godmother of  North Korean defectors living in the South, she worked as a lawmaker for their human rights. She fasted for eleven days in front of  the Chinese Embassy in Seoul to bring the public's attention to China's policy of returning North Korean defectors in China back to North Korea.

Most of the  20,000 North Koreans who have defected to  South Korea have come from China.  In China, they would be  considered  illegal migrants and are sent back to North Korea where they are severely punished, even though International law prohibits the forcible repatriation of any individual to a country where they are at risk of facing persecution.  World opinion continues to appeal to China to abide by International law.

Teresa,  besides working with the defectors,  concerns herself with the "comfort grandmothers" (Korean young women forced by the Japanese military to become prostitutes for the pleasure of their soldiers; also with the Sakhalin stateless people, ( the children of Korean workers who were conscripted to work on this Russian island by the Japanese and have not received Korean citizenship.);  with former prisoners of the Korea War, and all those who are suffering and society has forgotten.

She said that when she became a lawmaker she was going to live the Catholic vision of social justice and be concerned with the forgotten in our society, in the way Jesus showed us. She was saddened when her fellow Catholic lawmakers approved of abortion, the  death penalty, and were against the culture of life movement.

She left politics, she said, because it was an obstacle to  doing what she wanted  for human rights. Many saw her activities in the service of others as political;  others poked fun at her efforts as merely disguised attempts to make the limelight. She was unconcerned about the personal attacks, and was happy to put aside the lawmaker's credentials and concentrate on  working for the rights of those who were not recognized by society.

Unfortunately, Catholics have not been as active, she says, as the other religions have been in helping the North Korean defectors. Today, she still  teaches in the law department of a Korean University, while continuing  her activities for the marginalized of Korean society.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rampant Plagiarism

Plagiarism, the literary theft of another's ideas and words, is on the upswing in a number of countries, says the desk columnist of the Catholic Times. Here in Korea, the appointment of high government officials usually brings up the suspicion that many of these appointments should not have been approved because of the presence of plagiarized material in doctoral dissertations.

The guideline in Korea for determining whether or not material has been plagiarized is passing off as one's own 6 or more consecutive words that have been taken from another's work. The media tends to report the suspicion of plagiarism when they learn that a particular dissertation exceeds the "6 consecutive word" guideline, and when there is a lack of proper attribution of source material. 

The columnist, when studying in the States, was told that plagiarism is considered to have occurred when taking from another's work three or more consecutive words without referencing the source. If the suspicion of plagiarizing is not explained away satisfactorily, the person is then reported to the department head and may be expelled. The person may also be given advice on how to change the wording so it's not considered plagiarizing, and with practice, avoiding the problem becomes easy.

The columnist tells us he has never been impressed with those who have a doctorate. For him, the title of Ph.D. does not mean the person has a great grasp of knowledge or has mastered all that can be known, even about his own field of knowledge. It indicates only that a person has studied a particular field of knowledge, and may have very limited knowledge in other fields of study. The person is also telling us, if only indirectly, according to the columnist, that he or she has little knowledge in other fields, though not liking to acknowledge this fact.

He is impressed, he says, when meeting persons with a doctorate who, while confident in their field of study, are humble enough to admit their ignorance and listen to others. They do exist, he assures us. 

Although there are many legitimate Ph.D.s, the columnist would like to know why, in Korea, we are so tolerant of those who received their Ph.D.s illegitimately. It has gotten so bad, he says, that even typographical errors from  the original material are sometimes copied. One simple solution to the problem he would like to see used more often is to ask or force those who have plagiarized to resign from their offices and return to the life they had before. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Violence and Alcohol

Violence that comes from drinking too much alcohol is a serious problem for the Korean society. Police departments throughout the country have begun an all out campaign against this type of violence, with teams of officers assigned, as their primary objective, the task of eradicating the violence that often results from drunken behavior.  And there are signs that the effort has been successful: incidents of violence decreased 11.1 percent last year from that of the previous year.

Many people who become violent after drinking alcohol are of course  normal in every other way, some not remembering their violent behavior. The article in the Peace Weekly mentions that the Diocesan Pastoral Committee of Seoul on Addiction, which has studied the problem, considering it a blot on our society, is determined to eliminate it.

The article mentioned an incident, out of many others that probably could have been mentioned, at the recent Olympics in London, where a drunken spectator threw a beer bottle at the runners preparing for the finals in the hundred-yard dash. Fortunately, the bottle did not hit any of the runners. Violence resulting from drunkenness not only is a Korean problem, the article writer wanted to stress, but very obviously is a worldwide problem.

The generally accepted classification of the most common crimes in Korea are: murder, small theft, rape, robbery and violence. From 2001, the number of arrests for these crimes has continued to climb, with the largest number of arrests (63.5 percent) being for violent behavior. In 2010 it decreased to 49.9 percent, but of the five most frequently committed crimes, violence tops the list, and 30 percent of the violence is due to drunken behavior.

The harm done to society because of the misuse of alcohol is staggering, says the writer.  It not only is a big factor in criminal behavior but also in divorce, accidents, suicides, and health related deaths; Korea leads the world in the number of deaths from alcohol-induced liver problems. And the economic loss is enormous. The Health and Human Services Centers for Disease and Prevention has stated that people, in 2010, over 19 years old who were at high risk for drinking was 14.9 percent; in 2011 the percentage went up to 18.2--an increase of 3.3 percent.

The medical profession estimates that over seven million people are addicted to or abuse alcohol. The "drinking culture" of Korea is thought to be a prime contributor to the problem. It's generally accepted that when gong out for the evening, there will be giving and receiving of glasses of liquor, boilermakers and other mixed alcoholic drinks. And doing the town by going to a second and third drinking location is commonplace. For this type of entertainment to change, all of us, drinkers as well as nondrinkers, especially including the courts of law, must cease to tolerate this misuse of alcohol. Without this attitude change, there is not likely to be any lessening of the current alcohol-related violence in our society. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Alternative Education

The future of the country is in the hands of the young, says the principal of the first alternate school in the Catholic educational system. But many of our students, he told the Peace Weekly--referring to the happiness index of the Organization for Economic-Cooperation and Development, which lists Korea as having the lowest happiness rating among students in the 30 countries surveyed--are not happy.  Now that the Catholic Church is experimenting with alternative schools, the hope is that the happiness of our students will be favorably affected.

A number of reasons have been suggested for student unhappiness, financing their college education being one important reason. High-school students often cite another reason: Studying for college entrance exams and the intense competition to score high on the exams puts a great deal of pressure on to succeed. And the biggest  culprit for this current situation, says the principal, has been the disappearance of holistic education.

In an attempt to correct some of the problems, the law has been changed to allow schools to pursue an atypical curriculum that is more varied, natural, and holistic. Some educators feel that this is not a wise move. They worry that the students attending these schools will not be able to fit into society, find work and earn enough money. This is often the way those who are immersed in our industrialized society choose to see the benefits, or lack of benefits, of alternate types of education, compared with the perceived benefits of the current educational  system. 

The Peace Weekly gives an account of a recent workshop-meeting that brought together the teachers and the parents of students attending the first alternative Catholic school in the country. Although the primary emphasis of the school is on character formation, the principal is contemplating a move into more spiritual dimensions of life. If character education is understood to form the person, the spiritual will work to go beyond the person to more community involvement, always searching and working for the common good. Moving in this direction will deepen the freedom and autonomy of the students. When this is achieved, the principal said we will have "a happy school"--a school that students will want to attend.

A professor from the Catholic University is quoted in the article as saying that Catholic schools are now at the crossroads of a new Gospel mission. Whenever Catholic school administrators are tempted by the present educational system to be complacent or to compromise, they should bring to mind the Gospel message and have that inspire  them.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Road to Healing

In Korean society we frequently come across references to the word 'healing,' perhaps a sign that our society is undergoing a pathological change, with many of us becoming worn out and lonely and finding it more difficult to keep the body and mind healthy. The editorial in the Peace Weekly points out that for some people the keys for the transformation to healthful living may be as simple as adding new projects, including plans to travel to new destinations. 

The Buddhists have encouraged this transformation to health by holding 'stays' in their temples, where people can come for a few days to get away from the concerns that bind them to the world, preventing them from enjoying peace of mind. The World Health Organization, in 1996, issued their definition of health. Using a holistic approach, they provided criteria for determining not only what makes for physical and mental heath but spiritual health as well.

Healing, all healing--physical, mental, spiritual--is, as the editorial puts it, in God's domain. Because, ultimately, God is the only healer. In the Old Testament, becoming a new person--recovery to spiritual health--often begins with the healing of physical disease. In the New Testament, healing is clearly shown to extend beyond the healing of the body to the spiritual--and salvation.

This healing of the spirit is also available whenever we receive the sacraments of the Church; they help bring the love of God into our lives. The grace of God should be one of the means to rid ourselves of disease in both  body and  mind, as well as in the spirit. Because of these benefits, the editorial believes the Church should be more interested in promoting this apostolate, which should help satisfy, according to the editorial, our need for the sacred.

God, from the beginning, poured into humanity his grace, and if our lives are sufficiently open to the continual graces that are being offered, nothing but good can come from this openness, and health would be one of the gifts received. We need only to empty ourselves, forgive others, and do what the voice of conscience dictates.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Living the Spiritual Life

The world is a noisy place, says a columnist of the Catholic Times in his column on spirituality. By simply hearing the news or watching TV, we can readily come to appreciate how much noise surrounds us every day of our lives. It's not the kind of noise we can distance ourselves from easily and examine as a spectator might, he says. It's always there, hovering around us. Some of this noise is obviously 'out there,' but the noise coming from inside us, he maintains, is even more troubling.

In fact, we have a tendency to fear quiet, welcoming the noise, which explains to some extent why we like  celebrities and sports stars, following what they say and do with enthusiasm. Among the causes for the inner noise, he includes the desire for money and honor, and beckoning city streets that entice the strollers with their culture of pleasure. Much of what we see and hear is intended to titillate the senses, making it difficult for many of us to pass it by.

However, when the time is right, all that disturbs our inner peace can disappear, the columnist tells us. Often we do not allow ourselves to resonate with God's will. In an instant, moved by faith, we can be pushed into the cloud of unknowing. No matter how complicated life becomes, it can still resonate with God's will.

When we are overcome with the noise, however, and feel trapped, not knowing what to do or where to go, the situation may be similar to putting on a garment and, when not paying attention, placing the first button in the wrong button hole. When overcome with the noise, and its disabling distractions, it may be because we are not attending to the reservoir of hope and faith that is available to us. From birth on, being alert is the way we grow into mature adulthood.  We have to turn this tendency to become as fully conscious as possible in the direction of God. To loosen up somewhat is all that is necessary. When we are uptight, the danger of suffering a breakdown is always a possibility. Not setting our sights on the results of victory or failure, but directing our awareness to God is the path we want to take.

It's a path that requires faith and hope, mellowness and firmness. For a Catholic understanding of spirituality, the words that come to mind--vulnerability, openness, becoming clay in God's hands--allow us to be moved by his love for us. The initiative belongs to God. We simply rest in a humble receptivity of his gift. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Peace and Violence Cannot Exist Together

 "No school violence, No sexual violence, no drunken violence, no racketeering or other organized violence" were the words painted on a number of police patrol cars seen recently by the priest-columnist writing on social issues for the Peace Weekly. What especially caught his attention were the words above the others: "Eradicating the five areas of  violence." They reminded him of the two placards he had seen over a school gate. "Violence Reported," one said, "Will Be Eradicated." The other, which he found extremely troubling, said "Week for Eradicating School Violence."

Students who are studying hard to do well in school, he pointed out, should not have to contend with school violence, as if it were a normal part of school life. All violence is the enemy of the State, but it should be doubly abhorrent when it takes place in a school environment.  Whenever violence in the schools is reported in the news, and it involves a suicide, the blame usually goes to the school authorities for paying little attention to what was happening, or for keeping silent or doing nothing to prevent the violence. What about the responsibility of the State? the columnist is implying.

Although a certain amount of violence by police and military personnel is accepted as inevitable by the State, violence in other areas of civil society is considered illegal.  However, violence can be cleverly packaged into a commodity, which is then legally bought and sold in the marketplace, as is evidenced by what routinely appears  on TV and in the movies. Violence, in its many less obvious forms, has been around for a long time, but society, for the most part, seems not overly concerned. In redevelopment projects and building new towns, for example, we have come to expect conflicts. One side promotes ownership rights, the permission to demolish existing structures to construct new ones; the other side argues for the right to residence. At a certain point in this conflict over 'rights,' it's the demolition that usually takes place.

These problems, whether with labor or with people forced to move from their homes, are not much different.  The police are not there to prevent the violence but are often criticized for taking sides. Labor-management autonomy is usually cited to justify the situation, but more like a referee who sees a foul and does nothing. Church teaching on violence (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church #488) however is very clear: "Violence has [now] made its appearance in interpersonal relationships and in social relationships. Peace and violence cannot dwell together, and where there is violence, God cannot be present."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Good Teacher of Youth

We have been called to be merciful, to be filled with authenticity-- breathing deeply and slowly, and walking leisurely. It is only in this way that essentials are understood, blessings are gratefully accepted, and the painful is seen, heard and felt as painful. The lifestyle of our adults--superficiality and speed--is now influencing the student community and the teachers. Living life honestly and with respect is not easy. Without this commitment, our preciousness is disregarded, pain is overlooked, and we are not conscious of how we are being bombarded with violent words and actions.

A religious teaching sister, writing in a bulletin from an  institute in Seoul, Korea, explains that  as a teacher this is the reality she lives in. She sees the disappearance of the respect and concern we should have for each other. She would like to know why we are treating each other so badly.

At work, teaching daily, she sees big and small incidents among the young that exemplifies what she is trying to convey. One example she cites: "Sister, Sister! There is big trouble on the third floor, in front of the toilets. They are fighting and damning each other, hurry to the spot. Their faces are bloated and red; they will have to go to the hospital."

She went in haste to the spot, and found that the first round of fighting was finished. The fighting had been motivated, she said, by an all-encompassing  anger that could be seen in their eyes and in their body movements; they were ready to kill each other. Another example: "Our daughter was abused, blamed and threatened," she was told by her troubled parents, leaving their daughter depressed and fearful, and she soon had to withdraw from school. "The school has to take responsibility for such incidents," she said. "All the school authorities have been notified and it is now up to them to punish the students responsible."She mentioned a third example: There was a fire on the fourth floor of the school, smoke coming out of the window. A student, who had been breaking the school rules against smoking, threw a cigarette butt into a wooden basket that caught fire.

Sister went on to reflect on her position as a Christian and as a teacher who wishes to live her mission in life responsibly. But with the continual violence, depression, anger, weakness, helplessness, frustration and despair that often surrounds her, she has to acknowledge her limitations and frustrations. However, to use this helplessness as an excuse for attempting to deal only with an immediate and superficial  response to any crisis, she admits, is not going to be of great long term help to the students. It has to be a daily effort, a waiting hope, accompanied by a warm demeanor. Educators, she strongly believes,have to be one with the students who are hurting and have lost hope. To be with them in their grief and despair, to cry and laugh with them, and to be able to give them life and love.

She ends by saying that there are many young people, whether known or unknown to us, who are in need of our care and  love. As Jesus walked with us to give us life, we, also, as teachers, she hopes, in imitating him as an educator, will benefit from his example.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Special Act Relating to Adoption

The new adoption law (The Special Act Relating to Adoption) went into effect this month. The editorial in the Peace Weekly, raising serious reservations about some aspects of the law, noted that there were more than the usual number of adoptions recently, because these adoptions could be kept secret under under the old law; this will no longer be possible with the new law, which requires that the baby be registered soon after birth with the mother's family name. Only after the child is adopted will this information be deleted from the record. Forcing the unwed mother to divulge in a public document that she has given birth to a child can have terrifying consequences, the editorial claims, for both mother and child, as the mother contemplates her options in dealing with this difficult situation. That is the reason Catholic facilities for unwed mothers are sending petitions to the President asking for a change in the law.

The editorial cites an important provision of the new law: To receive the approval of the court for any adoption, there must now be a waiting period during which the suitability of the adopting parents is thoroughly reviewed, and all references checked. These measures, among others, are necessary, the editorial pointed out, to protect  the rights of the child, and should be highly praised.

However, the editorial goes on to say, the law is not fully considering the reality of our present situation. Because of the new provisions to the law, there is likely to be an increase in aborted or abandoned babies, since unwed mothers often want the birth kept secret, not wanting their parents and friend to know, and will oppose any registering of the child. The editorial feels that you will not find many of the unmarried mothers who are forced  to register the child, deciding to have the child. Either there will be an increase in abortions or there will be more abandoned. Obviously, not a small matter for everyone concerned, including those in government entrusted with monitoring the health of our society.

Because of these concerns, the editorial strongly urges that changes be made to the new law to avoid its possible negative consequences.  And no matter how good the law appears to be, the editorial warned, when the reality of the situation is not fully seen, problems are likely to occur. Instead of opting for more adoptions, lowering the number of abortions, according to the editorial, should be the motivation for any adoption law.

The preservation of family, promoting in-country adoptions, and meeting world standards by doing away with the dangers of child trafficking are meritorious aspects of the new law, but the negative aspects also must be acknowledged. It is believed by many that solving the adoption controversy can best be accomplished by changing the cultural beliefs and expectations of society. If we can begin to see our unwed-mothers in a new, more compassionate way, it will be a great help in persuading the mothers to keep their babies, rather than deciding for the terrible choice of either aborting or abandoning their child.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Importance of Prenatal Care

Currently, the Korean society is faced with an increasing number of sterile couples and of children having ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).  Bullying, autism, suicide, and such problems are a concern for a teaching doctor in a Seoul hospital, who feels that proper prenatal care would help solve these problems.

In the past, everyone considered  prenatal care an ideal goal, but if you didn't bother with it, no one paid too much attention. However, today the baby is understood to be influenced by both the physical and the psychic environment into which the baby is born.

In addition to the influence of genes given to the baby from the parents, the personality of the baby is also likely to be influenced by the thinking and activities of the mother.

This is all medically verifiable. Children who are bullies and violent show abnormal brain activities. Consequently it is now standard practice for the medical profession to recommend that the baby in the womb get as much care as possible, with the intention of providing the best environment in which to form the baby's personality. A baby born healthy, both in body and mind, and raised well, is a fundamental and virtuous responsibility of the parents. It is an act of love, and should be a concern not only for  parents, says the the professor, but should be a concern to all of us.

He mentions that his dissertation on the effect of classical music on the fetus was the starting point that changed his thinking on how he now sees the issue of prenatal care.  From that time on, he devoted himself to the study of prenatal and natural remedies, beginning a prenatal school in his hospital and giving lectures to the interns on the importance of prenatal care, using natural measures as much as possible.

When we have the correct understanding of life, he says, then the importance of caring for the baby during the prenatal period, as well as the importance of attending to the proper raising of children, will become self-evident. This understanding will be especially true for mothers; by understanding what is happening, how their thinking and activities are affecting the baby in the womb, the mothers will no longer be able to see the prenatal period as before.The sex act  also will be seen differently for there  is the possibility it will continue for 100 years.

The professor will publish a book on prenatal care next month. And he hopes that there will soon be natural birth centers in all the general hospitals of the country, and that the leaders of our society will take an active interest in pursuing this issue by encouraging more acceptance of prenatal care by all expectant mothers.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Humor and the Good Life

A Catholic Times journalist confesses in his column that he is  solemn in disposition and taciturn, and although not pious, he gives that image to those who know him. He tried to give the impression, he says, of gravity, but it was a pretense. He sees now how profound and warm a light hearted demeanor can be, and how a little unpredictability can enrich life and expand one's mental faculties. He came to this understanding by reading the book Keys of the Kingdom.

Fr. Chisholm, hero of the novel, was a stubborn, pious person not noticeably distinguished in any way. He understood that his stubbornness was a fault, and though he admitted to having no talent or charm, he was in the eyes of God, a humble person. But he was also, without knowing it, says the journalist, a humorous person to a very high degree.

The journalist saw in Fr. Chisholm's seriousness, the possibility of humor, and in his piety the leisurely attitude that gave his comments the unpredictability that could bring belly laughs. The secret of this improbable mix was his humility and love.

 "Jesus, in his his humanity, was not a quiet and proper person. Even as a child he did the unexpected, going to the temple to teach the elders without telling Mary and Joseph. Grown up, he continued to cause his parents headaches. Especially difficult to understand was his behavior during the incident with the woman caught in adultery. He writes on the ground, lifts up his head and tells those without sin to start throwing the stones, and goes back to writing on the ground.

What was he writing? Was it to get more time to think? Evading the issue? Was it to show them he didn't think what they were doing was worth the trouble to be concerned? Trying to figure out the reason is no longer his concern; he now finds it humorous.

A few days ago, Korea entered the semifinals of the Olympic soccer competition, beating England. Seeing an unfair call by the referee, the journalist said that it was interesting to observe the behavior of the coach.  With a serious demeanor, the coach used a vulgar expletive directed at the English team that completely relaxed the team, and they went on to win.

Not being alert, we can be very formal and serious in our thinking when we consider what we do as always right. Fr. Chisholm, Jesus and the coach of the Korean soccer team were not afraid to act spontaneously. Because there was humor in what they did, it was not seen as a serious deviation from acceptable behavior.

To Fr.Chisholm, the greatness of God meant everything to him, so believing himself to be insignificant seemed the only natural attitude to have in life. And with this mind set, it was easy to be unpredictable and humorous. It gave him the confidence and the ability to love. Before God, he was humble and wanted to do only what God wanted. He knew that when that is not the case, we tend to do things formally and by rote, succumbing to pretentiousness and distancing ourselves from the simple joys of life.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Evangelization in Korea

Evangelization  a topic much discussed in Korea, should be preceded, says a priest in his Peace Weekly column on "Happiness," by an important preliminary activity if evangelization is to be successful. We now have 5 million Catholics and only about one-fourth of them are going to Sunday Liturgy. What is the reason they are not going  to church as they once did?  With annual  income now over 20,000 dollars a year many believe the churchgoers now want service. But the Catholic Church is not servicing them, and ignoring the crucial step in the evangelization process-service. To support this assertion, he cites the book: Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership, an old book that stresses that customer management, serving the customer, is basic in satisfying customers' needs.

The word 'service' is used in many different ways. In the Church, it is not easy to find satisfaction in service rendered which in most cases means attending to the needs of the laity. Catholicism calls a follower of Jesus, "a person who believes."  Protestants say,  "holy people" and the Buddhists' a "son of Buddha." The Catholics have a vertical relational  structure and the others a horizontal structure.

Jesus' method of operations was service: "Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant" (Matt.20:26). Jesus came to serve  others. The present culture within the  Church does not easily permit this kind of service. The Christians, the columnist says,  serve the priests and sisters, and the priests serve the bishops. A vertical system of communication.  Those outside  the Church will find the vertical system, knowing of Jesus' command to be of service to others, difficult to understand.

Jesus washed the feet of the apostles. He served his disciples as a lowly servant. Service is what the Church is all about.   The Church has to serve the Christians. If  we want to be successful in evangelizing  we have to move the hearts of our Catholics. More than getting out in the streets to evangelize it is necessary to embody service in our lives. When the Catholics are happy, it is easy to build a church,  When we are inspirited, we inspire others. We have a virtuous cycle that stimulates the Catholics to give of their money and services to the community.

A spirituality of joy is what is needed, God wants us to be happy. "Always be joyful; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks; this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus" (Thess. 5:16-18).

The Protestants tend to express this command  by using such words as thanksgiving, praise, glory, amen; Catholics more often hear the words repentance, liturgy, confession, stations of the cross. Which verbal expressions are more important is not the issue, says the columnist. What is important is the image Catholics and all believers, have of their faith. Is it a gloomy or a joyful spirituality?

We should never forget to be thankful for the graces that we have received and, as the columnists notes, to remember that joy is the essence of our faith life.  The issue he wants us to consider may not have been expressed, within the space limitations of a column, with the subtlety and comprehensiveness that such a topic warrants, but we can't miss the intent and truth of what was said.

Friday, August 17, 2012


The Peace Weekly, in its feature article on Confucianism, mentions that the various religions of Korea, in an attempt to promote better understanding of each others beliefs, are having what are called "Stays" for two or three days at their places of worship. Many in Korea, including many Catholics, do not think of Confucianism as a religion; for them it's part of the traditional culture. To get a first hand account of the Confucian experience, a bishop, president of the Religious Peace Conference of Korea, along with members of the Conference, visited the Confucian Scholars Cultural Center this past month.

They heard a lecture on Confucius (BC 531-479), which explained the basic teachings of Confucianism, emphasizing the importance of being fully human and loving toward one another. The Chinese character ( 仁 ) expresses this well: a person relating with two others. How Confucians and Christians view this relationship, however, is different.  For Christians, love includes loving one's enemies. Confucians would reserve love for those who have treated them well, and would  treat their enemies according to the rules of justice.The lecturer also noted that familial obligations are serious matters in Confucianism, and that life belongs not only to the individual but to ones parents and ancestors as well.

Catholics no longer have a problem with observing in the home the Confucian rituals for ancestors. But at the introduction of Catholicism in Korea, there had been a great deal of conflict, with Catholics being persecuted for not following the rites. The controversy was settled in 1939, when Pius Xll announced that the Confucian rites  are not superstition or idol worship but a cultural tradition.

A particularly interesting and important element of Confucian etiquette, a form of politeness the Koreans have been brought up with, is the ritual bowing. In the rites and in meeting people and for different occasions, there are different ways of bowing, and also a difference in the way women and men bow. The Peace Weekly noted that before Confucianism became the traditional culture and discipline of the country, it was a religion, though today not as well known as a religion,

Deeply interested in how to live properly in the present moment, Confucianism says nothing of the next life or of God,

How many Koreans are Confucians? There is no way of knowing. There are no rites of acceptance, they don't register their followers, and they have no clergy or religious; anyone who follows the teachings of Confucius can be considered a  Confucian. Their rites are held in Hyanggyos, the Confucian temples--there are 234 in the country--on the days of the new and full moon.

The scholar representing the Confucians wanted those who were "staying" at the Confucian Scholars Cultural Center, to see and appreciate Confucianism less as a culture and more as a religion.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Happiness of the Elderly

The 21st century, only 12 years old, is being called the century of the "new old." Increasingly, the global elderly population is outnumbering all other age categories. In France, it took 120 years to arrive at this point; in Korea only 26. The economic implications of this new social reality are troubling, says a priest in his Peace Weekly column on "Happiness."

Growing old gracefully in Korea is going to be more difficult than it has been in the past, he says. Many Korean parents are not setting aside enough money to provide for their retirement and old age, spending most of their earnings on an expensive college education for their children, and giving them whatever is left over. The accepted belief is that if children are raised well, the parents will have an easy time of it after retirement.

The harsh reality is that graduating from college requires a great deal of money and those that graduate are not guaranteed a job. Over 1 million young people in their 20s are unemployed and skilled labor jobs go begging, In Germany, the columnist notes, skilled labor jobs are prepared for by students while they are in middle school, the children deciding, according to aptitude and preference, to prepare either for college or for a trade.

Another troublesome reality: When we get old the body begins to break down, and though many parents will turn to their children for help, the  children often show little concern for their sick parents. Children tend to be close to their parents until age 10, the priest says, and then gradually begin distancing themselves from them.

Another problem is the lack of friends. Korea leads in the number of suicides among the developed countries. In Japan, the reason for suicides is loneliness  but in Korea it is mostly money concerns. Being old and without money decreases confidence, which makes it more difficult to socialize with friends.

However, the priest feels the biggest problem is adjusting to living with the personal idiosyncrasies of your partner, especially after many years of marriage--unless you have built up a reservoir of love. In their 20s, if couples don't feel well matched, the priest says that in their 30s they will work at being more compatible. And in their 40s, they will work on the weak points so that in their 50s they will truly become lovers.

Working toward this type of compatibility takes a great deal of effort. In France, around the Champs-Elysee, you find the older people drinking wine and going to restaurants.  In Korea, the older people will be found at Pagoda Park, while the young, using their parents' money, are dining out at good restaurants.

It is said that when the root is strong, the tree will be strong and the fruit will be plentiful; the elderly are the roots of our society. However, in these troublesome times, the happiness of the aged has become an important topic of conversation. According to a ranking of countries based on the level of happiness within the country, out of the 179 countries surveyed, Korea ranked 102,

This "unhappy" situation should be a concern to all of us, beginning with a rethinking of the financial support usually given by parents to their children. Without sufficient thought being given to the future needs of the parents when they are old, not only will the happiness index of the country not improve, but the happiness index of our elderly will suffer even more.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Reconciliation and Peace

In the era of globalization one country alone is not going to solve the many problems it will encounter, says Seunghoon Emilia Heo, who was in Korea recently to promote her book Reconciling Enemy States in Europe and Asia. Her reason for writing the book, she told The Peace Weekly, was to study the political science aspects of reconciliation, and the  concomitant humility and courage that inevitably are involved in any successful reconciliation. 

In the history of conflict, words such as coexistence, alliance, cooperation are often mentioned but the word reconciliation is rarely heard. There are those who believe, says Professor Heo, that the  absence of war is a sufficient reason for the existence of peace and reconciliation, the need for reconciliation not being seen as necessary, and is not as popular a topic of discussion today as is talk about global warming and terrorism.

However, without true reconciliation, Heo says, peace treaties are not going to generate friendly relations between nations. And ever present terrorism, natural disasters, multicultural and religious conflicts will also need to be addressed with everyone engaging in efforts of reconciliation.

Her book, a development of her doctoral dissertation at the graduate school of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, goes into detail about who is to reconcile and how this can best be accomplished between adversaries, showing the various aspects of reconciliation as they have been used both in Europe and North East Asia.

In a speech congratulating Heo on publishing her book, a professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies said, "In her book she treated the main subject of reconciliation between countries but also examined the multidimensional causes of conflict and the  cultural factors, race and religion. In doing so, you could sense her commitment and religious faith."

Professor Heo graduated from Seoul National University, went to France for her masters and to Switzerland for her doctorate. She is now a professor at the United Nation University in Japan, teaching and doing research. Rebuilding relationships between enemy states is not easy, but the professor has given us some insights on what  can be accomplished  by efforts of reconciliation. Hopefully, world leaders will ponder her message.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Survey of Catholics In Seoul Korea

A survey was made recently of Catholics in three areas of Seoul, Korea: 10,784 from nine parishes. The main reason for the survey was to determine what changes had occurred in the makeup of the diocese since the Diocesan Synod was held ten years ago. The results of the survey would provide an objective criterion  to plan for the future. The questionnaire sought answers to four main areas of concern: spirituality and community life, small Christian communities, religious education, and participation in society.

Briefly summarizing the results: the older the Christians in the parish the higher the  numbers of  those attending Mass; the younger the parishioners the less attendance at Mass. But those younger would be more involved with support groups in the parish and participate more in society. The percentage of those interested in scripture, spirituality, and liturgy was 68.8 percent; those interested in evangelization and the social gospel was 28 percent. This shows a need to integrate the way the two groups see the life of faith. With the survey figures affirming that the number of the young attending Mass is decreasing, it was seen as imperative that there be more programs for them or face the prospect of having even less young people going to Church. With respect to attending small Christian community meetings, 45.2 percent have never attended one, 13.4 percent have shown little interest in doing so, 14.9 were active participants, and 12.5 percent were slightly interested.

The Seoul diocese has a goal of  20 percent of the population of Seoul being Catholic by 2020, but the questionnaire showed that 77 percent of the Catholics have not brought anyone to the Church in the last three years. Of the respondents, 1,388 brought at least one person, 616 brought 2, and 234 brought 3. 175 brought 4-10, and 24 Catholics brought more than 11. The reasons given for not evangelizing: too difficult (42.3 percent); feeling not good enough examples of Catholic living (28.8 percent);  and did not know how (609)
516 did not participate in any educational program; 12.9 percent participated, and 35.6 percent rarely did.

The area in which the young excelled was participating in society: 53 percent of those in their 40s actively participate, 47.9 percent of those in their 30s, and of those in their 60s and 70s, 26.4 and 29.4 percent respectively. The survey was written up in both Catholic papers and should help the other dioceses to plan for the future.

Monday, August 13, 2012

No Peace Without Dialog

The Peace Weekly is beginning a series in August on the religions of Korea. The wise words of theologian Hans Kung  introduces the series in the  editorial "No World Peace Without Peace Among Religions: No Peace Among  Religions Without  Dialog Between Religions." In Asia, many ethnically different people are living together, some having been nurtured by quite different cultures and traditions with different religions. Although we have one culture and mostly one basically homogeneous people, Korea has  a department-store-mix of religions co-existing,

Korea is a country where religions live together without conflict. Sociologists explain that this is so because of the balance and number of religions. But insiders say that if we look more closely, we will see a continuing need for reaching out to each in dialog. At anytime a dispute on some crucial issue--religious, social or political--can ignite conflict, now dormant.

An example would be the inauguration of the present government administration, and the conservative Protestants becoming  a religious power, which led to serious conflict with the Buddhists. Another  issue would be the defacing of Catholic statues.

Religions have organizations, structures, teachings, established identities, and in certain areas can't help but be exclusive; this is no reason for bigotry, intolerance and to behave self-righteously, for this isolates religion and harms society. That is why we have to meet and speak with each other.

It's not only important to know and respect other religions. We must learn to see other religions in a new way. Seeing another religion with more understanding we can reflect on our own and see it differently, making it more fruitful. The past president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, Cardinal Arinze, said that others could learn from us, and we can learn from them. An example would be the way other religions acculturate their rites into a different culture; such learning would help us to do the same.

The meeting of religions can do much for national unity and peace. All religions are similar in their regard for the poor and in condemning discrimination and violence. To follow this golden rule requires that we meet and talk together, sharing ideas on how to implement these moral concerns within society. There is no reason to see this dialog as difficult. In our neighborhoods and communities, we need merely to open our hearts to others and be welcoming, and in the parishes on Buddha's birthday, to send messages of congratulations to the nearest temple.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

We are all Philosophers

The relationship of reason and faith, of philosophy and theology, has had a controversial history. However, in Christian thought, for the most part, the two approaches to understanding the truths pertaining to God were seen as compatible. Even the non-Christian philosophy of Aristotle helped to shape the thought of St Thomas Aquinas as he pondered how best to express the truths of the faith. For Aquinas, the two approaches, though distinct, were related and necessary for a true knowledge of God. He saw no contradiction between faith and reason, faith being dependent on supernatural revelation, and reason being dependent on natural revelation. Even today, undergraduate study in philosophy is required to enter a graduate school of theology,

In the Catholic Times' column Walking with Philosophy, the writer briefly discusses the philosophic contributions of the German philosopher and mathematician G.W. Leibniz (1646-1716), who summed up the study of philosophy as the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty. When the mind is focused on discovering the  nature of existence, of being, it is pursuing truth; when focused on discerning the ultimate nature of humanity and answering the ethical questions that naturally follow, the mind is pursuing goodness; when discerning the reasons why the physical senses and the feeling sense find delight in certain objects and experiences of life, the mind is pursuing beauty.

Since we are all involved, to some extent, in these pursuits, we are all philosophers, the professional philosopher simply being a person whose life is devoted to finding answers to the perennial questions of life. Those who saw themselves as carrying forward the traditional truths and values as presented by the philosophers of the past, as Leibniz did, were considered upholders of a perennial philosophy that stretched back to the beginnings of philosophy.

This search for truth, the philosophic quest, will exist as long as we have human beings on earth who will go beyond appearances to find the principles, and who will go beyond the temporary and passing events to reflect on the nature of things. This pursuit is universal and essential.

For Leibniz, searching for truth and living the good and honest life cannot help but lead to the search for beauty.  As a mathematician, he discovered calculus independently from Newton, and he was equally comfortable discussing problems of energy in physics, and attempting as a diplomat to help resolve differences during the religious reformation and upheaval in Europe, making him an ecumenicist--all interests that came naturally to him because of his philosophical interests, which in turn developed because of his interest in living a true and good life.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Korean Women Theologians

 Theology  considered the prerogative of the clergy from the middle ages is now a field that the lay people are beginning to study and research. However, Korea still has only a few who are pursuing studies in theology and to find one studying dogmatic theology is rare indeed. Dr.Choi Teresa is one of these who has received her doctorate from the Gregorian in Rome and was interviewed by the Catholic Times.

Dogmatic theology is that part of theology which treats of the theoretical truths of faith concerning God and his works. This is the foundation of all the other areas of theology and at the Gregorian there are few lay people pursuing this study.

Teresa has been asked often why she took up the study of dogma and she answers that the lay people should be well  versed in theology for they have to witness to their faith and to live it. Lay people, she says, are not only to repeat the words of the clergy and religious. The Second Vatican Council makes clear lay people are to cooperate with the magisterium. It is an obligation on the part of the laity to study theology. This is not a challenge to the magisterium but a way for the laity to grow and be able to spread the word of God. But to do this in Korea, Teresa anticipates, may be difficult.

Teresa has met many Koreans who are studying theology and there were those in their twenties who had great potential but the reality is that no one wants them. In the West, especially in Germany and
Switzerland, it is very natural to have laity study and work within the field of theology. In Korea it is understood to be in the hands of the clergy and religious, The climate for this to happen in Korea has not yet been prepared and Teresa wants to help it happen.

Teresa feels that it is necessary in Korea to put theology in the words that the laity can understand and with the sensitivity that the Koreans have for the spiritual she feels that they will exceed what was done by the laity in the West.

Studying at the Gregorian her biggest surprise was to see how many of the  words in her studies were made for the West. Those living in the West have no problem with these words, but that is not true for those in the East. Dr. Choi wants to contribute in changing  this in her studies and work. She believes this will help to advance the study of theology in Korea.

Teresa experienced in her studies the inability to understand what she was studying and there was no one to explain clearly and satisfactorily why this was happening. She studied theology with this frustration. Theology should be using  human words to convey God's word, and this study is theology.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Showing Concern for Elders

Statistics show that we are not keeping up with the problems of the aged in Korea. There are now more suicides and abuse of the elderly, and fewer programs for senior citizens, both in society and in the Church. Although all parishes have a subcommittee on the pastoral council for the young, few have one for the elders.

Today in our society, 11 percent of the population is over 65; by 2050, it is estimated the figure will be 38.5 percent. In the past, the elderly were considered receivers of aid: taken on trips and given parties several times a year, but this was the extent of the concern.  It is said that to determine how well a country is doing in caring for its elderly is to look at the money being spent on education for the young, which usually is a sign of what is being done for the aged. According to this standard, we are not doing well by our elderly. The Catholic  Times editorial points out that if the government, the churches, and private organizations do not begin to do something, we will have a serious problem in the future.

For things to change, the editorial says it will require new parish priorities. And this change will come about, it suggests, when the thinking of the clergy concerning the elderly begins to change. If the aged are seen only as objects of  concern, the efforts to help will be limited. The elderly should be seen not only as deserving recipients of aid, the editorial goes on to say, but as valued participants in the pastoral work of the parish.

There are many older people who have a great deal of experience and specialized know-how in many different fields. They are often in good health and are willing to help if asked. They should be given every opportunity to volunteer their services, in parishes and in society. Specialists in this field have stated that there are all kinds of opportunities in society to generate jobs that will fit the talents of our senior citizens. In this way, not only society and the Church will benefit, but the elderly will be helped as well. It  is urgent that we begin to implement the necessary programs to accomplish these goals as soon as possible in the many parishes throughout the country. Utilizing the talents of our elderly population will serve the needs of both Church and society.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Popular Culture and Violence

How harmful is our popular culture today? Some Koreans believe it to be so detrimental to their children that they will only turn on the TV to view certain programs, and strictly monitor its use by their children. This is one way of dealing with the excesses of  popular culture; the wise of all cultures have reminded us to be ever watchful and critical about what we see and hear, but critical thinking is not easily achieved. Most of us will need help in making the right judgements on how to interact with our culture.

In deciding what our children can properly hear and see, we can be either too credulous or too cynical. There are other ways than just restricting TV viewing to keep the worst of popular culture from doing harm to the young.

A columnist in the Korean Times brings up the pop song "She's Gone," made famous by an older generation rock group and reintroduced recently by a popular Korean rap combo. The lyrics are about a man who loses his girl to another man and then kills the girl. The song was heard at a concert attended by 12,000 young people, including middle school children. Along with the music and the words, they saw the images of the violence and the killing.

What was even more shocking was the 'bed performance'. And the majority of the school girls, the columnist alleges, were following  all of this with enthusiastic cheers. A woman was being abused and then killed, and yet the young women in the audience, judging by their response, were enjoying it.

How culpable is the media in spreading this culture of violence? he wonders. Violence in our society is continually being given extensive coverage by the media. Very impressionable young people, dissatisfied and exasperated with their lives, can easily use what they see in the media to justify their own turn to violence to solve personal problems. When a romantic relationship goes sour, there is no reason why it has to end in violence. The ever present and sensationalizing  coverage of violence in the media, the columnist believes, gives our young people a reason to resort to violent measures to achieve their desires, including, he suggests, the increase of date violence.

Freedom of speech is an important right, but we should not be oblivious of its negative aspects, and the harm it can do to our society. In trying to change popular culture, it will serve us well to know what we we are faced with and, with the help of public opinion, try to minimize its harmful effects as much as possible.

He ends the column by telling us to go to his blog, if anyone is interested in seeing the video of "Girl's Gone," to see first-hand what he is talking about:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Korean Catholic Missions Overseas

The Korean Catholic Church has shown  an interest in setting up missions in Mongolia, Peru, Chile, and in other parts of South America and Asia. In 1996, the Columban Missionary Society of Korea started sending Korean priests as missioners to other countries.  And in the following years they sent 11 missioners who have had mission experience and have returned; at the present time there are 11 more who have volunteered for mission work. The Columban Missionary Society is also sending out lay persons as missioners.

Missioners have been in Mongolia for the last 20 years, and presently number 81.  28 are from Korea, mostly from the diocese of Daejeon. The Jesuit Province of Korea has also a mission in Cambodia which it supplies with missioners.

The Catholic Times editorial mentions these facts but also points out that the dioceses have not successfully promoted the spread of missionary work outside of Korea. There has been little response to the programs, set up by the bishops and the Korean Foreign Mission Society, for those interested in the missions . The Society, begun in 1975, now has 64 members, and will be a help in the formation of the missioners, but the first class was disappointingly small. The Society will continue and hopes to see a change in the interest for mission.The interest in foreign missions in Korea is still in the early stages; consequently, a systematic program of raising funds for the missions and support is still to be developed.

We say that all Christians are  missioners. This is our Catholic understanding, but the methods of putting this into action still remain to be effectively incorporated into the lives of the Christians.  Asia has only 3.1 percent of the population that are Catholic, so the opportunity for evangelization is great.

The editorial ends with the acknowledgement that the Holy Spirit is the motivating power behind the work of mission. And just as Jesus gave the apostles the power to witness to him, we have to pray for that to happen today.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What is Love?

Love is a command of Jesus and is central to living a spiritual life. The columnist writing on spirituality for the Catholic Times, however, feels the word is overused and no longer motivates many people. There are few words that have as many meanings, among them: loyalty, humility, sacrifice, courage, self-restraint, and the like. Love is not unconditional praise of another, he says, but honest advice is included under the category of love.

He prefers the word consonance, to be in harmony with the will of God. It is being in harmony with life: congeniality, compatibility with life's situation, compassion for others, and competence in what we do, all of which requires firmness and softness.

He believes that softness is a prerequisite for spirituality. A spiritual person, he says, is a mellow person; without it, there is a lack of discipline. Even if we think we are mellow, with God's help this softness can grow. We will also become firmer.  He distinguishes firmness from stubbornness. What comes from human values is stubbornness; what comes from God is firmness. We walk with firmness in harmony with God's will.

This is all God's work. It is not our unaided effort that produces results but our acceptance of God's gift. When we make efforts directly to be happy, we may find the gift of happiness more distant. His writing, he says, is also a gift, a result of God's love. To say "I did it" is not the proper way for a Christian to express anything that we have accomplished.  Those who are reading this, he says, are also recipients of this gift. providing us with the desire and the time to read what is written. All is gift, or another way of saying this: all is grace.

With this attitude, all becomes light and easy. However, he reminds us that there are many of us who live in great sadness. Their lives are full of despair. Each day is tension-filled, or unknowingly empty of meaning. Why is this so? Why do they live that way? He doesn't give us any answers, but the society we have made certainly influences how people see themselves. Those who can't adapt to our competitive and materialistic society are going to have problems.