Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Alienation between Faith and Life

Many Christians  distinguish between church and life.  Church is holy and spiritual while daily life is secular and non-spiritual.  However, the Church exists right in the center of the world; Jesus loves the world and came to live in it. Our goal and the way it is realized makes the world either holy or merely secular, writes the desk columnist of the Catholic Times. 

This disparity among Christians between our life and our faith he considers a serious problem. Life is lived in many cases in the same way by those who believe and by those who don't, and those who believe possibly even at times with more dishonesty and worldly ambitions.

Looking at the faith life of Christians, many see it as a thoughtless habit: believing in God but refusing his influence in life; a disciple of Jesus but refusing his directions:  Christian but having no influence on the world. Christians without any strength, a perfunctory belief; not a belief that seeks the will of God but uses God to gain their own will.

External acceptance of church life as the way of having a correct relationship with Jesus is a serious misunderstanding. Jesus wants us to know him, to understand why he came to earth, to follow his teaching and understand what is necessary to live in this way.

Surveys show that Christians feel that there is a natural  alienation between faith and life. Most also sympathize with this position but the columnist does not. Faith they see as a good but daily life is where there is a  problem. He doesn't want the Christians to limit  their faith life  to the church. Many see a zealous religious life as going to  Mass and being  generous to the church. But it is much more than this, and wonders if this alienation does not, in fact, reflect the Korean reality.

The religious life, the columnist says, should manifest itself in the family, in the way the children are raised, in the workplace, the way monies are used. Also in present issues of life:  environment, children's education,  and the like. In these matters Christians are no different than others. If we accepted  God's graces, we would not have the discrepancy between our religious life and daily life, for they would be one. We would understand that we are to live in the world as Christians. We would be walking in the steps of Jesus, who came into the world because he loved the world and wanted to change it. We are being asked nothing less than to follow in his footsteps.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Seeking Catharsis

Vengeance seems to be a very natural feeling that we can understand but as Christians hope to avoid.  Writing on the  opinion page of the  Catholic Times a columnist, though not a great fan of TV soap operas, does admit to watching a Chinese soap opera that deals with revenge in the Chinese  kingdoms of  the 5th century before Christ.

One of the kingdoms was made to surrender to another under with very humiliating conditions; the desire for revenge on the part of the defeated kingdom is the story line.

The columnist explains to us what he feels got him hooked on watching the series. He looks upon our life as having two aspects, the real and the imaginary. In watching a drama, we see the reality of the drama played out in our own life and also in the world of our  imagination. Sometimes there is harmony between them, and sometimes we have to struggle with them and play around with them in our heads.

This situation is called by some as receiving vicarious satisfaction from what we experience: a form of compensation. The columnist is not too happy with this way of describing what is happening. Can we receive satisfaction vicariously? he wonders. He would prefer using the word from Aristotle: cathartic. When we can identify with  some  tragic experience of our hero, there is a cleansing and a purification of our inner world that gives us a sense of freshness and relief.

How is it, he asks, that something tragic can cleanse our spirit and elevate us to another sphere of beauty? He admits that this is not readily answerable.

Getting back to the soap opera story: when one kingdom overcame the other, the victors took all the vanquished, along with  the queen and all the retainers, and made them slaves. Our columnist surmises there  would be few who would not be in sympathy with the losers and view the victors with indignation and antipathy.

The victors, vain, proud and cruel in their victory; the vanquished, pitiful in their plight. He has little doubt where his readers would stand. Aren't the just often the losers--the ones most of us would find sympathetic and attractive? We have a lot to learn, he says, from the patient suffering of the losers.

Jesus has asked us to love our enemies. We try to return love for hate; to desire revenge is prohibited. However, when watching the serial drama, the columnist did not find it strange to want to see justice done. It is precisely this desire to see the proud victorious king subdued, getting his recompense, which keeps our columnist coming back to the TV.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Saint from the Common People

Was Saint Andrew Kim, our first Korean priest and martyr, a member of the Yang-ban class or a commoner? Such is the way the Peace Weekly begins its review of a scholarly treatise by a university professor of Korean history. A matter of not much importance,  but it will tell us much about our saint and his life and times.

Korea during the Joseon period was socially divided between the Yang-ban class and the commoners. The Yang-ban can be briefly described as comprising those who had passed the civil servant exams and held positions of authority in the government. All others would be considered commoners. Descendents of the Yang-ban were awarded the status of nobles during the Joseon Dynasty period (1392 to 1897).

St. Andrew Kim was generally thought to be of the Yang-ban class of Korean society. It has been recorded, following an incident when his  boat was confiscated, that he had asked how can a Yang-ban's boat be confiscated?   From these words, it has been accepted that he was of the Yang-ban social class by many who have studied and written about the issue.

The professor mentioned that there are several problems that arise from this understanding of the matter. The Paris Foreign missioners who lived at the time of the saint considered him a commoner. Bishop Ferreol wrote:  "Andrew Kim and members of his family belonged to the lower social class; they were not members of the nobility." Bishop Dabeluy was of the same opinion.

The boat incident, the professor says, bears little relevance to the saint's place in society but was probably a way of evading the problems he was then facing. His statement can be understood as referring to a family background with a strong faith life and a history of martyrdom. There is little proof that his family belonged to the Yang-ban class. 

The professor feels that the efforts of some scholars to make the saint a member of the Yang-ban social class are misguided. It adds nothing to his life and actually makes it more difficult to understand the saint's faith and life.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Special Kind of Clinic

There is a hospital in a poor area of Seoul called St. Joseph's Clinic. It is a three-story brick building where those who are ill can come for free medical treatment. Begun in 1987 by a doctor,referred to as the father of the poor and recently deceased, it seemed the hospital would have to close because of the passing of its founder, but another doctor, Sin Won-sik, replaced him. He is a well-known doctor in the field of contagious diseases and a professor at the Catholic Medical School.

The journalist interviewing the doctor recalls the peaceful and joyful presence of the doctor. He learned, he said, to laugh from the heart and give thanks. The word Dr. Won-sik hears most often now is 'thank you'. When he worked and taught in the college medical hospital, it was, he said, a word he rarely heard.

He mixes daily with those who come to the hospital to volunteer, to clean and prepare the patients for examinations and treatment, many of whom come to the hospital drunk and disheveled, often alone, street people, travelers, and always the poor.  Never has the doctor heard any volunteer say it is difficult. Many of the patients have been scared by life and are welcomed by the staff; returning to society they leave behind numberless 'thank you's'.

One volunteer, the doctor says, comes often to bathe the patients. On one visit, he came with a patient whose body was partially paralyzed. There was such a stench  from the patient that the thought of cleaning him was just too much to bear. But the volunteer washed him thoroughly, especially his legs and rectum area, and it seemed to the doctor that the volunteer was not conscious of the smell. It took about one-half hour. The doctor recalls this as one of the most beautiful moments, among others at the hospital, that he recalls seeing; he was embarrassed at what this was saying to him.  

The doctor's father, when the son became a doctor, told him, "Difficult as your studies were to become a doctor, be of help to others in your life." Whether these  words of his father were the reason for his decision to do all he could to help those most in need of medical care, he doesn't know. What he does know is that he did not want  to finish his life as a professor. Although no longer young, he does have six years years before retirement, and he wants to spend it at the side of the poor.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reality May Not be so Favorable.

A Buddhist Research Institute  recently published a report indicating that by the year 2044 Catholicism will have the  largest number of adherents, predicting a Korea with  25 million Catholics, 56 percent of the population.

The Peace Weekly in their review of the report mentioned several interesting items: for the last 10 years there has been stagnation or a decrease  in the number of Buddhists and Protestants, and the report sees this trend continuing. The National Statistical Office in 2005 reported that the number of Catholics to be 11 percent, Protestants 18 percent, and Buddhist 23 percent.

The report used the numbers from the Office of Statistics, which shows a yearly increase in the number of Catholics.  Government surveys every ten years, going back to 1985, also show the increases have been steady, and in 2005  there was a 74.6 percent increase, other religions showing no increase.  The  future, if the conditions continue without any major changes, will see, according to the report, Catholicism with 56 percent of the population in 30 years.

For Catholics the response, as expected, was positive, but it carried a cautionary note that it was unreal to overlook the possibility that successful efforts in the past will not necessarily continue.

The Peace Weekly, using the information from the Religious Study Department of Seoul University, attributed these past results to Catholic solidarity and integrity, justice and human rights activities, flexibility in being present at the ceremonials of life, openness to other religions, and the efforts of individual Catholics.

However, starting in 2000 we have seen the weakening  of these dynamic forces, resulting in stagnation of spiritual vitality--in some measure because of our aging Catholics--a drop in Catholics attending Mass and an increase in the number of tepids, and a less aggressive evangelizing of  society. The lack of effort in evangelizing, especially, may have been the major contributor to a slow down of Catholic population growth in 2010 to a 1.7 percent increase.

With  materialism, secularism and atheism on the increase, it is difficult to see the future with much optimism. But the encouraging news for the future of Catholicism, that it is seen favorably by so many, as indicated by the report, should make our outreach to society easier.

This year, starting in October, we will begin the Year of Faith. If the Church continues to work on improving its methods of evangelization, it will be able to take advantage of the favorable conditions in society.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Speaking the Truth when it Hurts

Transparency is a beautiful ideal, seen most often as just that, a beautiful ideal. There are many reasons for not speaking the truth, and for a Christian, charity certainly has high priority. However, truth  is always a big issue when it comes to a free press,  that is unbiased and propaganda-free. Many citizens feel frustration in not hearing the whole truth but hearing only partial truths that distort our reality.

In the  lead article in the Kyeongyang Magazine, a religious responsible for the editorial policy of the magazine introduces us to the popular South Korean podcast "Naneun Ggomsuda." In recent months this name has been mentioned repeatedly in the news. Downloading the podcast, millions have made it a point of discussion throughout the country.

The article sees this as a response to media that is seen by many as pro-government and that routinely slants the news. One of the four who hosted the podcast is serving a term in prison for, the charge was, spreading false rumors. The podcast is seen by some as raunchy,  vulgar and not truthful. It is satire and parody and not all they say is completely verified, but what makes it popular is the frustration of many of the citizens toward the mass media, which the media refuses to acknowledge. And so the pot continues to boil.

To speak the truth is often dangerous. There are too many who go along with the administration and say yes when they should be saying no. Because of vested interests, news is often contrived to satisfy these interests.  There are also those who would like to exert similar control over the use of this new media.

Humans are obviously the only ones who have the use of money and the press, a gift of God that  allows us to communicate. However, the control of money and the media is most often in the hands of the powerful. They buy and sell conscience, and sacrifice family, society and the future in the process. There are many leaders in society that should be speaking the truth even though it may incur a cost to themselves, but they are not doing so; they are like salt that has lost it saltiness.

Religion should also be transmitters of the truth, helping to break down the generation gap, overcoming the polarization of our citizens, and bringing us closer together. Communication, at its finest, should be a sharing of truth for enhancing the lives of all of us. The mass media along with religion should be trusted transmitters of a reality we can trust and believe in. 

The writer leaves us with two questions:  Am I a communicator of the truth?  Or am I following power and the road of least resistance so as not to harm my self-interests?



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Last Days of a Community Member

The last days of any person are important but to a Christian it should be even more so. It signals the completion of a life of faith and the beginning of eternal life. Because of this, we have in Catholicism the sacrament of the sick to prepare for death, prayers during the last moments of life, the funeral Mass, the office of the dead, and the prayers at the grave.

A priest writing for priests mentions that in his  pastoral work he has felt uncomfortable by the way death is seen in the parishes. Death is not seen as having a connection with the community, but is considered as involving only the death of a family member. When mostly family, relatives, and friends of the deceased are involved and not the larger community, how can we, he asks, call our parishes communities?

In the article, the priest is not happy to see the responsibility for preparing for the funeral and burial in the hands of the parish purgatorial societies. He would like the parish council to take the responsibility. The head of the pastoral council should be, he believes, the first to express condolences to the bereaved family on behalf of the parish community. In addition, the different committees of the parish council should offer their services to the family.

Why, he asks, do we have the choir very much concerned with marriages but not with funerals?  Each parish council member should get involved. Those responsible for  small communities within the parish should notify all the parish members of the times for the office of the dead. In short, the funeral should be a community event and not only a family concern.

With the parish council involved, the community as a whole can participate more easily. And we will most likely see the end of the difference between the rich and the poor that often becomes displayed in these services. This will also encourage us to become more aware of what community life in Jesus means; we will be living the teachings we have received.

Implementing this change doesn't only depend on the Christians. It depends also on the pastor who offers the funeral Mass, consoles the family, and is present at the office for the dead. This has not always been the case. We might ask ourselves, is there anything more important  for a pastor to do than be involved in the ceremonies at the death of a community member?                                                                  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Searching for what is Important

Clothes do make the person, we say, and most of us don't think it should, but the reality seems to be saying that it does. Writing in the Catholic Times a professor reflects on the subject and is not pleased with what turns up. 

He notes that violence among students has surfaced in the mass media for some time. It is not a new reality, but in the past it was confined to taking money from students; now they take brand clothes. The clothes the students wear will indicate, in most cases, their social status. The professor feels the adults have passed along this way of thinking to the young.

He shows us examples of this in our society, where those in leadership positions have family members whose clothes and watches show their position in society. It is understood that those who are wealthy have the freedom to do what they want, and he doesn't want to interfere. But in a society where we do have people with serious financial problems it would not be out of place, he says, to respect this reality by those who are our leaders in our society.

In a  recently publicized incident, a famous writer was criticized by the media for having a very expensive brand handbag. She had succeeded in doing what 99 percent of people just think about, and just one percent actually do, the media reported, sarcastically. Although the writer denied that the handbag was a luxury item, the interchange points out the kind of social climate that now exists in our society.

This form of conspicuous consumption is particularly evident in the selling and buying of watches, handbags and clothes that are priced in figures that most would consider not only expensive but grossly expensive. The eyes of the materialistic sector of our society are focused on these luxury items, motivated perhaps by our tendency to judge a person by their appearance. The professor sees this tendency to judge ourselves by what we have on the outside as an on-going problem for society. Instead of real accomplishments, he believes we may be tempted to indicate that we have made it in society by displaying the worth of our material possessions. What is worse, however, is that this image becomes important for succeeding in the political world.

The professor wants us to become less interested in our attempts to embellish the exterior and to look inwardly and see the potential we all have to show our self worth--without material props.  Making this interior reality, the inner beauty, our primary value will make the world a brighter and better place to live in.

Today in the Catholic World we begin the season of Lent. A time to look at what is important in life and we begin it with the ashes on the head. We remember the values that don't change and make the effort to live these values now and every day of our life.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Joy of the Natural Life

"A journey from bread mixed with tears to natural farming" is the title of an article in a Catholic magazine. The writer starts with a story of his days in grammar school and repeats the phrase: "Don't discuss life's problems with a person who has not eaten bread dampened with tears."

In  3rd year grammar school, a classmate would not eat with the other students in the class room but would surreptitiously move outside with something wrapped in a newspaper. All the others, poor as they were, had a lunch box. One day when classes ended early he invited the boy to his house. At home he asked his mother if they could eat together. While the mother prepared the meal, he went outside with the boy and very delicately asked what he had in the newspaper wrapping that he took to school every day. The boy took the newspaper out from his book bag and opened it to show a number of  'hot breads', now no longer hot. They were the ones left over from those that the mother would sell in the market to eke out a living.

He never forgot this, and tells us that he always  wanted to be on the side of the powerless. These ideas naturally moved him  to want to change society and for his efforts, he was given a life-prison term. This happened during the difficult days of martial law and concern for the security laws of the country in the 80s. It gave him time to read and think about life's problems.

His efforts to help the powerless against the powerful, he concluded, had little prospects of success with the current structures of society. Instead, he believed that working to have a better relationship with our environment will do a great deal more to redress the imbalance between the two groups, who were, he came to see, both victimized by the values that guide our present world.

In prison, he planted medicinal and other herbs in the prison yard for his own use. With these efforts, his thinking and philosophy and view of life changed. Finally he came across a book by the Japanese farmer from Fukuwoka, Masanobu, from which he derived many of the ideas that appeared in his own writing.

He was released from prison after some 13 years and has continued his search for living in harmony with nature. He feels our distancing ourselves from nature has brought on the many problems we face today. The problems between the powerless and the powerful he now believes are secondary; once we go back to nature these problems will be solved.

His motivating themes are now:  self-sufficiency in food, peace in life, solidarity in love, and a spiritual community. The road mapped out by Masanobu, he says, is not easy, and occasionally he's tempted to give it up. But the joy and intense happiness that has entered his life  have come with this new relationship with nature. There is no dream, he says, that can take its place.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Miracles,why are they so difficult to accept?

"If we do away with the miracles in the life of Jesus," a columnist in the Korea Times writes, "we have the flower without the perfume." Followers of Jesus need to have the freedom of heart to accept the miracles. A miracle is something we can't explain and, according to the columnist, is often misunderstood.  

When we can explain a miracle it is not a miracle. He is surprised to hear so many drag down to our level of understanding what Jesus did in his miracles. We even have priests who do this in their sermons. The famous Catholic Japanese writer Shusaku Endo has also done this.

Most often this is done with the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The miracle is explained away by having Jesus move the hearts of those present to share the food they had brought along. The columnist considers this a clever explanation that deserves a medal for ingenuity. We admire the skillfulness, he says, but we lose the sense of Jesus' authority. After his prayer to God, Jesus' majesty, mercy, and power suddenly vanishes and in its place there is merely an exceptionally good orator. 

Shouldn't we either accept or not accept the miracles instead of using these subterfuges? There are two miracles, he says, that we should not put any conditions on: they are the birth of Jesus and the resurrection.  And to accept these miracles we have to have the heart of a child.

Obviously, there are many things that can't be explained. He uses the example of Uri Geller when he came to Korea. He appeared on TV and told the watching audience to take a spoon and tell it to bend. The columnist took stainless steel chop sticks in his hand and standing before the TV set: "bend, bend"  he said, and before his eyes, they melted 4 or 5 degrees, and he has those chop sticks to prove what happened. He adds that Geller did not come to him for help in doing this trick. He is not able to explain what happened, he is not concerned whether Geller is a fraud or not, whether it was   preternatural or some strange power, all he knows is  those chop sticks did melt in his hands, and he has no way to explain it.

Why do we have so many problems with accepting the miracles of Jesus? Life is full of mystery and miracles; life  acquaints  us to the many facets of love. Miracles come from love, and Jesus was a bundle of love. He did not use tricks. Why should it be difficult to accept the miracles?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Survey of Catholics

The Lay Catholic Apostolic Council recently reviewed in its white paper its last 40 years as an organization and, in a supplement to the paper, revealed the results of their survey of 35 parishes, with a total membership of 3100 Catholics. It was an attempt to determine the condition and problems of lay people in the Church.

A brief article in the Seoul Daily on the survey, which was taken among the more devout of the Catholics, was headlined: "95 percent of Catholics live with a consciousness that they are Catholic." Although Catholics have an idea that they are the Church and live with this idea, according to survey results, the article pointed out that the survey also showed that the average Catholic's understanding of moral issues and their willingness to do something about it is lacking.

The first question of the survey: Are you conscious of being a Catholic and living like one?  56 percent said they are always conscious of their Catholicism and live it. 39 percent said that they were partially conscious and living the life.  About half, 46 percent, thought that those who were in lay apostolate leadership positions were doing their work with  the right dispositions, while 35 percent thought they were very  authoritative in their dealings with the Christians. To the question, who are the first to be changed in the Church?  58 percent thought it would be the lay people; 25 percent, the clergy; 4 percent, the religious; and 13 percent didn't know.

Concerning the moral issue, the survey indicated that abortion was considered murder by 56 percent of the respondents but 25 percent thought it should be allowed when it involved rape or incest; 8 percent would allow it when the parents did not want another child. On euthanasia, 44 percent  would give limited permission when serious pain is involved; and 16 percent would  allow it when the financial situation is difficult. And only 31 percent would be definitely against any kind of euthanasia. It shows a big discrepancy from the teaching of the Church.  

40 percent of those who participated in the survey said they attend Mass weekly. 45 percent go to confession four or five times a year, 53 percent say prayers daily, and 48 percent said they read the Scriptures a little when the thought comes.

An editorial in the Catholic Times also commented on the white paper, pointing out the issue many consider the most serious: the poor no longer find the community welcoming.  Many surveys and studies have shown that most of the Catholics are middle class and unknowingly make the poor feel uncomfortable in community gatherings. What is required, the editorial stresses, is not only helping the poor with their material needs, but working together with them, encouraging them to participate in the decision-making process of the pastoral councils.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

First Baptized Catholic of Korea: Yi (Peter) Seung-hoon

The first baptized Catholic of Korea was Yi (Peter) Seung-hoon. The Incheon Diocesan Bulletin profiles the martyr in the recent issue. He was born in Seoul in 1756, baptized in 1784, and died by decapitation in 1801; his grave is in Nam Dong Ku, Incheon. A Mass will be held at the grave site, which was recently restored, by Bishop Choi of Incheon, on Feb. 25th.

Yi Peter is considered one of the founders of Catholicism in Korea, and the reason he was given the baptismal name of Peter. After martyrdom his body was buried beside his two sons in Incheon. In 1981 the grave was opened, and parts of the remains were moved to Chon Jin Am, considered the birthplace of Catholicism in Korea.

Yi's father was a well-known scholar, and Yi Seung Hoon was  born the first son. He was  the brother-in-law of Dasan, Jeong Yak-yong an outstanding Korean philosopher and his mother was the older sister of Yi Gahwan, another scholar who died in prison.
Yi Peter began his studies to become a civil servant, passed the exams and soon met Yi  Byeok  from whom he learned about Catholicism. On Yi Byeok's advice, Yi Seung-hoon joined his father on the father's official  mission to Peking. During the 40 days in China, he went to the Catholic church in Beijing, continued his studies, and was baptized by Fr. Louis de Grammont, a Jesuit priest. 
When he returned to Korea, he brought with him religious books, crosses, rosaries and holy cards and remained absorbed in the study of Catholicism. Not long after, he baptized Yi Byeok, giving him the name John the Baptist, and together began to spread the faith among the middle class. By the year 1789, he had baptized as many as a 1,000 and notified the priests in China of what was happening in Korea. He became the leader of the first Christians here. 

This history of the Catholic Church of Korea is well known, and we can see how conducive family relationships were in the early spread of the faith. Yi Byeok, in his role of John the Baptist, helped bring others to Jesus despite the objections  of his father. 

Below is a letter by Fr. Jean Mathew de Ventavon, sent to his friends in Europe, that relates the story of the 1784 visit of Yi Peter to China: 

You will be gratified to learn of the conversion of a person whom God has perhaps raised up to spread the light of the Gospel in a kingdom where it is not known that any missionary has ever penetrated it is Korea, a peninsula located to the East of China. The king of this  country sends ambassadors to the emperor of China every year, for he regards himself as his vassal. He loses nothing by it, for if he goes to considerable expense in sending him presents; the emperor gives him much, or more in return. These Korean ambassadors came they and their suit, at the end of last year, to visit our church; we gave them some religious books, The son of one of these nobles, aged 27   and a very good scholar, read them eagerly. He saw the truth  in them, and grace working in his heart; he resolved to embrace the faith, as soon as he had received instructions. Before admitting him to Holy Baptism, we asked him many questions, all of which he answered satisfactorily... Finally, before his departure to return to Korea, with the consent of his father, he was admitted to Baptism, which Louis de Grammont administered to him, giving him the  name of Peter. His surname is Yi. He is said to be related to the royal family. He declared that on his return, he wished to retire from public life with his family, and devote himself to his salvation. He promises to send us news every year. The ambassador also promised to propose  to the king that he should summon  Europeans to his lands. From Beijing to the capital of Korea is a journey of about three months. For the rest, we can communicate with the Koreans only by writing. Their writing and that of the Chinese is the same, as regards appearance and meaning, but the pronunciation is quite different. The Koreans put in writing what they want to say; on seeing the characters, we understand the meaning, and they also understand the meaning of  what we write.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Internet Savvy Public

The Catholic Times Desk Columnist, returning from three and half years of study in the United States, recounts his difficulty in becoming comfortable with the smart phone culture of Korea. He experienced how the non-established media  plays a big part  in conveying  the news by way of the internet. The established media continues, of course, but the internet media is a serious threat to its dominant role in society. One motivation of the internet news programs is a distrust of the established news media, but its attempts to provide accurate reporting, although often immediate, is also often incomplete.  

News delivered by internet requires little equipment. It's revolutionizing the delivery of news and breaking down the boundaries between the  makers of news and the receivers.  Now everybody can be a maker of news. The receiver of the news can also become the purveyor of the news. Anyone can now set up a 'newspaper' and  'broadcasting station,' the established media no longer being the sole gatekeeper of the news.

This online communication  has also changed the discussion within the church concerning the news makers and the recipients of news. The content of the traditional teachings  was controlled by the  leaders and clergy  of the Church. This was to be expected since the content of the faith is something  received, but the new media has changed the way this  teaching is communicated.

In the modern age, the invention of printing had a great deal to do with the advancement of learning of  the general public. This  threatened the monopoly that the clergy had in the past. This is now happening again by the new flow of information.  Something to be noticed is that the automatic authority and  trust that accompanied what was reported in traditional media are not transferred to online reporting. Online authority is more dependent on the nature of what is being reported. 

The content of what the authorities of the Church present online is reinterpreted and evaluated by Christians online, who are not only the receptors of the news but also by their interpretations of what they have received become, when sending out their views of what has been received,  producers of news themselves.

This new way of communicating, the columnist says, presents the Church with a dilemma.The horizontal means of communication that the Second Vatican Council recommended is a good thing. But, at the same time, how can the Church teach what it has been given to a society that has accepted relativism as an important value?

Adding more applications to the smart phone, the columnist says, is not going to solve the problem. What is necessary is a fundamental reevaluation of this new media, discerning what has taken place in the thinking of an internet-savvy public, and finding ways to deal creatively with this new reality in order to keep our traditional values intact.                                                                                                 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Special Works have their Own Attraction

Catholicism in Korea has enough priests and religious to help solve some of the problems in our society, reports a columnist for the Peace Weekly. Many of them are in mass media, the maritime apostolate, working with the handicapped and migrants, providing assistance in overseas Korean communities, and in many other activities. The columnist, assigned to the worker's apostolate in his diocese after  returning from pastoral work with a Korean parish in Vietnam, reflects on what this has meant to him.

The work with laborers in Korea has a high priority and his assignment, coming  unexpectedly, left him dazed. He had spent two years as an assistant priest before going overseas for work in the Korean parish in Vietnam. Parish work is varied and challenging, and he envied his classmates when they talked about their parishes.

As an assistant he was busy with a very tight schedule: preparing the liturgy and sermons, visiting with parishioners, lecturing, interviewing; he  felt he was not always in control of his time.  

His special pastoral work has many different aspects: going to an office, having to follow a work-shift--all this going and coming were strange experiences for him. Sitting at a  desk was awkward, and the number of Masses and meetings were few. He was physically comfortable, but there were many restraints in  the work which bothered him. He was not busy like  a parish priest, and though he could go mountain climbing, if he wanted, on Saturdays, being creative in his work did not come easy.

Unlike working in a parish, he would interact not only with Catholics but with activists from the  different segments of society, which was often awkward. They did not always see the  problems facing the workers in the same way he did. His values, justice and love, were not always their values, but when he could meet the workers in their place of work and talk with them, all changed. This gave him great satisfaction in being able to bring the concern of the Church to these poor and alienated workers.

When he saw the acute difficulties that some of the workers were facing, he felt helpless and wanted to run.  However, in these painful circumstances of injustice the laborers had to face, he knew he was not only representing the Church but could act in a pastoral way as a priest.

Looking over his new assignment, quite different from a parish in which he was always busy and pressed for time, this opportunity to be in control of his time, while being of service, had its own attraction.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'Aha' Moments in Life

Human noise is a part of our daily living. We experience it in our homes, in society and confront it in our interaction with others. On the spirituality page of the Catholic Times, the columnist wonders how this noise can be toned down. He believes it can be done with respect and awe.

How do we become more of what we are meant to be, the person God wants us to be? The answer again is respect and awe. Respect includes love, and awe goes to a higher level, to a respect that includes awe, somewhat like what can be experienced when in contact with the beauties of nature.

Only humanity has the possibility for this respect and awe; it's not found in the animal world. This ability makes us who we are, and we should practice and develop these qualities. They come into play, especially when we come in contact with our brothers and sisters. All of life is filled with the possibilities for awe, looking up at the sky, or down on the earth;  not only in  nature, but seeing a car pass on the street and gazing at a  building can trigger this awe.

There are many who do not have this respect and awe for others. They have not developed this virtue. They think only of themselves: proud, righteous and centered on themselves and  family. Their  world and  numbers are small, but sometimes they are in powerful places in our society.  The columnist tells us that we develop these traits of respect and awe with an attitude of contemplation.

We all have a radiance, he says. It may come from our eyes and mouth when we look or talk compassionately with another, or when looking on creation with thanksgiving. Even when we use the most expensive tooth paste, this aroma will not be present on our lips. It is only when we utter praise and thanks that the aroma will be present.

Christians  know that God made us by infusing into us his breath. This is part of who we are. When we give off this radiance and realize what is happening,  we are contemplating. When radiance does not emanate from us, this is not contemplation but rather, he says, indulging in personal satisfaction or pseudo-contemplation.  True contemplation can also see the radiance that is given off by creation, helping to strengthen our own, and giving rise to respect  and awe within us.

The columnist ends by reminiscing  on the studies he has made in theology and the many books he has read and studied on contemplation. They were, he now knows, just partial presentations, theoretical, word-based understandings that stayed in his head. The 'Aha' moment came when he went down on his knees and experienced true contemplation, respect and awe resonating within him from a life lived in harmony with God's will.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Learning to Live with Diversity

In the Salt Jar section   of the Bible & Life magazine, the writer reminds us of the mystery of community life. In religious life, members do not choose who they will live with; their companions are selected for them. What joins them together is their commitment to imitate the life of Christ and, following his teachings, to grow spiritually into a vibrant community with all its diversity. They follow the evangelical counsels and become enraptured with the desire for unity in the Lord.

This ideal is not always achieved, the writer reminds us. There is the stress of dealing with each other's failings. And the failure to sublimate our differences brings immature behavior. In minor manners this can be overcome; in serious matters this will work against the attainment of the goals of the spiritual life that the members want to achieve.

A Korean religious sister mentioned an incident she found instructive while living with a community of nuns in Switzerland. Sister A of the community returned from a walk and  put a flower in front of the statue of the Blessed Mother.  Admiring the flower the Korean sister standing  before the statue was approached by sister A  and asked: "Beautiful is it not?" She tells the Korean sister she was so impressed with the flower, she regretted that she was the only one  to see it and  took one of the  flowers from the field and placed it before the statue for all to see.

Shortly after, sister B came by and reprimanded sister A for cutting the flower and preventing others from seeing the beauty of the flower in  its original environment. This brought other sisters to the statue and they began quibbling over what had been done. The Korean sister, half laughing and embarrassed, left and began to reflect on our differences.

Because of these differences, we often have conflict and misunderstandings. She reminds us that differences are not always errors or mistakes. There are different ways to climb a mountain, and notes that though in the Korea of the past there was only one brand of coffee, today there are many different types to choose from. We also have the Synoptic Gospels which present the same Jesus seen by three different sets of eyes, which enable us to get closer to him.

In many of our big meetings and chapters of  religious organizations, it is not rare to have a facilitator, a member not of the community, invited to help the organization or group to work more effectively. They do not take sides but work to help the group accomplish what they want to do.They are servants to the community to help the group work through some of the areas of conflict, resolving the differences by coming to a mutual understanding that will enable the group to reach their goal.

With the many different personalities and theologies, the cultural influences, and our personal failings, to come  to some understanding of what we are to be as Church is far from easy. The facilitator is just one way to help us work within the Church to be more open to Jesus and his call to mission.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Laity of the Korean Catholic Church

The Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Korea has recently made known its white paper after 40 years of growth. The sleeping giant within the Church has reflected on its work over the past years and sees where it stands today within the Church. Both Catholic papers had articles and editorials mentioning that the Lay Apostolate Council is not content with the results they have achieved  and will continue to work for a greater  role within the Church.

They will build on the foundations laid down during the past 40 years. They acknowledged that at times  they have acted in a similar way to  clericalism, and  fallen away from a legitimate role of the laity into what could be called 'laity-ism,' which has brought them into an unnecessary conflict with the teaching authority of the Church.

The Apostolate Council has also not been relating well with the different lay groups within the Church.Mentioned was the lack of a systematic pattern of programs, instead of  attention being directed to taking care of emergencies. Evangelization has not been concerned with the direction of society or following the lead of the president of the Lay Council. They have been weak in both welfare programs and evangelization and, because of a lack of capability, have been slow to work in the international arena and in reconciliation with the North.

Listed are a number of areas on which they intend to expend more effort in the years ahead.

First: They will  become familiar with the social teaching of the Church and work for justice--an important point of departure. In  the political field,  finances, society,  life issues, environment, and so forth, they will work for the common good, and sound a warning bell when necessary.

Second: They will endeavor to strengthen the educational programs for lay people in order to generate more expertise and capability.

Third: They will be more selective in assigning work to the laity. In the past, it was difficult to differentiate between the work of priests, religious and laity. They will work to understand subsidiarity and solidarity in the work of the Church. And the laity are not only to serve the clergy and religious but to have their own area of expertise and activity. Stressed throughout the white paper was the importance of evangelization.

Fourth: the place of the laity in work for the weak and poor in society: in coop programs,  helping the unemployed, and  in  welfare programs etc..

Fifth: Work for the reunification of the country,  help in programs of relief  for the North and  prepare for the day when they are  able to help in the evangelization in the North.

Lastly: To make the infrastructure of the Lay Apostolate Council able to take upon itself this work in the future, it  will be necessary to strengthen the bonds with the different diocesan pastoral groups, and setting up a  'think tank' to help guide the work of the Council.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The 386 Generation of Korea

Born in the 60s they are called the 386 generation (named after the PC model of that time). In the 1980s they were of college age and active in the democracy movement of the 80s. They are now the elite of our society. They were brought up not experiencing the poverty of their parents, but they did experience the financially difficult times when the country received funds from the International Monetary Fund. They saw that the societal safety net was not in place, which helped move the generation to the right.

Writing in the opinion column of the Catholic Times a priest calls them the smart generation, having grown up in the digital world we live in today.  They were prominent in backing the politically independent mayor of Seoul last year. The priest wonders if they are not again coming to center stage.

The priest in his experience with this generation sees them concerned for the future. They are realistic. They come  quickly to terms with the new and at the same time inwardly feel uncomfortable about the future. There are those that say they will be the last generation to live with their parents and the first to be left behind by their children. They will be the bridge between the young and the older generation.

Our columnist feels that the way this 40-plus generation works at bridge-building between the generations will make a difference in the future. The problems pending are becoming more acute and diversified. He has no way of knowing the future but would like the Church to start communicating with this generation.

To speak to this generation it will be necessary, he says, for the Church to change both the content of its message and its current methods of communicating. This generation has already been instrumental in changing society so any attempt at one way  authoritative communication will meet with rejection, and make the transmitting of the Gospel message difficult. Engaging in a more open dialogue, he feels, will bring a sympathetic response.

What they want, he says, is genuineness, understanding and hope. They want more Christians gathering to discuss the Gospels, to pray and be a part of devotional groups, natural and spontaneous groups that can feed their desire for a better future, for them and for the country.

If the members of this young and influential generation, especially those showing leadership qualities  are able to grow spiritually in the varied  communities of the Church, he has no doubt that they will play a key role as bridge builders, and be a valuable resource for a healthy Church and society.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Joy of Life

A columnist for the Catholic Times wonders where is  his standard of judgement. How much does his Catholic belief affect his life? He suspects that the values of the world have an inordinate influence on his life: the desire for peace and security.

He reviews the many different ways we wish each other well. We often say: good health to you, become rich, meet a great partner and marry, hope you get a good job soon, study hard and get the school you want, and so on.

Shouldn't we as Christians, he asks, have a different set of greetings? Shouldn't we be saying: Follow God's will, be faithful in your life of faith, I will pray for you, be true to the Scriptures, I will pray that you be filled with grace and  peace, and so on. 

Most of our worries and troubles come, the columnist says, from our judging according to a worldly value system, from not seeing from a Godly viewpoint but seeing from our own self-interest and personal desires. This is true even though we believe that everything moves according to God's providence. Many fail to turn their worries and problems over to God but work as if everything depends on them, becoming lost and facing life with difficulty.  It is when one turns everything over to God that peace and joy can come into our life.

As a baby grows daily we also in our faith life should grow in maturity in a healthy way. In the same way as we expend our efforts and passions  on our dreams and hopes, shouldn't we, as believers, be expending the same kind of effort in having a mature faith life?

Our earthly life is short, the columnist reminds us, and it will soon disappear. As a believer we have values that go beyond this life; shouldn't they also deserve our efforts and passion? This transitory life, he points out, can be faced in many ways. The hedonist says "since I will die, I will eat drink and be merry." The nihilist says "life is empty," and the existentialist says "life has no substance and our plans are useless." The columnist asks what is the proper disposition of a person of faith facing an unknown future?  Human confidence on our continual health and possessions can lead to pride: We don't need God; we can do it alone. For the Christian, this is not one of our options. We want to live doing the will of  God.

When we look at our faith life, we can see many reasons for thanks. This gives us joy; we have maturity and a grace-filled life. This joy results not from giving thanks for the joy of life, but rather it is the thanks that gives joy to life. When I can truly give thanks for what I have received, then joy will enter my life and the desire to respond joyfully will be there.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Many Faces of Poverty

'Rich with assets and yet poor.' In the past this assertion would be difficult to comprehend, but it's no longer the case. The concepts of rich and poor have become more abstract and confused.  Our complicated financial arrangements  and present realities have led to a confused understanding of the words.

We have those in society who have a house but are called 'house poor.'  Their house is often an obstacle in receiving financial help; despite the house, which is often a financial burden, they may need more help to live well but are  prevented from receiving this help because of the house they have. And then there are the 'retired poor' who have to take care of the education of their children and are not able to prepare for their own retirement, thus becoming the 'living poor.'

We also have the 'job poor' who in order to find a job spend a great deal of money getting  accreditation, preparing for exams for different licenses, and acquiring the qualifications for landing a skilled job; it's a serious problem in our society.

The 'baby poor' are those who have difficulty in raising their children. This poverty will also affect the next generation. This is the poverty that young couples face in our society. And there are the 'working poor' that the Free Trade Act helps to exacerbate. They are working but faced with a diminished income. The young, especially, have to work for lower wages.

The many faces of poverty today are seen everywhere, and the word 'poverty' itself is losing the meaning it once had.  

Compared to this secular meaning of the word, the Church tells us of a spiritual poverty, which can be understood in two ways:  God is the owner of all we possess. We are only stewards, managers, of the abundance we enjoy. The second meaning is to use what we have wisely, sharing with others. To use what we have only for ourselves, not seeing what is happening around us, is to misuse, the bishop says, what has been given.
Writing in the Catholic Times, he presents us with these many faces of poverty, and asks, which one are we wearing? What kind of poverty am I living?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In Search of our Dream

In Korea like many other countries the daily papers have horoscopes that are a must-see for many. The four pillars: year, month, day, and hour of birth are the foundations for the zodiacal house that determines, it is said, our future.
In the mission station bulletin, the writer tells his readers that the pillars do not make a house. There are many other parts that are necessary to have a house to live in. The future is not determined by one of the parts, he stresses, but by the efforts we make in life to prepare for the future.

Whether the four pillars say something good or bad, it is of little importance. It is all in the eyes of the beholder, he says, and the attitude one has in seeing life.

We can't retrieve what has passed. We can't practice for the future but we can prepare for it. We should not live like the mayfly that has no understanding of the morrow or the cicada that doesn't understand what will occur next year.

Jesus gave us an example of what it means to live by following his way. The writer, using the words of an ancient Chinese philosopher to corroborate the teachings of Jesus, outlines ten ways to live without regret.
1) If we don't respect our parents after they are dead, we will have regret. 

2) If we are not kind to our relations when near them, when separated we will have regret. 

3) If we don't learn when we are young, when old we will have regret.

4) If we don't think of failure when all is going well, we will have regret.

5) If we don't save when we can, when poor we will have regret. 

6) If we don't plant in the spring, in the fall, we will have regret.    

7) If we don't fix the lock on the front gate, when the thief comes we will have regret.  

8) If we don't take care of the body when healthy, when sick we will have regret.   
9) When we drink to excess and say something stupid, when sober we will have regret.

10) If we  are not hospitable to guests, when they leave we will have regret

Water that doesn't flow putrefies, air that doesn't circulate suffocates; there is no aroma from an old tree and dry earth doesn't produce flowers. We are more concerned for today than yesterday, and for tomorrow than today. The thoughts of most  are not in the here and now but on dreaming a new and better tomorrow. What is my situation  today? My fate is not determined by the stars nor determined, as some would have us believe, by our genes. Where should we turn, the writer asks, to realize our dream? We should turn to God  and  go in search of the  dream.                                                                           

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Is it the Head or the Heart?

On the opinion page of the Catholic Times, the columnist recounts a meeting with his son, a diocesan priest, and his  wife's brother who is a religious brother. They met at his house and were discussing the spiritual life. The columnist decided to be the 'dignified on-looker," but that was not to be the case.

Since he had made the 30-day Ignatian Retreat, he joined the conversation by saying that during the exercises he had a new appreciation of the power of the imagination in reflecting on the activities of our Lord. The religious brother did not accept the columnist's idea that the imagination could serve as an approach to God. He didn't pay attention to what the brother was saying and maintained his contrary opinion.

The columnist acknowledged the difficulty they both had in accepting each other's opinion.  Since the columnist was a poet, refuting the power of the imagination seemed an impossibility, while yet understanding the brother's difficulty.  He explained briefly what he meant by using Catholic philosophy and Jacques Maritain as support for his opinion.

The brother said that the only way we can approach God is by intuition. Because the columnist got involved in an exchange of  pros and cons, it made for an awkward situation. The meeting with his son the priest, and his wife's brother, ended on this note, and they left.  Without  any decision, the curtain came down on this particular event. This is life.  Most of  life goes on without many of us agreeing to most things, except, perhaps, agreeing to disagree.

The priest later gave his father an understanding of what happened that evening. The mainstream of Catholic thinking goes along with Thomas Aquinas and St. Ignatius of Loyola. They both acknowledge the intellect and the imagination but the Franciscan school: St. Francis, St. Bonaventure, St. John of the Cross, and others, see the way to God by the intuition and distrust the other ways. This  made the relationship with the Church a delicate one.
When the columnist later went to a restaurant and ordered a blow fish, he saw the discussion in a different light. The blow fish, he says, as we all know, has a poison that can kill, but once controlled the fish is a delicacy.  There are  those who stay  away from the fish because of the dire possibilities; they want to play safe.

The way of the imagination is a place of splendor but can be the devil's playground when indulged in to the point of aestheticism. Writers such as Baudelaire, Edgar Allan Poe, and Oscar Wilde would be of this school.  Just hearing the names of these geniuses we know what is meant. Like the blow fish, poison is lurking in their writings.

...Yes, not to eat the blow fish is the safest way but, the columnist tells us, he is accustomed to its taste.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Church Always Reforming

"To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often." These words of Blessed Cardinal Newman are heard often;  a priest historian writing  in the Kyeongyang magazine introduces us to  St. Bridget of Sweden who pointed out a similar message to the Christians of her time: change and reform.

The priest wants Korean Catholics to become more familiar with St. Bridget. He tells us that the pope who canonized her only 18 years after her death asked, when first hearing about the Saint, can anything good come from the North (referring to Sweden).  She is not only the patron of Sweden but also one of Europe's patron saints.

Bridget was born in 1302 and married at 14. She had eight children, one of them also becoming a canonized Saint. A Saint begetting a Saint: Catharine of Sweden. After 28 years of marriage and the death of her husband, she devoted the rest of her life to the spiritual life, founding a community. She traveled within the world of that time to all the pilgrimage sites and saw the world of Catholicism first hand, using what she saw and the revelations of the Lord to speak about the conditions of the Church.

Europe of the 14th century had been devastated by many tragedies: earthquakes, contagious  diseases, hunger  and war. The Black Death killed 80 percent of those with the disease. It was a great tragedy for Europe and the Church. Part of the Church of that time became very worldly. There were those who overcame this temptation but many were the object of criticism. Many intellectuals of that time were clerics in search of pleasure and comfort; the problem was that the Church accepted the situation, which had a great deal to do with money, excommunications for non-religious reasons, and selling of religious offices--all these abuses were the object of criticism. Abuses among the clerics and the lay people were wide spread.

It was during the life of Bridget that the Church went through a period of 70 years, known as the Avignon Captivity, in which the papacy was in France. This was not only a period where the papacy moved but a period where the leadership in the Church was more concerned with their own comfort and well-being than with spirituality and the poor. It was not able to function as Church. St. Bridget began the work of  changing the secular concerns of the popes to taking more care of the needs of the Church, a work that was continued by St. Catherine of Siena.

She scolded the priests and bishops for their way of life. A prime example was the bishop of Milan, Giovanni Visconti, but it was all the popes, bishops and priests who were not  leading the life as a  follower of Jesus that met with her words of disapproval.

Our writer returns to the days in which he studied Church History and remembers vividly the constant refrain: "Church always reforming". It is not the comfortable life.  This is not becoming conformed to the world but the way of Jesus. When we are not conformed to the ways of Jesus, it is a problem of great consequence.  Every day has to be a renewal  of our life. He quotes the words of a famous Chinese saying: "if you want  renewal, then everyday must be renewed, day after day renewed and again renewed."

Monday, February 6, 2012

To Live is to Pray

Prayer is considered by some as useless and yet by others as the most important activity of the day. Writing in Bible in Life a priest recalls his impressions of a discussion he had with a priest friend who spent a great deal of time in its practice. An experience of meeting with Jesus.

Hearing his friend talk about prayer made him envious. He was talking about meeting Jesus in prayer. It was a personal encounter with Jesus. It was, we would say, like meeting Jesus in a dream. However, not everybody has that kind of experience. It is the kind of gift given to those who prepare for it.

The writer asks himself why is he not adept in the practice of prayer. A requisite is  to know what prayer is, and he uses Henri Nouwen's words to explain prayer. "To live is to pray. To love is to pray and loving  is  serving." Another theologian explained, "Prayer is not like an emergency fund which you draw from in need. Prayer is the soul's place of rest, the soul's house. All living things have a place of repose. Birds have nests; foxes have dens; bees have hives. Prayer is our place of rest. The soul without this place of rest, wanders."

Prayer is like water to a fish, and air to us. Without prayer, we are living without a most important ingredient for life. Many of us believe that prayer is difficult when it is not. When we invite God to be with us, we have a prayer. When we have love within us, we are praying. When we meditate on the Gospel, and it moves into our life that is prayer. And when we want good things for others and the world, that is prayer.

In prayer, there is also great joy. It is being together with the beloved. Isn't that what heaven is? It is being enraptured with God's love. When the antenna and frequency are correct, we experience God with the whole body. Those without the taste for prayer will find it more like hell.  One has to know what prayer is, have a taste for it and enjoy it.

He concludes the article by telling us there is no royal road to prayer. Without effort, prayer comes rarely. We should go to those who are 'elders in prayer' for help. There are no persons with this gift from birth, he says; it's something acquired and he recommends that we make the effort to achieve prayer by starting with a period of 10 minutes a day.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Facing Problems Head On

We often  hear as parting words: 'don't over do it.'  Writing for the Seoul Diocesan bulletin a novelist introduces his article with these words that his doctor uses with him. He is being treated for cancer and reflects on his situation. His response to the doctor was: "Are you telling me to lay down and live the role of a sick person. If I do that I will be dead; if I do the opposite I will be living."

He tried to follow the doctor's advice: lying down, sleeping, reading, watching TV but found that he became more listless and depressed. He felt more like an invalid. So he decided to keep on moving as long as he could.

In front of his apartment, he walked the corridor which was about 100 steps. In the beginning, he had no desire to do this, but he came to a point where he could walk 10,000 steps. Any free moment he would go to the corridor and walk. In the beginning, it was with great difficulty, accompanied by dizziness and weakness but things changed;  he even left the apartment and started climbing a nearby mountain, resting often,

He tells us the story of a wise man  who was asked how does one escape from the cold and heat. Go to a place without cold and heat was his answer. Where in the world can I find such a place? the person asked. Why are you so uncomprehending? the wise man retorted. When you're cold you find a place that will make you colder, and when warm go to a place that will make you warmer.
When we go to a place that is warm to escape the cold, we are temporarily avoiding the cold. We are not getting rid of the cold. This is true also when we have pain and worries. We try to get rid of them by drink or by other means, but find that we are not able to do so. As the wise man said, to get rid of the pain and worries, or anything that is bothering us, we must face them head on.

A person wanting to learn archery was told first to learn how not to blink. A famous Korean general was known to have said that in order to live you have to die--words similar to the words used by our Lord.

He finishes the article with the words of the angels to the shepherds. "You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim good news to you--tidings of great joy to be shared by the whole people." Even though it is more than we can bear, let us stand up, the writer says. Although difficult, if possible let us crawl. If we can walk let us walk; if we can run let us run--like the shepherds to the crib of our Lord.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Growth in Spirituality

Growth in Spirituality is an important subject, and the two Catholic papers give us many articles in this area for us to ponder. One of the topics in the Catholic Times' page on spirituality discusses a 'blue print' we  have been given from creation. What does it mean to be a human being? What does God want us to be?

The foundations of God's master plan are the development of the intellectual, physical and spiritual dimensions of our humanity. These are the areas of growth; not to be done alone but in a dynamic relationship with  society and in history.

The writer distinguishes three different aspects of our life forms:outer appearance, the mental  form and  the core form. The body presents us with the outer appearance, the intellect with the current form and the spirit with the core form.

The example he gives is dancing. The dancing would be the outer appearance, the joy that comes from the dancing the current form, and  the sense of fulfillment is the core form. Or when singing: the singing of the words of a song is the outer appearance. The relishing of the words and music is the current form, and  the oneness that I have with what I am doing is the core form.  How much are we conscious of the core form? We are usually conscious only of the first two forms.

Our efforts in life usually are directed to changing  our physical, intellectual and spiritual forms. It is in the failure to do this that we fail to understand the meaning of life and live with an emptiness and inflict pain on our self and on others. The writer even mentions a few individuals who made this clear in their teachings on happiness; even the hedonist would agree, since it is something embedded in the laws of nature.

When we  live not only in the physical and  mental dimensions but in the spiritual dimension, we maintain a relationship with what we have received from God. And those with a consciousness of God and an understanding that these inclinations come from God will desire to be united to the will of God. By "giving thanks and being at one with the God who made us," he says, "will make us more merciful and willing to help others, and when necessary, to be reconciled with our situation whatever it may be, and to work to the limits of our capabilities."

Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting to a Point Where She Could Forgive

A woman well-known in Korean society writes in Bible and Life of an experience she had recently on meeting the person who had been her supervisor in the tax office where she worked after high school. As soon as he saw her, he turned to those who with him and said, so all could hear: "You all know who this woman is. I helped make her what she is."

The writer reminisces on the short time she worked in the tax office and her boss, who had little authority but wielded it with her harshly and whenever he desired.  She flunked the exam for college, and besides the tax office job had an evening job at a tea room as a classical music disk jockey. She would leave work at the tax office and go on to her disk jockey job and often, because of the importunate requests at the tax office, would be late. Her boss at the tax office had ridiculed her for thinking that she, a high school graduate, knew anything about classical music. And she would have to be always ready to prepare the morning coffee, and the way he would get her attention was by a 'Ya'.

Although it was her boss's superior who hired the three girls in the office, he spoke as if he was the one responsible for her success, which annoyed her greatly. Even after she left the job, whenever she thought of him she would get angry, and now he had the gall to say he made her what she had become.

In the brief meeting with him, he said he knew she would make something of herself and recalled  that he urged her to use the  money she earned to go on to college. She found his words self-serving and didn't want to hear any more. His hand shake was as if they were old friends; this added to the annoyance and she found a way to excuse herself and left.

When she reached home, she went to her diary and looked over some of the entries to recall more clearly those days at the tax office. One of the girls working with her quit because of his treatment. She recorded that she was also thinking of quitting but in another entry, she wrote that all these trials would make her stronger.

There was another entry about a boy she met, at a tea room, that she grew to know well and was even invited to his home to meet his mother. When the mother asked her what university she attended and she answered that she was not attending any, the mother's face showed her disappointment. Since the son was a student at an elite university and in the law department, she easily understood the feelings of the mother: a tea room disk jockey interested in her son must have been 'a punch in the stomach.'

However, on more reflection, she analyzed the Korean word for forgiveness and the English word to forgive. In English, it is made up of the word for and give. It is to give completely. It is not something that is 'earned' by what is done by the one who is forgiven but something you give, regardless of what is done or not done; the one who can give is the one who forgives.

These two people--her former supervisor in the tax office and the mother of the boy who invited her to his home--didn't do anything to destroy her future or anything that made it hard for her to forgive; she knew that.  They did something that we all have experienced, and she considered it 'no big deal.'  They helped her, she said, to take the ordinary  slings and arrows that come our way in stride, and made her stronger because of  them. "I have no reason to hate them but to thank them for what they have done for me," was how she summed up the situation. So the next morning  she took out the card that her old boss had given her when they parted recently, and sent him a text message thanking him for what he had done for her. And, she said, she meant it.