Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hearing, but not Caring to Understand

A 19-year-old only son left home on a motorcycle one night 25 years ago, and did not return that night as the mother expected. After waiting for her son all night, she had been told by a police officer next day that he died in an accident and that his face was beyond recognition. This tragedy, documented in a recent TV series, was the subject of an article in a priest bulletin.

The mother had to live with the memory of this tragedy for 25 years, until May of this year when her daughter received a call from the police station telling her that  Min-nam, the son they thought dead, was alive. The family had been offering the rites for the dead for the last 25 years, so it is not difficult to understand how the news was received.

The man who said he was the son had an accident and had been admitted to a hospital, where he had brain surgery. The doctor who performed the operation said that what he knew about the man and what the mother had said were identical.

After the accident this man, later confirmed to be Min-nam, spent ten months in the hospital.  Not being able to remember who he was, he was thought to be mentally defective and was admitted to a mental institution.

The man would often tell those who attended him his name, address and middle school from which he graduated, but no one  paid any attention to what he was saying. (This was before the fingerprinting of all citizens and a reason little was made of what Min-nam was saying.) The provincial office, with no fingerprints to certify what Min-nam was saying, also paid no attention to what they heard. It was a social worker who, on hearing the story, started checking and notified the family that he was alive. If it wasn't for the social worker, the writer has no doubt that there may well have been another 25 years of waiting for the family.  

"I will spend some  time looking into the case!" is the kind of response the writer feels is all too rare nowadays. Our busy lives do not allow most of us the time to look with sufficient attention into anything that doesn't seem immediately apparent to us.  Is unconcern for what is going on around us the reality we live in? he wonders.  This unconcern is what the writer worries may be happening to him. There are  many in our society, like Min-nam, he says, who live with others and are at the same time isolated from them. He hopes he will be freed enough from bias and indisposition to hear the cries of despair of those who need our concern..

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wisdom Gained from Fishing

The Catholic Times desk columnist recounts a fishing trip that he made with some friends, during which they caught few fish but came away with some interesting insights. On arriving at the island and seeing the color of the water, they made some judgements on what was to be the result of their trip.

The water was muddy, and one of his companions blurted out:  "Ouch, the water is disturbed, and we have been away from fishing for a long time; it will not be a good day."

The journalist, who admitted to not being an expert, came to the same conclusion. They started fishing at 3:00 in the afternoon and finished at 10:00 that evening, catching one flounder the size of a person's hand. One of the companions took time off to take a nap.

They had something to eat and returned home. One of them said that when the water is so muddy the fish can't see the bait, which means there is going to be a problem. They had picked the wrong day, he said, for fishing.  

Another said that it was not all bad; when the water is turned upside down, as it was on that day, it's time for a  cleaning; the top is exchanged with the bottom. The garbage at the bottom comes to the top and becomes food for the seagulls.  Fish also will be removing the edible material floating on the water. 

When things are disturbed, reflected the journalist, we  know what peace and  tranquility means. The journalist had come to the same conclusion in his own life: when things are upside down it is then that he makes the step to renew himself.

He wonders if this is not also true of the Church. When the Church appears to be too much at peace and too comfortable, he questions whether this is the reality. He sees the disturbance 'at the bottom' and wonders if this is being overlooked. He is left with the question: Is it a good thing to have what is happening at the bottom come to the top so that something can be done?

This is a question, he says, we all can ask ourselves. When we don't have transparency, we may be fooling ourselves into thinking all is well. That which bothers us, if not allowed to see the light, does not always leave us unharmed.Bringing to the light what is 'down below' can be the effort required to  remedy many of our troublesome issues.                                    

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Things We Have Lost in Life


Looking at Our Present Reality

And Seeing the Things We Have Lost  in Life

(From an internet website and printed in the bulletin for priests.)

Buildings are taller but our characters have become smaller,
Turnpikes have become wider but our vision narrower.
Consumption has increased but our spirits poorer.

We buy more goods, but our happiness has decreased.
Houses have become larger but families smaller,
Life is more comfortable but there is less time to enjoy it.

Formal schooling has grown but elegance reduced,
Knowledge expanded but the ability to discern lessened.

Specialists are everywhere but problems have multiplied.

Medicines are many but our diseases have mushroomed.

Possessions have  multiplied but values decreased.
Words are many, actions meager, and lies abundant.

We live longer but have forgotten how to live,
And lost the ability to give meaning to life.

Grown taller but character has been dwarfed.
In the  search for more profit, relationships have suffered.
We have more leisure  but joy has diminished.

What has been said could probably have been said, similarly, for every century from the beginning of time. We can go back to Qoheleth where we are told that "All is vanity," and "What has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun." This puts the above in the right perspective.  We do not learn much, sadly, from our history. And as the saying goes are condemned to repeat it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

St. Benedict's Enlightened Leader

It  took us about 100 years to  see  business enterprises as  living organisms which is not difficult to understand. The way they function is going to determine the way the hearts of persons are going to be moved. Writing in the Peace Weekly a professor in the business department of a university wants us to see the influence of big business on society.

Employees, consumers,  investors and many others place much  hope in these enterprises. The energy of those involved with the enterprise will determine the success of the business.

The cells of the enterprise  are the workers; they have to be healthy if the enterprise is going to have vitality. This very obvious principle of management  is difficult to follow in this world of unlimited competition.  If a business enterprise wants to grow healthily it is necessary to be vigilant about the problems of unlimited  competition. 

There are examples of companies that have developed  this  concern for one another and  nurtured the growth of the company.  It is the enlightened  leader who is the motivating cause for the  growth  of the company and helping in the enlightenment of the workers. 

An enlightened leader can be described as  a loving and humble person. This is the secret that attracts one person to another. When the workers see  a leader as a father figure the workers  are more disposed to devote themselves to the work.

 Benedictines have shown  us  this type of management for the last 1500 years. This is what the Rule of St. Benedict says about the person who is responsible for the finance of the community.  " As cellarer of the monastery let there be chosen from the community one who is wise, of mature character, sober, not a great eater, not haughty, nor excitable, not offensive, not slow, not wasteful, but a God-fearing man who may be like a father to the whole community. "(Chapter 31)

The professor leaves us with the thought that one enlightened  leader in the world of business  with an inspiration has the possibility of changing the world. This  he sees as a great blessing.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Oriental Medicine and Sterility

From the very beginning of the Scriptures, in Genesis, we are told of God's desire that we are to propagate. The culture of life column in the Peace Weekly, written by a doctor of oriental medicine and a member of the Seoul Catholic Committee for Life, reflects on the problem that one out of five Korean couples desiring children are sterile.  

Many of these couples, after an examination that finds no medical reason for the infertility, will decide for artificial insemination. However, there are problems with this method. According to the doctor the method is used without first trying  to find the cause of the infertility, and solving the problem artificially sometimes results in failure, and often in multiple births. The health of the prospective mother, during this period of attempts to conceive and the repeated failures, is a serious concern for all involved in the use of this artificial solution to the problem, says the doctor.

Oriental  medicine, relying heavily on herbal preparations, looks for the causes of the problem, with the intention of bringing about conception naturally. It looks on sterility differently than Western medicine. Instead of describing the condition negatively as sterility, with the implication that it may be a permanent condition, oriental medicine prefers to describe it simply just as the woman is experiencing it: difficulty in conceiving.   

When a woman is not able to conceive they consider there is something not functioning properly in her body, even though the exams of Western medicine will find nothing wrong. The  doctor mentions that when a pregnant woman comes to him for consultation, he tells her that her womb will be the room for the baby for ten months, (Korean calculation)  and he will be trying to make it a place the baby will find congenial and will enjoy. 
This is the strong point of oriental medicine: it does not rely on the artificial means of fertilization in vitro to correct the problem, but is interested in using natural means to get the body to a condition where conception occurs naturally. Recently, even those who are following the Western procedures often come for natural medicines prescribed by the herb doctors.  
He ends the article by saying it is not only the women who may have the problem but the men may also share the responsibility for the 'difficulty in conceiving.' 

The TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) approach to restoring health is more philosophical and holistic than the scientific and logical approach of the West. The two approaches, when working together, will have a great deal to add to the world of medicine.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Spirituality According to St. Francis de Sales

How is your spirit? Asks a nun in the first sentence of the  book review on  Spirituality Speaks to Women,  in the  Catholic Times.  Diet for the spirit is the first step, she says. We have to get rid of the waste and gradually fill it with the good. When we starve  the body we don't automatically  get rid of  the fat and waste; the same  with the spirit by only suppressing our negative feelings, reproving and  condemning they don't just disappear. 

The nun strives to show how love  is shown in our daily life. The book  attempts to understand the internal life and the awakening to this life of the spirit.  Awakening  is the strength of spirituality. Accepting correctly the  strength of spirituality and putting it into practice, we rid ourselves of worries and  uneasiness and begin using time well, better our relations with others,  and improve our prayer life. She works with the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales.

To live daily with joy and happiness it is necessary to look at our internal life. It seems like a big order and fills one with anxiety. But she says that working on spiritually does not mean asceticism, becoming a saint, and transcendent experiences, but rather taking concern for our inner life.

The  sister tells us not to confuse feelings with the spirit.  Many can't keep feelings separated from personality. There are persons that are rough in their  manner who once known are virtuous and those who are gentle but once known  are not so good.

 How do we distinguish between spirit and  feelings? When we are moved by our feelings  and act on them; it may seem that we feel relieved, but  the spirit is uncomfortable. When we do what the spirit wants it may at first seem difficult,  but at the end we are at peace. This will take energetic effort  on our part.

When despondent and  anxious the sister wants us to ask ourselves why? Not to judge or give blame but rather  to acknowledge what is bothering us. It is this light that comes from reflection that  tells us  in what  direction  we are to go and the sign of growth in the spiritual life.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Epics and the Culture of Life

Epics appeared late in the maturation of culture, allowing us to appreciate the progressive  unfolding  of humanity in  narrative, poetry, and  myths, which gradually developed into the literature of the country.

Writing in the Peace Weekly a professor, in the Culture of Life Research Institute, reflects on epics and what they can tell us about humanity, about the meaning of life, our relationship with nature and, ultimately, about human desires. Reading the classics, the professor says, opens us to another way of seeing our world, and coming to a new understanding of  the conditions and meaning of life. The tragedies of life make us think deeply of their meaning. We ask ourselves, what are our tragedies and how can we best face them.

The legend of Tangun, for example, familiar to all Koreans, tells us about a particular image of humanity and its character by recounting the tale of Hwanin (God of Heaven) and his love for the earth and humanity. Hwanung, the son of Hwanin, wanted to live on the earth to provide humans with great happiness. When he learned that in a cave lived a bear and a tiger praying to become human, Hwanung gave them garlic and some mug wort. They were to eat this food and stay out of the sunlight for 100 days. The tiger gave up but the bear remained and was transformed into a woman. The woman prayed to be blessed with a child. Moved by  her prayer Hwanug took her for his wife, and she gave birth to a handsome son named Tangun--the beginning of the Korean people.
This legend tells us much about how we see ourselves. The temptation to get out in the sunlight was too great for the tiger and he failed the test of endurance. It is when we are suffering the greatest ordeal that we show our humanity. Truth, even when not acknowledged, makes itself known. 
Human life here on earth is temporary, but our life narrative does not disappear. With the passage of time this narrative continually changes, but remaining ever new, and the value of life and its mystery becoming clearer. We are the writers of this epic. We are the ones searching for this exalted life: the epic of our one, beautiful, and sacred life.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Catholic Applications for Smart Phones

The Catholic Times and the Seoul  Internet Catholic Good news site has  cooperated in a questionnaire of Catholic net citizens and  the use of the internet in their religious life. The first questionnaire had to do with the understanding of applications by the  net citizens.

Over half of the population are using smart phones. 90 percent of the Catholic users of the internet find that the  applications  assist them in their religious life. A survey of 310 Catholics was made: 43 percent were using Catholic applications 2-3 times a day; 32 percent were using the applications less than once a day, 14 percent were using them 4-5 times a day, 5 percent 6-7 times a day and 6 percent over eight times a day. The numbers who use  these Catholic  applications are not insignificant.
One-third of the respondents said not being hindered by time or place in  using the religious information was helpful.  They are able to access  the Scriptures, hymnals, the daily liturgy, lives of the saints, etc.; this has proven very beneficial. Content is easily accessible.

On the other hand, some of the difficulties are the lack of a variety of applications; the operating system of the different mobile phones  does not allow them to access some of the applications.

Korea has one of the fastest internet connection speeds and one of the highest percentages of users in the world. It is an electronic paradise. Net-citizens are in a very internet friendly environment which means that the future continues to be bright in the use of the internet, There are many parish programs to get elderly Catholics familiar with the use of the smart phones  which will mean we will continue to see an increase in the use of Catholic orientated applications.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Facing the Challenges of Life

"Don't forget the challenge God has given us" is the headline of the column on spirituality in the Korean Times. The columnist  reminds us that wars are far from being a challenge in maintaining national sovereignty but are contemptible killings in a brutal fight for victory.  In no way is this how we should be living up to God's goodness.
The word 'challenge,' in a Korean dictionary, means: to face head-on in combat, also used  as a figure of speech when facing any difficulty, or to better some record. We use the word often when referring to adventures like climbing mount Everest,  but most importantly, the columnist says, the word 'challenge' should be part of our searching for the meaning of life.

In our daily lives, we are continually being challenged. Many find the challenge beyond their strength and choose to avoid it. Challenges usually contain both danger and adventure and  should be faced squarely. Challenges are part of life and are given to us by God. 

However, we tend to forget this reality and think that challenges originate from our earthly circumstances; we do not see them as lifting us up to a higher and superior way of living. We should be sensitive to this reality, and not see challenges only as a way of bettering our material life.

At the end of life everything can become a challenge to us, and a responsibility. Challenges, whether coming early or late in life, have formed or are forming who we are. A boxer strives to be the best he can be: a champion. We are striving for the virtuous life, a life of freedom and responsibility. Without this freedom and sense of responsibility, we  are not living the beautiful life, the life of virtue.

The  beauty of life can be experienced daily by accepting and overcoming the challenges that come to us daily. If we look back and only see the zealousness of our life, our successes in avoiding the challenges of life, considering them our consolation, then we will not be able to say it was a life well-lived. A life without challenges amounts to a life that is lived too shallowly.  What are the challenges that we face today?  What efforts do we make to live the life of a free person? Are we pridefully fooling ourselves into thinking we are champions? The challenges that allow us to transcend the concerns of our ordinary life and to live the life of faith are only given to humans. We should face these challenges courageously until the day we die.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Marriage and Children

A priest responsible for family matters in his diocese uses the opinion page of the Catholic Times to reflect more deeply on this subject.  He begins with the fact that many couples  have opted  out of having children, are pooling their resources, cutting  down on spending, and looking for whatever else will more easily give them a leisurely lifestyle.  This is not, he says, the only reason women are avoiding children; another is that the traditional idea of family is changing. The higher divorce rate, the greater number of single parents, and other signs of an unconventional lifestyle are signs that the traditional idea of family is fading. The pursuit  of personal happiness and a better quality of life have become for many the foundation of a new value system. These are some of the reasons he cites for the decrease in the birthrate, even though the government is making  efforts to change the situation.

How is the Church to deal with this reality? he asks.  When a young couple comes before a priest for marriage instructions, expressing their desire to live without children, what is he to say? The couple will most likely defend their position by saying: " Times are difficult; a good education is expensive; the raising of children requires a lot of time and energy, and therefore deciding not to have children is a wise decision." This position of course cannot be accepted by the priest, and the couple will be told that they cannot be married in the Church.

Church law makes clear that entering into marriage with a prior understanding (outside of medical reasons) that there will be no children is contrary to the Catholic understanding of marriage. Why is it that the Church speaks this way about marriage? Because married couple are pro-creators with God; they have been called to participate  in the continuing work of creation. The very make-up of the person shows this to be the blueprint of creation: husband and wife, body and soul, complement and are interrelated with each other. The oneness of the union points to an important meaning of life: by means of the oneness, their sharing of their gift of life, this gift of life is passed on to the next generation.

Married couples have the freedom, of course, to refuse to cooperate with this gift-giving. But by doing so they are refusing  to be cooperators with God in his creation, refusing to be his children, working for his kingdom.

Raising children is not easy, everyone would concede. It often demands that one go against cherished desires and personal goals to set examples to our children that we may feel unqualified to give, such as the meaning of love's fulfillment in one's own family.  However, if we always seek to avoid the difficulties of life, we will not arrive at any meaningful truths. Jesus at Gethsemane made his prayer to do God's will; we are called, he says, to do the same. 

The words of the priest may seem extremely callous and  insensitive to young people contemplating marriage. Though they are not the kind of words that would please everyone, would it be better to remain silent when we are faced with misunderstandings on such important issues, despite being rightly upset by these misunderstandings? It would be rather easy to remain silent, and many would, considering the cultural pressures to do so.  But can we say, it is the Christian way?



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Does It Mean to Be Fully Human

If ten people  fight against 1000 people, who would  win?  To answer this apparently simple question, we have to raise several other questions: how are they equipped or armed, what do they value in life, where are their geographical positions relative to each other, how adequate is their access to supplies, and what is the state of their morale, among other considerations.  Those during the European middle ages would probably respond that the victors would be those whom God helps. This was an answer obviously given without much thought by the people at that time and we are told that  even great things happened. A journalist for the Catholic Times explores the issue.  

In Roman times, disputes would be settled, he says, by bringing the case to court and judging its merits by referring to the appropriate laws. During the middle ages, instead, the case would be settled by "ordeal." They left it up to God to judge.  God, it was believed, would help the innocent person survive a proposed ordeal that both parties to the dispute had to endure.  Whether the ordeal selected was putting a hand into boiling water or placing hot stones in the hand, or any other tormenting incident, the innocence of the participants would be determined by how long the pain could be endured, the belief being that God would provide the innocent one with sufficient endurance to outlast that of the guilty one. Even when the ordeal selected was dueling with swords, it was believed that God would be on the side of the innocent dueler, and he would survive the fight. 

Humanists of the Renaissance considered their ancestors to have lived in the dark ages, "trial by ordeal" being one example of this so-called darkened understanding. Is it just as easy for us today to make that statement? the columnist wonders. Are we living in a more humane way than they did in the middle ages of Europe? 

He goes on to ask if it is more humane to teach our children, and ourselves, not to waste one minute or second of the time allotted to us. Is getting good marks and entering a first-rate school more important than having friends and more time for family commitments? Or is it more important to win in some competitive encounter? On TV and on the internet, we are presented with continual sensory stimulation, seduced into believing that the victor is the one enjoying the so-called spoils of victory, while the loser in this competitive battle is left with nothing, or very little. Is this "heartlessness of the victor," as he puts it, what we are to accept as our modern understanding of what it means to be fully human?

This modern approach he labels as either machine-like or animal-like; so where is a person to stand? We are able to  stand firm, he says, within a faith community. Jesus said he has overcome the world, and where he reigns there is where we are able to stand up straight. The columnist makes clear that he doesn't want to return to the middle ages. We have seen that both in the middle ages and in the present we have lost a great deal of what makes us human; we have seen the problems. Our work now is to work to rid ourselves of these problems, and become truly human.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A recently published novel, Independence's Righteous Army, a retelling of the independence movement in Korea, focuses on the participation of the Church in the movement, and its official position of maintaining the separation of church and state. This position prompted the Church, which was administered at that time by foreign missioners, to see things  differently than most Catholics of the country, including Patriot Thomas Ahn, who was a victim of this misunderstanding, receiving no official sympathy from the Catholic Church for his acts against the Japanese.

Patriot Ahn died in 1910 at the hands of the Japanese, but his spirit continued to inspire Catholics in a small parish of Korean nationals, in the Gando district of China. Lee Yeong-ho (Barnaba), the author of the historical novel, reveals the ongoing efforts of this group of Catholics to free themselves from Japanese occupation.

During the Japanese occupation, there were many who moved to China and became involved in the liberation movement established in Gando. This movement, Ulmindan (righteous army), not only was an aid to understanding modern church history, but continues to shed light on the complex history of that time.

The novel begins with the kidnapping of Fr. Choi Mun-sik, pastor of the Paltogu parish, by the Manchukyuo Imperial Army. Though the scene-elements surrounding the facts have been fictionalized, the facts are all in place, making this novel close to a non-fiction account of the events, according to the book review in the Catholic Times. As an added bonus, the author has made reading the book easy, for those who have difficulty with church terminology, by explaining many of the terms used. 

Lee Barnaba has made it known that he wants to  help in recruiting and help in the formation of  priests for this area of China, an area that is close to the Korean peninsular. Priests who are sent there should therefore have a knowledge of Korean. In the future, he feels it will be a beachhead for the evangelization of northeast Asia. To do this successfully, he feels it will be necessary to have a correct understanding of our history. The book is his attempt to accomplish that objective.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Keep Up the Good Fight

"Father, you do not know but..." are words a priest, writing a weekly column Life in the World and Religious Life   in the Catholic Times, says he hears often when approached by people who are having difficulty with some aspect of their lives, and need to talk to somebody about it.

In a recent meeting of young workers he attended, he heard them complain about their bosses at work, their married life or about getting married, the difficulty of living a virtuous life, and many other annoying daily concerns. Along with his desire to get assimilated into the group, he was often tempted to add his words of wisdom to the mix, feeling at times that he had some of the answers they were looking for; thankfully, he said, he was able to keep his mouth shut. However, one woman did address him with her problem.

"Father, you  do not know but when it comes time to get our pay checks, and looking over what I have to take out for this or for that, there is nothing left. There is nothing that I can save. Do you understand this feeling I have? I don't want to hurt the family or myself, but life is difficult. However, there is nothing else for me to do but to go on living."

Her plaintive words still resound in his head: "Father, you do not know but..." He felt ready to explain and interpret and teach, and when he does, he said, they listen. But the words, he admits, do not bring them deeper into what they are feeling. When I just listen, however, they are able to go deeper and come to a solution they are able to put into words for the group.

Listening to the difficulties of the group, he was hearing much that he did not know, and realized that the words he could have shared with them would not have helped much. As a priest and religious he often hears about the pain and difficulties of daily life, and about the desire for consolation and love that was also present in his own life.  Now, when he hears the words "Father, you do not know but...," followed by a recitation of the difficulties of life, all he wants to say is: "Keep up the good fight."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Peace of Mind and Religion

Busy young people in the Seoul diocese are looking for peace of mind when practicing their religion. The diocese recently made a survey of 3,773 young people  and compared the results to a survey made after the Seoul Synod in 2002. 38.7 percent said their primary desire was to experience inner peace, 30.6 percent said family joy. In the 2002 survey, the desire for health ranked first. Clearly, the change to a much harsher reality in today's world has resulted in a change to desiring more peace of mind and family harmony.

What seems most worrisome for young people, however, is concern for doing well in their studies (38.8 percent), concern for money (35.8 percent), and finding work (32.7 percent). Ten years before, money was listed as fifth; now it has  become second; a sign that materialism has become more prevalent.  The social networking  services have become prominent in the world of many young people, and interest in books has decreased.

When asked about the meaning of religion, 61.7 percent indicated that it gives them peace of mind;  ranking second, with 19.2 percent, was the belief that religion helped them form a value system. Purification/sanctification of life came in third with 10.4 percent. Their introduction to the religious life, they said, came from those who were close to them; the influence of the mass media was negligible.

The editorial in the Catholic Times, commenting on the survey, mentions that pastoral programs in the future should work to understand the  results of  the survey. At first glance, the results are not surprising when one sees religion as only something personal, a very natural understanding of religion. But with further reflection, when one understands the spiritual and the communal aspects of religion, it should make us question whether this more comprehensive understanding of religion is being overlooked.

The difficulties that our young people are facing today can be seen precisely in this desire for peace and stability. However, if their desire for peace of mind is sought exclusively in religion then we have a misunderstanding of the meaning of Christianity, particularly in its communal and  transcendental aspects. Peace of mind is a by-product and not the object of a mature Christian life.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Harmonious Relationship of Family and Workplace

A middle school student who left Korea for the States to continue his education, with the intention of returning to Korea to work, explains why he felt frustrated when he returned here during summer vacation and got a job as an intern.  "I graduated from a good school and with exceptional credentials; how is it that day and night I'm being exploited. I don't want to work in Korea."

The desk columnist for the Catholic Times, tells us this  is a true story. The young man, characterized his frustration as "being fed up" with the job situation in Korea.Those who have to go through the hell of college entrance exams and have to deal with the competition of finding a job and put up with the intensity of the work can handle it, the columnist said, but the young man from the States was not able to.

Among the many difficulties with the work situation in Korea, the most serious is not having enough time to spend with the family. Excessive concern for the quality of one's work does not allow for an amicable relationship with family life; time spent at work and time spent with the family are often in conflict.

Many workers believe that in the beginning of their middle years they will be out of work, which will mean hard times for the family. This would be truer for women then for men. No matter how could the laws are in the country, if  not followed,  they will have little influence on the the betterment of family life.

Society has changed much and  there are many companies that realize that peace in the home allows the workers to increase their work output. As a result, some companies are finding ways of  helping this to happen, but only a small fraction of the companies are doing this.  How about the Church? he asks. To what degree does the Church promote  a harmonious relationship between work and the family?

He gives another example of a young woman, 20 years old, who was looking for a job in a Catholic kindergarten. When the sister interviewed her for the job, there were only two questions asked: Are you planning to get married, and when? She was engaged and marriage was imminent, so the sister told her it would be difficult for her to fulfill the requirements of the job. The young women gave up her search within church circles, which the columnist understood, but for him it did not make it any less of a problem for job seekers.  

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamannzi, in the Seventh World Meeting of Families, said that there should be a friendly alliance between the concerns of labor and the concerns of the family, concerns that should also be promoted by the Church. A harmonious relationship between the workplace  and the family is a right and a duty, and should be safeguarded by all those who are in positions of authority, whether secular or religious.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Gaining Grace Points

A journalist for the Catholic Times reflects on his grammar school days when he worked to gather grace points by attending daily Mass. It was an opportunity which permitted students to  choose from a list of good deeds they had performed in order to accumulate grace points. The points could then be changed into a kind of money that could be used at the church  bazaar to buy gifts or sweets.

He was excited about getting  his points by attending daily Mass. He would get up early, and with his mother went to daily Mass. After two days, often dozing and finding it a great  bother, he was going to give it up but the words of praise from the parishioners and his desire for the points kept him going. Compared to his classmates, he remembers gaining a great many more grace points.

But getting grace points wasn't what motivated the children in Vietnam, he soon learned while traveling there to gather information on minorities. In order to write his article he went to a 5:00 am morning Mass at the Cathedral parish in one of the dioceses. Although it was a morning Mass there were many at the Mass; surprisingly many were children. They were, he recalls, all very attentive and devout, from beginning to end. It made a big impression on him. There were no adults to praise them or to present them with grace points, and yet they were all singling loudly and saying the prayers together. He interviewed  a few of the children, and was told they considered Mass a part of their daily life and a joy.

Even though the Vietnam government is putting obstacles in the way of believers, making it uncomfortable for them to observe the faith freely, they continue to build up
"treasure in heaven," he said, not grace points here on earth.

He wonders if he may still be unconsciously motivated, as an adult, to gain earthly  grace points by how he lives his religious life. He hopes to guard against this all too common tendency among believers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Aliens Are My Brothers

Some years ago a priest responsible for a welfare center put a sign out in front with the words: "Aliens not welcomed." It was an attempt at humor, welcoming all to the center.
A staff member jokingly asked, "Aren't they also God's children?" Writing in the Window from The Ark column in the Catholic Times, the priest recalls that the incident was the prelude to thoughts on a subject he was not familiar with: other inhabited worlds, other people we call extra-terrestrials. 

One of the students who frequents the center asked the priest in all seriousness: "Father, if I am made from the DNA of an alien, does that mean that my head, as I get older, will develop into the head of an extra-terrestrial?" The priest was stupefied by the question and asked the student why he thought that was possible. It was then that he realized what the student had been seeing in the mass media. Doing his own search on the internet, he was surprised by what he found.

He soon began asking himself what would he do if he met one of these aliens, in the future or in the present? He also came to realize how much interest in aliens there was in our society and that there is a religious movement, the Raelians, who believe they have the DNA of aliens. However, he believes it important to remember that Internet information on extra-terrestrial life is presented without any supporting factual evidence, that no sources are given for the pictures shown, and that the explanatory theories offered are, in his words, "without the least semblance of credibility." Though most people know this, it does not prevent some from believing that extra-terrestrials are here, disguised, living among us.  

The priest mentions the well-known astrophysicist Carl Sagan and the influence of his 1980 television series: Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.  In his science fiction novel Contact the protagonist says: "If this universe was made for just one  type of intelligent creation, it was a great waste." He reminds us that Sagan was agnostic and felt that religion was close to superstition. 

Our response to all this, the priest says, is far from clear, but we can't just ignore it.  There are many young people who refer to the words of Sagan when asking us about extra-terrestrial life.  What should be our answers? he asks. If there are other worlds and other intelligent creatures living there, then aren't they our brothers? It's a question that young people are facing and struggling with. What are we to say to them, when we see their faith being challenged? These are the thoughts that came to the columnist as he looked out the window of his 'Ark' and saw that the rain was still falling.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Diabetes and Nuclear Power Plants

Writing in a bulletin for priests a medical school professor compares nuclear power plants with diabetes, a common  disease with a long history. With the advance of civilization and prosperity, there has been an increase of the disease, which is marked by a large reservoir of bodily energy, wasted energy, and when not properly regulated cannot be used and thus is thrown away in our urine. We have poverty in plenty.

The professor sees our nuclear power plants as beset with the same problem our bodies have in dealing with a poorly regulated supply of energy. The energy is there to be used but just as we have a problem with distribution in a diabetically diseased body, the same is true of nuclear power plants, which are, the professor asserts, a disease of modern society.

Briefly summing up what occurs in a nuclear plant, he points out that the nuclear reaction gives us heat energy which heats the water, and the steam produced turns the electrical turbines. It is the same principle as the thermal power plant: heat energy turned into electrical energy. When we have a change in the shape of  energy, there is a great loss of energy. Much of the electrical energy we use for heating purposes, he believes, is wasted.

As is well known, it takes a few days to start a nuclear power plant and a few days to shut it down, so it is not operated to match the needs of the average citizen.  The plants are continually in operation, and at night, when there is a surfeit of electricity, there is a cheaper rate for the electricity, which benefits mostly, not the homeowner, but the big industries which often operate around the clock. In the homes, the electricity (estimated to be about 24 percent of the total generated) is most often used for heating purposes, which makes for a lot of waste.

There are other uses for this excess energy, the professor says, but they are all a great waste of energy as presently used. The comparison of diabetes to nuclear power plants is meant, he says, to point out this great waste of energy and its poor distribution. (He does not consider the nuclear waste matter which is the result of the nuclear operation.) It's not too far-fetched to compare as some have done, the nuclear power plant operation to killing a fly with a canon. Getting rid of this societal disease, the professor insists, must be done as soon as possible.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Prosperity Does not Always Bring Happiness

There are probably few countries that are as introspective as Korea, which is still a homogeneous country, with a long history and one language, making  it easily accessible to this kind  of reflection. In recent years, with its ranking of 13th in economic strength, with a populace that is intelligent, diligent and devoted, it is hard to understand, writes the  priest columnist in the Peace Weekly, why the country ranks so low in the happiness quotient compared to other countries.

Is  it too much greed and not able to be thankful for what they have? he asks.  Although they have financial leisure and cultural advancement, he wonders if the lack happiness is a sign of spiritual disease, and proposes seven steps for achieving happiness.

Examine closely the way we live our lives as our Blessed Mother did in her life. Take care of our health. Make friends. Cut down the time watching TV. Study. Laugh; the Korean saying, "you get angry and age, laugh, and you get younger," fits, he says.  The seventh and last proposal is to be good to yourself; my happiness depends on myself; I am the subject of my happiness. If I am sad, tormented, and  unhappy this is what I will be sharing with others. When we are happy, thankful and at peace, this is what we will be passing on to others. His final advice is the suggestion that parents tell their children to imitate them when death approaches, and that they will meet in heaven.

Telling people how to live in order to be happy is big business. We have numerous entrepreneurs who live well telling others what to do to live well. Most of the wisdom that has come down to us from the earliest days has much in common with the search for happiness. Confucius wants us to overcome the  environment we were born in, wants us to study and have good relations with others. Buddhists want us to train the mind, the Taoist wants us to know that we think we know is not always the case. They are all seeing different aspects of life. Christians can use this wisdom, and add that Christ came to have us participate in divinity. This knowledge alone is enough to give us great joy.                  

Monday, June 11, 2012

What Is Success?

The present problems of Korean society are clearly evident to all, a columnist in one of the daily papers points out, and solutions are not easily found. To illustrate the complexity of a particularly troublesome problem, he relates a recent conversation with a businessman who told him he had been telling his  third-year high school son, repeatedly, to study hard so he will be able to get into a good school, get a good job, marry a beautiful woman, buy a nice house, and live the life of a prince. His son answered: "Dad, what is the value of  graduating  from a first class college, succeed in business, and end up in prison? Whether you have money and power makes little difference, when there are many who are under suspicion of corruption and end up in prison. Is that what it means to do well in life?"

The father said he was severely crushed  on hearing these words from his son. His many efforts to help his son break through the competitiveness of society and succeed left him feeling like a first class snob. He did have other words he could have used: be mature, humble, have good sense, dignity, respect, sacrifice for the country, love for the family. However, he felt these words would not have been helpful in the jungle of competition we now have in society--so our children only hear words such as  "study and don't play games."

What do our children see watching the news on TV? he asks. Usually another 'dirty hand' picked up by the police for questioning, big names in society who give bribes and receive them; bankers who are picked up for embezzlement and breach of trust; those close to the president, politicians, and company officials  who are making prison seem like a second home. 

Korea, the columnist says, is high up on the list of corrupt countries in the world. According to a Hong Kong research group that compared countries in Asia, Korea is listed as 11th out of 16 countries (with the 16th being considered the most corrupt.). Korean integrity in government  was shown to be less than Thailand's, which was 9th on the list, and Cambodia's, which was 10th. And in the last six years, the integrity index for Korea has steadily declined.

Though income has increased and Korea has become a leading exporting country, we should not be considered a developed country, according to the columnist, if we can't expose corruption and maintain a high moral standard in society. He concludes the article by telling the older generation that they have to show the younger generation a love for the good and a hatred for evil. If we continue to be insensitive to corruption and irregularity in our society and are not embarrassed by this, we will not become, he says, despite our material affluence, a truly developed country.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Archbishop of Seoul

On  June 25, the Seoul archdiocese plans to hold an inaugural ceremony for the new archbishop, Yeom Soo-jung. On the opinion page of a secular newspaper, the writer gives us some background on the appointment.

Archbishop Yeom is a fifth-generation Catholic, 69 years old, who entered the seminary after graduating from middle school. Twelve years later, in 1970, he was  ordained. He worked in the diocese in many different positions and in many parishes, as well as in the minor and major seminaries. In 2002 he was made auxiliary bishop of Seoul and Vicar General of the diocese. He will follow Cheong Jin Suk as the 14th ordinary of Seoul.

The new archbishop has been in the Seoul archdiocese for 54 years, with a background that is conspicuously different from his predecessors. Cardinal Cheong, after 28 years, returned to Seoul to become the ordinary after being the ordinary of the Cheongju Diocese. His predecessor, Cardinal Kim, was a priest of another diocese, and after a period as the ordinary of the Masan diocese was made the ordinary of Seoul.  In the past, auxiliary bishops of Seoul have become ordinaries of other dioceses, but this is the first time that a Seoul priest who spent his whole life in the Seoul diocese was made its ordinary. He is considered an older brother to the 1100 priests of the diocese, and they have responded to his appointment with great joy.

There is a great difference from the two ordinaries that he follows, says the writer. Cardinal  Kim is remembered as a prophetic voice and a light in the darkness during the autocratic years from 1970-80s. Cardinal Cheong, on the other hand, was a canon law scholar and continued his writing during his busy years as ordinary, with a total of 36 books published. And Bishop Yeom stands out as a pastoral worker during those many years, and, in contrast to his two predecessors who had very strong charisms, Bishop Yeom is seen as a humble and gentle person. Those who have met him see him as informal and  warm.

The new ordinary will be the head of a diocese that has 27 percent of the Catholics of the country and  13.5  percentage, for the ratio of Catholics in Seoul to the total Seoul population, the highest in the country. However, at the same time, there are problems. The number of Catholics attending Mass has decreased, the number of babies baptized has fallen greatly, and the number attending Sunday schools are small. The future seems far from promising.

The changes in the world and society will demand a strong voice from the Church. Bishop Yeom, since he was involved directly in the  diocese, will have much working in his favor.The writer hopes that with the change of leadership in the Seoul diocese it bodes well for a change, both in society and in the Church.                                                                 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Serious Problem of Society

Last year in Korea 108,000 persons attempted suicide. Of this number over 90 percent had mental problems, most of which involved depression of some sort. Those who succeeded in killing themselves were about 43 a day, which placed Korea first among the developed countries of the world with the most suicides.

This tragic situation was the focus of the cover story on suicide in the recent Catholic Times. There are indications that society, according to the Catholic Times, is attempting to work together to discover the reasons for so many suicides, to spot the signs of helplessness, and to do something about it.

A  seminary professor of ethics referred to statistics from last year showing that 16 out of one hundred persons with mental problems contemplated suicide and 3 actually made the attempt. The Catholic Church has consistently seen the  evil of suicide but because of the mental state of the person it is rare that a funeral will be refused. The reasons for the large number of suicides generally given are depression, difficulties in life, pessimism, alienation, school bullying, but it would be unwise to try to select one as the primary cause, since in most cases multiple factors are in play complicating the problem.

Media also does not help matters by the way they tend to sensationalize their coverage of suicides, leading some vulnerable people to take on the same mindset, unwittingly preparing them for copycat suicides. The news, in attempting to present the suicide as factually as possible, often give reasons for the suicide which is no help to those who are looking to overcome their difficulties.  For a Catholic, the remedy would be their faith and a strong  spiritual life that sees adversity as a part of life, giving them the strength to overcome the adversity with God's grace.

Families of those who kill themselves, it must not be forgotten, are deeply hurt by the tragedy. This is also an area of concern for all those who are working to prevent suicides.  In his article, the professor reminds the Church of the important work that needs to be done to prevent these deaths. This will require a great deal of love on the part of the diocese and parishes to help those with financial, emotional and psychological  problems. Dioceses and parishes will have to have a safety net for those that need it. It will also require more targeted education of those who will work in this area in order to build a network of talented counselors to provide the help when needed. And at the same time to  contribute in changing the values of our society that all too often are a breeding ground for alienation and despair.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Celebrating the Beauty of LIfe

A university professor, writing in the Peace Weekly, reflects on the many ways Koreans have of celebrating memorable events. In the East the Shi Jing (One of the 5 Chinese Confucian classics), variously translated as the Book of Odes, the Classic of Poetry, the Book of Songs, the Book of Poetry, is Korea's earliest collection of poems, comprising 305 poems, some possibly written as early as 1000 BC, portraying seasonal and religious celebrations that go back to the time of its writing.

Korean history enables us to see the development of the festivities as embodying a composite of many varied elements of the culture, especially its religions and its artistic accomplishments as they developed over time. The festivities were all ultimately about celebrating life: its dynamism, our common destiny, our overcoming adversity, and our attempts to sublimate life artistically. We are able to discover in these celebrations, according to the professor, three common elements.

First,  we see the social nature of the celebration. It was not celebrated alone. It can be compared to the shaman rites, when others would be present, celebrating together our common humanity. We are social beings who are naturally suited to relating to others, and this was the core aspect of all celebrations.  

Second, its religious element. The celebration helped to maintain the community by providing the participants with an experience of the generative power of their coming together. It deepened their religious experiences, showing them how to live and avoid, or minimize, the difficulties of life by recognizing their mutual suffering and its meaning.

Third, its artistic element. It compressed life into drama and artistic activity, expressing the peculiarities of our life by replaying it with music, art, and narration.

Compared with these traditional ways of celebrating life, our present celebrations have a temporary societal aspect; the mystery is absent. We are left only with an unfocused enthusiasm, gatherings without solidarity, acclamations without thought, beauty without having nurtured a place in our hearts to appreciate it, leaving us unable to reflect this beauty in our lives. Consequently, says the professor, our celebrations are not able to encourage life but only able to give temporary  pleasure.

However, humanity cannot live without celebration, he says.  Our own individual enthusiasm for life is the foundation for the celebrations, our enthusiasm is the holy place where we experience unity and love. Celebrating this enthusiasm for life is not achieved without effort, and its special beauty, he reminds us, has been there from the beginning of time.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How to Enjoy Freedom

All of us want to enjoy as much freedom as possible, but we know that we are not as free as we think. Writing in the Catholic Times on spirituality the columnist starts with the example of himself with a rope tied to his wrist, he wants to free himself but the rope disappears into the fog. He pulls the rope but there is also a pull on the other side.

This is the way we live, he says. Many say:   I am free, and it is true that we have a certain amount of freedom of the will, but it is not complete.It is like the freedom in a tug of war game. I have the freedom to pull the rope but if the other is strong,  I am  not able to go very far. The fact that I have the freedom to pull the rope becomes meaningless. I have the freedom of not pulling, but then I am dragged by the other side. In this case, whether I like it or not I pull.

We do not have complete freedom. So many acquiesce  to this way of living; we give up pulling the rope with all our  strength and instead accept being  dragged and think that we are free. This low grade of freedom  being dragged and passive is not what God wants.

We all want to  enjoy as much freedom as possible. God has made as to live this life of freedom. It is the life of agreement, compassion, harmony and competence: living  in agreement with God, compassion for others, in harmony with  creation, and displaying our human competence. Pulling the rope with all our strength is the way to this kind of life. This is the life that we have been called to live and given to us freely and consequently, the obligation to respond is great.

The columnist lists  ways in which we respond.  With grammar school children parents take the responsibility of their lives from 40-50 percent, while in middle and high school from 20-30 percent and in college about 10 percent the rest is handed over to the children but we have parents who take responsibility of children even after they marry.

To feel responsible for everything that we do is going beyond reason. Even dealing with ourselves we can be immoderate in taking responsibility. We leave no room for God in our formation which makes it hard to develop in the life of virtue for we trust only in human power. In the example with the children we also have the other extreme of no concern for the children. They are old enough to take care of themselves, let them learn the hard way and the like.

We all have been created as unique individuals  to live in harmony with God and creation. To live  in harmony with the will of God is our calling. The ultimate education is to live in the way we have been called to be: helping the person live in harmony with all of creation. Since we are a small part of this creation, we contribute to this harmony and direct ourselves to complete harmony in God.     

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How Should One Live?

How should one live? is a question reflected upon recently by the desk columnist of the Catholic Times. There are people, he says, who live as though life were a bouncing ball, following it wherever it bounces. And there are those who fatalistically leave everything up to heaven. The Christian, however, believes that living in God's glory is the eternal goal of  life and attempts to do so daily.

The only time of life when we had no worries was infancy, soon followed by school, work, raising a family, financial concerns, and other pressures of life. Until death, this is the life experienced by most people.

Animals, outside of the time of sleep, do not shut their eyes. They are completely controlled by their five senses. With their eyes closed they are not able to judge anything. People without belief in God are not much different, says the columnist. They may shut their eyes briefly for meditation and reflection, but they put their trust solely in their senses and intellect. Decision making comes from their innate capabilities that they muster from the data available: seeing a wall they avoid it, lacking money they worry, feeling pain they grieve, and having the good things in life they are happy.
The real Christian deliberately closes his eyes, trusts in God, listens to his voice, reflects on his words, prays, finds joy in life despite its sadness, and sees hope in  pain. She not only trusts the information from the senses and intellect but trusts in our faith in God. 

There are many that do not ask why they live, concerned only with what they see before them. The columnist compares this to the paduk player who forgets the  stone in the middle of the playing board and rejoices with the making of a few houses on the fringes. When we forget the ultimate meaning of life, when we have no strategy for the future, concerned only with tactics for the here and now, we may win a small victory but we will surely lose the greater victory.

He is reminded of the words Cardinal Kim left us. "Lord, I will not think of this or that. I will not be concerned about how much I love you.  I will just look upon you and walk with you. Everything is yours and will entrust it all to you." The cardinal's words, he acknowledges, have deeply affected him, bowing his head whenever they come to mind.

This is the way of experiencing joy in life, which we try to share and practice with the alienated of our society. With God with us, we can overcome everything.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Both Catholic papers ran articles and editorials focusing our attention on a serious problem in the world: the degradation of the environment. June 5th being World Environment Day, the chairman of the bishop's committee on the environment also published a message, reminding us that we are cooperators with God in taking care of the garden we have been given.

Because of the worldwide demand for more energy, we are increasing the amount of carbon dioxide gas in the air. In the Namsan area of the city, we have had a deforestation 17 times what it was 35 years ago, which sends us a message that development has not always been positive but has in many cases destroyed the ecology of the area.
Sensitivity to the problems of the  environment, and a desire to find solutions to this ecological crisis are now more universal than ever, with governments and big business more accepting that there is a problem. However, it is not enough to just know the problem, the editorial stresses, it is necessary that we do something to change our way of living to an environmentally friendly one.

The Church has for sometime now been conscious of the environmental concerns and has begun programs to help ameliorate the situation. Along with other segments of society, the Church needs to discover and implement more concrete programs if an effective solution is to be found. 

One program the Church has inaugurated is the  "Enjoy Living the Uncomfortable Life" movement. This requires not a little sacrifice on the part of the participants, as we turn our eyes to an area of life that was not a concern in the past.

One example of this 'Green Movement' has taken root in one of the parishes, where they have listed 10 ways of enjoying living the uncomfortable life: decrease the house temperature in the winter; lower the use of the air conditioner in the summer, being careful always to conserve the use of electricity; reduce the use of plastic bags, and the like. Even kindergarten children are being exposed to this way of thinking, which promises that we will continue to have many to take care of the beautiful garden of earth that we have inherited.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Splendid Life Is Doing Splended Work

St, Thomas Aquinas said: "A splendid life is doing splendid work." So begins the Peace Weekly article on labor. Since labor is a big part of life it is a serious issue for many. Humans have to labor to eat, drink, and live, but we know this is not all that labor is. Labor that has meaning is preferred over that without meaning. Work that is meaningful gives meaning to life.

The columnist asks, what is meaningful work?  It provides our clothes, food and a place to sleep, and these objectives obviously should not be underestimated, but these goals do not exhaust all that can be said about meaningful work.

Korea's financial progress in the last few decades has been dazzling, but we also have a high rate of suicide and a low happiness index compared to other developed countries. This speaks loudly, the columnist reminds us, that working for material progress is not the ultimate answer to all our problems.

More to the point, he says is to compare the working enterprises we are engaged in to organisms made up of still smaller organisms, the cells, which to maintain the vitality of the larger organism have to be nourished. When these cells, in this case the workers,  have a positive appreciation of the work, the competitive ability of the larger organism, the enterprise, is greatly increased. This "transcendent humanism" is referred to in the Encyclical Truth in Charity:
"Integral human development on the natural plane, as a response to a vocation from God the Creator, demands self-fulfillment in a transcendent humanism which gives [to man] his greatest possible perfection: this is the highest goal of personal development( #18).  And adds (in #11), "Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature, to recognize the divine image in the other, thus truly coming to discover him or her and to mature in a love that becomes concern and care for the other.” 

Enterprises that search for this common good are helping the workers to appreciate  the value of their work. This will help prevent countries that have accepted the capitalistic system from becoming tools for greed  and exploitation. Efforts of the enterprises and the workers are necessary to prevent this from happening.

Hildegard of Bingen said: "When we are able to do good work we are like a garden full of flowers: Able to communicate with the universe." When the goals of the enterprises are attractive to the workers, the resulting work will be as life enhancing to society as light and salt is to our individual lives.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Religion Has to do a Better Job

Efforts  made by religions in Korea to live harmoniously together without any serious problems is an example of healthy coexistence. However, the Catholic Times editorial asks if religious people are also giving a good example to those without any religion. Recently, we have a number of books that appear in our book stores that tell us that society would be better off  without religion.

There is interest in these books; a sign that secularism is part of the society in which we live. The message to Catholics and other religious people is our efforts to show transcendence and religious values to society have  not been successful. We have to reflect on how much we have been an example to the non-religious  persons and groups in society.

Many scholars who have  studied the issue no longer see society listening to religious talk.  Words have lost their attraction it is an example of a life well lived that inspires: authenticity and genuineness.  

Looking at the lives of religious believers how much of an example are we to others? We have to be able to critique our own lives. Politicians who are religious believers have not been a good example  to those without any beliefs. Religion doesn't make much difference in the way life is lived. We have seen the moral life of religious people censured repeatedly for conduct that is not in keeping with what they believe.

There have been scandals within religious groups that have hit the press recently that have shown the weakness and immorality of believers. These stories do little to endear non-believers to think twice of the benefits of belief but rather to turn them away from what they see as hypocrisy. 

The editorial mentions that, for the time being, Catholicism is relatively highly respected   and is considered a strong bulwark for the upholding of conscience. However, this should not be taken lightly nor should we  rest satisfied   remembering  the honor that we had in the past. To continue to have this respect we have to be open and concerned with the  tensions in our society.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Educating the Whole Person

Teaching gospel values in educating the whole person is taken for granted in Catholic educational theory. The practice of these values, however, is not so easily taught in our schools, which usually designate their teaching of the whole person, made in the image of God, as holistic, humanitarian, character education, among other terms--all of which take into account that  we are a composite of mind, spirit and  body.

Catholic Schools in Korea face the dilemma of being unduly influenced by societal thinking as they try to incorporate more gospel values in their educational programs. The article in the Catholic Times deals with this serious issue.

Government regulations, the article explains, takes away the freedom of the schools to decide what programs of study to provide, what students to accept, and what teachers to appoint.  The government requires that private school imitate the public schools.

Another serious problem is the emphasis given to preparing for the college entrance examinations, in effect paralyzing any desire to work for the education of the whole person, success or failure of one's education being determined by grades and the chances of entering a first class college. This unnatural emphasis attempts to change the values of parents and society, with the relationship between the providers of education and those who seek it being weighed in favor of the consumer. Competition in society is the obstacle that makes educating the whole person difficult.

There have been some examples where schools  have managed to control half of their courses and freely accept Catholic  students. By having seminarian classes like a "seminary," they don't have to follow the school group system. There have been some famous cases were the schools have followed the education for the whole person and have done very well in the government exams for college. One Catholic school principal stresses there is no conflict between studies and growing as a human being.

The principal of Nonsan Daegeon High School was honored for developing a new education model, described as utilizing an approach  to education that sought to balance the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a person, while also balancing study and service in the school. Surprisingly, the  spiritual was at the center of the program. There was a great deal of opposition to the change but when 96 percent of the students went on to college, this brought a big change into the thinking of the community and the teachers. Many thought the whole effort was a waste of time and money. But for a small high school to achieve the results they did and not have to jettison their educational ideals made many take a second look at his balanced approach to educating the whole person.