Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Married Life Without Fights

There are many mysteries concerning married life and many suggestions on how to make marriage more successful.The obstacles couples are facing today are increasing, and society does not make it any easier for couples and families to grow in love and to strengthen the bonds of this most  basic community in our society.

The columnist of Daily Life and Faith Life in the Catholic Times speaks about his meeting with a couple, whose relationship engenders both jealously and envy. Very impolitely, moved by a gnawing curiosity, he asked, "You both are on your best behavior before me, but when you get home, don't you fight?"

The husband responded, "I would like to fight but my wife doesn't cooperate, so there is no fight." The wife added, "He goes right along with whatever I want, so fighting is not possible."

The columnist said he failed to satisfy is curiosity with the first question and tried again, "Where does that love come from? Is it from your faith life?"

The wife said, "Before we were married I wasn't much of a Christian. I liked what I saw in him and decided to marry him. It was during our honeymoon that I realized the kind of man he was. It was then that I gave him my complete trust."

"What is that all about?"

"Father, on my wedding day I was all nerves, I just wanted to live a happy life. At that time we decided to go to Chejudo, a favorite spot for honeymooners, it did take some sacrifice on our part but I dreamed of living with joy for two nights and three days.                  
When we arrived at the hotel, the first thing my husband did was to go to the telephone directory and started flipping through the pages. I asked what he was doing. He said he was looking for the office numbers of the churches near to the hotel. When I asked him why, he said he wanted to know the time of  Sunday Masses. Hearing that, all my elation, my dreams of our time together, vanished. He threw cold water on all that I had envisioned for the three days. The next day, while attending morning Mass, the thought came to me that if he was that concerned about the God he couldn't see, he would be  concerned about me who he could see. On the plane back I made up my mind to be committed to him."  

The columnist reflects on that rather insignificant act of the husband on his honeymoon that had  such a profound impact on the wife, as if set in stone, never to be erased. In the same way, the columnist believes that everything we do has an impact on our lives. That we are not aware of this fact is probably a blessing, but it doesn't mean the connection is not there.                                                       

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bishop William McNaughton's Recollections on the Council

Bishop William McNaughton, 85, the first bishop of the Incheon diocese and the last foreign bishop in the Korean Church, was interviewed in Rome after attending the outdoor Mass in St. Peter's Square, which commemorated the start, 50 years earlier, of Vatican II. The  Peace Weekly, taken from  CNS, reported his  recollections of the council, noting that he is one of 70 still alive of those who attended the council.

Speaking about his first visit to Rome, the bishop said that because of television he felt he was at the gate of heaven, seeing the basilica with all the lights  turned on. He attended every session except for two because of illness. For him, the highlight of the council was the approval of the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, a magnificent document that devotes a whole chapter to the "people of God." That term is often interpreted as a reference to the laity, but a more careful reading of the constitution makes it clear that it refers to everyone in the Church: pope and bishops, as well as laity.

Bishop McNaughton speaks with regret that there has been so much ignorance and misunderstanding of the council documents. The Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy, for instance, authorized moving the tabernacle to a separate devotional chapel, he said, but many simply shunted the Eucharist to the side of the main sanctuary. This is a reason, he feels, there is not a full understanding of what the tabernacle means. The document also called for fewer statues in churches, but some removed all statues and put the Blessed Mother's statue out in a corridor or lobby. Another example, he said, citing The Decree on the Renewal of the Religious Life, was the directive that urged religious women to modify their habit according to circumstances of time and place and the needs of the ministry. It did not say habits should be removed because the habit is a "sign of consecration." All are obvious examples, he said, that the documents were not being read, or not read closely enough.

In the interview, the bishop says the council must be understood in continuity with the church's tradition and not as a radical break with the past. "Look at the footnotes," he said. "There is a  constant reference there to the various ecumenical councils of the Church and to the fathers of the Church. So it is a continuity."

The bishop, accordingly, rejects arguments that the council was to blame for the decline in Catholic observance and the rise of secularism over the last century. "The council did not cause this, he said. It was the society we created that brought this change into our lives.

Our task now is winning back the world, which is the aim of the new evangelization. However unpromising the political landscape may appear for that project to succeed, Bishop McNaughton is ultimately hopeful that it will.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Twilight Years

Baby boomers are now reaching retirement age, and what this means for Korea is the topic of the View from the Ark column in the Catholic Times. The columnist begins with a sijo  (a short lyrical poem) a teacher gave him on graduating from middle school: "In one hand a stick, in the other, thorns to beat and prevent the approach of old age, but no matter what is done, the white hairs will come."

According to the census of 2010. our society is aging rapidly: 11 percent of the population is over 65; in 2018, it is predicted to be over 18 percent; in 2026, over 20 percent. One-fourth of those over 65, however, are still active in society; over half of them in some religious capacity.

From a Catholic perspective, the statistics show that more than 20 percent of Catholics are more than 60  years of age, and more than 19 percent are in their 50s. The Church is getting older quicker than the larger society. The advance of the nuclear family and early retirement means that the concern for the elderly will soon be a societal problem. According to a survey made by the bureau of statistics the  concerns of those over 65 are money and health.

The elderly also want more health examinations: 33 percent; nursing care: 29 percent; help with home chores, 16 percent; and help in finding a job, 8 percent. Consequently, the problems in the future, the columnist says, will be poverty, disease, loneliness, living alone, and difficulty in finding work, which means the burden on society will increase.

The setting sun gives us the beautiful twilight hours of the evening. And at this time of year, autumn gives us the beautiful colors of falling leaves. We come into the world with blessings, and after our formal education and overcoming the vicissitudes of  life, we too enter our twilight years. What will that  mean for most of us?

The columnist tells us the elders have much to teach the generations that will follow. There is the wisdom of age: learning from poverty, lessons from life, and asceticism.  We all desire to live the happy life. Are the elders in our society living the happy life?

Many have told us about the beauty of old age. St Augustine tells us of his discovery of God, in his old age: "Late have I loved you, beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved you! Lo, you were within, but I outside, seeking there for you; and upon the shapely things you  have made I rushed headlong."  St. Francis de Sales tells us in the Introduction to the Devout Life that we, like a pearl in a clam, should be a pearl of joy to the world.

The twilight years  are the years during which we should have emptied ourselves of the accidentals of life for its essentials and a trust in God. Living with thanks, mellowness, humility, and love, we can rest finally in the enjoyment of the everlasting life we have received on our journey of pilgrimage to God.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Misuse of DNA Data

Examining a few hairs of the head  to  predict the  future of a child and the parent's disposition to disease would make life a  great deal easier, a professor begins his article in the Catholic Times, Even if we did not start off with the best mental and physical equipment, we would be able to attain long life and success. All thanks to the genetic information now available. But is this really the case? the professor asks.

We all would like to know what the future holds for us. Isn't this the reason one reads books on fortune telling, casts horoscopes, analyzes a person's face, and the like. The advances made in genetic science has given hope to some, that with the study of the genes we will be able to foresee the future, and by comparing and analyzing the gene map, we will come to know the  height, personality, capabilities and possibilities of disease.

All these possibilities, however, carry potential dangers. Muscular dystrophy, as well as 139 other genetic disorders  can be predicted in the embryonic and fetus stage. The possibilities of treatment are minimal so most of the unhappiness results in abortions, which the present Child Health Law allows.

The DNA Act and the Punishment of Violence Act, enacted a few years ago, allow collecting DNA from suspects of habitual and heinous crimes in order to diminish the number of these crimes. But the professor says these laws can be misused, as they were recently, following a labor dispute and a controversial government policy. Those who used work strikes to make their points in labor disputes, and those who were demonstrating against the government were arrested, and the courts had no problem with allowing the collection of  DNA from some of the striking workers and the anti-government demonstrators.  But they are not violent criminals, the writer points out, and should not  be considered habitual offenders.

Collecting DNA from an individual brands the person as a sick member of society, and discrimination against the person usually follows. He mentions that the eugenics movement of the United States tried to prevent bad genes from increasing in society. A great deal of money went into the movement and a great many things were done that are embarrassing to remember: limiting emigration and forcing sterilization. It was later realized that the genetic information does not determine a person's ability or future.

He concludes the article with a question: what is to be done with DNA testing? It's an important issue requiring serous thought. Hopefully, many will be part of the discussion.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Art of Living

Ideas on the meaning of spirituality--its role in the world and its place in our personal lives--have been hotly debated for centuries. Recently, a journalist for the Peace Weekly has given us her ideas on this important subject after reading the book, Art of Living, by the German Benedictine priest Anselm Grun. By discussing spirituality in a very practical manner, Grun lays out nine ways we can go about giving spirituality a more prominent place in our daily lives.

-accept ourselves as we are and not as we think we ought to be  -make time for leisure and enjoying life

-find meaning in whatever we do
-maintain a deep relationship with others
-relate with friends
-practice the virtue of charity
-turn difficulties into opportunities
-continue to search for your dream
-live each moment.

We are asked to look for the ability and courage to live; only we can do that. Too many of us are trying to escape from ourselves, from our discontent, from guilt, from other people. We can't do it by running away from our conflicts, Grun says, and no one can do it for us, so we should resolve to face our problems bravely and come to a reconciliation. The first step in this reconciliation, he says, is to permit ourselves the time to face the situation.

Grun asks us, the journalist says, to be conscious of time; it will show us the true meaning of death. When death is always before our eyes, we will relate correctly with our work, with material goods, and with those around us; it will be our way to peace. To live with the thought of death means to live in the present totally and with awareness, and come to appreciate life as a gift. 

Grun advises that we also slow down the pace of our lives, in order to lessen the anxiety that develops from living a fast-paced life. Anxious people can't stop, wait, and take the time to look around before deciding on what to do next. Everything tends to be done quickly, without much thoughtful preparation. They live frantically, run around in circles, and fail to live well. 

To live well, to allow our spiritual nature to flourish, we have to have time for leisure; without it, we will not take full advantage of the life we have been given. Only those who have found this deep rhythmic spirituality in their lives are able to live a fully meaningful life.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Moving Hearts -- The New Evangelization

Spreading the Gospel is the mission of the Church.  Each year the next-to-last  Sunday of October, the month of harvest, is Mission Sunday, during which we hear sermons on ways to carry out this mission.  On this Sunday all collections are sent to Rome and distributed to the areas of the world most in need.

It's also a time to reflect on the need for mission work and how we can help in this harvesting.  What is in question is not the mandate but how to put it into practice. The columnist of
View from the Ark, in the Catholic Times, feels  using words to carry out this mandate no longer has the results  it once did in the early days of the Church.

In the time of Jesus, for the most part, words were the only way to  express our thoughts; this is no longer the case. Today it can be done in many ways: with our hands and feet, our music, books, pictures, and films, our poetry and the internet, among many other possibilities. He feels the printed page, although important, no longer influences us as much as it did in the past; the electronic revolution has changed all that.

Because of the  enormous amount of information we have to deal with today, it's becoming difficult to  distinguish what's true from what's false, and so we tend to question whatever we hear and read, often adopting a doubting attitude about everything. Because of this tendency, the  columnist feels that the influence of words to change our lives is greatly reduced.

So what do we do? he asks. In Korea we say "Confucius said," or "Mencius said," but what does that mean if we do not act and live by what is being said. This is true also of the words of the Gospel, which we aspire to make known to all.

The bishops of Japan made a study of this problem and concluded that in the Japanese and Korean cultures words have li
ttle to do with the way we act. Actions, the examples of others, are what moves and inspires us to want to change.

Two men who lived what they preached, according to the columnist, and influenced the lives of many were Fr. Lee Tae Seok and Cardinal Kim. The documentary on the life of Fr. Lee in the Sudan moved many people, and Cardinal Kim's visits to refugee villages, saying Mass at the Seoul City dump, spending time at Easter with women prostitutes and with those in prison moved the hearts of many.  It is this kind of evangelizing that should be the focus of our present concerns. Moving hearts, says the columnist, is what the new evangelization is all about.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

An Extrodinary Japanese

We don't find too many Koreans praising the Japanese but the editorial board of a Korean bulletin for priest does just that. Founder of the Panasonic Company, Konosuke Matsushita has been praised for spreading his life-affirming message to today's young people.  

Matshusita was born into a wealthy family that lost everything while he was still very young. Never finishing grammar school and struggling with poor health during his youth, he worked at minor jobs before starting a small electronic company in 1918, which in time developed into the Panasonic Company, one of the world's largest company, with over 130,000 employees.

Much of his success, according to the Bulletin article, came about because of the gifts he had received. Because of the gift of poverty, he had to work as a shoeshine boy and as a paperboy, receiving in the process a great deal of experience on how to live.

Because of poor health, he had to exercise to regain and maintain his health. And because of little education (his formal education ended at the age of nine), everybody he met was his teacher. He never lost the opportunity to ask others for help in improving whatever he was doing.

He was praised for his ability in dealing with others, which he credited to his seeing others as his superiors. His attitude was that they were likely to know more than he did, and were likely to be more competent than he was. Lacking formal education he had to gather as much knowledge as he could from other people. By admitting to knowing nothing, he said he was at all times always learning.

The Bulletin article points out that many who have made a study of Matsushita say he was a very ordinary man who became an extraordinary man because he completely embraced his ordinariness as few others have done. His secret for economic success was to enable those working in his company to work to the utmost of their capabilities. He was for a time an innovator in improving cooperation between labor and management, in developing talent, and in making the workplace a lifelong commitment.

He used to say that the difference between the jail and the monastery is the difference between living with discontent or living with thanks. If in prison and you give thanks, you are in a monastery; if in a monastery and not content, you are in jail.

Here is a man who grew up with adversity and yet could see the beauty, the value and opportunities of life without having any religious beliefs to guide him. He became a great leader in our world where so many others, having struggled with adversity, have given up hope.

There are many who live according to what Catholics would call natural law or right  reason. We can only thank God for their sensitivity to the dictates of right reason. When we see a person who has money as his object and in search of profits  and behaving the way Mitsubishi did it is  extraordinary.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Maryknoll Sisters 100 Years of Service

Starting today, October 24, Maryknoll Sisters will hold a week-long celebration commemorating 100 years of service to those in need, a worldwide service that has been praised recently by Catholic media as their "All Weather Apostolic Ministry."

Many events have been planned for the week, beginning with a symposium on "Mission: A Way of Showing God's Love," and having on hand the illustrated book, in comic-book format, of the life of the founder of the Maryknoll Sisters, Mollie Rogers.  Talks will be given during the week by sisters discussing their work in North Korea, the labor apostolate, their medical work, and their work with women in society. On display will be photographs of the 123 Maryknoll Sisters who have worked in Korea for the past 88 years, and an exhibition of paintings by a Korean Maryknoll Sister working in Hawaii.

The Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic: M.M.--the full name of the congregation--was started by Mary Joseph Rogers with three sisters in 1912, becoming the first American women's missionary society. Today, there are 550 members in 30 countries of the world.

The Sisters began their missionary journey in the country in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 1934, working as teachers, doing parish and medical work, and founding a vocational school for women. They were also involved in starting the first Korean Sisters Community: the Sisters of Perpetual Help, in 1932. Because of the Second World War and the Korean War, the sisters who were American had to leave the country. One of the Maryknoll Sisters,a Korean, remained behind and  is presumed killed by the the Communists during the  ordeal in the North.

On the return of the sisters to Korea after the war, they started the Maryknoll hospital in Pusan, a clinic in the Chongju diocese and a hospital in Kangwha in the Inchon diocese.  They worked in welfare, in the labor apostolate and in education. The first credit union in Pusan, an innovation in Korea, which was started by Sister Gabriela, spread throughout the country. In 1968 the sisters turned over the Maryknoll Hospital in Pusan to the diocese, and in 1978, the Nursing School to the diocese.

As the society began to flourish, the sisters went to the country and farming areas to help, while continuing their medical work on a number of islands. The sisters who remained in the city were involved in justice and peace issues, the labor apostolate, building communities, teaching English, and helping battered women. About 10 Koreans are now working with the Sisters as affiliates.

The sisters have played a significant role in building the Korean Catholic community and now, having turned over most of their works to the Church in Korea, have moved on to other countries where their ideals and charisms are more needed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Religious Matters in New China

Praise for China is rarely heard coming from the Catholic press. A recent exception appeared in a bulletin for priests, praising the country's policy in caring for their citizens who live overseas, while finding plenty to criticize on how they deal with religious matters.

The writer recalls, when he was a child, seeing the school for foreign Chinese in his hometown. Wherever Chinese were living overseas, these schools were setup to help the newly arrived Chinese accommodate to the new culture, and they have been successful, he says, except in Korea.

The schools failed here, he feels--though admitting he's not an authority on the subject--because of the many regulations that made it difficult for foreigners to settle easily within the culture and earn money; the regulations being motivated, it is believed, by the aversion toward foreigners in Korea
of the past.

This was especially true in running a business. On the menu signs in front of Chinese restaurants, 'jajangmyeon' (noodles with black  bean sauce) because they could not sell rice. This has all changed today but 20 or 30 years ago the perception of the foreigner was not what it is today.

China of  today also is not the China of the past. Though he noticed the rigidity of the culture on his trip to China in 1999--a feeling of uneasiness in the air--as soon as he landed at the airport, a recent trip to Beijing convinced him this is no longer true.

In many ways China has come a long way since the middle of the last century. 21st century China is the only country, says the writer, that can vie with the United States for the dominant role in world affairs. China is increasing its influence throughout the world by forgiving the debt of African countries and giving assistance freely. The writer says, reporting on what some people are saying, that if China doesn't  buy part of the national debt of the European Union and the United States, they would be ruined--though he believes this is a bit of an exaggeration. And in 20 or 30 years, many believe that it will be difficult for any country to keep pace with China. But, says the writer, one problem remains: China continues to restrict the free expression of religious belief.

According to their laws, only Chinese can give religious instruction, in effect keeping foreign missioners out of the country. Those that do enter China have to sign that they will not do any missionary work in the country.This paper--signed, sealed and thumb-printed--along with a duplicate copy of the plane ticket and the address of the hotel where they will stay, has to be  given to the consulate. Those without a religious connection are not bothered with this annoying step to get a visa.

The writer strongly believes that if China intends to be a leader in the world, they will have to be more flexible concerning religious liberty, adding that this suggested change is not only motivated by his religious beliefs. Whether or not you accept religion is immaterial, he says, in this case. Religion has been an important element in the history of the world and trying to control it by force is not a sign of a developed country, and even less a sign of a country intent on becoming a major player on the world stage.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The New Comfort Women

What is sexually suggestive is often in the eye of the beholder and yet when music videos are involved, according to the Catholic Times' weekly column on sexuality in the media, there are clear indications that the suggestive material is 'out there', and the entertainment industry is not unaware of this fact. In the Korean pop industry, some of the videos are subtly sexual, some overtly; and the government is trying to do something about it, especially when the participants in the videos are minors.

There have been serious scandals in the industry and more calls for regulating the industry. The Catholic Times' columnist mentions the popular 2009 video, "Mister"--a big hit in Japan--by the Kara Girl Group. To perform their "butt dance" special, he says the five Kara girls prepared for the routine by going on a severe diet regime. And at that time one of the girls was 16 years old.

Scenes of undressing, along with the choreography and lyrics, are enticing males to enter very naturally into the scenes. Typical of the rambling words accompanying the scenes: "Looking pretty good, you catch my eyes slowly, I develop interest toward you, tock, tock, the clock keeps flowing, I keep sending small glimpses toward you, I send small smiles toward you, now look at me, hey, hey, you, you mister, look over here mister, yea, that's right, you, mister, come next to me, mister (la la la la la la)."

The columnist points out that in the video there is a strong hint the sexual act is being performed when the words and actions are put together. He asks, "What is likely to happen after watching such a video? He tells us of the possibilities, including--if only in thought--having  sex with a minor.

He reminds us that Japanese culture has a reputation for toying with the Lolita complex--having sex with the very young. The culture justifies what he believes are the unconscious instincts of Japanese society, and advances and fulfills that desire to win popularity and to  make  money.

When you  reflect on this possibility, says the columnist, the Kara Girl Group can be seen as being cleverly manipulated by the Japanese culture to satisfy the "uncle fans" with their peculiar sexual desires. He concludes that we are exporting, once again, "comfort women" for the pleasure of Japanese males; he feels this assessment is no exaggeration. Historically, this description was applied to Korean women who were forced to serve as prostitutes for Japanese soldiers. It is an issue still not acknowledged by the Japanese. The columnist believes the term can be used to describe what is happening today, though more subtly, in the music video industry.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I Will be of Service

"I am the best." A billion-dollar baby, look at me: words of a   Korean pop song, popular and with  many awards. No doubt the words are said mockingly, but the thinking is  not that  rare, opines a journalist of the Catholic Times. "I am the best" is not the kind of understanding of self the  journalist wants to see influencing the world. Focus on the Ego is not what the world needs. Its opposite, service of the other is what Christianity is all about and without humility, one doesn't  go very far in unfeigned service of the other.

We hear the word service often in society. The politicians use it with the voters: a pledge to be of service to those who vote for them. In the Church, it is a topic frequently brought to our attention: Jesus who bent low to wash the feet of the disciples is the unprecedented  example of service. Service to others  is a concept we do not want to reflect on, for at the end of the day we know the outcome.  

Those served, are the ones who will have the hardest time in serving others. This is true, especially in the vertical Confucian society that we have in Korea. To ask those who are on top to serve those below,  without any self-servicing, is not easy: political leaders in society serving  citizens, parents--children, chairpersons-- members, clergy and religious--laity, seniors -- juniors, those who have-- those who don't. The journalist wonders if the words of our Lord about the camel, and the  eye of a needle  would not be appropriate in these cases.

Without being on our guard it is difficult not to serve ourselves. Reflecting on her job and the little authority  she has, she  wonders how easy it is to have it go to one's head. Humility does not come easy, a virtue that we have to work with and ardently desire.

She reminds us of our ancestors in the faith in their struggle against pride and their way of dealing with  it: 'Conquering the Seven'(Chil Geuk). These were the seven virtues used to overcome the seven capital sins: humility, love, patience, alms-giving, moderation, asceticism, and diligence.

One of the dioceses,  celebrating their 50th anniversary, has decided to deepen spirituality: "I will be of service." The clergy, religious and lay people are all to be of service to others. This is the duty of the whole Church. Not by words alone but by our actions, and she concludes, when we all bow our heads deeply to the other, the Church community will be what it is meant to be.                                                                                                     

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Catholics in the Royal Family

 During the persecution of Catholicism in Korea, many ironic situations developed. One of the most startling was the presence of Catholics in the same royal family that was persecuting the Church. 

The Peace Weekly provides us with a brief glimpse into those years of persecution with its article on the baptism of the grandson and daughter-in-law of Yi Ha-eung, the regent for the next-to-last king, the first Emperor Gojong of Korea. 

Yi Ha-eung was the regent for his son until he reached adulthood. It was during this time that the regent masterminded the last persecution of Christians, during which  many died, including nine French  missionaries.

The 25th King was Choljong whose mother and grandmother were both killed for their Catholicism. Choljong died without any direct bloodline heirs, and the son of Yi  Ha-eung and his wife was selected as the 26th king of Korea. The mother of Gojong was also a secret Catholic. So also was the wet nurse of the 26th king of Korea. Mutel mentions in his diary how he went to the royal place to baptize, confirm and give holy communion to the mother of the king. This excerpt from the diary we blogged back on September 30 and Oct. 1st, 2010: A True Story by Bishop Mutel, Bishop of Seoul 1890.

The grandson, before he was baptized in 1955,  said to the priest: "My grandfather killed many Catholics and as atonement, I want to become a Catholic."

The reason for the persecution, according to the article, was a weakening Jeoson Dynasty. In  order to strengthen the kingdom, Yi Ha-eung sided with one of the Confucian schools, and made up his mind to put an end to western learning, which did not look favorably on a society ranked by class distinctions.  Though his attempt to eliminate this "foreign scourge" was not successful, it lasted for more than three years of excruciating suffering for the Christians.


A number of museums have relics commemorating what occurred during the years of persecution. The Oryundae Korean  Martyrs Museum, in particular--thanks to the grandson of the religious persecutor Daewongun, prince of the great court, and the grandson's wife--have on display many items from the last years of the Jeoson dynasty that allow us to relive that difficult time and to acknowledge what those early Christians had to endure in order to survive.


Friday, October 19, 2012


Four Chinese ideograms are combined in the Korean language to spell out very clearly the English word 'unique,' the one-of-a-kind concept. The columnist of the spiritual page of the Catholic Times reflects on this idea for our spiritual well being.

This one-of-a-kind concept, he says, is shrouded in mystery. Every moment, every place, is unique; it's God's gift to us and is never repeated. But is it not our tendency, he asks, to see most of what we experience--for example, our morning, noon and evening meals--as the same repeatable events, and being satisfied with this common observation? "Why complicate it with God's will?" we might ask ourselves, he says. However, it is necessary for a Christian to understand that the gifts of time and place are also accompanied with God's inspiration and wisdom on what to do with these gifts. Aren't these the content of much of the Bible, and easily discernible in the Beatitudes?

Life should be an obedient concurrence with God's providence, his will for us, which will result, if followed, in mercy toward others, living in harmony with creation, working with what we have been given, and seeing this realized. Though achieving these goals will be slow, the columnist is convinced that little by little we will see them manifest in our life.

This is the way we are programed. Children are very passive in the beginning of their lives but shortly become active. Children in school, those in catechism class, all start with a passive attitude that in time becomes active. Passivity is not something bad but a step to something else. There are times in the catechumenate when the first steps are taken in obedience, and then there often is the critical stage: we are right, others are wrong, putting no restraint on our thoughts. This stage can be superseded by a passive state in which we open ourselves up to  what God wants to give us.

This step is not just following a few things that God wants from me, but  my changing myself completely. To put it differently: it's changing my inflexible faith tendencies to more openness, patience, mellowness, obedience, constancy, sincerity, and the like. It is the way we concur with the will of God and open to the practice of these virtues to a greater degree.

Our life is to be open to this harmony with God's desire for us. It is in this way that every moment of every day has a different meaning given to us by God. Without this thinking, everything becomes routine.

When we live in concurrence with the Will of God all is done in his presence. All is filled with his presence. The tabernacle, the altar, the cross, the fields, the flowering plant, the writing we do, the power switch on our computer, the spoon we hold eating our meals--all is seen in the presence of God and beyond. Through me, God can be made more visible to the world. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Prayer is done in many Ways.

We all have heard prayer described differently. One of the most useful definitions includes the notion of dialog with God. As we know, dialog can take many forms, and the columnist writing on spirituality for  the Catholic Times introduces us to one of the more unusual forms practiced by a religious brother who spends much of his time in prayer.

The writer, a priest, visited the brother, a friend, at his monastery. On this occasion, he went to the porter's lodge to ask to see his friend. The brother responsible for meeting guests went to the church to tell the brother of his visit. When he came into the reception room, he opened the door slowly, looked in, and when he saw his friend, he greeted him warmly.

They spent time drinking tea and conversing, but the priest friend admits that he did all the talking. The brother's daily routine never varies and may be the reason, the columnist says, his friend had so little to say. The columnist monopolized the conversation and confessed, perhaps cynically, he admits, asking the brother that it must be nice to spend the whole day in prayer.

All the brothers have different tasks, the brother answered. They are busy with lectures, sermons, counseling, teaching, and the like. He was not gifted in this way, he said, so he takes care of the house and does his little tasks, and with the time left over goes to the church to pray. The priest then asked what he suspected might be considered a foolish question: how should one pray? 

The brother said that those who know more than he knows examine themselves spiritually with the head and with whole-body pray. "I do not know how to do this," he said.  "I just sit my butt  in the church. Those who see me think I'm praying but it's not the usual kind of prayer. When we experience God's love, doesn't the body in some way respond? For myself, just sitting in the church for one or two hours is just fine.  I look at the cross, the tabernacle, the heavens through the open widows, feel the breeze, and speak to God with the feelings I have. I don't know how to pray, but I do know how to sit my butt in a church pew."

He added, "My body goes to where it wants, and what I feel with my body I present to God."

The columnist says that his own butt does not particularly like going into church to sit down. However, he hopes the day will come when his butt will want to do what the brother enjoys doing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Importance of Prenatal Care and Natural Birth

We are so inundated by information in today's world, delivered in many different and attractive ways, that it's hard to keep up with even a fraction of it. And whether the information is true and helpful requires discernment on our part. So when the Catholic Times reviewed the book, First Hour Of Life Determines All of Life, by Doctor Lee Gyo-won, the title of the book must have raised a few eyebrows in doubt, even though it was noted that the doctor has studied the issue for many years.

Catholicamericaneyesinkorea mentioned the work of the doctor and the new book in August 20th of this year before it was published.

The doctor is highly respected and in the past three  years has assisted at the birth of over 400 babies by using his principles: prenatal care in harmony with nature and with love, and natural birth. For a Christian being in harmony with nature fits in well with the way we see  life.

The article mentions that most of the babies born in hospitals or other medical facilities come into the world surrounded by an atmosphere of fear. He sees this as a reason for many of the problems children have in growing up and in their years of schooling. Studies on Cesarean and induced births show a higher incidence with problems later in life.  You are programing the child's personality, says the  doctor, in the  first years of life, beginning in the womb, at birth and within  three years after birth. This has been proven to be the case by many studies.

For this reason society should provide preferential treatment for expectant mothers. Having births without trauma, the doctor feels is one of the most important things that can be done to change society. This is not about having smarter children, he insists, but simply to have normal, well-adjusted children. The problems of society at present can be properly addressed, says the doctor, if we start right at the beginning of life, with prenatal care and natural birth.

For Christians it is another lesson that whatever we do, it should be done with all the care and love that we can muster; the results of doing otherwise, although often unknown to us, can be seriously damaging not only for the individuals involved but for the long range health of society.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Dream of a United Korea

A divided Korea is a sadness Koreans have to live with and have been doing so from the time of the Second World War. The United States and the Soviet Union were to temporarily occupy the two parts of Korea, the North and the South, divided at the 38th parallel, until a free and independent Korea could be established; unfortunately, we're still waiting for that day. 

The Peace Weekly, reporting on a forum conducted by the bishops' Committee for Reconciliation of the Korean people, noted that the topic under discussion was, "How  can the country be united in a skillful way?" Also noted was the overwhelming desire of the Korean people to again have a united Korea. One participant used the German unification as an example to imitate.

The Germans of the East and the West also desired unification. There was  a long period of exchanges between the two, with the East finally realizing that with unification they would be free and have a better life, which gradually enabled the East to be absorbed by the West.

The speaker was suggesting that if  we act as if we had unity, in fact, by the interchange of money, workers, skills, visits to the North,  this will mean that the political and structural unity will only be a formality when it comes, for the spirit of unity would have preceded. This is the way to erode the structures of the North.

In looking forward to a peaceful unification, however, we don't want to prepare for it by using force. This does not mean, he says, to accept all that the North are doing, but to continue communicating. The change of the structures in the North will ultimately take place. Exchanges and cooperation is the best way to ease into final unification. Another participant agreed that exchanges and cooperation are the best way to lessen the possibility of military confrontation. But to do what Germany accomplished in a peaceful way will be difficult, he said.

Our policy for the last 10 years has been to help the  North with capital and technology, said another,  but it is doubtful how much that has increased the chances for unity.  However, he agrees that it will have to come from the bottom up.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Catechism for the Young--YOUCAT

YOUCAT, the youth catechism distributed as a gift to all those attending World Youth Day last year, was recently translated into Korean. The book has been translated into 30 languages and has sold over two million copies worldwide. After six months of meticulous translation, the catechism can now be found in Korean bookstores.

The content of the catechism is based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and is written in the form of  527 questions and answers, and divided into four  categories: What Catholics believe and why (doctrine); how Catholics celebrate the mysteries of the faith (sacraments); how Catholics are to live (moral  life); how they should pray (prayer and spirituality). Each category is complemented with selections from the Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, and the saints. Also included are well-known maxims from many cultures, quotes from famous authors, and illustrations. 

The book, written for middle and high school students, appropriately uses language easy to understand, but is also suitable for those who are curious about the faith and want to know more. In compiling the text, an effort was made to ensure that the concerns of the young were addressed.

Fifty-two young people were brought together on two occasions to determine how the explanations should be expressed to make the most sense to the younger reader.

It is hoped that this  catechism will be an important  instrument in explaining the teaching of Catholicism to the young, especially during this Year of Faith. There are all kinds of efforts made to enter the world of the young to find appropriate ways to reach them. That the young were involved in compiling the catechism is an encouragement to many that the young will indeed respond favorably, making YOUCAT the next religious best seller in Korea.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Small Christian Communities

The small Christian community is an important way of energizing parish life, but to do this obstacles have to be faced and removed. This year is the twentieth anniversary of their formal acceptance as a pastoral method in Korea. Three dioceses met together  to prepare a future vision of  working with small groups. The positive elements are  the empowering of lay people, giving them the tools for fellowship and for sharing  Scripture with each other.

- steps used in the group meetings are too difficult to follow
- what is said  does not always stay within the group and causes divisions
-  few attend
- the atmosphere is autocratic
- the young are missing
- interest depends too much on the pastor
- those who can lead are few
- adequate understanding of the small group  movement  is missing
 - failure to educate for attendance

-  find ways to move the hearts of those attending
-  use of better notification methods
-  empowering  the group leaders

-  find ways to deal with abuses
-  training new leaders and giving them a definite time limit as leaders

The small group approach is a good way to evangelize. The group members hear the word, share,  meditate, and are motivated to spread the word. The combined diocesan understanding was that these small group meetings are the seed bed for evangelizing, and the hope for the Church. The group meetings are not limited to the fellowship within the group but are to extend beyond their own borders to the world outside.

However, the problems associated with this are enormous; the world is dark and confused. Materialism and hedonism are rampant and continually influences us. Secular values are overcoming traditional values and the religious meaning of life is diminished. Within this environment,  people are losing the meaning of life and becoming disorientated. Being a light to the world is no easy task.

The  three dioceses  have  given us some tasks and proposals to consider: The words of Scripture and the Eucharist should be our strength in working to change the world.  Organizations and principles, the living of the faith, and examples of success should be shared  with  others. Small groups should look forward to seeing what we are faced with in the world and determine to do something about it.

In conclusion, they see the small communities as the future Church, putting into practice what the Council  expected of us: to be the light to the world. After twenty years, we are just beginning.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Koinonia (Fellowship)

Five  words from Scripture are sometimes heard in their Greek form, all referring to what a community of Christians should be doing: didache (teaching), diakonia (service), liturgia (worship), kerygma (proclamation) and koinonia (fellowship). All are important, but the one that needs to be stressed today is koinonia.

The need to encourage more fellowship is especially important today because our communities are larger and pastors are busier, and the individual tends to get lost as a nameless member of a congregation with few spiritual ties to other members of the community. 

In preparation for the Bishops Synod, starting on October 7th, the Catholic Church of Korea has emphasized the need to focus attention more on the internal life of the church. Many Catholics believe that the main goal of religion is to bring peace into our lives. Many articles have alluded to this belief, which suggests that the catechizing has not been successful. Although peace is something we all desire, for a Christian, it should not be the goal of life; peace is a by-product of doing God's will, which comes about naturally from a dying to ourselves so as to be born anew. If, instead, the motivation of the Christian remains peace of mind all else is of little interest and the essentials of Christianity will be missing. It can become a selfish pursuit and, ironically, the more pursued the less achieved.

The problem with making peace of mind the goal of Christianity is that Christianity then becomes an individualized pursuit, each person searching for his or her own personal fulfillment without feeling the need to connect with other members of the community: a loss of fellowship, of communication, of sharing that will ultimately bring about the loss of community. 

Loss of community brings with it a loss of faith-sharing among our Christians, which the Church has worked hard in developing over the years, but is conspicuously absent in the life of many Christians today. In the past all Christians would come before the priest as individuals or as a family two times a year, once before Easter and again before Christmas. The process demanded coming to the church and relating with others and the priest, in order to help the Christians to focus on the community rather than on themselves. They were asked to reflect on their lives as Christians. This pastoral approach, though it has been very successful in the past, is now no longer possible.

There are many suggestions in the Catholic papers and magazines on how to  deal  with the growth of the parishes and the lack of maturity among many of the Christians, which has worked against encouraging more community life. Jesus, when he selected his disciples, did not see them as fully formed but saw what they could become with the graces given and accepted. Koinonia, as experienced in community, can help a great deal in preparing the proper environment to enhance Christian growth, opening them even more to the graces God continues to bestow on us.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Web Page for Pyongyang Diocese

Maryknoll priests and brothers  who worked in North Korea have all died. They would have enjoyed reading the web page recently inaugurated and seeing the pictures of the Pyongyang diocese they knew so well before the Korea War. This was the diocese that was given to Maryknoll by the Paris Foreign Mission Society in 1927 when it was separated from Seoul.

The first prefect apostolic to Korea when it was united  was Fr. Patrick Byrne, who was later made a bishop and died in the forced death march to North Korea in 1950.  He arrived in Seoul in 1949 and was arrested, July 1950, by the Communists after they invaded South Korea.  There are still many Korean priests who remember the history of the diocese and who took the place of the Maryknollers after the repatriation of the Americans at the beginning of the Second World War. 

After the Korean War, many Maryknollers from the North returned to the South to work, as  did the Korean priests who were not kidnapped and killed.
Last year at a meeting of the Seoul diocesan priests, it was decided to create a website like all the other diocesan sites, which finally went online this past month. For those interested :(

At the inauguration of the website, the archbishop of Seoul said that only a spark remained of what was remembered from the N. Korean experience. The  surviving clergy from the Pyongyang diocese are now working in other dioceses in the South. Because of their advanced age, they felt a need to start a website similar to those of the other dioceses so the memories will not fade.

However, the reason for the website is not only to remember the  good days of the past, said the archbishop, but to keep in mind that in God's good time there will be a rebirth of the diocese, which is the hope of those entertaining this dream. There are now 16 seminarians studying in the Inchon diocesan seminary for that eventuality.

This year is the 85th year since the founding of the diocese of Pyongyang. It is also the 80th year of the formation of the Perpetual Help Sisters, the first Korean congregation.

When the diocese was turned over to the Korean clergy, there  were 19 parishes, 106 mission stations and 26,400 Catholics in the diocese; 57,000 Catholics in the North were  31.8 percent of the total number of Catholics in the whole of Korea. In 1948, with the ascendency of communism, difficulties began and many of the clergy and  religious were kidnapped and their whereabouts unknown.

The website contains a brief history, pictures of the ordinaries, the churches built, biographies of some who died at the hands of the communists, and a bulletin board. It is hoped that the website will stir interest among the Catholics who were parishioners in the different parishes of the Pyongyang diocese and had to leave when the war began. The website is an ongoing endeavor, which looks forward to the participation of many who will help to fill in the empty spaces.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Door of Faith--New Beginning

Today, Oct. 11, begins the Year of Faith.  Here in Korea they will begin the celebration this coming Sunday and continue on to next year's feast of Christ the King. Some dioceses have given their parishes  program guidelines in preparation for the year.

The Pope has expressed the hope that the  Holy Year be a time for us to meet Christ, see the beauty of faith, and increase our interest in the Church. Put simply, a renewal of our faith life. The reason for the Year of Faith is to help resolve the crisis that Christians are now facing. The religious problems of Europe and South America are serious. The traditional ways of thinking and behaving are being eroded by our encounter with secularism and relativism, and God is forgotten.

Here in Korea, says the Peace Weekly editorial, we are not free from the elements that are changing the religious environment of the West. We also are seeing changes in the behavior of our Christians. The desire for living the prophetic role in life is greatly diminished. Some would like to blame it on the pluralism of society, but the editorial believes that our Gospel values have been weakened.

To overcome this crisis in our lives, we have to experience the meeting of Jesus and the joy from this meeting. Without this experience and joy, our attempts to be a light to the world will be only a noisy gong. The Pope is asking us to become reacquainted with what we believe and to give life to this belief.  It is hoped that we will look deeply at our faith life, which has a direct relationship to the renewal of the Church, and we can't do this with one-time programs and events.

The editorial hopes that we will all become familiar with the apostolic letter, "Door of Faith." and make it part of our concern during this year. We are being asked to change the way we look upon what we  believe by proclaiming the Christian message with a renewed  passion and a new expression.

The aspirations of many is that the Year of Faith will be for the Korean Catholic the beginning of a renewed faith life. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Helps in Fostering Eye Level Communication

Walking the night streets  of Seoul up until a few years ago, women had little  to fear, today even men walking in some of the alleys have need to be concerned.  Writing in the Kyeongyang magazine a professor emeritus feels it is a breakdown of communication, no community. TV, the internet the social network has taken its place, and we have become hermits. The extended family has disappeared, and we are living isolated from others, satisfied to communicate by machines in the privacy of our rooms. And crime, he wants us to ponder, the kind that is even difficult to speak about is one of  the fall-outs from the breakdown  of communication. 

In the West, the individual is center stage while in East Asia, it is the "we" that is important: relationships and community. These are values from our culture. Our relationship and communication are not vertical but horizontal. Plurality, differences, tolerance, embracing, understanding, coexistence, win-win,  concern, these are our cultural  values. The problems that we are facing in society can be seen as this failure in  communication.

Because one has lived longer,  or has a better education,  or has more of this world's goods does  not give them the right to  lead  and  attempt to change things to meet their own expectations. This is not what we mean by communication. This kind of vertical  relationship strictly speaking  is using force and commands   to communicate. What we need is eye level communication not enlightening communication.

The writer introduces us to Cardinal Kim as an example of a communicator for our times. He wanted to be food  and a fool and a vessel for others. In talking to others, he lowered himself to the lowest possible level to initiate his relationship with the other. There are three words that the professor uses to describe the Cardinal's approach to others: food, being a fool and a container. 

In Korean when  a person is beneath taking notice the expression, he or she is our food can be heard. The Cardinal had this idea of being food for others. A container does carry food but also can be a receptacle  for night soil.  When speaking to another if we do not have an authenticity on both sides with  eye level communication where words and  thinking are  the same we will not have heart to heart dialogue. 

Without conversation, it  is impossible  to live. In the family without dialog, we have a rupture. This is true for the teacher and student, priest and Christians,  politicians and people. Without dialogue, it is impossible  for a society to subsist.

 In conclusion, the professor reminds us of the words of the Cardinal not to blame the darkness but to be a light to the world. If we are the first to light the candle, then others will join us one by one until we have thousands doing the same. This will gradually permeate society, and we will be on the way to  realize our dreams.