Friday, January 25, 2013

Making Sprititual Poverty Real

Koreans are very generous people, and this is often seen within parishes by the way priests are treated. Especially is this the case during Name Days (commemorating  the feast day of the Saint whose baptismal name one has) and the silver and golden anniversaries of ordination. The departures and arrivals of priests, and their retirements are also often commemorated with elaborate ceremonies that put a burden on the parishioners. The  Peace Weekly had an article on what a diocese in Korea decided to do by simplifying and lessening the financial burden and the time spent by the parishioners with these ceremonies.

A priest from the diocese, at a meeting of all the priests of the diocese, said that in this Year of Faith the priests first had to be evangelized and  renewed, and mentioned that he finds it embarrassing to see what many have accepted as a gift at their retirement or at the anniversary of ordination. Because secular priests do not take the vow of poverty, accepting these gifts is considered permissible. However, the priest found this to be not in keeping with their call as followers of Jesus. He also mentioned that this was another example  of authoritarianism in our lives, which we have to work against. His talk was instrumental in getting the priests of the diocese to simplify and take away some of the burdens the Christians were experiencing.

Mentioned also was the example of other priests who would leave their parishes on their name days so as to dissuade the Christians from making the day financially burdensome. The priest hopes that the steps taken in the diocese will spread throughout the Korean  Church.

The Koreans are big-hearted people and show their appreciation to their priests for their pastoral care.  A woman leader in the diocese was quoted as saying that for Koreans, good morals and manners require that we show appreciation, but this has to be appropriate to the situation, she said,  to prevent criticism after the ceremonies are over.

This article in the Peace Weekly received a big response. Some applauded while others had some misgivings. On the open forum internet bulletin board, many thought the Catholics, along with the priests, would do well to live more simply. Some were concerned that the Korean appreciation of morality and manners handed down over the centuries will be lost.

There are probably no other national communities that go all out for their priests as do the Korean Catholics. The example of the diocese will certainly have repercussions in other dioceses. There are those who have made efforts in the past to change the customs that put a financial burden on the Christians. To have these ideas appear during this Year of Faith, however, is a good sign that the clergy is also looking for ways to live more in harmony with the call they have received as disciples of Jesus.

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