Saturday, May 18, 2013

Need for Saints

Catholic Statistics for the year 2012 have recently been published. The number of Catholics remains steady at 10 percent; the number of priests has significantly increased and the number of male and female religious has increased slightly, but the devotion of our Catholics continues to weaken.

There are currently one Cardinal, 34 bishops, 4578 Korean priests and 176 foreign priests. 54.3 percent of the priests are in parish work; the number of priests working overseas has increased by 19 percent from last year. The number entering the seminary has decreased by 9 percent from the previous year, which is an alarming trend.  The number entering male religious orders has decreased by about the same (9.3 percent), and the number of women entering female religious orders has decreased by 44.4 percent, an ominous sign of what the future will be like.

10.3 percent of the population are Catholic, though the numbers entering the Church has decreased by 1.8 percent from the previous year there still is an increase in the total number of Catholics, but those going to Mass are decreasing. The Seoul diocese has the largest percentage of Catholics with 13.8 percent.

The Catholic Times editorial found the statistics on the present state of sacramental life of our Christians a serious matter of concern. The numbers attending Sunday Mass and going to confession is a good index of the spiritual life of our Catholics. Statistics comparing this year with last year have shown Mass attendance down 1 percent, and the number of confessions down 4.6 percent. These two sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession are a barometer of the life of our Christians, and of the relationship we have with the church community.

Attendance at Mass is not only a sign that one is serious about their faith life, it goes beyond that; it is the essence of what it means to be a Catholic. And Confession is the way we continually renew our faith life and prepare to be more zealous; it also tends to have an immediate effect on the faith life of the community. The editorial points out that when this is missing, it's no exaggeration to say that a mature faith is also missing.

This is not something new but has been the case since 1990, and has been noted repeatedly. Efforts have been made to turn this around but little has improved. Programs that have been established are usually attended by those who are already zealous in their faith life, and not by those who would benefit the most from them.

During this Year of Faith, efforts are continually made to stop the trend that is emptying the pews. What is happening in the West is beginning to appear also here in the East. Programs, retreats, talks, better sermons, a more meaningful liturgy, a more sensitive clergy and many other possible solutions will not stop the erosion of faith that is taking place until the life of Christians becomes less influenced by the values of a materialistic society and more influenced by the example of Jesus. Simply put: we need more saints.

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