Thursday, August 29, 2013

Importance of Korean Catholic History

By studying history, we can discern God's message to the world. Justice is made present to us. Those who experienced this history use it as stepping stones to convey to us their wisdom. The study of history is the effort to understand this reality. So begins an essay in the Catholic Times on the Catholic history of Korea.

Recently, a group of scholars who have worked on  Korean Church history met together to discuss their field of work and reminisce on the giants of the past. There have always been persons who  have seen the  importance of this study, and thirst for what they know they can find and  dig their own wells to find it.

The glorious history of the Korean Church was seen from the beginning:  The Silk Letter of Hwang Sa-yong (Alexander), the prison letters of Yi Suni, the "Catholic History of the Church" by Dallet,  letters of  missioners  to the home country telling about the lives of the Korean Catholics. The story of St. Kim Tae-gon (Andrew), and Father Thomas Choe Yong-eop waiting to enter Korea, were all a part of this precious legacy that captivated the early historians.

Catholicism entered a society that was completely different from what it came to teach, and yet it sent down its roots and it blossomed. Changes were so many that even during the lifetime of the early Christians there were  many changes in the language of the prayers and the liturgy.

History is the study of the incidents of the past up to the present, and uncovering their connections and  value. This requires the emptying of oneself and  strict judgments, which can open up new experiences for those who make history their special study. The study also requires discipline, a method, and a philosophy that has to be mastered. Even though it is a study with many requirements, the environment in which it  is pursued is not friendly. There is a  need now for young people to devote themselves to this study.

However, there should be a change in the way it is done. There has to be an embracing of the society in which the Church is  found. The understanding of Church history has to be done within the larger  Korean national history. In a country were only one in ten is Catholic, the study of Church history has to be done in a way the other nine can understand. The tendency to speak only to Catholics has to be overcome, which will foster evangelization. This will also include  those who come to the Church in the future.  Christians live in the present but try  to understand the environment in which they live. We have to see the importance of this study and should have more concern for those working in this field.

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