Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Marriage Ceremonies Gratis

On the spirituality page of the Catholic Times the columnist mentions  meeting with a  priest only a few years younger, who still had his youthful looks."What is the secret for staying so young?" he asked with an inkling of jealously.

"Thanks, for thinking so. There is no secret, I am living with a community in which we are sharing happiness and for that I am grateful."

"You must be busy in the parish work?"

"All is very ordinary. By the way, interestingly, at the last pastoral council meeting we did  make  a big decision."

"What was that?"

"In the area of the parish, because of poverty, many  have registered their marriages but have  never had a ceremony. The parish decided to take  care of all the expenses for the marriages."  

"Are you saying that it will be completely free for those who want a marriage ceremony?"

"Yes, for those who can't pay for the photographer we will take care of even that expense. We have arranged for the guests to have a meal at a restaurant close to the parish that serves a beef soup with rice, and is very tasty. However, if they find that a burden the parish will feed them a noodle meal at the parish hall. We will be responsible for all the  expenses, for the flowers and the use of the facilities. It will be simple but all free. Even one of the Catholics who has a large beauty shop has offered to take care of the preparations for the make up and the hair dressing needs for the bride. We are taking pride as a community to be able to help those in need."

The columnist hearing what his friend said remembered the words of a parishioner he heard some years before. They were looking for a beautiful parish Church with a large parking lot. But when they went to ask about the ceremony, the expenses were such that it was impossible to think of having the ceremony in the Church. The poor are not welcomed.

The  columnist on saying good bye to his friend before he took the bus to his  parish offered to preside at the services if necessary. His friend laughed, and got on the bus. He was proud to see a pastor do something about the problems with marriages in the Church.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Learning from Monkeys

A recent topic of discussion was the video seen on the news and the internet of a monkey who saved the life of another monkey, electrocuted on a railroad track in India. Seeing the unconscious monkey his fellow monkey with  great effort tried to revive the monkey by biting the throat and face and ferociously shaking the monkey. There was a pool of water besides the track in which they repeatedly dumped the monkey and at the end of 20 minutes of frantic effort on the part of the two fellow monkeys the unconscious monkey was revived. Those seeing this video were  heard to say monkeys are better than humans in showing concern for one another.

The columnist of the Peace Weekly on the opinion  page of the  paper expresses sadness in hearing that in this present society such words can be heard. Humans are in a higher state of life but we see actions in our world that do not even reach that of the monkeys in the video. Our intellects should help us act humanly. Our intellects do not only help us to live human-like but nuture a mature faith life. Reason is a great gift given to us by the Creator that not only leads us by love to God but helps to open our eyes to his presence.

In society we see many whose faculty to reason has been paralyzed. Many are the young people who have become accustomed to blurting our abusive language very naturally. We have children who abandon and kill their parents; quarrels among family over inheritance. Issues that you would not imagine happening in the animal kingdom, and we are living in an enlightened civilization.

Jared  Diamond in Guns,Gems, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, a best seller, is quoted as saying: 'As civilization grows the human family bonds get weaker and with stratification of society tenderness begins to disappear.' The society that we have made with wealth has made for a class society and our descendents will see the results.

However, Diamond says there is no reason to be frustrated for with our reason we can work to make things work out differently.  We  can recover from the decline caused by money, the lack of  virtue and the individualism in society by our efforts to purify the society. However, if we are to be successful in purifying our civilization we have to use our reason and begin with a respect for the dignity of the human person.

"Another cause of slavery is corruption on the part of people willing to do anything for financial gain. Slave labor and human trafficking often require the complicity of intermediaries, be they law enforcement personnel, state officials, or civil and military institutions. This occurs when money, and not the human person, is at the center of an economic system. Yes, the person, made in the image of God and charged with dominion over all creation, must be at the center of every social or economic system. When the person is replaced by mammon, a subversion of values occurs” (Pope Francis' Peace Message 2015).

The columnist ends his words by asking all of us to help the world that is dying be energized by the breath of God. We have to assist in this work and not give up. We have to nurture this dream in our communities.

Monday, December 29, 2014


How does one get rid of a fixed idea? This was a topic in a round table discussion sponsored by the Catholic Digest. One of the participants, a priest nearing retirement age, looking over his own life experiences, expressed his opinion.

Often he says people would come to him with their problems;  expressing their frustrations and looking for help. Financial, family, marriage problems and the like, and he would listen. During the listening he would ask questions, if not clear, or get clarification in what was said, in most cases those who came for help end up with their own solutions.

Many who came for help were filled with anguish over their situation and by just talking over the issue they found release from the hold their thoughts had over them. When they found peace from the encounter with the priest it gave him great joy.

In his own life what brought him much joy and peace, and the stimulus to change his way of life was time spent in meditation. He remembers hearing in a lecture the words  'God of history' which entered his head not to be forgotten. The way God entered the life of the Israelites, God was entering his own life and he wanted to uncover the ways he responded over the years.

He was not baptized as an infant but while in the sixth grade of Elementary School, and he went on to the seminary high school. He felt that he was being led along the way by an invisible hand, which was God's will for him. As a deacon he wanted to go to Germany for studies but although the other students failed the test he thought he would pass the screening, but he also failed. If he had passed the exam he would have been ordained to the priesthood in Germany but having failed he was able to be with his family at ordination.

He was given a scholarship to study in France where he went on to study Asian philosophy hoping to write about theology from an Asian perspective.The studies helped him greatly to look for the will of God in his own life. Finding what God wants from him is where he is able to find happiness.This is the best way of not being a slave to obsessions that can bring havoc into our lives.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Holy Family Sunday

Today is Holy Family Sunday and the sermon in the Seoul Bulletin wants us to see an aspect of family life we overlook. A celebrity who because of some irregularities was absent from the limelight for some time made an appearance on the stage and told the audience: "When I was in trouble it was only my family that gave me support and strength." When the priest hears these and similar words he feels uncomfortable. Often we reduce the meaning of family to suit are special understanding of what a family is. It becomes a shield to protect ourselves and to exclude others.  

From whom do we get our biggest scars?  The hurts usually come from those that I know best, from those nearest to me. Those who are not close to us, even if the words are meant to inflict great harm, they don't do much damage. We have little difficulty in ignoring them. But it is different with those close to us: violence in the family, conflict between the parents, indifference to the others in the family is another matter.  Violence in the family is so embarrassing one is not able to speak about it. Many psych themselves to say it is no serious problem but the scars that are inflicted, contrary to what we may think, are many.

Not far in the past we had many families living together in rented homes in the same building. Provided the owner was a decent person, they would all live in harmony concerned with each others needs.

Today with the advances that have been made, many of the needs have disappeared.  But the members of the priest's generation remember those days and how the families lived harmoniously with one another.

We have become independent of others with the  technological advances. Neighbors have disappeared. We have become oblivious of our surroundings. We are only concerned with ourselves and our families. When we watch the news the problems of others have no connection with ourselves. He concludes the sermon wondering if we are not just interested in taking care of the  needs of the family and all else is immaterial.

We  call this the feast the Holy Family. Confucianism has influenced our society to a great extent and the virtues of humanness and etiquette have helped to make the family strong. Filial piety was strongly emphasized. Christianity has introduced God, and his providence, by remembering we are members of many other communities helps to make our families holy.                                                                                                                                       

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Reading for Meaning

Reading with the eyes only is not reading. Likewise seeing an image only with the eyes is not to see. The Catholic Times' column:  Electronic and Book World  wants us to reflect on the meaning of these words.

What we see, read or hear requires an effort to interpret the meaning. We are living,  buried in an avalanche of information and when it gives no meaning to our lives it is of little value. There is much reading with little understanding which makes us functionally illiterate. She quotes Alvin Toffler who said that  modern illiterates: "no longer want to learn and are not able to read the information they receive."

When I read something and remember it there is some meaning. The difference between meaning and no meaning is vast.  When we read or see something this should not be a  simply  act of reading but with perception we gain knowledge and  meaning by the process of interpretation. This requires the activity of the mental and spiritual dimensions of the person.  A research team at Washington University in the  science of the mind, she explains, discovered  when something was see without any meaning only a small area at  the back of the brain was activated but  when the same thing was see and given meaning new channels were opened. The moment meaning was added to the reading more neurons in the brain were activated, two and three times more. When we perceive and interpret, our mental world  can't help but be changed.

Don't we say we see the world with the personality  we have developed? We perceive and act according to the meaning we have given to what we have seen, heard and have become aware. When we stay at the level of seeing and hearing and don't enter the process to find meaning, we have no hope of changing the way we live. What we see is not the real, but we make it real by our awareness and  interpretation. It will depend on how much meaning I can give to what I read that will make the world come to me. Daily we have to ask ourselves are we encountering the real world?

Daily, in the subway, walking, in the work place when we are fingering for words, images and sound are we just seeing and enjoying the superficial world in which we are in, and live without meaning as a wanderer and illiterate?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Funeral of Fr. James Sinnott Maryknoll Priest

Today the Maryknoll Family in Korea with many other priests and a large congregation said the the funeral Mass for Fr. James Sinnott  who died on Tuesday Dec.23. The Mass was offered in the Church of Repentance and Atonement in Paju, 50 kilometers northwest of Seoul. The Church was built with the help of both North and South Korean artists. The mosaic on the left is the work of the North.

Father Sinnott came to Korea in 1960 and after language study was a assigned to the diocese of Inchon where he worked in pastoral work, built a hospital for the sick, and showed the love of Jesus to the alienated in society. The funeral sermon mentioned the prophetic role that Fr. Jim was forced by his own loving heart, and inability to accept injustices, to work against the injustices he saw. 

During military rule eight innocent persons were condemned in 1975 for being members of the so called "People's revolutionary Party" and after torture and their 'confession' they were  executed the day following sentencing. Fr. Jim with a Protestant missionary George Ogle were deported because of their  activities in opposition to the execution. In a retrial in 2007 all eight were acquitted and the families received a large compensation. This injustice which Fr.Jim saw made him sensitive to injustices in society. He was invited back to Korea and in retirement began painting and  giving his paintings to others in his outreach in love.

Below is a poem by Fr. Jim Sinnott written for his 80th birthday and read on the  visit of the families of those who were executed, and came to celebrate the day with Jim. We included this poem in a blog in 2009 and recopy it for today.

Write it down
Before it goes away:
Eleven people sitting round a table
Out on a lawn under a tree
Here where I live now,
Remembering the things we did,
Attempts against some things
Happening here in South Korea
More than thirty years ago:
Men falsely accused, jailed unfairly –
One of them, eight years imprisoned,
Sitting next to me and
The widow of another
Sitting at my other side.

We are gathered here today
Because I’ve just turned eighty,
A thing impossible to dream of
In one’s early years,
As impossible as the events
That happened here in South Korea
More than thirty years ago,
Events that knit us into one,
An inseparable fabric
Labeled by security police
The “In hyek dang”
The Peoples’ Revolutionary Party,
That phony dictator’s concoction,
That lie that changed our lives
And made widows of these women
As well as years-long prisoners
Of twenty other men.
Eight men were hanged
One early morning, an evil solstice
More than thirty years ago, nine April,
When for us the sun stood still,
A day declared “Black day
In the history of jurisprudence”
By the lawyers of the world;

A day etched in the memory of my guests today,
Gathered round this table
On the lawn outside my house
For an eightieth birthday celebration,
An occasion no young person
Of my generation gives much thought to,
Anymore than one would plan
To be involved with
Murderous judicial decisions,
Torture of the chosen victims
Who were innocent of any crime,
As an apologetic nation
Finally admitted -
Thirty years too late.

And so we gather at this table
And reminisce
About the ways we tried to fight
Those terrible decisions
And we sing again the songs we sang
As we paraded on the streets,
Breaking the “peaceful order” laws
Of those dark times of martial law;
Eleven men and women sitting at a table,
On this day, this summer solstice,
Remembering, together,
Before we also go away.

James Sinnott, MM

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Blessed Christmas.

Christmas is here, a pastor writing for Bible & Life helps us to meditate on the words of John's Gospel: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:4).  Jesus is the Word a very  meaning-filled  'nick name'  that fills us with awe. Poets often use metaphors in their  poetry and here we have a metaphor that is more than a metaphor.

"In the beginning was the Word; the Word was in God's presence, and the Word was God. " This is the way the Gospel of John begins. A very mysterious existent being who was with God  before the  creation of the world.  "Through him all things came into being, and apart from him nothing came to be."  God had an assistant  at the Creation of the world. We accept this being as Jesus Christ.  "He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creatures. In him everything  in heaven and  on earth was created" (Col. 1:15-16). In I Cor. 8:6, " For there is one God...and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom everything was made and through whom we live."  Jesus is called the word and we can see this prepared in the Jewish Wisdom literature.

In Proverbs 8:22, Wisdom is of divine origin. It existed before all things.  In Sirach 24: 3-9, we have Wisdom coming from God and is distinct from him.  In the Book of Wisdom: God of my fathers, Lord of mercy, you who have made all  things by your word (Wis. 9:1). And in Revelation 21: "This is God's dwelling among men. He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people and he shall be their God..." The writer continues in this vein but at the end says it is perfectly alright to forget this complicated explanation of the Word in the Wisdom literature.  God's Word. God's Son, God himself came to the earth.

Sufficient it is to remember that God became a human because he loved us. We should never forget this. God found a resting place among us. Humanity was overjoyed  and is there anything that expresses the meaning of Christmas more clearly.

In the history of humanity there have been all kinds of words uttered about God many of them empty words.  Jesus came as the definitive Word of God and we need to indelibly inscribe this on our minds and hearts. A word that does not include God, a word that doesn't come from God, a word that only remains a  word with no flesh are all empty words.

Jesus was the one in which life and wisdom were united. He is the one that told us openly to eat him. Empty words are cheap and are scattered every which way when troubles come. Only Jesus the true man and true word came to embrace us.  A Blessed Christmas

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Power of Words

A priest in the Seoul Diocese who is responsible for the pastoral care of the  deaf and dumb, and is himself handicapped, writes in the Bible & Life Magazine about the words that have  encouraged and energized him.

He lives in a home with priests who are working in special ministries. He is the only one with a handicap. Community life, he says, is not easy for he can't hear or speak. While eating he sees the other priests talking and laughing, he is not able to participate and it makes it difficult to get close to the priests, and he remains alone in his eating. He tells himself he is not alone, and comforts himself with the thought that Jesus is always with him.

When the estrangement gets deeper, even when he has something to talk about he does not go to his fellow priests. When this continues for any long period of time the relationship with his brother  priests becomes awkward, and his identity as a diocesan priest becomes weak.

Fortunately at one of the seminars there was a priest who knew the sign language and was able to translate for him. That day he was able to communicate with all his fellow priests. One of the priests approached him and said: "Father Park, a priest is not a loner, you have to be one with us!" These words he said with force. They were like a  small light coming into the cave in which he had enclosed himself, and enabled him to come out of the cave, and relate with his brothers. His fellow priests did not treat him as handicapped but warmly and with hand signs communicated with him as fellow priests.

During free time many of the priests who liked soccer were preparing for a match and he was  going  mountain climbing. An older priest seeing him, called him to join them in the match. He didn't have the proper shoes and it was somewhat difficult but he joined them, and was thankful to the priest who called him. Shortly after a priest gave him a pair of soccer shoes. The gift meant a great deal to him.  

One day before a Mass for sponsors he was praying before the tabernacle when a parishioner got his attention and asked to go to confession. He told her that he was not able to speak or hear but she insisted that she go to confession. He explained that it would have to be with written words and she agreed. After the confession he saw her tears and he was thankful that she insisted for he realized that he could also hear confession without the sign language with which he was  accustomed. He looked upon the parishioner as an angel.

When he is in low spirits it is these encounters that bring him out of the cave. "Father Park! you are one of us, when you have some difficulty less us know, we will help you, take courage!" These and similar words have given him strength, and is grateful. He is thankful for  words of encouragement  and for the many who  continue to support him and bring joy into his life. At this time of Christmas it is good to remember how just a few words of encouragement  can inspire and give strength.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

His First Christmas

The columnist in the Peace Weekly recalls an incident that happened back in the 80s. Unexpectedly a friend asked if  he was interested in going to the home of a student for a meat meal. They walked along a back street for some time before they came to a small room where he prepared the table with pork belly slices.

They were both college students and teaching  in an  evening school for workers. Many of these  types of schools at that  time were located in Seoul. This particular school was managed by the Church. He himself was a half baked materialist but it made no difference in being hired.

His friend bought the meat with his savings, and they had plenty to fill their stomachs. On the way back he asked his friend what was the occasion for the party. The friend said the student had TB and with the medicine, he needed some good protein to help in his recovery. What his friend  said left him flabbergasted. His friend would go once a week to the room of the student to prepare a meat meal. They were both the same age;  he respected his friend but what his  friend was doing impressed him greatly and he wondered what enabled him to be so altruistic.

He leaned later on his friend was thinking of the priesthood. Wanting to be a priest was all strange to the  columnist but  it gave him an answer for his question. He became curious in what motivated his friend. At that time the Church was speaking out about justice issues in society. He later became a Catholic and his friend went on to become a priest.

No one with words  lead him to the Church, he said,  it was the example of his friend that  aroused his  interest. At that  time he went to his first Mass at Christmas. Later, with his camera, for twenty years he has taken pictures of places  were Jesus was being experienced by many believers. He became director of the TV work and has not always been pleased with what he has seen, his weak faith has hit bottom and he has returned. Often in the darkness all around, he cries out: "Where in the world  are you?"  And yet he fortunately has  been able to return to the time with his friend and his Christmas Mass. At that time he left his atheism and because of his friend saw another way and he returns to the warmth he experienced there like returning to the homestead.

The disciples of Jesus after the trauma of the crucifixion and resurrection wanted to return to their first days with Jesus in Galilee. This was the land of their first Christmas and they remembered the warmth of those days. He will be trying to do this  during these days of Christmas with programs  prepared for the Christmas season for the Peace Catholic Television Channel. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Returning to Nature

He was was born and lived in a little village surrounded by mountains, both in front and back, left and right. The sky was less visible than the mountains. He grew up without any toys for it was the mountains and fields that were his playground, nature was his plaything.

A diocesan priest writing for a bulletin for priests reflects on what this has meant for him. As a child his spiritual life was composed of going to the mission station Mass against his will. The 14 stations of the cross on the wall only made him fearful. The mountains also caused fear in his young heart but when he was hurt he would climb the mountains;  they received him graciously which gave him consolation and  peace, and for this feeling he was thankful. The mountains were like a father to him.  Even today when he prays the Our Father and says the words heaven he sees the mountains of his childhood.

There was talk of turning this village into a dam and at that time he was responsible for the justice and peace work in the diocese so he worked together with the citizens to revoke the plans. During this time he began to see the need for the Church to get involved in preserving our environment. The plan for the dam was cancelled and he began to study the theology of ecology.

Living in the city and growing accustomed to the life  he realized that he was becoming alienated from nature. The emptiness he was feeling was the estrangement from the natural, and dreamed of walking the earth and fingering it again as he did as a child. The chance came suddenly when he was given the work to  head the Catholic Farmers Association in the  diocese.

Since he was responsible for the work among the farmers he decided he would have to spend time getting acquainted with farming and spent a whole year full time farming. The association had an old school building that was used to educate farmers who were returning to the farms, and a school for ecology. Being again close to the mountains he remembered  his own dead father. He walked again the earth barefooted, it  felt so soft and comfortable. The work was hard but there was great satisfaction, and he regretted not having done this earlier.

The Free Trade Act has opened the market to all the countries which will bring hardships to the farmers. He feels strongly that this was a lack of responsibility on the part of the government and repercussions will follow in the life of the nation. He also sees this affecting our spiritual life. His work he sees as sacramental in being one with the old people, and helping them to continue on the farms.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

In the Pursuit of Happiness

Both Catholic papers had a review of the new book by the Cardinal Emeritus of Seoul, Cheong Jin-suk: In Pursuit of Happiness. Cardinal Cheong has published a new book  every year from the first  year of his ordination on  some aspects of spirituality. In the pursuit of happiness, it is necessary, he says to reflect each day on what we have done and  continue to ask ourselves daily the important questions about life. We need to ask ourselves how are we reacting with those with whom we are  living; we can't find happiness by ourselves.

The Cardinal seeks answers not only as an individual, but as a member of society and with a  universal dimension. Because we are human we can change. When we become mindful of God's Providence all changes.

He wants us to ask: Who are we? The first fundamental question and secondly:  Where are we going? The ultimate question about life. To stop with our parents is not sufficient when searching for why we are here, nor is it sufficient to see our end as returning to the earth. Before we die we have to find the answers to these questions.

We need to evaluate our lives, ascertain what are our values, educate our consciences, determine the  meaning of freedom, and the root of sin. This is the first step. Secondly, we search for the common good, remember solidarity of the earth family, the  need to communicate, basics of language and see our human life as a part of the extended family. The third section has to do with evolution and the place of God's providence

He sees the advance of science as a part God's providence and not as science opposed to theology. Creation did not begin with everything all complete but was to evolve in God's providence. When we consistently listen to the word of God and want to  understand the word, we begin to experience God.

When we work to live in harmony with God's Providence we find happiness. We are weaving daily a tapestry; depending on how we are relating with those around us, giving them hope and joy or inflicting sadness or pain, will determine the kind of tapestry that we will present to God, and will determine the success we have made of the gift of life.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cyber Culture

The Diocesan Bulletin has in  previous weeks addressed the culture in which the young people live.  Postmodernism and neoliberalism were explained and this week we have the culture of cyberspace in which the young people live. The Salesian Priest continues to explain the culture in which the young are living.

Cyber culture is the network that both the older and younger generations feel at home. Three distinctive features are listed.

1) A diverse culture: anonymous (at times dangerous elements appear),  and  continues to create  and allows one to express his own variety of desires.

2) Community culture: Each is able freely and equally to  enter the internet, one can communicate with those with the same likes, and establish or join a community, share  knowledge and exchange information.

3) A  culture that produces:  prosumer (a  blend  of producer and consumer) (the user of the internet) = the one producing and the consumer are both present. We are not only passively receiving but making  contents to appear on the site. There is a new kind of communication. 

What is this cyberspace culture in Korea? We have developed greatly in the multimedia field and continue to do so. Moreover, 94 percent of our young people are using the internet. Korea is number one  with high speed internet access. However, there are some misgivings about our situation, he admits.  

Some of the nearby Asian countries have developed  the knowledge, educational, and medical fields for the general  public. Korea on the other hand has developed the fun, and entertainment elements: music, literature, movies, art, media and pornography content. This he considers an embarrassment.  

He explains why this  was the case. 

1) We did not begin with an elite group but went directly to the general public. Korea because of the IMF period of financial difficulty, they were too much tied up working with the principles of capitalism.

2) Society, for security reasons, was repressed and controlled and the internet allowed many to express themselves freely and vent their frustrations.  

3) The technological properties of the internet:  globalization and creativity are open to the users of the internet. Productivity of the internet continues.  Fundamentally the control of the internet is difficult. We have given the technology of the internet and its business potential first consideration.This allowed us to ignore the soundness and the cultural aspects of the internet and consequently now see the inadequacy.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Learning from the Old to Prepare for the New

In the Catholic Times the Desk columnist  presents us with two Korean maxims which he wants us to reflect on  as we come to the end of our calendar year.  "Time to see the old year out and the new year in." And secondly: "Find a guide into tomorrow by taking lessons from the past." The second maxim we need to follow at all times, but fail to do so because of laziness. 

These two maxims he says should work together. The first one has to do with a government official who has been changed and a new one has arrived. When the new person comes there is a new environment that begins. But at the same time we remember to learn from the past so we wont make the same mistakes in the future. Whether it was failure or success, we learn from the past and with the new knowledge and understanding  we begin again. History becomes a way of learning for the future.  

With the new year we throw to the winds the hurts of the past. We don't want to tie ourselves to the frustrations and despair of the Sewol disaster. We learned from the disaster to guide us during the new year. The new allows us to say goodbye to the old, but we also learn from the old how to live in the new.

Pope Francis  approached the parents of the victims of the tragedy not because of some teaching of the Church, or some ideology or political position, but because they were hurting. He was showing mercy and concern. 

This mercy was shown in the  way the synod was recently conducted and the way next year the discussion on the family will continue. Pope Francis is following the method of changing what needs to be changed to be closer to the  teaching of the early Church and the apostles. The elements that do not serve the purpose he wants to discard and those that help us to be more Christ-like he wants to retain.

We Christians with the experience of baptism and the cross rid ourselves of worldly values, and recover the values of the Gospel. We work for our personal reformation in which we throw out the harmful, but also learn from the old to prepare for the new.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Accept the Waiting In Life

Life is the repetition of waiting, meeting and leave taking. We wait for the right mate, for our children and grand children. We wait for the subway to arrive, workers for lunch time, waiting for the telephone to ring. The farmer for the rain, the student for graduation and a job, and the one who bought a lottery ticket for the windfall. We wait with joy and anxiety in our hearts, with hope and expectation which fills the passage of time. With these words, in the Peace Weekly, a columnist reflects on the waiting for 'Advent' and for God.  

While in elementary school he remembers going to the streetcar station to wait for his mother. She was not in the first or second cars and continued to wait until late in the evening with all kinds of thoughts entering his mind. The waiting at the home would have been the same kind of waiting, and he doesn't remember why he went to the station. He was worried and when his mother finally arrived he was at peace and happy.  

While in college and waiting for the girl that became his wife he recalls the same feelings. During the day remembering the date with his fiance, the work became heavy, and the whole day was filled with expectation. When the promised hour for the  meeting had passed, and she was not there, the same complicated thoughts that he had as a child entered his mind. 

Even though we are waiting for the Lord, the waiting  for his mother and the girl that became his wife are not the same. The history of the Jewish people was a waiting of 4000 years for an 'Advent'. The Christian hope is a hope for all people, and we wait for the coming at the end of time. Come Lord Jesus: (Marana tha), the last words of the New Testament.

In the liturgy of the Mass we have two expression for this waiting. In the Nicene Creed: "We look for the resurrection of the  dead, and the life of the world to come." After the Our Father: "Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."

We are all waiting for God in our own different ways. He mentions one of the most beloved novelists Choi In-ho (Peter) who died last year and according to his daughter who asked her father has the Lord come yet? Answered "No". This was repeated on three different days and on the last day, the day of his death he answered: “God is here. I saw him. Okay. Let’s go,” these were  Choi’s last words, according to his daughter Da-hye.

On our last day of life will this be the way we will be waiting for God. Will my last days waiting for the Lord be filled with irritation and regret? If the Lord does not come what will happen to me?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Peace is the Realization of Justice.

The new liturgical year has begun, and we are now waiting to begin another calendar year. Sadness was evident during a great part of the year, not only the loss of 304 victims in the Sewol tragedy but also many other incidents and a social environment that has left many of the citizens with a heavy heart.

The columnist on the opinion page of the Peace Weekly reminds us of the plight of the irregular- workers (working by contract and without a full time job). This situation is getting worse. The leaders in our society by their words and actions dishearten many in our society. Surprisingly, they  blame those who speak out against  injustices and  corruption as hurting the peace and security of the nation. The press and those enforcing the law are  protecting those who blame the ones speaking against the injustices of society. However, he asks, if those speaking out remained silenced would we have a  more peaceful society?

Many of the Documents of the Church we hear repeatedly that  peace is the realization of justice. Peace is not just the absence of war. Nor is it  maintaining a balance between two hostile forces. St. Augustine in the City of God spends time showing how it was the corruption in the Roman Empire that led to its downfall: lack of justice in the society. For Augustine justice was to give every person what was due. When this is not followed the persons should be punished.

God in creation has given us an abundance of resources, plenty for all to eat and live and when this is monopolized by a few we have an injustice. When we merely follow the supply and demand principle and allow the  growth of the irregular workers we are increasing the numbers who are being driven to live inhumanly, and what they should have is being taken away. St. Augustine in Book IV of the City of God cries out that a nation without justice is like a band of robbers.

We don't lose hope concerning our own situation says the columnist. We are never going to get the peace we want on this earth. Augustine accepts this as given. We call this  among Christians original sin. Once we forget this we will be faced with much anguish and frustration in life, but we continue working to search for the ideal and never give up, but the complete peace will only come in the here after.

For a Christian our strength comes from God. In John 14:27 Jesus says: "Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you; I do not give it to you as the world gives peace. " He concludes the column my asking us to accept the peace we have received and  have the courage of love to make it present wherever we are.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Computers an Extension of our Minds

Computers are becoming our minds, and we are living without our heads. The religious sister in her weekly column in the Catholic Times wants us to consider why we are  becoming more intellectually lethargic. She recalls her trips on the fast trains, less time consumed but was more tired at the end; and wonders if this is because we are not following the natural rhythm of life.

In our technological advanced society, we are going at a faster rate than our bodies have been programed to function: riding in cars, cleaning the house, washing the clothes, all helped along with machines. Marshall McLuhan said: "we shape our tools and afterward tools shape us." According to McLuhan, machines are the extensions of the human body. 

She admits that when she sits down at the keyboard of the computer the thoughts come to her much faster than the way she used the pencil in the past. No need to look for information, knowledge, understanding, or remember it, for it is all in the computer, the computer has become part of our central nervous system.

Scholars have shown that many of our children are intellectually lazy, and there are some who lament the situation. Many students are non-rational,  fragmented, and haphazard in their search. All they need do is go to the computer and search, no need to  memorize. They read quickly but the time they have to concentrate is little, and they  find it difficult to overcome tediousness in their studies.

She quotes a poet who wrote: "I found that when I shut the book I left my head inside." She feels this is  all too  true for many of us. No time, but I wanted to do  something, and started reading a book, and when I closed the book I forgot all that I had read. The same is true with a search, after reading all is forgotten. The computer becomes our brains and making us lazy and stupid.

With a plethora of information we lose our desire to use our brains. We are under the impression we know it all, and can find anything we want with ease;  this paralyses the body and mind. When we search for knowledge and make it our own we are alive with the meaning, and with the joy that comes with the process, and we are filled with satisfaction. 

She finishes her column by reminded us that instead of trying to impetuously try to keep up with what is going on in the world, might it not be better not to know all, be slow and enjoy the lack of what we think we should have. We need the leisure to enjoy this lack. The multiplicity of the  equipment of the  digital world will continue to increase, when we try to keep up, precious time will be lost. Amid all the changes, should we not be concerned with what  does not change?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Confrontation Over a Christmas Tree

Aegibong is a mountain that faces North Korea. In the Peace Column of the Peace Weekly we are told the  historical significance of the name. Back in the time of the Sino-Korean War the governor of Pyeongyang province, to escape the invasion of the Qing forces took his mistress and fled. He Hoped to cross the Han River but was captured by the Chinese forces, and taken to the North, only his mistress was able to cross the Han River. She continued to look at the Northern sky waiting for her lover. When she died she wanted to be  buried on a peak which overlooked the North.

In 1966 Park Cheong Hee, the president, visited the mountain, and understood the  feelings of the mistress towards her lover were much like the anguish of the families separated by the division of the two Koreas, the peak was named Aegibong.
Using the  telescopes on the observation platform of  Aegibong  one is able to see many of the villages of the North and the displaced persons now living in the South can look for their villages they had to leave.

Most of the citizens know Aegibong as the place they light the Christmas Tree. The lighting ceremony makes the  news but as in the past it is surrounded with much commentary. Right after the Korean War in 1954 they began decorating a pine tree with Christmas decorations. In 1971 they erected a 30 meter tower which was decorated with Christmas lights. The Protestants prepare the tree for Christmas and have a lighting ceremony. The ceremony is to celebrate  the birth of Jesus and to pray for the peaceful unification of the country. However, North Korea considers the setting up of the tree, that can be seen within North Korean territory, as a subversive act and an incitement to war and oppose it.

Back in 2004 when the two Koreas were talking to each other at the request of North Korea the South stopped the Christmas lighting ceremonies but they resumed in 2010. The tower that was used in the past for the decorations was considered old and dangerous and was torn down; in its place a 9 meter temporary tower was erected by the Protestant Christian Confederation with the permission of the Ministry of National Defense.

The North Korean Religious Council considers the tree a vile psychological tactic that incites to war and is putting pressure to prevent the ceremonies to proceed.  The villagers also who surround the area are very much concerned because of the threat of the North to not stand idly by if they have the lighting ceremony.The villagers say they will use physical force to prevent the lighting of the Christmas tree. They are afraid of the bombing of the area and the danger to the villagers.

The columnist ends up with a question for the rest of us Christians. Christmas is a time of peace and we have a situation that forebodes confrontation. How would Jesus look upon the situation?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Doers of the Word

During the liturgical year we have many reminders of where our attention should be directed, and today in Korea we think of the poor in our society and share what we have with them. The third Sunday of Advent is Almsgiving Sunday in Korea,  and also Gaudete, (Rejoice Sunday) reminding us we are to live with joy in our hearts.

We have a message from the head of the bishop's welfare committee that reminds us of the many poor in our society. There are about 4 million Koreans who are living in extreme poverty. Families with three members that do not have the minimum that the government has determined a family needs to live.

In the bishop's message he mentions that in a recent survey made, 86 percent of the Koreans find living difficult. The quality of life in Korea is one of highest in Asia, one of the economic strong countries in the  developed world, and yet many of the citizens consider life difficult: they work hard and have little time to rest.

There is good reason for this when we remember that Korea is a divided country, and with all the talk of war, nuclear armaments, and occasional belligerency, the ordinary Korean is not without serious worries about the future. The country is surrounded with three giant countries which have not always looked favorably on the South.

The top 20 percent of the citizens are earning 6 times what the lower 20 percent are earning. Neoliberalism is a strong economic philosophy that influences a great deal of society. The philosophy has helped Korea progress very quickly in the ranks of the economically strong countries, but also at a great price. The students are well educated and have shown this in comparison with other countries but here again the competition is unrelenting, and for the losers a cloud that remains with them for life.

Christians, the bishop reminds us, can't  separate the love of God from that of our neighbor. We have all heard that even a nation cannot eradicate poverty, it is the work of all of us. We need to participate in improving the way of life for all the citizens, and to help all live in the manner fitting a human being. Joy in life should be a given for all;  sharing what we have with those who have less than what they need is to be doers of the word and not only hearers.                                                                                                                        

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Social Gospel of the Church

The Desk Column and the editorial in the Catholic Times presents us with thoughts on the 'Social Gospel Awareness Week' which follows Human Rights Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent. 

The columnist mentions the respect he has for a friend who  graduated from one of the three premier colleges in Korea, SKY: Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University. Not only graduated from one of the best schools but is a member of a  well known Protestant Church, and lives in one of the better areas of Seoul. However, he has been labelled a follower of the North (meaning for many with Communist sympathies).

He is not overly concerned with this turn of events and found some encouragement from Pope Francis' words while in Korea concerning the North. He feels that his friends just don't understand him, and still has a bright disposition.

There are many who have a wrong understanding of what the Social Gospel is all about, and think that it should not be our concern. This he says is not understanding what Catholicism is all about, for it has to do with the ten commandments, and living them in our daily lives.

The teaching of the Social Gospel appears in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in part three:Life in Christ. When we refuse to accept this teaching we are abandoning what it means to be Catholic. The popes  in their exhortations, encyclicals, pronouncements have made this our formal teaching. We are able to see life in society, politics, economy, labor, peace, the environment, life, human rights, and many other issues with the vision that comes from the Gospels.

The Church is like a boat making its way on a rough  ocean. We  need a compass to find the way.The Social Gospel is the compass that shows us the way. When we refuse this direction we are only accepting half of what Jesus has given us. Can we call this  a mature faith life?

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Gospel of Life

In Korea there are  many things that are illegal but you would believe were legal. An article in the Peace Weekly begins with the words of a doctor turned  ethicist who mentions a news story where 117 persons were apprehended for child  pornography and of that number, half were in their  teens and one third of those were in elementary school.

Doctor Lee was a well known gynecologist who is now teaching at  Catholic Universities the ethics of life. He received his doctorate in ethics at a university in Rome last year. In 2008, at the age of 64 he decided to go on to study moral theology.

He wanted to  find out why God made male and female to be one.  Why was the Church opposed to artificial birth control and condoms? He wanted to find out where the roots of this teaching on life came from. This desire as a Catholic to find the reasons for the culture of life teachings, at his age was difficult,  but he was  adding to the knowledge he had as a doctor, which made it very satisfying.

The doctor was now more interested in the moral issues associated with life than the field of  gynecology that he had devoted most of his life. He was now interested in natural child birth, problems with birth control, abortion, stem cells, suicide and the other issues connected with the culture of life. He now wants to share his knowledge with others.

Korean society has little teaching on sex which is a large problem. Schools have given up on sex education which makes it open for all kinds of distorted views. By the coupling of the male and female, we have new life and the meaning of this life:  morally, philosophically, is  to be taught within the Church. There are certain elements that can't be taught with medical and scientific knowledge.

Doctor Lee has entered late into the movement for life. Even though he is well on in years, he feels it is  a call of God, and wants to dedicate the rest of his life to the movement. 

In Evangelium Vitae (#5), Pope John Paul II addressed an appeal to all of us: "in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!"

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Getting Younger Each Day

On the spirituality page of the Catholic Times the columnist writes about the heart of a young person. A quality that most of us find very attractive especially as we get old. 

The columnist met a follow priest at the cathedral parish who was there to get some Mass wine. They hadn't seen each other for some time so they went to a coffee shop for quiet time. His friend mentioned they started a catechism class in the  parish and one of the new catechumens was an unique individual.

What do you mean by unique? asked the columnist.  His friend mentioned the man was in his 50s and a person who was successful in life. The reason he gave for wanting to come into the Church was the example of the pope in his visit to Korea. The man followed very closely what the pope was doing on TV, and was greatly impressed with what he saw.

The appearance of the pope was that of a young person, said the man. He wanted to have that same kind of heart and joined our catechism class. Hearing his story the friend was embarrassed in comparison, for he was doing it all without any religious belief.

Although he was the president of a company that was successful he did his own driving, and his clothes were very simple as was his life style. From the profits of the company he was putting some of it back into the society to help the poor, and was personally involved in helping others. The only person that knows about his service to others was his fiance

The columnist was surprised to hear that he was in his fifties and not married. His friend was not able to give him any information on his home life for he hadn't questioned him yet, but his whole manner was one of humility and simplicity, said the friend.

Persons young of heart may not be a quality that is easily recognizable but it has an irresistible power to attract. We are all searching for peace, security, happiness, and in the whirlpool in which we live these qualities of life are not easily possessed. The man in his fifties was attracted to an old man, the pope, who showed the spirit of youth. This was his  motive for entering the Church. This is a rare motive but one that should be more common. St. Paul did tells us that the body grows old but there is no reason why the heart (spirit) has to grow old. In Jesus, we will find that the dreams and youthfulness that should be a part of our life even as we near death, can be found in him.                          

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Women's Role in the Church

"We can count on many lay persons, although still not nearly enough, who have a deeply-rooted sense of community and great fidelity to the tasks of charity, catechesis and the celebration of the faith. At the same time, a clear awareness of this responsibility of the laity, grounded in their baptism and confirmation, does not appear in the same way in all places. In some cases, it is because lay persons have not been given the formation needed to take on important responsibilities. In others, it is because in their particular Churches room has not been made for them to speak and to act, due to an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decision-making" (#102). And again,"I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection. But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church" (#103).  Words of Pope Francis in the Exhortation: Joy of the Gospel.

The issue of women in the Church is ongoing, and the Korean Church has been concerned with the lack of satisfaction on the  part of many women for a long time. Pope Francis has shown his interest in expanding the role of women within the Church and the Korean Church continues to work to implement what has been the direction, but there are  roadblocks along the way.

The Bishops' Subcommittee For Women was begun with a need to empower the women in the Church. The recent seminar of the Subcommittee discussed  women's work in the present and future. Both Catholic papers had articles on the seminar and mentioned a presenter who very clearly expressed the opinion that we have heard often that the clergy have to change their way of thinking and attitude towards women if we want to see change.

The first presenter at the seminar, a seminary professor, who expressed the above opinion also   expanded to say in the Korean Church women's role has been a supporting one, and discrimination is readily seen. In the questionnaires and surveys  taken among the women we continue to see a desire for a smoother way of communicating between priests and women, a desire to see a change in the patriarchal mind caste, and to be in the decision making in parishes. All realize without the participation of the women with their special gifts, sacrifices and capabilities we would not be able to maintain the parishes.

Two women who are now presidents of the parish council gave talks at the seminar. One stressed the need for educational programs for women. The first women to have the position as parish council president in her parish mentioned how difficult it was: physically, internally and externally. The atmosphere in the parish was cold but with her efforts in being the first to greet the parishioners, and going out of her way to be of service to the community the gaze of the parishioners soften, and she began to get people encouraging her. 

One of the men mentioned that a woman president gives the women confidence, and inspires them and we have a mellower way of being a leader but we are not able to sit down for drinks and relate easily with the women. In our traditional society to be in that position is cause for uneasiness for many. 

The time away from the family is a problem for a woman, and the misunderstanding that may arise in the family. One of the men mentioned the need for the woman, if she is a homemaker, to make good use of her time and not to hear from the family that she is spending too much time at the Church.  

The efforts of the Church to bring the women into the decision making of the parish life continues, since most of the workers in a parish are women, we will  see an improvement with the conscientization we have had over the years.