30 years ago here in Korea 103 Catholics were canonized. At the canonization a priest asked what seemed to be a strange question considering the nature of the event: "What meaning does this ceremony have for those who have been dead for many years? " A columnist in the Peace Weekly, who is a close friend of the priest, explores the meaning of the priest's words. At first the words were not understood but over the years he began to understand their meaning: the saints are not being canonized for their benefit but for ours.
This year, 124 of the earliest martyrs will be beatified and, hopefully, Pope Francis will be here for the ceremony; we
will know, he says, by the end of March. What meaning does this ceremony
have for us? They already have the glory of heaven, he points out. At the canonization
or beatification we are only making public what has already taken place.
what is the meaning to us? He gives us two answers. First, they
are our Korean ancestors, persons we can be proud of. Second, we don't
want to tarnish their image by the life we are living. We
desire to follow their example, living in a way that will be worthy of
those who came before us. And what are the ways we can use to follow
example? Pope Francis has given a way in a recent talk at Mass.
Pope said not to stand still, encouraging us to keep
on walking the life of faith by living with with faith, hope
and charity, living like lambs and not like wolves. The columnist
understands the Pope's words to mean that we are not to divide our lives
into two worlds, separating our daily life from our faith life. They
are not separate and should be lived as one life. And
lastly, to live our lives with joy, which will naturally occur, he
believes, when we live happily.
And how do we live happily? He cites the example
of Simon Hwang Il -kwang (1757-1802). He was a member of the lowest
class in the Korean Joseon society of that time. He was a butcher and
considered an outcast, but once he entered the community of faith he was
treated like a brother, even by the noble class of society. There were
no reservations in their treatment of him which brought a great deal of
happiness into his life. He described how he felt: "For me
there are two heavens, the one here on earth and the one that will come
words of Simon should make us think
about the society we are making. Is the breaking down of
walls separating us from others an ideal we strive to
attain? Or are we satisfied with the polarization of ideology, education
and class? Is this just too much of an ideal to have any real merit in
our daily lives? We as Christians can easily see the way Jesus related
others no matter their place in the society of the times. There is
always something we can learn from the other, and something we
can give the other that will enable us and the other to grow. But when
this door is closed we are hindering the way our society can mature and be
open to the joy that God is offering us.