Many of the older missioners in Korea remember when the Christians would be able to take some catechism answers and put it to song. This came as a surprise, but it was soon realized that this was a common way of learning the catechism that dated back from the days of the persecution. They were so used to this type of learning that they could use the name of the missioner and ad-lib musically some words of congratulations on his name day or extemporize musically on some parish celebration.
Perspective magazine introduces us to the Korean Catholic epic
poem, "Sahyangga," that in the early years of the Church was often sung
learning the catechism. The article mentions
Father Choi Yang-op the second Korean priest who spent a great deal of
time devising ways to teach the catechism. The
majority of the believers at that time could not read the Chinese Bible
or the Chinese devotional books, and there were few books translated
into Korean that could be used in teaching the catechism.
Choi devised a catechism for the believers which was transmitted by way
of song, matching the Korean's feelings and sensibilities. He put the
Catholic doctrine in a familiar poetic style that the Koreans found easy
to learn and sing. This was made in a way to help non-believers
understand Catholicism and to defend against those who were
antagonistic towards Catholicism.
literary devices Father Choi sought to refute the arguments of those who
were antagonistic towards Catholicism. This also helped Catholics to
meditate on Catholic dogma and reflect on their lives by bringing to
mind the accusations of the enemies of the Church. These songs reveal
thoughts of the Koreans in the late Joseon dynasty.
precedes the introduction of Gregorian Chant and the hymns that are
familiar to Catholics. All the lines of the Sahyangga were based on the
There is a phrase in Latin that says those who sing are praying twice.
Sahyangga used the song's contents to reflect upon the particular
judgement, general judgement, and heaven and hell which follow death.
This was closely associated with the spirituality of martyrdom. Here was
a catechism by which they learned the teaching and also a way they
could pray with the words by putting them into song and memorized.
Besides the Sahyangga there were other similar epics and didactic ways of teaching about Catholicisms in song.
Since Koreans have always enjoyed singing, we can understand
why Father Choi Yang-op found it easy to use music as a way to teach the
catechism. This has continued and can be observed at daily Mass in most
of the parishes and mission stations, even when there is a small
congregation present. The society at large is no different: there are a great number of "singing
rooms," each equipped with a karaoke machine and a menu of songs.