Saturday, May 31, 2014

Faith Does not Need Cramming

The cramming method of education is criticized often within Korean society. Recently,we heard all kinds of reasons for the Sewol tragedy,  and even the education received, was mentioned as one of the reasons for the disaster.  

A journalist for the Catholic Times in her column begins with the words from a  learning  pamphlet that advertised their methods: "Lets us work in improving  ourselves, knowingly and quickly, quickly."

Children who have been brought up with the cramming method of education, the pouring in of knowledge, will have  difficulty, she says, improving themselves having been exposed only to this method. Without direction,and help in knowing what to do, the carrying out of what is expected will be difficult.

She mentions a documentary that she saw recently. It compared our lecture halls and those in foreign countries. Our preferred teaching environment  shows the students with their note  books and writing material listening to their professors. This is the method they have been taught and even when in college find difficult to discard.

In her writing assignments she has seen changes in the way the  educational programs are being conducted in a number of parishes, with the interaction and collaboration of teachers and those in attendance. She gives the example in making  plans for summer camp programs, where all meet together to discuss different proposals. The idea is to be involved in the process and take responsibility for the results.

The journalist reminds us that it is better to teach a person how to fish than to feed the person fish. When we are directly involved in the learning process, we come away with understanding and a change in our way of thinking.Creativity and passion is nurtured.She has seen this in a number of her assignments, which gave her great joy. 

The result of our educational programs for our Catholics is being reevaluated by some, for the past  results were not always positive. Much is memorized and knowledge  of what the Church teaches is conveyed, but there is little passion or understanding of the reasons we believe. Yes, we believe, but it is with the whole body and not only with an act of the will to believe. We should be able to give an intelligent answer for the reasons we believe. Our faith teaches us much more than we can know from reason, but it is not opposed to reason. We use reason to better understand our faith. Our faith is 'in search of understanding', which is what  theology is all about. St. Thomas said grace builds on nature:"Faith implies reason and perfects it." Our faith allows us to be more reasonable.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Love in the Family

We are all very different in the way we express our inner feelings. Some persons have little difficulty in saying, 'I love you' to family and siblings, while others find it awkward and unnecessary. Expressing our emotions is often  considered not a proper way of acting and in Asia possibly more so than in the West. The Asians may be more private about what they feel most strongly. 

In the Desk Column in the Catholic Times, the writer mentions a friend who had difficulty in saying what she felt inside when she was at her father's bedside before he died. All she could  say was 'sorry' although in her heart and head, she wanted to say: "I love you. Father, I am very proud to be your daughter; I am sorry for not being closer to you; I wanted to do better I am sorry, forgive me." Her father died three years before and when she thinks of what she wanted to say and did not, tears come to her eyes. Why were  the words she wanted to say blocked and prevented from coming out?

This is not only true with loving words for parents but also with family. The love and care, we should have in the family is as necessary as the air we breathe, she says, and should be the very foundation of family life. We are hearing about 'Family Love Syndrome' after the Sewol tragedy in which over 300 died. Korean society is fast-paced, and few are the  times the family can spend together. However, we see a movement in society to regain again the closeness of family life and spending time with each other.

Consumption has decreased, but money spent on family has increased. The dining out has decreased, but families going out to eat together has increased. Company and student group outings have decreased but families traveling together within and outside of the country have increased. This she says, is similar to what happened in the United States after the 2001 September 11 tragedy, and in Japan, after the earthquake and the tsunami.

A survey  was made of 500 adults to determine how much time was spent in conversation with one's steady, friends and parents. With the boy or girl friend, we had 140 minutes a week, with friends it was 97 minutes and with parents, it was 6 minutes.

Rare is the expression, I love you  to the parents for when they hear it, they ask: do you need money?

During the last minutes of the sinking of the Sewol,  the children, for the most part, were expressing their love for the parents with their smart phones. Over one month has passed since the tragedy, and still the whole country is overcome with distrust. The lack of morality gives birth to despair and helplessness. If we are just sorry for the loss of the innocent lives what good is it? She asks. Is there not a need to show love in the family more so than we have in the past?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pope Francis' Ten Keywords

Korean Catholics are waiting for Pope Francis' visit to Korea from August 14th to 18th at the invitation of President Park and the Catholic Church of Korea. Preparations have continued for some time, and will include printing books, introducing the Catholics to the lives of the 124 martyrs who will be beatified, pilgrimages to the  many shrines, lectures and  programs to help the Catholics to grow in their faith life, using the visit of the Pope as the catalyst. Reports say the Catholics of North Korea have been invited to come to Korea for  the Mass in the Cathedral Church of Seoul before the pope leaves Korea.They have expressed interest.

Cardinal Yeom recently did visit the industrial complex in North Korea for a one-day visit. After the visit, Cardinal Yeom said: "The distance between Seoul and the Kaesong Industrial Park is slightly over 60km. I thought about how we live thinking this short distance is so far."

In the  Peace Weekly there is an article about Fr. Cha Dong-yeop of the  Future Pastoral Institute of Incheon on his  program on Peace TV. He introduces the viewing audience to  ten key works, he says, helps to understand Pope Francis. The only way most of the Korean Catholics hear what the Pope has to say is in translation. The opportunities of coming in contact with the teaching and values that the pope is expressing  are not easily attained by the ordinary Korean.

Fr. Cha has gone through the books written by the pope, his sermons and news reports about the pope, and has made a list of 10 keywords which he feels gives a good idea of the emphasis that the Pope is showing in what he says and does. Fr. Cha says, there is much written on the theological and moral position of the pope but not the pastoral approach. They are also sign posts  for our own spiritual life.

* Happiness * Mercy * Poverty * Teaching  on  Love * Pope's Name, Francis * His grandmother's legacy *  The pope's prayer * What can be changed and what can't be changed * Communication * A Church without walls. These  are the ten ways Fr. Cha wants to express the main points of  Pope Francis' pastoral concerns.  The only one that may be difficult to understand would be the legacy of his grandmother: "A burial gown doesn't need pockets."  Another  of the many:"Celebrate each Mass as if it were your first and last."

Father Cha uses these keywords  on the TV program as one way to prepare the Catholics in appreciating the message of Pope Francis and understanding his popularity both within and outside the Church. Fr. Cha will eventually write a book with the 10 keywords explained.     

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reporting the News Truthfully

The Sewol disaster continues to make the news remembering with sadness those who have died, and anger on the way the mass media reported the incident.The public is beginning to reflect on articles, where speed in reporting was more important than the truth. 

Both Catholic paper had articles that pointed to many of the improprieties in the words that  were seen and heard in the mass media. On the Internet, we had a failure, in some cases, of a lack of sympathy, a rudeness shown for the dead and their families. 

Reporters, to find a story, went to the school of the students who died, taking pictures and searching for material for a story, without thought of the feelings of parents and friends of the deceased.

One of the guest columnists, in the Catholic Times, working in the mass media, apologies for the press for what was done. She mentions reports made, about survival  and air pockets  without any of the facts on 'Cold-Water Survival' in the waters where the tragedy took place. 

The water at the sinking of the ferry was cold enough  that even with the life jackets, she says, death would have come within six hours. She mentions that many of the reports on the sinking were thinking of the Mediterranean Sea, where the water temperature is not a problem. This is the reason why rescue efforts have to begin early, and this was often not reported.

Many of the reports were mentioning the chances of air pockets that gave hope without  referring  to the cold water and chances for survival. The columnist does make it clear that it was not easy to report the truth, seeing the crying parents of the deceased and missing. Korean sensitivity is very high and a reason hope is given without respect for truth. This false hope was also a reason for misgivings on the rescue efforts. The  hurt, sacrifice and  regret connected with the tragedy is great.

One of the articles in the Peace Weekly mentions the principles that  Radio Veritas Asia uses to report the news.  Get accurate and complete information and  make a judgement on the information. More than speed is the accuracy and balance of the report and  when possible to approach the story from many different angles. This ideal should be part of all news gatherers. 

Reporters have a great deal of competition, and they want to survive, and continue in their work. In the Sewol tragedy, many reports were false. The media is prejudiced in the same degree that we are.  Bias  is often seen in what they choose to report on the front page and on a back page. The way the story is handled is influenced by the culture. The trust in the news sources from the government in the Sewol  tragedy were strongly criticized and a reason for anger.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


When the economy is stagnant, many find their livelihood jeopardized. Debts keep piling up; businesses fail; work places close, not a few people are faced with a bleak future. A diocesan bulletin  gives us the thoughts of a woman who underwent  such an experience, and writes about it very frankly. The title is: 'God, give me money in exchange for my husband'.

She was married for 20 years, and their world fell apart. They moved out of their parent's home. The parents moved to a small house, and they moved to a basement rented room. She liked the  basement room. It was the first time in 20 years  she had the freedom to do what she wanted. However, within a week, the rice container  and the purse were both  empty.

She always dreamed of living independently. Shortly, she  realized that  leaving the homestead she also needed to have financial independence and childlike, those thoughts came later. She felt helpless and with her husband started working in cleaning services.

Her husband was not accustomed to manual labor. When she dragged him along to work, that evening his whole body ached. He would lie down and grown with pain. She was not able to understand him nor did she want to understand him. She was angry and kept herself from being overcome by anger and hate. She prayed to God, and although she didn't want accolades for being a dutiful daughter-in-law for 20 years: why was she in such miserable straits? She couldn't overcome her indignation, and she started to cry.

She cried more during this time than in the  previous 20 years. Her whole being was hurting, and the dislike for her husband continued to grow. Than one day in prayer, she cried out: "God, give me money in exchange for my husband. I no longer need him, give me money instead." When we are moved by greed, she says, there is no standard to the kind of words we may use in prayer. This is what she heard in reply.

"I am with you." Hearing these words a cold shiver passed through her. She recovered her composure and saw her husband. In her mind, she was the only one having difficulties, had grievances, and was desperate, that her husband was going through the same thing never entered her mind. She admits that her husband  was the person she married 20 years before. What had changed was her way of looking at life. When all was well, there was never a problem but when the financial difficulties came she began to see her husband as incompetent. The problem was not with her husband but with her. The anger and hatred came not because of the husband, but because of her desperation.

She was yelling and desperate; her husband was without words and enduring it all with patience. When she realized what was happening, she was overwhelmed with shame and wanted to hide. "God, forgive me."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Missing the Invisible Because of the Visible.

A seminary moral  professor, writes in the magazine: With Bible, on a need to see the world with different eyes. He mentions the book by Kevin Perrotta on James: Put your Faith to work. When we believe in Jesus, we can't accept discrimination. He begins the article with the passage from the epistle of James  2:1-4--  "My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people." Do I spend a lot of nervous energy on deciding what  clothes to  wear or am I surprised at the tastes others have for clothes?

The writer mentions when he was in middle school one of his friends was wearing a crocodile logo T-shirt with pride. The group of boys  began to argue about whether it was genuine or fake. The writer showed his socks to the group which had the crocodile logo, but the tail of the crocodile logo was going in the opposite direction. Although he said nothing, it was taken for granted that his friend had a fake logo and within seconds, his friend's situation looked shabby. He asks, was it the logo that was important or wasn't it something inside both of them, they wanted kept hidden, and were trying to express with the brand name? They were showing off, wanting to be seen better than they were. When he recalls this incident, he is embarrassed.

He introduces us to Merleau-Ponty (1908-19610) a phenomenologist and his book The Visible and Invisible. The body is what interacts with our environment: without the body, we cannot  communicate with the world, and we can't explain our lives. In our present world not only is the body considered important but the way we  express our sexuality, and it surrounds us everywhere. The mass media makes much of this sexuality and makes it a commodity.The result of this emphasis prepares us to  see only with our eyes and foolishly miss what is invisible.

With a belief in Jesus, we can't at the same time, discriminate among persons. Jesus is the example that we follow. He had no concern for the person's place in society or fame; he  loved them all. In the words of Perrotto when we associate with those who are well dressed we are dealing with someone important and expect some good to come, but with another person dressed shabbily being considered a friend is something we avoid. To judge only by a person's exterior is a fault. We are judging like the world and not a follower of Jesus. When attracted only by  what we see, we will not be attracted by what we can't see: and that means God and the things about God.

He admits that even today when a person is shabbily dressed and well dressed comes to church the way he relates with them is different. He still does not want to be treated like an ordinary person. He knows that this is not what it should be for a follower of Jesus. He realized that to see what is impossible with the bodily eyes needs the tempering by belief. And reminds us of the words of Jesus to Thomas: "You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Korean Youth Sunday

In Korea, Youth Sunday is celebrated on the last Sunday of May. Pope John Paul II started the Youth Day in 1984 for Palm Sunday, and the Korean Church  in 1989 moved it to the last Sunday of May: wanting to fortify  the young peoples' desire for fellowship, justice and peace.

This year is the 29th Youth Sunday,  and one of the two editorials in our Catholic papers mentions that the pastoral work with the youth is blurred. The numbers of the young people at the Sunday Masses continue to decrease. In last year's statistics those under 19 years of age numbered 650 thousand; this number has decreased 20 percent from ten years earlier. The numbers of those that go from elementary to middle Sunday school dropped 10 percent. When the young people are not coming out to church, there is little that can be done.

There is a need to be concerned. All those who have made a study of the situation are agreed that the big problem is parents. All  depends on whether parents are naturally able to bequeath their religious faith to their children. This is where the first interest and concern of the Church should be in addressing the problems with the youth.

The bishop president of the committee for youth in his message for the Youth Day mentions three points:   remember the importance of our faith, read the Scriptures and  pray before the Eucharist, and thirdly, look at the world with a larger vision and prepare for God's kingdom.

Pope Francis will be in Korea, August 14-18, on the occasion of the sixth Asian Youth Day. The theme of the event is ' Asian Youth: Wake Up! The Glory of the Martyrs shines on You.'

There is the hope that the visit of the pope to Korea will be a help to kindle a new fire among our Christians and his presence at the Asian Youth Day as an occasion to lead our young people to a more mature faith life. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Small Farms in Korea

This year was declared the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF). The Catholic Times has an article on the importance of family farming to reduce poverty and improving the supply of food. There are no signs that we are winning the battle against hunger in the world.


To help those who are hungry, our first thoughts are to invest more money to expand the production of food. However, the big farming conglomerates and Agri-food companies with their neo liberalism (the free market) is to permit monopolies and oligopolies (were a number of sellers monopolize the market) to hurt the poor and increase poverty.


Those who know the problems of the farm in Korea are concerned with the continual opening of the markets to foreign imports which will do much harm to Korean  farms. With the change in the climate and the relaxation of farm imports to the country, the fear of the farmer is great.


The article states that there are about 2 and  a half billion small farmers using 10 percent of the arable land and  producing 20 percent of the food.


If we want to feed for a healthy world, the article mentions we have to discontinue using genetically modified organisms (GMO), chemical farming, and factory type  animal raising. This is what is hurting the environment and the health of our citizens.


One professor said: the respect we should have for farming and for food is being destroyed, and farming and food are alienated from the natural environment in which we live, threatening  the security of our food supply. Family farms will help keep the ecological balance that we need, help maintain food sufficiency, the native seeds, variety of foods and keep the order given to us at creation.


Within society, we have different movements that continue to propose and give help in a variety of ways. The Catholic 'Save Our Farm Movement' is one that is helping with support and building bridges between the city and the farms. The small farm movement  preserves traditional food products, health of the citizens, the wise use of natural resources, energizes the local economies and the health of the communities.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Education for the Whole Person

In recent years, education and the philosophy on which it should be grounded has been discussed repeatedly. The Catholic Church has shown a great interest in the need for a new pattern in educating our children, and has begun this in many of its institutions. The results of our present educational programs have educated for the society in which we live: education to get ahead, get a good job and make a lot of money. However, this has to be for a select few, and the many others are left with a feeling of being losers, and many of those who succeed lack the humanity we need in a happy and mature society.                  

A priest, in the diocesan bulletin, writes about the need to revamp the way we teach catechism to our children. The problems in our Sunday School programs are not what  we see in the secondary educational system, but their problems are influencing the way the parents and children see religious education. Most of the students in the 12 years of primary and secondary education have not read the complete Bible. Do they really have a Catholic world view, Catholic values? In his opinion, there are very few. And bluntly states that it has been a repetition of what they learned in preparation for First Communion. The Reading of the Bible is not of course all that is necessary for a Catholic, but with a program in our catechism classes, he stresses, that doesn't have this  goal is missing something important.

This may have been the unexpressed  goal for decades in the teaching of our children, and yet we have failed. He puts the blame on the  lack of vision
by those involved in the education of the children: parents, teachers and clergy.

He feels that the parents do not see the need for a holistic approach to education, and do not consider the teaching of the catechism as equal to what they are getting in their educational programs in schools. He mentions 'The Duke of Edinburgh's Award' program. He feels that some of these principles should find a place in our catechism programs: non-competitive,  available to all, voluntary, flexibility,  balanced programs, progression, record of achievement, value of progress, marathon not a sprint and enjoyable.

Parents have to see a need for the education of the whole person and not see education as a means of succeeding in society. This is a big order and the reason why a change in our catechism programs will not be successful until parents see education in a new way. Holistic Education is of the head, the heart and the body. Nature, community and humanitarian values are important. However, in the society that we have made parents will see this approach as beautiful and noble, but not what the  competitive society that we have made wants or needs. Consequently, parents will continue to feel without the academic rigor their  children will not find employment and have a hard time adjusting to our society. That is the dilemma of parents: to educate for happiness or for worldly success. A hard decision to make, but shouldn't be for a Christian.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Social Networking Service

What are Catholics saying about the Church in their daily lives? What do the  Catholics find enjoyable about their lives? In order to have the answers to these and similar questions, we need a way of listening to what Catholics are saying, and a good way is the new media; simply put, going to the Internet. These are the words of a priest who is an authority in the study of media, and writes in the Catholic Times on the new media.

One of the research groups in the United States reports that during 2013 those who visited Pope Francis' Twitter account, 84 percent reacted favorably to what they read. Indirectly, he says, we know there are people who in their daily lives are interested in what the Church is saying and  are happy with the leader of the Catholic Church.

Important as it is to have a theological blue print of what is happening, likewise, necessary is to know what people are saying and feeling about the goings-on in the Church. With this information, we are able to prepare the nourishment and  make it more digestible. It is precisely this need that will make it easier for the Church to convey its inexhaustible treasures in a way  persons will be open to receiving them. This requires a need to know where to listen and to examine what is being said. The traditional media: radio, television, newspapers and the like are communicating news; their interest is not recording what people are saying but to explain and circulate information. It is here that the SNS (Social Networking Service) is of value. 

From the SNS, we learn how people relate to things religious, what they find helpful and what gives them vitality; the way they  relate to Jesus and how they experience him in their lives. We learn what they expect from the Church. These are all very important answers needed to understand what the Church has to do to address the problems people have in society.With the  new media, we  hear  the  voices of the people  and their witnessing  within the Church and become acquainted with what they  feel and need for living the spiritual life. 

The new media as with all of life, there is a need to  discern what is of value and what is not. Since the voices are many, it requires patience and good judgement to determine what is of help and what isn't. There are still many who use the new media without any desire to inform: negative, disparaging, and participate in less than human ways. This can be seen in some of the responses to the Pope's Twitter account. Since most of the responses are positive, we are thankful, but that is the price we pay for a free Internet. The criminal use of the Internet is illegal and when done authorities are notified and legal steps are taken, but there is a lot  between the very bad and the very good that is of little worth.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Talk on the Ten Commandments

A chaplain of a prison community writes about his experiences for a  pastoral bulletin. The community is a  very interesting one, he says, for the officers are elected by the community and are taken from the members with the heaviest sentences: it is only these members the community will follow. The president is the one who has a life sentence.

On Layman's Sunday, the prisoner president of the Catholic community  gave the sermon, and his topic was the Ten Commandments.  No problem with the first three, when he arrived at the fourth commandment, there was a change. He asked the congregation: "Who has obeyed their parents?" He asked them to raise their hands; nobody did. Since we are all in this place, he said, we have not been obedient.

  When he began talking about the 5th commandment, he mentioned this was not easy, for as everybody knew he was in prison because of a killing. The priest lowered his head and kept himself from laughing. Why in the world would he pick such a topic?  He couldn't understand. From the fourth to the tenth, in one way or another, they were the reason they were in prison: lack of filial piety, murder, fraud, sexual crime, theft, crimes against families, etc.... They did not raise their heads during the sermon nor did the priest, but the reasons were different. Those in the congregation   didn't raise their heads because of shame, the priest looking at them was overcome with compassion as if the commandments were only for them and in no way related to himself and others. In his thoughts, he wondered: Were the commandments only for these prisoners? He really never considered himself a sinner. Although we continually say before God, we are all sinners. He has not committed any serious sins so for him the thought of confession was not  welcomed.

Compared to them, he asks, is he a just person while the prisoners are sinners? Was he not like the Pharisee in the temple praying to God? He was embarrassed that his standard of judgement on what was sinful were the written laws of the country.

Time spent in faith sharing and discussing passages of Scripture with the prisoners,  he sees their resolve not to sin again. At this time  he appreciates why Jesus seemed to enjoy the company of the tax collectors and sinners.

When the prisoners are released the  parting  greeting is: "Let us not see each other here again." Discharged from prison they are not  going out to a welcoming world. They will have to overcome the scornful looks of many. Society will look on them as outcasts and shunned. When they fall into sin again they will hear: "It is what we expected." Is it because people knew they would sin again that they shunned them? Is it not rather because they were shunned, they turned to crime?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Money Affects Our Sight

Discussions on the tragedy surrounding the sinking of the Sewol Ferry continues with prayers, condolences and diagnosis. Writing in a pastoral bulletin a priest explains Heinrich's law:1:29:300. The theory says  for every serious injury, there are 29 minor accidents that precede, and cause minor injuries and 300 accidents that precede these minor accidents with no injuries. Looking at all the facts surrounding  the sinking of the ferry it was just a matter of time before we had this disaster take place according to the priest. We are given many signals that we choose to ignore but there comes a time when our eyes are opened.

There is no reason to quibble about the truth of  Heinrich's law, for our common sense would give us plenty of reasons to believe that cause and effect are operative when we  deal with catastrophes. The familiar proverb: 'A stitch in time saves nine' and 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,' are saying the same thing in different ways. Korean society has been hearing of the corruption that has been uncovered in the aftermath of the accident and wants to see some changes made. The President has in her message to the  nation vowed to take some very serious steps to prevent future problems. 

In a society in which  money is all  important, the big corporations and business enterprises consider that when they do well the smaller enterprises and the society at large  will benefit with the 'trickle-down effect' of their success. With this understanding more than persons and their dignity what is important is  money and ways to make more of it.

The writer lists  different problems that we have in society when money becomes all important to the disadvantage of the persons involved. In one case, workers who were recently fired from one of the big companies, 25 of the workers and members of their families have died or committed suicide. There are many accidents and diseases that workers suffer on the job, and are overlooked by the companies.

The numbers of suicides in Korea are the highest among the developed countries. The numbers of the young who have thought of killing themselves is also the highest among  the developed countries. There is a need to set some new priorities and values for our society.

Many in society see a need to change our standards and ethics. or we are asking for more problems in the future. Money does influence the way we think and what we choose to see. The culture that material success has nurtured influences all of us. Pope Francis says it well in Evangelii Gaudium: "One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption" (#55).

Monday, May 19, 2014

Gazing Horizontally Instead of Vertically

Recently, in one of the daily papers, a foreign visiting professor has been quoted as saying Koreans have a dual personality. He is considered a world authority within the medical community, and told the foreigner who was replacing him what his image of Koreans was. A priest writing for a pastoral bulletin uses this article to speak about a very important issue in society and the Church, and quotes the words of the professor.

"Koreans are very friendly. However, if you think that is their personality you would be mistaken. They are excessively kind  to the powerful and the famous but to those who are weak, and those they  consider weaker  than themselves, they can be surprisingly arrogant and proud. When in a restaurant, the way they treat the help, the higher their  place on the social scale the ruder they are. Humanely speaking I don't want to associate with them."

We all have the dignity of our humanity and should respect this in all whom we meet. However, rather than accepting all as equals we see the power and the wealth. A person's wealth and place in society are what is considered important. In this kind of society, there are many who feel inferior and lack joy. Even those who are flawless  have a difficult time within this society.

Within the Church, we also have clerics who enjoy the company of the wealthy and hear often that the poor are having  difficulty in coming out to the church. These priests who associate with the wealthy are not in any way rejecting the poor, but the lack of concern for the poor, and the associating with the rich is sending a message to them that hurts and alienates.

In Europe, we have the case in France and Italy where during the industrial revolution, the workers were not a concern for the Church, and because of the alienation they left, while in the United States, there was a concern, and we did not lose them like in Europe.

We have the example of Jesus, who associated with all the different segments of society and was criticized for this by the leaders.  We need to stay close to the poor for when  the poor no longer find a place within the Church it means the Church has distanced itself from Jesus.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Finding Reasons For Hope Rather than Despair

Tragedies bring out the best and the worst from those involved. The columnist in the Catholic Times, in the View from the Ark, reminds us of this in a revisit to a topic that he admits has been given a great deal of space in the media. And yet he wants to visit the topic again with a great deal of sensitivity for it was a devastating blow to Korean society. 

The Sewol ferry was not the first disaster Koreans experienced. In the past  there was the criticism and proposals for the future. But they had little effect on the way things were done. This situation has demoralized the citizens and many see little hope for the future and remain  pessimistic.

Great anger was felt  at what happened. The behavior of those connected to the accident that continued to make the news was hard to accept as the actions of  fellow human beings.  "How could people have acted in that way?" In urgent circumstances our true self comes to the fore. The columnist makes note of the  ugliness of what was seen in the behavior of those involved in the sinking of the ferry.

This disaster came at a time when we are asked to make a decision to be optimistic or pessimistic towards the world and its people, despair or have hope, be skeptical or believe. We need to take sides. The way reported, it was  easy to be dragged along to lose hope and become skeptical in hoping for change. The columnist compares what we heard on the disaster as a peeling off the many layers of an onion, only to find something harder to accept than what came before, fostering more anger.

He does see the need to make known what happened and why, but at the same time not to take away hope that we should have for a better tomorrow. Where are we to find this hope for a better tomorrow? This hope is to be found in our brothers and sisters. This is where we will see the change. We will never be free from  accidents, but we can hope that those involved will act like human beings.

Change is a possibility. All we have to do is look at the actions of many of those involved with the disaster. We had a women, member of the crew, who gave her life jacket to one of the passengers and remained with the passengers. We have  a school teacher despite danger staying  with the students, a student who returned to the ferry to be with his classmates. The families of those who died who pleaded: "Don't be sorry for us," and gave all their compensation money for scholarships.The many who worked without any fanfare doing the difficult tasks that came with the disaster, and the many citizens who felt the loss as if  their own.

He concludes his words by telling us that we are to see the truth of hope in these examples of humanity at its best. Better to keep our gaze on persons who have given us hope than on those who have disappointed us. They are the ones that  give us hope for the future.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Enviromentally Friendly Farming Methods

The poet farmer in two recent articles in the Catholic Times tells us of a farmer who is now in his nineties and wants to make the island of Jeju into an organic farming center. He began a group that espouses correct farming methods: not using pesticides and chemical fertilizers: farming that respects nature and humans.

Our country, he says has asked the farmers for many decades, to increase productivity by using pesticides and chemical fertilizers. There are many who did not listen. Fortunately, the government has changed  and is now actively favoring the organic farmers' movement.

In order to learn more about organic farming the poet along with the old farmer went to Cuba some years ago to learn about their methods. When  Russia was no longer able to help Cuba  and the embargo on trade to the country made the importing of fertilizers and pesticides difficult there was a change to organic farming out of need. They  began  to rely on natural farming methods and with great success.

Pesticides are horrible. There are those that say it is no problem because it disappears in the air. Some say when you spray the small plants it will dissipate as they grow. Is that the case? he asks.  When the pesticides go into the air where do they go? Where does the pesticide go that enters the earth? Rain and snow will bring it to the paddies and the dry farming areas, from there it goes to the rivers and the water we drink.

The farmers knowing how bad the pesticides are, he says, don't  eat their produce that they send to the cities.They are produced for the cities. There are few farmers who will eat produce that has been recklessly sprayed with pesticides.City dwellers have to start changing in what they buy. They have to buy produce that has not been  sprayed with harmful pesticides. There are all kinds of problems that are connected with the use of pesticides. The government has banned many pesticides, and one of the beneficial results is the number of those ingesting the pesticides, as a means of suicide, has  significantly decreased in Korea. This is just one of the many good  results of a ban on environmentally harmful pesticides.

The Catholic Farmers Association, along with many other groups are working diligently to make the produce of our organic farms available to our cities. Results are satisfying to both the farmers and the city dwellers. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Let's Have a Change!

Divorce is a common occurrence in Korea. Few are the  people who do not know divorced couples among family, relations and friends. Divorce is taken for granted, there are no negative influences on their position in society, sense of self-worth, or the way they are accepted by others. No one considers it a fault, which is a great change from the past-- the  divorced  do not see it as a failure. These are the words of the  Desk Columnist in the Catholic Times. 

The numbers of divorced are numerous. From the year 1950  we have a 13  fold increase. Without knowing  the facts given by  statistics we  sense it by living in  society. It is a serious matter.

What happens within the lives of a married couple are  known only by them, and one has to be very careful in what is said. There are cases where it is necessary for them to separate. We can't consistently condemn or be sympathetic in all cases.Seen as  an individual problem there are two possible responses.  (We are not talking about the separation that comes because of abuse or repeated  marital infidelity.) One understanding would be seeing the circumstances and being sympathetic with the separation and the other: Why change one person for another? --  the pessimistic philosophical view.

Even with a serious crime, circumstances can mitigate  the sentence imposed.  The couples are desirous of an harmonious life together and when this is not achieved we are sympathetic to the separation. There are those that can't live together. The relationship has turned into  hell,  and the best thing is to separate. Children are important  but today it is not the decisive issue. The writer, making his private opinion known,  is  not  for the changing of partners when things are not going well. The reason for the divorce is not usually, solely the problem of one  partner, but the suspicion is that both are responsible. When the sincere  concern for the other and failure to abandon an excessive attachment to one's own will, the possiblity of separation enters.  There are many couples that live with this stress and conflict in a tunnel in which they continue to  journey together. 

It is true that we have little to say about the relationship of couples but the number of divorces in society is something that can't be overlooked.  Our religion tells us that the covenant that was made at marriage was not a temporary one.  Couples  are bound together with a promise to God and to each other to live as husband and wife until death separates them.

"I can't live, let's change" is not the way we should recklessly express our feelings about the problems that arise in married life. However, there are many actions that are a dereliction of duty and condemned by the citizens as undemocratic  and self-righteous in regards to the government. In these cases looking at the way the government  has acted, the slogan let's have a change, is appropriate.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Life of Faith

Poets, writers, artists, thinkers of all persuasions attempt to expand our vision and make life more meaningful, enticing and beautiful. Certainly there is nothing that can compare with our belief in the Paschal Mystery, the meaning of the Resurrection, to give zest and great joy to the gift of life that we have received. Sadly for many it is to good to be true, and ignored as wishful thinking and worse, deception.

A diocesan bulletin addresses this with the words of  Khalil Gibran: " 'If winter should say, Spring is in my heart,' who would believe winter?" The priest writer feels this is a good expression to use in meditating on the mystery. Without the advent of winter we do not have spring and the many pronouncements of life.

We are in the season of Easter and the time to live this mystery. Without the understanding of  Easter life, we are not living with Jesus or encountering him,  and the Easter season lacks  meaning. The problems and  puzzles  of life are not resolved  and the greatest of these death, we will not understand. But even more is that we will live with anxiety and without joy.  Easter is the answer to desire for life, and happiness.

Jesus said: " I am the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die (John 11:26). In death there is life and joy in pain. Without pain we do not know joy. In the despair of the  paschal mystery we have joy and in the darkness we have light. Without going through the darkness we will not know the light. Gilbran expressed it in these words: "If we do not walk the intersection in the evening we will not know what to do at the intersection in the morning." If we do not walk the way of death we will not be born again.

A ball that does not hit the ground will not rise again. This expression makes clear that the despair of hitting the ground is necessary for the ball to return to the hand and to  the joy of the one bouncing the ball.

The priest brings us to the tragedy of the Sewol ferry  and the great loss of life. It was at the beginning of the Holy Triduum. The preparation for Easter was filled with great sadness. There was great heartache with the  families of the those who died but also for the Koreans who grieved for those who died and their  families. The Paschal Mystery, the Easter Mystery,  gives us hope.  " There is no despair!!!"

In Romans we have the well known phrase: "Hoping against hope (Rm. 4:18). For many the Christian life is  seen by those on the outside as a  belief that allows one to feel good for no rational reason. And yet those who believe are using all of their faculties and the great gift of faith that allows them to believe without any diminishment of our intellectual faculty.  We need to remember that we receive knowledge not only from the head but the heart and the body, our whole being is involved and helped by grace.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pope's Visit to Korea

During these  months before the visit of the pope, the Catholic Church of Korea is busy with its many preparations. Before the last visit of the pope for the International  Eucharistic Congress in 1989, the Desk Columnist of the Catholic Times reminds us  we had four years to prepare for the visit of Pope John Paul II. Consequently, the Church is busy, not concerned with only one event,  but a number of events in different dioceses. The desire to make the visit a  help both  spiritually and devotionally will make  the preparations more difficult.

There are two questions that we need to ask, he says. Why is the pope coming to Korea and what do we need to prepare?  The ceremonies for beatification  are usually held in Rome, there is no reason for them to be in Korea. The pope does not go to the different continents for their group youth meetings so no need for his visit to the Asian Youth Meeting. The political reason to encourage peace and unification is not a sufficient reason and the visit to the Flower Village is not the reason for the visit.

They are all part of the reason for the visit.  Each different diocese has the responsibility for preparing for the visit, and each will work to develop programs to deepen the spirituality and the devotional life  of the Catholics during the visit.

There is a hope that it will bring change to the way we are Catholics. This change should be a renewal in the way of  the Second Vatican Council.The second change should be to follow the teaching of Pope Francis in his exhortation to the Church in 'Joy of the Gospel'. The exhortation has become a best seller and we should read, study  and put its teachings into practice.  

The third change  is not only a change in the devotional life of the Catholics but also in the lives of the pastoral workers in the Church and the structures. It is very meaningful for us to remember that the changes are taking place at the very center of the Church at the Vatican. Individuals need to be the subjects of the changes that are necessary. To just be teachers of the  Christians is not all that is necessary, the leaders need to show us the change. The person who has done this is Pope Francis, an example to all of us. 

The bishops of Korea  are granting indulgences in preparation for the visit of Pope Francis for those who will make a pilgrimage to the shrines of the martyrs. The occasion is present for all of us to learn from the lives of our martyrs  and learn from their spirituality in preparation for the ceremonies on August 16.                                                                                    

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Missionary Thrust of Korean Catholicism

Korea is the only country in the world where their own citizens brought Catholicism to the people. Shortly after, they did receive the help of two Chinese priests whose period of work was short because of persecution and death. When the Chinese priest arrived in 1795, there were already 4,000 Catholics. The first Chinese  priest, Fr.Chu, died a martyr  after a short period of missionary work  and forty years later the  Paris Foreign Mission Society entered in 1836 to begin work facing death daily. With  the end of the persecution, other missionary groups entered Korea to help in the work of evangelization.

An article in the Peace Weekly mentions the desire of the Korean Church to repay the work of the foreign missionaries in Korea by sending out their own missionaries to other countries. They want the Church now to be a community  that shares in gratitude, helping other mission countries.

At the end of 2013 there were 979 missioners in six continents and in 78 different countries. Of that numbers 181 are priests. This does not include the number of priests who are working within the Korean Catholic Communities spread throughout the world. The first statistics of missioners working over seas was made in 1995 with 295 listed. This has gradually increased. Within a few years, Korea will have over 1000 working in mission countries.

Diocesan priests working in mission territory for the last 10 years continued to increase until the year 2012 to reach 94. In 2013, it decreased to 82. These diocesan priests who are working in mission countries are called Fidei Donum priests. Fidei Donum is the encyclical  of Pius XII promulgated on April 21 of 1957, which asked the world's bishops to share  their priests with countries that need help. Last year there was an increase of those priests who attended programs for those who will be working in mission countries. There is a total of 3,995 diocesan priest. The number of priests on the missions is only two percent, so there is a desire on the part of many to see this number increased. There are many parts of the world where we have a great lack of priests.

One priest is quoted in the article as saying that the reason for the small number of  diocesan priests on the missions is a lack of awareness of the need of missionary work and the satisfaction they receive in the work in the home country. If we want to see an increase, he says, the seminaries have to instill this in the formation of the seminarians. The bishops also have to become interested in the work of the Church in mission countries. 

The Church in Korea has been blessed with vocations compared to the countries of Africa and Central and South America. In 1984, there were over a 1000 priests. In 1995, over 2,000, in 2004 over  3,000,  and this year there are over 4,000. In the last 30 years, we have had almost a  4 fold increase. The number of parishes has increased 2.5 times. There are now 1,668 parishes in South Korea.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mediation to Solve Problems

Living with ideals and trying to make them a reality is a big order and not something that we commonly see. The two Catholic papers give us a good example of those  in the Seoul Diocese who are trying to do just that.

In First, Corinthians (6:1-11) St. Paul says: "How can anyone with a case against another dare bring it for judgment to the wicked and not to God's holy people?" The Seoul Diocese will begin a mediation board that will help in resolving the problems that Christians have with one another without going to the court of law. 

This Catholic Reconciliation Mediation Board (Tentative title) will work by mediation to solve with  dialogue and negotiation the problems between Catholics. The hope is that this will also spread to the larger society. Squabbles and conflicts that are brought to civil litigation are difficult both for the plaintiff and defendant because of  the long drawn-out process of litigation. Especially the one who loses there is much mental and material  grieving after the verdict. With arbitration and the hope of reconciliation, the expenses of the litigation and the mental stress is reduced greatly. 

With mediation there is no  winner or loser. The winner in the court of law reaps the fruit of his  victory while the loser drinks from the cup of bitterness. Mediation  enables both to win. There is negotiation, compromise, and reconciliation without this we do not have a win, win situation. There is a need for mutual consent and respect for each other, and a desire to understand.To mediate  there is as need to remain neutral and refrain from judicial judgments and remain the mediator between the two parties.

In the present Church because of negligence in forgiving and reconciliation we have a crises in many areas. With mediation lay persons will have a way to solve their problems in a Christ-like way. One of the Justices said that our society as it becomes more complicated there will be more incidents and conflicts that will make for a litigious society unless we work to have other ways to solve our problems-- necessary for a mature and developed society.

There will be over fifty members on the mediation board from the world of law, education,  the media  and other suitable persons.  These members will be registered with the government and receive legal approval.  Besides the solving of problems between believers, they will offer their services for legal aid, and continue to  study methods of arbitration and mediation to be of greater help to those that come.   The Protestants have been giving these services to  believers for some time. This attempt to follow the teachings of the Scriptures as an incentive to work to forgive and to work for reconciliation can only have good results, and hopefully we will be humble and Christ-like enough to take advantage of the opportunities.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Catholic Acceptance of Church Teaching

Surveys and questionnaires continue to analyze our society. Within the Church, we have the recent survey on marriage and the family to prepare for the October 2014 meeting in Rome of the Synod of Bishops on the topic: Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the context of Evangelization. Some of the results that the mass media has presented to the public show that in many parts of the world, it is a minority of the Catholics who live and practice the faith.

One of the priests in the province  of Chungcheongbukdo, in the central part of South Korea, had for his dissertation a survey of college students within the province on their position on life.The Catholic students on euthanasia, capital punishment,  abortion and the like were higher on the side of life in their responses than the other groups. 

Eleven Colleges and 703 students in the province were the recipients of the questionnaire. Catholics represented 13.7 percent, Protestants 17.1 percent, Buddhists 9.8 percent and non-believers 52.8 percent. These are the numbers that  represent their place in society. The following are some of the questions that were asked.   

"Parents have a situation where the sick person has been in a vegetative state for five years, the doctors recommend euthanasia,  what would you do?" 34.9 percent of all the respondents said they would not follow the doctors' instructions. 55.8 percent, would have to be there to judge. 60.4 percent  of the Catholics would not follow the doctors' suggestion. 32.5 percent of the Protestants, 21.7 percent of the Buddhists and  31 percent of the non-believers would not follow the doctors instructions. As a whole, 11.2 percent were against euthanasia while 83.2 percent would accept it in certain situations. 39.6 percent of the Catholics would not want it to be legally permitted, which was the highest; 10 percent of the Protestants, 1.4 percent of the Buddhists and 6.5 percent of non-believers would be against making it legal.  

21.9 percent of the respondents were against capital punishment while the Catholics numbered 55.2 percent  against. Protestants 33.3 percent,  non-believers 12.9  and Buddhists 7.2 were against capital punishment.

If you had prenatal life, and you knew it was deformed or a case of cerebral palsy what would you  do?  The total number of respondents who said they would give birth was 39.5 percent. Catholics: 69.8 percent,  Protestants: 51.7 percent, Buddhists: 31.9 percent and non-believers 29.6 percent. To the question what to do if one is pregnant before marriage: 32.1 percent of the total would not have an abortion. 60.4 of the Catholics would not have an abortion. 35.8 of the Protestants, 29 percent of the Buddhists,  and 24.8 percent of the non-believers would  not have an abortion.

The results show that the teaching of the Church has made an impression on many of the Catholic students, and yet there is much more that needs to be done. The priest sees a need for more programs on life issues, networks to spread the teaching and to reach the families with the teaching.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Knowing Who We Are

Do I know who I am? Are we the person others see us to be? Our identity is the person who we think we are, not who others think we are. The columnist in the 'View from the Ark' in the Catholic Times, a member of the bishops' committee on women's issues, wants us to reflect on these ideas. This also, she says, can be said not only of ourselves but of the identity of the  group to which we belong, or the nation. Important it is to determine the personal relationship we have with the nation and the society in which we live.

How do we look upon ourselves as Koreans?  For an answer, she says, it is necessary  to look at the history that has formed us. When we examine the last hundred years, we see how we were the victims of imperialism.  For 36 years, we were a colony of Japan. We were influenced by  foreign powers in modernization. After colonization, we worked to overcome the remnants of the colonial period, and before achieving success, we experienced the Korean War and a divided country; the military take-over of the government, and the May 18th Democratic Uprising. All this made us sensitive to which way the wind was blowing, and for survival to join the strong in the society.

Males, fathers, superiors, seniors have been given excessive authority and obedience, which was extended to the larger society, enabling the blind obedience and  dependency on the powerful in society.  Power that came from wealth, and strength gave birth to anxiety and fear which in turn, unknowingly, began to become an habitual cultural pattern in the lower strata of society. She wonders if the fear that comes from the strong in society, and the failure in the resistance is not a cause for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. The arrogance  that comes from strength she feels, is a reason for many of the problems in society.

Physical, mental and verbal violence that some women experience in the home is endured because of the greater fear of leaving. Suffering cruel treatment for a long period of time lowers the respect that they have for themselves. She does not have the  confidence  to support the children on her own, and if she leaves she feels she will lose her children and find the conditions for living difficult. There are those that believe that in time, things will get better. However, in many cases, the abuse becomes even greater even though the hope for a change remains.

Many in society are like the battered women who  can't  solve the  crisis in which they find themselves. She is  hoping  a person with greater strength will come to the rescue and will lead her out of the situation. This is the state of mind of many in society. She concludes her column by asking: "Who am I and how do I want to live?" Questions  we need to  give a great deal of thought.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Finding New Meaning

Youth in Korea are faced with many questions that an older generation did  not have. Jobs are not easy to come by; competition is fierce; the families are stressed, and living is not easy. The diocesan bulletin  recounts the story of a young man who was placed in a home for rehabilitation by the court. A Salesian priest recounts the problems he faced and the results of his stay at the home.

He was a good-looking young man with an attractive personality. He was well-liked by all who  knew him. His family  did not give him the love he needed, which was the cause of his trouble; he ran away from home, associating with his friends. The love he received was compensation for what he didn't have in the home, but he was all mixed up. He was looking for what he didn't have. This distorted kind of love that he received did not prevent him from getting into trouble, ending up coming to the home of the Salesians.

While at the home he was shown love by the religious brothers and little my little he began to feel comfortable and adapted well to the life at the home. He realized that he was given another chance and took advantage of the opportunities at the home. One day he went to the brother in charge of the home and asked if he could be baptized. He wanted to start living a new life he said, and began studying. Since he was only going to be at the home for 6 months and then be released, he did promise to do all that would be necessary before baptism. After release he would return for the lessons and the retreat that was required. And with great joy received baptism.

The young man enjoyed riding his motorcycle, and  he promised to blow his horn three times consecutively any time he passed the home; which he did as a greeting to the brother who believed and trusted him. The brother responded in prayer for the young man. For all those who knew him this was a great  joy.

When educating the young, and even more so when they are on a journey of faith, there is a need for them to discontinue one  way of life and to make a leap to another. One needs to move from the person he was yesterday to the new meaning and values that he has  today. Changing is what is meant by the word repenting. The development that is taking place is a change from the way one lived to another way of living. It is opening oneself to a new horizon of meaning and values.

The story of the rich young man in Matthew 19:21 is an example where the young man was not able to make the change and the leap to another way of life.

It is good to remember, says the priest, that the time of youth is when they want to grow in character. They want to grow internally and spiritually and put aside the various ways in which they feel oppressed.  What will help them make this leap are not long lectures or interference but acceptance, trust and love.