Sunday, August 31, 2014

"Followers of the North"

Question number four:  The Church criticizes the  government's policies, and  doesn't raise its voice against the human right abuses and nuclear plans of the North. Are we  not making it easy to misunderstand the Church as 'followers of the North'?

We have to understand what is meant by 'follower of the North'. They used to call us 'Reds' but that is no longer workable so the word has evolved to a 'follower of the North'. A word that has become popular.

Sin and wounds are what prevents individuals  and  communities from receiving the graces of God. We are freed from sin by repentance and wounds need healing. When, however, to achieve one's goal one makes the wounds of the other greater, we are acting contrary to the God of healing.

Korea was wounded greatly with the Korean War. To heal the wound needs a great deal of effort, time and the grace of God. The governments of the North and South have to work together to heal the wounds. Are not the governments actually using their power to  increase the  wounds of division? The use of 'follower of the North'  is causing the wound to throb.

If not a follower why the silence about human rights abuses and the working on nuclear armaments in the North?  A  segment of the mass media dislikes the position of religion and uses the word 'follower of the North'.

The professor uses an example to make his point clear.  In a class room there are students that are harassed. The class president does not pay attention and one of the students brings it to the  president's  attention and  wants  something  done. All would
see this as a good. However, those  harassed, point their finger to the neighboring class room: "Why are you only concerned about us the neighboring class has more problems them we have?" What are we to make of that? Because it is another room  doesn't mean that it has no relation with us; we should not use the other room to dilute what we should be doing. Why silent about human rights in the North? Those speaking in this way are they really concerned about the human rights issues of those in the North and is it coming from a love of these people?

Human rights in the  North and nuclear experiments are a serous problem but our problems in the South should not be of secondary interest or of less importance. We are dealing with a closed society and there is a limit to what we can do.One of our government's policies,  is working to have the North open their doors and this should be a continuing work of all the international communities.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Neutrality not a Possilbility

Question number three:  When you have a difference of opinion on social issues, and a portion of the citizens  criticizes the Church for being followers of the North and leftist, is it  not better to be neutral?

The professor says the word neutral has a naturally good meaning. However, it is not a word we use when we are concerned with right and wrong. When we are neutral in the face of good and evil, we are saying evil is OK. When it is a question of justice and injustice neutrality is tolerating injustice. We are not living according to the Gospel.

There is a need for all of us to be acquainted with the Social Gospel of the Church to deal with the problems that we have in society. The Social Gospel is concerned with politics, economics, human rights, labor, peace, environment, human life  issues as seen in the light of the Gospel. This is not something we can believe or not believe; it is not a matter of  choice but an obligation. "In so far as it is part of the Church's moral teaching, the Church's social doctrine has the same dignity and authority as her moral teaching. It is authentic magisterium,  which obligates the faithful to adhere to it" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church #80).

Pope Francis mentions in the Joy of the Gospel the importance of the Social Message. "This Exhortation is not a social document and for reflection on those different themes we have a most suitable tool in the Compendium  of the Social Doctrine of the Church, whose use and study I heartily recommend " Joy of the Gospel # 184). The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church was published in 2004 and is composed of teachings from the encyclical and Church Documents from  the time of Leo XIII.

Pope John Paul II gave the work of compiling the Compendium to the Vietnamese  Cardinal  Nguyễn Văn Thuận who spent 13 years in prison under the Communists. He died in 2002 and will be beatified shortly. His successor was Cardinal Renato Martino, who finished the Compendium.

The current state of affairs and the way the Church views them and the actions taken are based on the teachings  found in the Compendium. Many Catholics are not familiar with the teachings of the Church on these issues, and label those who are following the teachings as pro-North and leftist. If they are going to use these labels, they will have to include the popes and the whole of Catholicism.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Church and Problems of Justice

The second question: In our Catholic Catechism we are told that pastoral workers should not be involved in politics. Is this not the realm of the lay person?  Number 2442 of the Catechism:  "It is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful, acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens. Social action can assume various concrete forms. It should always have the common good in view and be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. It is the role of the laity to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice."

This paragraph does not prohibit the speaking about political matters but that the realm of politics is the mission  of  the lay person. The paragraph is often used wrongly. Public office, party politics or taking a leading role in labor unions is what is being noted as  not the work of pastoral workers, but the work of the laity.

Canon law 285 # 3: Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices, which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power. This is prohibiting the clerics from participation in political activity, although permission may be given. Expression of  one's opinions is not prohibited. In this area, there is  no difference from the rights of the lay person. "It is only right that at all times and in all places, the Church should have true freedom to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine, to exercise her role freely among men, and also to pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of a person or the salvation of souls require it. In this, she should make use of all the means—but only those—which accord with the Gospel and which correspond to the general good according to the diversity of times and circumstances" (Pastoral Constitution #76).
In the Joy of the Gospel we hear:  "Consequently, no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society... An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, its hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home, and all of us are brothers and sisters. If indeed 'the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics', the Church 'cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice' All Christians, their pastors included, are called to show concern for the building of a better world." (#183)


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Separation of Church and State

Separation of  Church and State is understood in Korea, but many have problems with the meaning. Not only in society but within the Church, we have a serious difference of opinion. No need to agree with what Catholics  say or do but to deny religion a place in the public square is not the correct response.

A series of  articles in Bible & Life treats the issue with  11 questions and answers on the place of the Church in our present society. A seminary professor has examined the objections he has found in the press and has given answer. The next blogs will treat the other questions.

The first question: Since by law we have separation of Church and State is there not a need to separate the Church and the World? If this is true is it not wrong to get involved in political issues?  Separation of Church and State does not mean they have nothing to do with one another but that there is not to be collusion. If we look at the opposite of the statement, we have some clarity. Unity of Church and State is obviously what the separation wants to avoid.

In the Korean Constitution, all citizens enjoy the freedom of religion, and no state religion may be recognized. Church and State are to be separated. Some feel  there should be no relationship between the two. The original understanding was to have a healthy tension between the two. Example: If one religion by their convictions were to inflict injury on another religion or damage their buildings, the State has to stop this. On the other hand, if the State was doing something against the peace and happiness of the citizens and not working for the common good, it would not be proper for religions to be silent or give consent to the actions.


During the Japanese occupation of Korea some of the leaders in the Korean Catholic Church, embarrassingly, understood the meaning of separation of Church and State to be against  resistance to Japanese rule and didn't join actively in the March First Independence Movement. In the vortex of the times, Ahn Jung-geun (Thomas) with a Gospel understanding was a part of the independence movement. Shooting Horibundo Ito was  for patriot Ahn a religious act.

Either, one understands the actions of Ahn the way  the Japanese Government would see it or the way Patriot Ahn saw it. Which side would you choose?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Remembering the Pope's Visit

The Catholic media will be filled with reminiscences of Pope Francis' visit to Korea and its meaning for the Korean Church for years to come. Our own Maryknoll family here in Korea had the opportunity to meet the pope and shake his hand. The emotional content will remain for years.

One journalist  writing in the Catholic Times mentions during the five days of the pope's visit the word most often heard was 'envy',  for as long as he can remember there was never an occasion for him  where this mood of 'good envy' was present. From the time of the pope's arrival to the Mass of reconciliation on the day of departure--when distant 30 meters, when close less than one meter--close enough to hear him breathing was the good fortune of many.

During the five days, the journalist was following the pope he mentions the many times he was overcome with emotion. At the times the pope was reacting with different people, many were experiencing what the journalist experienced. Tears came to his eyes not infrequently.

Not only Korea but in other parts of Asia, many were feeling the distress of the pope in many of his encounters. What made for this enthusiasm? The journalist feels for him, using one word, the authenticity which he saw.

Poverty is a word that comes easy to mind, not something easily lived. Humility is easy to talk about, but also difficult to have it become part of who we are. Before he became pope, Francis was living this kind of life, and many people were moved by the encounter.

During difficult times when we remember the happiness of the  past, we are given strength to overcome our problems. The visit of the pope to Korea will have different meanings for all of us, and it will depend on the way we remember the visit in the future that will influence our lives.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reflection on Pope's Visit to Korea

The two main reasons for the visit were the attendance at the Asian Youth Meeting, to encourage the young people, and the  second, the beatification of 124 martyrs. The beatification went  back to the past to give life to the present and future.

At the Asia Youth Meeting, the pope gave the youth hope, dreams and encouraged them to look ahead to joy, not  fear, and put the wisdom of their faith in all the  facets of their lives. He challenged them to be witness to Jesus, and be his disciples.

He urged the Christians to go to the peripheries to meet those who were hurting. In the sermon for the beatification, he wanted us to go back to the dawning of Christianity in Korea, and have the heart of those first Christians, and their joy. The professor stresses that the first Christians did not separate the love of  God and neighbor as our society so easily does today. The pope asked all of those with good will to remember we have been called to work for a just, free and reconciling society.

In the visit to Korea, the pope was kept busy and left behind many messages for the country and the Church. He wanted the clergy to avoid clericalism; the religious to be conscious of poverty and the practice of love. He asked all the Christians to have concern  for the poor, and be in solidarity with them. He encouraged all of us to  have an optimistic hope for the future, and give ourselves to the works of  love, justice and peace.

It may be that  Korean society was hoping the pope would help solve some of their problems, but he asked us to take care of the poor, and the  marginalized.

He did not come to Korea to solve problems but to commiserate and advise.  He applauded those who were doing something to benefit society and left Korea with suggestions that will help us grow to a more mature Catholicism with a blueprint for the future.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Black and White Thinking

Korea is now a first world country; little difference from other countries enjoying material prosperity. A professor writing in the diocesan bulletin continues his discussion with obstacles to communication, and this time it is the black and white thinking: either-or fallacy-- all or nothing. With  material prosperity we seem to be  prone for this either-or outlook.

In society we have: the conservative progressive divide, right and left, the government in power and those wanting the power, the young and old, city and country, the polarization is becoming more serious. The country is divided into camps of black and white thinking.

Logic makes clear that  we are dealing with contradictory positions. There is no middle way. The black denies the white and the white the black. Right or wrong, good or bad they are against. Both positions are not able to exist together-- one has to  overcome the other.This kind of thinking does not allow for co-existence but confrontation and conflict.

In the past when the left confronted the right and the right the left, we talked about the center. Those in the center disliked both positions. Black and white thinkers  saw the center as opportunists without a position.They were not accepted by either group-- objects of scorn and ridicule. When two whales are fighting the squid in between gets squashed. While the fight continues both are hurt as is the society in which they live.

This black and white position does not allow for dialogue and prevents dialogue from happening. Each group is wedded to what they agree, and will not open the door to understanding something new. The idea that communication has to do with what is similar and what is different is a premise for communication which has little value to these two  antagonists, and the reason for using force and violence. This is the reason we have violence in the family, school, society, work place, in politics and religion.

A bird needs both the left and right wing to fly.  When one of the wings  is out of commission the bird can't fly. But even with the two wings the bird can't fly for it is the body that gives the wings the motor power necessary. The wings have to be attached to the body to fly; with two equal wings we have harmony and balance.The wings with harmony and balance are able to carry the bird to where it wants to go. A conflict between the wings brings disaster. 

What is necessary to overcome this black and white thinking is to allow this middle area to have some different in-put. When the black and white join together we have all kinds of different colors that enter into the mix, making for harmony and balance. We have communication and co-existence. We have a healthy society.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pope's Homework for Korea

At the conclusion of Pope Francis' trip to Korea, the Korean Catholic Community has begun reflecting on his message. Editorials, articles in the Catholic press, lectures and sermons convey to us  areas for future effort and hope.The Peace Weekly editorial expresses well the divisions, conflicts, indifference, selfishness, compromises, and values that need to be replaced with justice, peace, and unity.

Pope Francis was the center for this hope in his visit to Korea. His actions were humble and friendly, absence of walls, but not frivolous. His words were both  soft and strong; they matched his actions. From the beginning to the end, he was a  pastor and  yet moved people without overt religion,

He came to Korea and the Church with a very clear message. In every one of the places he stopped: at the airport, the Blue House, with the Asian youth, the beatification ceremony, meeting the Asian Bishops, the Flower Village, the Mass of Reconciliation, with each encounter, there was a united message where the words matched the actions.

He came with a gift. We have a blueprint with which to work with in the future. The Church needs to understand  what to do, and work to realize and implement the pope's message. The Peace Weekly will work, it says in the editorial, to make the pope's message known to the readers in the years to come.

The editorial wants us to understand the message he  left us in his  five days in Korea. There was a unity in all that was done. From the time of his arrival to the time of departure, the message was the same. He met the families of those who died  in the Sewol tragedy. On the plane back to Rome he said we can't be neutral in the face of suffering. When we don't face truthfulness and authenticity and fail to  empathize, we refuse to see. Pope Francis listened to the hurts of those he met and was moved.

We need to learn from humility. Simplicity and  spirit of poverty are closely related to this humility. They have moved  us as a community of faith. In a word, we need to be Christians. The pope was welcomed by many not as a celebrity or a politician, and he did not behave as such. He was a sinner and a follower of Jesus. He did not talk about himself but about  Jesus. He has left Korea, but the message remains, the future work of the community.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Obstacles in communicating

One of the obstacles in communicating is authoritarianism. A professor of philosophy and ethics treats the subject in our diocesan bulletin. He admits that we have come a long way in our struggle to rid ourselves of the problem; however, we have the remnant still in politics, economics, family, education, in the workplace, and in religion.

He begins with the difference between authority and authoritarianism. An  example  is the relationship of a father to son. The role of the father and the role of a son are both understood. When the father is most  father-like, he is fulfilling the role of a father. When the son says the father is the best, he acknowledges the authority of the father. Acting like a father the authority of the father will be recognized by the son. When the father is not acting like a father and makes the son recognize his authority, we are dealing with authoritarianism.

A teacher who uses his authority well does not necessarily mean he would also be a good father. The  authority of each roll and capacity  in society has to be  seen separately. A good teacher does not necessarily mean a good father.

In our traditional society, the relationship, we have with others is vertical: superior and inferior, subordination easily gives  birth to authoritarianism. There is little concern for quality of behavior and roll, but rather with  power and position and almost unknowingly, force. Consequently, strength is exhibited, demand for respect,  saving face, ostentation, ceremonies,  bluff, embellishment and hypocrisy. Content is less important than to please the superior. The vertical structure of our society, the professor maintains, is the reason for many of our problems. Briefly, authoritarianism is when a person is naturally expected to do one thing and doesn't, still wanting to have his position respected. 

The stronger the authoritarianism  shown by the  superior the more those who are subordinates will be watching how the wind is blowing, be passive and negative. They   try to curry favor with their actions. In the family when the father is authoritarian the children find it difficult be independent; a  teacher with this attitude will have students without creativity, initiative and spontaneity. Authoritarianism   not only stop with the objects of the authority, but extends to   others. We have a lack of face to face   and the absence of communication. 

When authority is horizontal, we have communication. Being accepted, is less important than to  accept others, instead of reigning, concern for others, instead of arbitrary decisions, cooperation, instead of soliloquies, dialogue, more than external concerns internal matters become important we become more mature. When we have authority and not authoritarianism, we have in the family, society and the church people communicating with each other.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fake Early Manuscripts about Korean Catholicism

Recently, some of the material that (John Baptist) Yi Byeok, one of the scholars who had a great deal to do with  the beginnings of Korean Catholicism, was judged  a fake. Yi Byeok was the one that convinced  (Peter) Yi Seung-hun to be baptized, Korea's  first Catholic.  He brought back books from China that were used to study Catholicism, and they began forming a community of believers.

A Protestant minister who was interested in  early  Christianity in Korea began collecting manuscripts from the these days.  One of writings was Seongkyo Yoji, (Essentials of the Holy Teachings) supposedly written by Yi Byeok. In an essay written by Fr. Youn in the Catholic Times, a priest who has studied the issue for three years, published a book giving reasons whey the manuscript was a fake. The minister donated his collection to a museum  and in 1967, the manuscript was discovered and many Catholic scholars, he says, without verification began using the material.

In the essay, he says  there never was any reference in the writings of the early Church that Yi Byeok ever wrote anything. In the manuscript, there are words that the early Christians did not use, but words that were in use by the Protestants years after the death of Yi Byeok. The book is filled with examples that the early Catholics would not have known from the reading of the books that they had received from China.

The priest mentions that Protestantism came to Korea a hundred years after the beginnings of Catholicism. Thirty years after the death of  Yi Byeok, Protestant Missioners in China were translating the Scriptures into Chinese and these words, that were unknown  to the Korean Catholics appeared in the manuscripts that were supposed to have been written by Yi Byeok.

These facts already were known by the  bishop's committee on beatification back in 2003. However, some had difficulty in accepting this news and even today we do have a few who have problems, however, the majority accepted the information by the priest.

Apparently, the minister who was gathering manuscripts back in  the  1930s  was paying good money for these writings so that they would not get in other people's hands, which  prompted others to see the possibility of making  easy money and began to make  copies of the history of the early church, supposedly written by martyrs. The essay mentions even today there are those that are trying to sell manuscripts from the early days and hopes that we don't continue to fall for these hoaxes.

Fr. Youn finishes the essay by telling those who want to study the matter in more detail, before concluding we are dealing with a fake, facts do  not change.  These people feel that  we are defaming the Church and Yi Byeok, and he finishes by saying what is not true has to to be proclaimed as not true.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Much to Learn on the Subway

On the opinion page of the Peace Weekly the columnist, a poet and college professor, tells us about his experience as a salary man for ten years before becoming a professor. He recalls the drudgery of taking the subway for seven and half years during rush hour. He was completely bushed; arriving home in the evening, he would have to rest.
During the summer months, this daily drudgery and pressure were all the more annoying. " I am getting off' one had to yell to get to the door. Getting off one train and getting on another that was even more crowded was the daily fare. His white shirt would be dripping with sweat;  the first thing he would do arriving at the office was to go to the lavatory to wash.  One day, a proposition became embedded in his head: a hundred years henceforth  none of those riding in the electric train would be with us, and decided to get rid of all his irritations. We are all going to die, why is he letting them be an obstacle to finding  peace? He was not going to be upset by his follow travelers.

For a few days, he was overcome with work and on his trip home, he had a nose bleed. Pushed and  being pushed his shirt became bloodied and also others unknowingly would have been splattered with the blood. There were those who that day seeing the blood on their clothes would have been completely perplexed.

Many are the times we cause harm to another unintentionally. We miss the opportunity to apologize, have regrets, and spend time reflecting on the way we are abused. Often we have been harassed and irritated, and fight back, a common occurrence on the electric train.Those riding with him are fellow countrymen, neighbors, the other. Persons I am related to in a small or big way numbers in the thousands.

Our Lord has told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We can't live this in our daily lives. Those with whom I am relating will die before or after me, and I should open my heart to them. We know that this world's goods do not satisfy us; there are other more important realities.

When in the subway, we know that no matter how hard we try we will look at certain people with a scowl on our faces. He has difficulty with those who noisily chew gum; ride the subway with their mountain-climbing  gear and speak in loud voices; lovers who are caressing each other seeming to want others to see them; loudly expressing  their political views are those who in the family are authoritarian. He would like those who preach in the subway to refrain from using hell as the main topic. Unbelievers are not going out to a church who makes them fear God. 

When we care for others in our given space, and we are polite we see the other differently. The writer does not drive so he uses buses and subways daily and sees, hears and feels much. The Chinese character for person is written: ren : person. The columnist wants us to see this as two people leaning on each other.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

'Social Emotional Learning'

A doctor writing in Bible & Life reflects on his  understanding  of empathy  growing up, and in his years as a child psychiatrist. His mother was a pharmacist, and would take care of his medical needs. He never considered  medicine as a career, and he ends up as a doctor. He saw this as a mystery. The troubles  he saw  growing up and the death of so many in the family, the pain of so many young people, gave him the  desire while in college to go on to be a child psychiatrist.

In one of the cities in Korea a few years ago there were two successive suicides of children jumping  off apartment buildings. Thinking of the classmates of these  children the doctor had to do something, he took members of the children's mental health center, and went to the school. He looked at the girl who sat in the seat behind the child who committed suicide; her head was down, completely dispirited.  He was sorry for those who had died but had more of a need to be with the  living. After the period of mourning he did make it clear to the students, it was alright to laugh.

The coal briquet suicide of a mother with a brain tumor, and her two daughters were found dead by a middle school teacher. The doctor mentions that the teacher after a shower and changing his clothes, the smell  of the  coal briquet remained with him while teaching, he couldn't hold back the tears. The doctor told the teacher, it was a good lesson for his students. And reminded him that  smell is  the most sensitive of our senses.

The doctor was five weeks at the school that lost so many students in the Sewol tragedy; they wondered if the school would ever open again, but the doctor had trust in the strength and resiliency of the students.

On one occasion helping to  heal persons who were sexually abused one of them: "Doctor have you ever been sexually abused?  If you have never been  abused  how can you understand me?" These words were like a chisel at the heart. He felt lonely and heartbroken; this feeling came back again when he was asked if he had ever lost, unexpectedly 250  younger classmates? 

 Empathy, he says,  has to have both the emotional and the cognitive  operating together. With trauma, the emotional faculty is so strong that it silences the thinking brain.The doctor believes more than learning the different formulas of mathematics and another English word; it is important to have social and emotional learning: skills to manage emotions, show sympathy for others,  and make responsible decisions. When our emotional faculty is in order the cognitive will naturally do what is necessary.

He finishes the article with sadness that this was not part of the training of those in the Sewol Ferry. If  the students had been exposed to 'social-emotional  learning' when the loud speakers told them to remain in their cabin, and they  realized this was a question about life and death, they would have acted differently, and the adults would not have put their safety first.

The  last words are not to criticize, he says,  we need to understand others. The Sewol tragedy is happening  around us continually.  We need to have   a love for others. He brings Cardinal Kim to our attention with his  kind smile. He misses the Cardinal. The Cardinal "wanted to give more people more happiness' and the doctor would like that energy, to enter our sterile society to give life.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thanks be to God

A priest reflects on the passage in the second chapter of John's Gospel, the marriage feast at Cana, and shares with us the results. He begins with the shape of the church buildings he has seen over the years. He doesn't know why they build churches with high ceilings but his experience in saying Mass in buildings with low ceilings made him appreciate the high ceilings.

At times, he has said Mass in large churches with small clusters of Christians scatter throughout  the church. Not a very efficient use of space he  thought.  Seeing the Christians leaving the church he wondered, did the churches have to be that large.

The inside of the church with the floor, the walls and the ceiling can be seen as a large water jar. In the Gospel story, our Lord tells the servants to fill the jars with water, and this became the wine for the feast after the first batch was consumed. He wants us to see us  going into a church that is like an empty jar, we become the water that fills the church. During the Mass, we again experience the love that Christ has shown us and intoxicated with this love we become changed into the new wine of his love. With  this  love, every place we go, we bring his joy, gratitude and love  and fill all we meet with what we have received. We are called to go out to those whose life doesn't have the joy and fullness that Jesus wants us all to possess.The second example is from chapter 47 of Ezekiel. The water from the sanctuary of the temple flows out and nourishes all the land giving life to all that it comes in contact with. Are we not like this water coming out from our churches to give life to all that we meet.

There are many who do not have the time or do not   participate in the life of the community but they do attend Mass on Sundays. These Christians need to know why they attend Mass. They are renewed by the encounter with Jesus and his mystical body. They are filled with his life and spirit and sent out to others to share what they have received, and to help others to find joy and meaning in life.

As in Ezekiel we are the water that gives nourishment to all that it meets. He wants to believe those who are anxious to leave the Church quickly after communion on Sundays are those that want to begin sharing what they have received at the Mass.

At the end of each Mass the priest sends us forth. We are filled with gratitude. We want to carry what we have received to the whole world. After the  blessing, we are told to 'Go" and we answer with a loud: Thanks be to God.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Consecrated LIfe of the Lay Catholics

Korean Catholicism is unique, started by lay people and not missioners. They are proud of this and know even before the first priest entered Korea, they had 4,000 Catholics. The Chinese Missioner Fr. Chu Mun-mo died as a martyr, today, he will be beatified with 123 others. After only six years working in the country the first Catholics raised the number of Catholics to 10,000. Over thirty years, until the French Missioners came to Korea, the Catholics were without clergy. Lay Catholics were the foundation of our Korean Church.

Lay people are the sleeping giant in the Church. They are the Church, and when the clerical and religious presence are too strong, the laity may find it difficult to take their rightful place. "These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are established  among the People of God. They are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ. They carry out  their own part in the mission of the whole Christian people with respect to the Church and  the world ("Lumen Gentium" #31).

In one of the columns in the Catholic Times the writer, a layman, brings to our attention the consecrated life of the laity. In many parts of the world, we see the lack of vocations to the clerical and religious life, and the weakening of the faith  in these countries. At the same time, we see an increase in the number of lay people who are getting involved with the community of faith, living as celibate  lay persons, dedicated completely to the work of Christ.
Next year, he reminds us is the year of the consecrated life. The writer mentions that a lay women hearing about this in one of the volunteer groups working within the Church  said:  "Consecrated life when heard is filled with difficulty.  The smell of the  clerical and religious life is what comes to mind; I don't know how much meaning this will have for the layperson?" The columnist agrees with the woman's observation.  

However, he says when you understand that a person who is consecrated to the worship of God no matter whether he is a priest, religious or lay person, the distinction disappears. We are all given life by God and consecrating our life to the worship of God is not  difficult to understand.

The consecrated life is living the Gospel values of chastity, obedience and poverty. Many are those who take upon themselves this way of life by promises or vows."Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God" (Catechism # 915).  

There are many who are lay members of secular institutes who live within the world and and are consecrated and live as lay persons recognized by the Church. Only God knows the numbers who give themselves completely to God without any recognition by the church, but live the life of the evangelical counsels.

Friday, August 15, was the Feast Day of the Assumption and the Independence Day of Korea, liberation from the colonial rule of Japan. Mary is the pre-eminent  disciple of Jesus a person who was consecrated to the mission she had received, and the one we try to imitate.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

Pope Francis is in  Korea at a time when not all is well between the two Koreas. August 15th was Independence Day commemorating the end of colonial rule by the Japanese. We hope the pope's visit will be like a second liberation.These are words of a  poet teacher, writing in a diocesan bulletin.

These thoughts bring to mind her grandchildren. She hadn't seen them for some time and they were now grown up. She heard them quarreling over what program to watch on TV and heard her grandson say:  "Grandmother said to watch the soccer match." The granddaughter responded: "Grandmother is on my side." She heard crying from the sitting room and  went to the room: "Grandmother you are on my side, aren't you?" asked the child running to the grandmother. "Except for the times you are wrong I am always on your side."  She  consoled the two children. "Yes, when wrong, God is not on my side." The grandmother reminded the children. "I have to be on God's side." These words she says came to her lips without thought. She always thought that God was on her side but  suddenly she realized that God is truth, and when she is wrong, God is not on her side.

In sports events on what side will God be is a problem for some. God is for the ones who play fair and square.

The pope knows that Korea was exploited under the rule of the Japanese for 36 years. Korea was weak, but we became Catholic without the help of missioners. The first Protestant missioners came to Korea with the Gospel of Mark translated into Korean.  She is happy with the news that Pope Francis in his visit to  Korea, is not differentiating between Catholic and Protestant.

The Pope today is saying the Mass for the beatification of 124 martyrs in the center of Seoul, but that is just one of the stops, today he will also go to the Flower Village which makes our writer happy. Kkotdongnae, Flower Village, is the largest Catholic welfare center in Korea. It is not without controversy both from within and outside the church, but Pope Francis was not interested, and in his manner of acting wants to show solidarity with those who are weak in  our society.

She confesses that in reading the Gospels, and in the  passages where  Jesus showed partiality to Peter, James and John she was not happy. Recently, however, this has all changed. She feels  these disciples are the ones that needed more formation for their work.

This is the reason for Pope Francis' visit to the Flower Village. He is showing concern and love for those  often ignored by our society and wants to be with them. This is the lesson she has learned from the visit of the pope to Korea.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pope Francis Will Shortly Leave Korea--So?

Today in Korea we have all kinds of books appearing about Pope Francis, who is now on his second day in the country. A woman poet  gives her reflections on the pope's visit in the secular Chosun Ilbo. Pope John Paul II came to Korea thirty years ago, and Pope Francis has chosen to make his first trip in Asia to Korea. Tomorrow is the Beatification Ceremony where over 500 thousand will attend, and the ceremonies will be broadcast live to over 150 countries. Even-though most Koreans are not Catholic, there is a good reason for many to see the pope's visit as a family event.

The writer, curious, wanted to find more about the 'man'. She went looking for material about St. Francis. Since the pope selected the name Francis, by knowing the Saint, she would know about the  pope's values and what motivates him. The Saint lived among the  lower levels of society; her father also had the name Francis, a saint whom many loved.

Pope Francis said his patron saint avoided power, luxury, and  pomp. He wanted poverty and humility. He wanted to live with peace, and asked that we condemn immorality. St. Francis worked to realize these values in his life.

Watching television we see the pope's presence saying Mass with the poor in their villages, riding the public transportation, his informality, washing and kissing the feet of the sick and the addicted, his correspondence with the sick.

He is pope isn't he? That is the least he can do. She has no response to this kind of question. All she knows is that he is like her a human being, why don't we see what he sees?

He has told atheists to follow their consciences. The pope, a person who believes in God did not find saying these words easy. She wrote these words on a corner of her pocket note-book. Conscience distinguishes between right and wrong, between good and bad. We have all received this kind of education but when we look over our lives and ask ourselves if that is the way we have lived, our tongues are tied.

Everyday we encounter pain and sadness in what we hear and see. Someone has to be there to do something. The pope on his visit to Korea, along with the  religious events, will be with the families of the victims of the Sewol tragedy, and the grandmothers that suffered as 'comfort women'  for the Japanese soldiers and for other  victims. Our eyes have  been glued on these issues for some time.

We should not look upon the pope as a pair of tweezers. It is our duty to remove the thorns, disinfect and spread the ointment. We should not have high expectations on what the pope can do, but examine ourselves in the way we  block out so much that we should be seeing and go around saying: I don't know. The pope has come to Korea but will shortly leave Korea