Friday, October 31, 2014

Born to be Loved

We all know that life is not fair. Some find it easy to accept karma and reincarnation to solve the  problems; a Christian accepts the reality.We call them crosses, often given to us by others, coming from our culture, our own actions, and reasons unknown to us, but what we do know is that we mature and grow by freeing ourselves from those we can, and overcome or live with those we can't.

An article written by Esther a young  woman in the  Kyeongyang magazine is entitled: 'You were born to be loved.' She begins telling her readers they will no doubt find what she says strange, but from a very early age she wondered why she was born. She was different from other children. Her father and mother did not live together and she was raised by her grandmother. At that time she thought she was the only one  being raised by her grandmother, but later  looking back, she realized that this was not uncommon in our society.

As a child she thought it was her fault that her parents separated, and never found other partners.
It would have been better if she had  never been born. When people tell her parents to find someone to marry she would get upset and also when her grandmother would complain about her situation and more so when she bad-mouthed her mother.

As she aged this feeling remained with her. Grandmother was always sick, grandfather was an alcoholic and before he died suffered from dementia.  As a child there was nothing that she could do. She was a burden on the family. If she was not there, they would not be in such dire straits. Her grades were good but nothing extraordinary. She had no confidence.

At school she was always late in paying for the school meals. Her dark skin made her the object of bullying. She felt that she was not worthy of love. She was afraid of the new. She wanted to be loved but when love was shown she was afraid that it would disappear, and avoided people. The thinking became unconscious, and deep down inside of her the feeling still remains. 

This year from the beginning of February she has been teaching catechism to the first and second grade students. She lacks the knowledge that she should have of the Scriptures but when her students call her  'Teacher'  and smile at her she is full of thanks and sees all with a great deal of love.

How did God make all these beautiful children? How precious these children are and how happy God must be to see them enjoying life. How can any one not like these little children? If there are such persons they are not part of God's kingdom. God must  have had great love for her when she was small. That love must now also be with her. Still, she says the negative feelings are there, and wonders whether they will ever disappear.

She knows that God must love her much more than she loves her students. When these thoughts come to mind it is easy to pray. She is very thankful to these young children who have helped her to have these thoughts about God's love for her. It enables her to spend more effort and time in being a good teacher, and she ends with a heartfelt thanks to God for all that she has learned.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Migrant Women In Korea

With Bible magazine has an article on women who have come to Korea as immigrants and are married to Koreans. The writer recalls her knapsack trip to Europe with her best friend some twenty years ago. They visited the paternal aunt of her friend in Germany. The aunt was one of the Korean nurses that went to Germany in 1970 and remained, marrying a German. She was  a migrant woman living in Germany. The visit was not to a  big city but a small village in the country and she remembers the stares of the villagers seeing these strange faces from Asia.

The uncle, the German husband, brought them around and introduced them to a grocery store run by an immigrant from Turkey. The Germans needed workers so they welcomed those from Turkey, but as the numbers grew, they were taking away work from the Germans and they were a drain on the welfare programs of the country. They also did not mix in with the Germans  but remained attached  to their own cultural ways; grocery stores with Turkish products began to appear everywhere, which caused a lot of comment. Germany had the same problems that Korea is facing today.

Today back in Korea when she hears talk about the migrants in Korea she remember her days back in Germany some 20 years before. Eight percent of the marriages in Korea in 2013 were with foreigners.  70.5 percent of those marrying were Korean men marrying foreign women. In 2005 it was 13.5 percent and has gradually decreased. Today it is one out of ten and usually foreign  women are the largest number.The government is helping these women  in many different ways to make them feel at home in Korea. This does not solve, however, all their problems.

In 2009 the educational level of the women migrants: 42.3 percent were high school graduates, 27.7 percent middle school, and 20.6 percent college graduates and higher. With the men we have 40.1 percent with  college or better, 34.5 percent  with high school, and 18.9 percent middle school. The educational level of the men was much higher than the women.

Different from the ordinary immigrants those who have come to Korea for marriage are relating with those from the mother country; outside of the family in which they married the contacts are few. This does not change, she says, with the length of time they are in the country.There is less prejudice shown to the foreign workers and the Chinese compatriots living in Korea. A large number of the women have been bought which adds to the problem and the reason they are often mistreated in the families.

There are wonderful stories about women who have made the transition successfully but most of the talk is about women who have been bought and find it difficult to adapt to the thinking and culture, and  abused by their husbands.She confesses that if she were one of them she would not be able to remain in such a union.

Last year a summer study was made by the Buddhist Research Center on the  place of Buddhism in a multicultural society. Catholic of the three religions studied: Buddhists, Protestants and Catholics, the Catholics had the most favorable relationship with the foreign workers. Would you be able to be a friend with a foreigner?  Catholics answered 45.3 with a yes, Protestants 39.4 and Buddhist 38.6. I don't want to get close to them: Catholic 1.2 percent, Protestant 3.6 percent and Buddhist 5.5 percent.  She says we should not look at this with pride for when she thinks how many Catholics would be willing to be friends to a migrant she feels depressed. 

She concludes the article with a reflection that Our Blessed Mother was a migrant in  a foreign land. She knew no one and she compares the situation of Mary with the women who are married to Korean men. These foreign women are hoping for a new life and need the courage to bring it about. Let us all figure out, she asks, what we can do to make contact with these woman, and help them to make the transition to Korean life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Love is Everything

A priest working in religious education for the diocese writes about  going beyond objective and subjective thinking in an article in Bible & Life. His office was a five minute walk from his sleeping quarters; last year for a number of reasons he moved to the diocesan rectory. Now, the trip to the  office takes him about 20 minutes by car and if he takes public transportation, the 12 kilometers, round trip, takes about one hour of traveling time. Most people would not  consider this a long distance. For him, however, it was long.

He recalls the words of a  song that mentioned love and friendship: "the distance was far from love and closer than friendship, not a lover nor a friend it was an awkward distance." He wants to see the distance he has to travel to the office more or less with this understanding.

The distance he has to travel is just perfect to  protect, defend and excuse himself. When he is late for a meeting, the long distance becomes an excuse, and  when he begs for a ride to his sleeping quarters it is then, only a short distance from the office, it wont take long. He admits having the shameless courage to utter these words. For the priest the objective reality of the distance has no meaning. He can make it mean what he wants. His subjective needs always come first, the objective concedes.

One day on his way to work at one of the  intersections, waiting for a green light  his attention was riveted on a beautiful melody he was hearing on the radio. When the light changed, without thought, he put his foot on the accelerator, and slightly hit the bumper of the car in front. His mistake.They pulled off to the side of the road and checked the damage. There were no scratches on either bumper. Since there was no damage they took pictures and  exchanged addresses and telephone numbers. The driver of the car was a young woman on her way to  work; she said she would notify him.

That day there was no call from the woman and he thought that all was resolved, but that evening about 8 o'clock a call came from a man who said he was the young woman's older brother. The accident, he said, so frightened his sister she was not able to do her daily exercises, she will have to go to the hospital tomorrow. He then mentioned the damaged  bumper and on he went, making  no sense to the priest.At the end he said let us agree on 300 dollars, and he gave his  bank account number and hung up. The priest was at fault and no matter what he thought, said or did wouldn't make any difference. He was angry and it took him, he says, much time and effort to calm down.

He was in a  similar accident some years ago when  a woman in her 50s hit his bumper in the rear when  they stopped at a red light. The shock was great but no big accident. He got out of the car to look at the bumper there was a  little scratch. The woman driver was ready to cry. He told her all was well, to regain composure, sent her on her way, and told her to be careful.

He was big-hearted, able to understand the difficulties of the woman, to comfort her in her distress, and here now he is filled with anger. He thought of all the bad things about the situation and his own carelessness was forgotten, and just thought of the blackmailing(?) of the brother and sister, and finally,with difficulty, put the issue aside.

Everything that happens to him he resolves in a subjective way and the reality of what happened always gives in to these subjective feelings. Love is no different. What I think is love is love, and little concern for what the reality is. Another person's pure act of charity often comes to him as hypocrisy.We can't give a numerical number to an objective act of charity. There is no fragrance that comes to us from these acts. Even judging on these acts in a subjective way is not sufficient. "There is no limit to love's forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure" (I Cor. 13:7). Love is everything. Without any partiality or bias when I am able to  fill myself with the above that will be love.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Death that Brought Back the Life of Faith

Atheism comes in many forms: weak and strong. Often we hear of those who abandon their atheism for religion and religion for atheism. The reasons are varied: some  are intellectual and some emotional. An article in With Bible magazine, a weak atheist  puts aside his  atheism for a very emotional reason: the death of his  80 year old  grandmother who he dearly loved and wanted to see again, and writes about the change that came during the three day wake service.

The grandchild had in the previous months lived with great doubt about God and felt resentment, and turned away from him. He gave up on prayer. Let's us grant that there is a God than all he could do was pray, he wouldn't see the grandmother again. 

He paraphrases the words of Blaise Pascal the writer of the Pensées on God's existence. "If we consider that God does not exist, and he doesn't exist, there is no gain or loss by my life. However, if I live my life without God,and he does exist than my life is a big  minus. In the same manner of speaking if I live believing there is a God, and there is, than I will have great joy here and hereafter." These words gave the writer peace and consolation. 

The grandmother, he tells us, lived with the rosary in her hand and the Bible beside her. She raised her children with a faith life always recollected and  conscious of God.

To realize the hope of seeing his grandmother again the priest in his funeral sermon gave him the way. In his sermon to the  bereaved family: "You must show in your lives that what your grandmother believed and valued was true by the way you live your lives."  

When he went to the grave site he learned it was not  only his grandmother with these values but there were many others buried at the site with baptismal  names that were inscribed on the tomb stones that went back to his great, great, great great grandfather. 

Catholicism came to Korea in the 18th century and from these early days the faith was  passed down to his immediate family. Grandmother had family members who had died as martyrs and she wanted to hand on this faith to her own family. The grandchild at the grave site was determined to put aside his  unbelief and to start living his faith and to pass it on to his children. 

The writer wanted to meet her again, without any embarrassment; this was the gift that she gave him with her death: returning to the faith that he had lost with a new understanding of what he had abandoned.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Extraordinary Synod On The Family

The two Catholic papers had editorials on the Extraordinary Synod on the family that was recently concluded. The Korean Church was not upset as many in the West, divided into different camps and with different understandings of Church. The Pope at the end of the Synod did take the middle road and had critical words for both the traditionalists and the progressive and liberals.These camps, within the Church, are forming in Korea but they have not reached the level of the West.

Korean Catholicism doesn't carry the baggage of the West so they are able to read what is said and accept it with little trouble. "Whatever is received, is received in the manner of the one receiving"  and Korea as a young Church, strong in faith, helped by the  martyrs and with a great love for the pope are an obedient Church.

Both papers mentioned how the Synod was not only interested in the communion for the divorced and remarried, and  acceptance of those with a homosexual orientation, but with all the problems that married persons have to contend with in life. The majority did accept the two paragraphs on the married and homosexuality of the final revised report, but not with the 2/3 majority required for inclusion in the finally paper, but the two paragraphs will be part of the discussion at next years synod.

Family is the smallest church, and societies' smallest unit; at the same time the origin of many of our  problems, and  where we need to find fundamental solutions. Consequently, we all know that if we don't foster healthy families, the roots and trunk of society and the church are in danger.

This year with the end of the Extraordinary Synod we will begin  preparing  for the Ordinary Synod next year. Korean Catholicism will begin preparing for the Synod with a greater understanding of the problems of family begun years earlier. One of the editorials  was concerned with a possible too literal interpretation of the catechism.

The Church did not begin in the temple, or the synagogue or in the desert, but in a  room of a family house. The Last Supper was in a room of a house and the Holy Spirit descended in a room of a family house.

The Eucharist is the 'salvation here in the present'. The Eucharist is the coming together of God and the Church. We are here given the sign that we have  been saved. The pope  wants to find ways to bring back to the fold those who have been excluded by the regulations of the Church. The editorial mentions that Jesus' standard was not the law but the good news.

One of the editorials concludes with the words of Pope Francis that we should never be afraid of treating the wounds of those who are hurting. We should not overlook persons who need God's mercy. How to do that without opposing the words of Jesus  will be the task of the next Synod.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Natural Fertility Regulation

Natural fertility regulation is the way a woman interprets her natural signs of fertility to become pregnant or avoid pregnancy. Also called the Billings Ovulation Method, developed by Drs John and Evelyn Billings. The method has been accepted even in China with great success but there are many in the West who find it too much trouble and prefer the artificial means and possible risks to health.

Catholic Times' article shows how the couple can have more satisfaction in their married life, add more meaning to their sexual love relationship and family by using the natural method of fertility regulation. Lee Theresa the  representative of the Korean Happy Family Movement stresses that  the natural method of birth regulation opens one to see the wonders in the gift that God has given us, to understand the gift, and strengthens the love of the couple.

Both husband and wife accept the natural cycle of fertility and work with it. They go beyond the bodily pleasure to achieve a oneness in their spiritual understanding and concern for each other, and in temperance, grow in respect for one another. In practicing NFR the couples notice a positive change in their relationship. Theresa wants it known that  "conversation between the couple increases, sensitive issues are discussed.They learn other ways of expressing their love, more than with the emotions they become more intimate and there is a greater respect for themselves."

There are many who have a wrong understanding of  the natural fertility method: too complicated, difficult to learn, the period of abstinence is long, an unreliable method of regulation etc..The biggest misunderstanding, she says, is the use only to avoid pregnancy or to avoid artificial means.

Many Catholics despite the teaching of the Church are ignorant of the method or are lazy or do not understand what real love between the couple should entail. This is not only true, she laments, of the couples but pharmaceutical companies and doctors who recommend the quick and easy methods of preventing pregnancy.

How can one ignore the feeling of love that arises and refrain from expressing this in the sexual act? She believes that those who think this way confuse love and the sexual act as the same, and in extreme cases there are those that see them as opposite to each other. 

We all have a respect for life but do not know concrete ways to realize this in our lives.There are many cases in married life where sexuality becomes a problem. The understanding of each others sexuality and the changes that occur are not always easy to accept.

In conclusion of the article, Theresa says that couples who use the natural methods are giving the children a wonderful lesson in sex education. Like the lessons given by the parents at the weekly attendance at Mass, natural family regulation practiced by the parents will be an important aspect of family life.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Silence is Golden

Silence is golden is a well know axiom and in the present society not overly appreciated. In her Catholic Times' media ecology column, the religious sister recalls a trip she was making from Pusan to the outskirts of Seoul, and was accompanied most of the way by a young man, sitting behind her, who was on the  mobile phone, with only a few rest periods, chitchatting.The sister tried to read, pray and think but found it difficult.

We from the time we were born have enjoyed muttering. We were born with the capacity and the desire to talk. A joy only humans enjoy. Since we  enjoy talking we increase the amount. Children who talk are developing their brain, creativity, powers of thinking, and socializing ability: forming their personality. When we become adults we no longer speak to satiety like a child. We regulate our feelings and our thoughts so that our personality comes out in our speaking.

We speak, she says, too much now days. No matter how much they try, some can't help but be a chatter box. Scholars have a name for this sickness: logorrhea. We do a lot of it now with our cell phones. Once in the hand there is a need to talk. With the phone we can not transmit our feelings and our body language; possible only when we are speaking face to face. 

When the phone is not ringing the person is always waiting. Fingering the smart phone in the hand and never putting it down for fear they will lose  contact with humanity, and feel empty and lonely. If there is no one to talk to they will go to their friends in SNS, an unlimited number of possibilities with whom to  communicate. She wonders if this is not a case of addiction to the word.

Much of the fare on TV is made for the understanding of a  13 year old child, and yet we see many who without any discipline are on their smart phones laughing and watching without thought of where they are and those around them.

We do not give words to all our thoughts since we are responsible for the words we utter.There are words we need to speak and those we refrain from speaking, words we use in different places and with different individuals.

'A wise person who values reading is careful in the use of every word and gesture', an axiom from the past. Why is this so? she asks. The words we speak come from the words we read. Reading becomes the  thinking that forms our words. Our thinking becomes deeper and the words we use have more weight.

When we feel that we are talking too much she recommends we put all aside, and begin reading. We will learn more than we expected; like prayer we will encounter the language of silence.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Global Family

A priest professor at the diocesan seminary writes about the Social Gospel in the Peace Weekly.The topic this week was living together with the world's family. He had just arrived for a talk at the Seoul Cathedral Parish, and had time so he looked around at the recent landscaping in front of the Cathedral.  In the past he would see  many Catholics who would be going into the Cathedral to pray, but on this day Chinese tourists were taking pictures outside the Church. The Cathedral had become a famous tourist attraction.

After the talk he left to go back to the seminary and it took him almost an hour to get out of the city. A trip that would ordinarily take 10 minutes. On the way home he reflected on how changed Korea was from the past. Korea is no longer a small country on the outskirts of a world society but a country with many foreigners: a globalized society which he found hard to believe.

When the priest was a child he remembered the foreigners as being an important part of the Church. Outside the church life he would rarely see a foreigner. It was in the church that he would see the foreigner. Once a year he would come in contact with  Maryknoll Bishop William McNaughton who would come on the  pastoral visit and for Confirmation.

The professor was baptized as an infant by a Maryknoll priest. He was confirmed by Bishop McNaughton.  He also entered the seminary and was ordained by the bishop. His first parish assignment was as an  assistant to a Maryknoll priest. He thanks the missionary priest for helping him during the first year of priesthood. He learned some of the ways of the West and pastoral methods from the priest. After this one year, he left for Rome to study and the year with the  foreigner did make his life in Rome easier.

Today it is not difficult to encounter foreigners in our daily life. There are many from other cultures who are living with us as neighbors.We see many foreigners in the work place, and in our colleges for overseas studies.

We no longer can speak about a homogeneous country or people.  We are part of the world family--globalization is part of our reality. But  still many   have a stereotypical and intolerant  mind cast  which brings shame on the country.We hear in the news  stories about the difficulties of the foreign workers and the prejudice shown to other religions.

In a  world of over 7 billion people we have many different ethnic groups, ways of thinking, and religions. We can't trample on the dignity and look down on the values of those different from ourselves.  The darker the skin color and the poorer the country they come from are reasons for the different degrees of prejudice that is often shown.  
"The world community must be presented, over and over again and with ever increasing clarity, as the concrete figure of the unity willed by the Creator. The unity of the human family has always existed, because its members are human beings all equal by virtue of their natural dignity. Hence there will always exist the objective need to promote, in sufficient measure, the universal common good, which is the common good of the entire human family” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church #432 ).

The seminary professor concludes that if we want to be a member of a happy family we have to not only think of ourselves but of the global family. We are all members of this world family and need to work for the common good, the way to world happiness.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Facing the Challenge of Puberty

On the spirituality page of the Catholic Times a priest columnist remembers a professor who was a great help to him in his education. He was both honest and devoted to teaching, but also human, humble and modest. All who knew him were moved by his warm manners and quiet demeanor, he left many with a good feeling.

He was always a valued member of the study groups, and cultural excursions. Two day trips were always memorable with the professor's erudite information and his pleasant conversations which added joy to the  trips. On these trips you could see him, when out of sight, sending  a text message to his wife. He was always a sensitive and understanding husband.

One day he came to the office of the priest for a cup of tea. They spent time talking about this and that, and the priest asked the professor about his son. The professor sighed deeply and said his wife was having some discord with the son which was causing some anxiety. The priest trying to give some comfort to the professor responded.

"When the children are small  they are precious and beautiful but when they grow up they are difficult to control aren't they? Especially when they talk back and defy the parents: 'If you are going to raise me this way why was I born?' When you have these kinds of responses it's difficulty not to be upset."

The professor in his answer went in a completely different direction from what the priest intended.

"Father, that is not the problem. I have been very happy with the relationship with the child. The child has given me much joy. He has given me reasons for being sincere and diligent. Now that he is at the awkward age, with continual back talk, in all honesty, it is not difficult to accept. The boy who is going through puberty is making us be more the kind of parents we should be, and the results will give evidence of that. Efforts that are made during this period will also determine our outlook on life  and the way we will face the future."

Hearing these words the priest was bewildered. The priest thought he was doing the right thing to console the professor by disparaging his son, but it backfired, instead the priest appeared to lack understanding.

The professor was looking on this period of transition for the son as a challenge given to them by God, a gift to make them better parents. The priest's way of looking at the situation was quite different from the father's attitude, and finishes the article with a chuckle. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Entering the World of the Spiritual

"That was really interesting." " I was bored to death." "Not that difficult to understand."

The above and  similar expressions are often heard after hearing the same talk. A religious sister who has a weekly column in the Catholic Times writes that listening is the way into the world of the spirit.

The more contact with the social network service, she says, the more difficult will be our listening. Speaking is in first place and listening comes second. When everyone wants to talk no one is listening. The word, more than a tool for communication is more a means to entertain isn't it?

We do not listen with the ear, but by activating the intellect. We help the listening process by reading.  Without the reading we are inclosed in our own small world. Reading helps us understand the world.

Within SNS we are living in the world of feeling and sensation, and think we are experiencing the world by the words we use. The written words in SNS are more like the spoken word. They have not been filtered or examined like the written word but are expressed with emotion and improvised like spoken words. Actions that we examine thoroughly are quite different from the  actions we read about. Accustomed to the words of SNS the more quality like words and literary expression become strange.

YouTube was a big change to SNS and we know the shorter the better. Over 3 minutes the ability to concentrate on what is seen diminishes. When something is long and we are confronted with difficult words they tire us. SNS hampers our ability to listen. Those who speak are in the drivers seat, and listeners are often not focused. Communication has more to do with the  listener  than the speaker. To be a good listener requires reading and encounters to enter the intellectual world of the speaker.

Before we were able to  utter a word, in our mothers womb we learned to listen. Sister wants us to remember this fact. The unborn child hearing the mother's voice and other sounds the brain is activated and the body develops. To that extent listening is the making of the person.

She  concludes  that a listening person opens their heart and knows how to humble themselves.  Listening enables one to enter the world of the spiritual.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Giving Life to Others With Organ Transplants

A doctor writes in the Seoul Bulletin about his over thirty years in kidney transplant operations. On March 25 of 1969 Myeongdong St. Mary's Hospital had the first successful kidney transplant in Korea and he joined the team at the end of the 70s. He recalls the time he was on night duty, in the intensive care unit, to check the amount of urine from the kidney transplant patients and to care for them.

St. Mary's Hospital in Seoul has had 2300 kidney transplants and Dr. Mun the writer of the article,  participated in about 2000. He remembers the circumstances and the emotions that surrounded the operations: persons were given  new life. He can't forget especially a case at the beginning of last year. 

A healthy young man in his twenties was in a serious accident. The young man was a Sunday school teacher, and dreamed of being a religious. After the accident he was moved to the intensive care unit of St. Mary's Hospital where it was determined he was  brain dead, and was moved to the center for organ transplant where the committee, determining brain death, agreed.

The parents of the young man knew of his desire to be a religious, and his service to others, decided to give his organs to those in need. Mr. Kim's heart, liver, pancreas, kidney, cornea and other organs would give new life to seven persons in need. His mother with much sadness had some consolation in knowing if the operations were successful her son would even after death be helping others.

In the United States  for every million there are 35  who donate their organs but in Korea it is only 7. There is a great lack, and the doctor hopes that we will see the need of giving life by donating the organs of  those that are brain dead to others who need them to live.The young man who wanted to serve others did it with his death and the doctor says God looks on that with favor. He finishes the article with a poem written by Robert Test an American Poet.

"The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress located in a hospital; busily occupied with the living and the dying. At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.
When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don’t call this my deathbed. Let it be called the bed of life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby’s face or love in the eyes of a woman.

Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.

Give my blood to the teenager who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.

Give my kidneys to the one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.

Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk. Explore every corner of my brain.

Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that, someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window.

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weakness and all prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil.

Give my soul to God.

If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Importance of Eye to Eye Contact

"I am a happy driver."  "I will look often into the eyes of the baby." These are the resolves the unmarried mothers are shouting out in the school for mothers conducted by the diocese. The priest president of the New Life Center in a diocese begins his article in Window from the Ark of the Catholic Times, with the above short phrases and explains the importance of gazing into the eyes of the newly born babies.

He began reading some of the books he had in his library. One of the books was written by Christine de Marcellus de Vollmer who came to Korea in 2011 to receive an award from the Seoul Diocese Committee on Life.

Science, he says, has shown us a new understanding of the importance of the brain especially in the first 6 years of life. The cerebral cortex grows according to the stimulation and not automatically during the first 6 years of life. We tend to give credit for a person's talent and temperament to the family history, but even the cortico-limbic lobes develops with stimulation given to the baby during the first years of life. Simply expressed, the brain develops by the concern the baby receives: the self-consciousness, feelings, discipline, peace and happiness are all related to the love and caresses the baby receives from the mother.

The priest introduces us also to Dr. Allan Schore whose ideas on the brain and emotional life of a child  are epoch making. The time the mother spends gazing at her child are important for emotional growth. It is a mutual gazing. When the mother  gazes into the eyes of a baby she is transferring her energy to the baby which in turn stimulates the brain of the baby. This transaction between the mother and child brings about a neural biochemical reaction that releases endorphin and similar matter which helps to develop the brain but also makes for a happy mood in the child resulting in a smile.This reaction will allow the mother to know how to react and give the baby a chance to return to a more quiet state. The baby will be asking for more stimulation with growth which the mother can respond to.

In Korean society today both parents in many cases are working and have to put their children in nurseries and day care centers. The priest is not against the woman's  desire for self realization by entering society, but hopes that they will find quality time to spend with the babies.

Not only the mother but all the family members should be conscious of this reality. He recalls seeing a family in a restaurant where everybody was busy with their smart phones and nobody was talking. We have to put people first in our culture and see the importance of the eye to eye contact between husband and wife, parents and children. 

When Pope Francis came to Korea his words were important, but his eye to eye contact, his clasping of hands and embracing of many had much meaning.  The pope's dream to see a culture were persons are at the center should also be our dream and we can begin  to work for this realization by our eye to eye contact with those whom we meet, especially those who are having difficulties in life.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mission Sunday

In the Catholic World, today is Mission Sunday. The  Peace Weekly carried an article on the 'Francis Effect' after the visit of Pope Francis to Korea.The religious figures who have the most influence on Korean society,according to a recent survey, are Cardinal Yeom, deceased Cardinal Kim in number two spot, and number fourth was Cardinal Cheong. Pope Francis' visit to Korea has noticeably nourished the Church.

One of the signs that many have noticed is the increase in the number of those attending Sunday Mass. Catechumens  attending  classes at the Cathedral parish in Seoul in the month of September have increased twofold.

The Cathedral parish in 2004, in one year's time, had 771 baptized, after the death of John Paul II the number increased to 951, and in in 2006, 1351 were baptized. After the death of Cardinal  Kim there was another jump and now it has leveled off at about 1100 a year and this is expected to rise again after the  pope's visit.

The number of those tepid, and want to return to the community have also shown an increase, and this is  true for the whole country. There are reports from parishes that  the lines for the confessional are longer and the numbers returning to the Church have increased.

There is also an increase of interest in the work of  evangelization. "Let us call upon him today, firmly rooted in prayer, for without prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty. Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence (Joy of the Gospel # 259). In the pope's exhortation we have five steps for evangelization that the article outlines.

First, a need to pray. Secondly, confidence and zeal, without conviction and love  little can be done. Thirdly, we have to be concerned for the good of the other.Fourthly, begin with the marginalized and the poor. Fifthly, do all with joy.

In today's Gospel we heard what Jesus told the first community of believers. He wanted them to go and make disciples of all nations, and teach them what he has commanded. He would remain with them until the end. The mission is not only to gain heaven after death but to enjoy the gift of life that God has given us now. Jesus is the  way the truth and life and he wants us to enjoy this gift now and for all eternity.

One of the Korean proverbs expresses a feeling about the life here on earth very graphically: "Even if I have to roll in the field filled with dog excrement this earthly life is good." We who are Christians are able to say this with much more meaning. Life is not fair for many. There are many difficulties, problems and crosses that make up this life, it is not a level  playing field, but with a correct attitude and the trust that God is always walking with us the obstacles add to our glory.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Sacrament of the Sick

Extreme Unction was the term we used for the Sacrament of the Sick previous to the Second Vatican Council. It was the last anointing and always attended with a certain amount of urgency. A pastor writing in the Catholic Digest recalls the Sacraments of the Sick he  administered in the past with surprising results.

In one of his mission stations when he was an assistant, after finishing the morning Mass, and ready to eat breakfast he was approached by one of the Christians asking for the Sacrament of the Sick for one in the community. He wondered if he could finish his breakfast before leaving but decided it was best to go. The trip took 30 minutes to walk to the house, along a narrow  path separating paddy fields.  

When he arrived at the house, the sick person was out in the yard ready to greet him. The priest was a little bit put out for not having finished his breakfast  for there was no great hurry. The sick person also knew that he didn't have his breakfast and expressed regret. He gave the Sacrament. They probably were taking advantage of his visit to the mission station to give the Sacrament to the Sick. He went back to the mission station and took the bus back to the parish.

As soon  as he arrived at the parish he received a telephone call. The person who received the Sacrament had just died. He found it hard to believe. As soon as he received the Sacrament he died and a family member went to the mission station to tell the priest, but he had just left on the bus for the parish. The family member waited for him to return to the parish before telephoning.

Another sick call was to a mother. She was living with her 60 year old daughter,both widows living together. They were respected and loved by the community. Two o'clock in the morning  he received a call from the daughter asking for the Sacrament of the Sick. He had just given the mother on a visit to the home the Eucharist, and was surprised at the call, but he got ready and went to the home.

The grandmother was unconscious and her hands were cold.The daughter speaking loudly in the ear of the mother told her the priest was there to give her the Sacrament of the Sick. She showed signs of understanding, and he gave her the Sacrament of the Sick. It appeared that she was on the point of dying and the grandson was ready to cry when the mother told him that he was not to cry. The daughter told the mother that she had received the Sacrament and should be at peace, and it was alright to go.

The priest also thought that she was near death, and  said the prayers for the dying. After the prayer he returned to the parish; went to bed but couldn't  sleep, and prepared for the morning Mass. After Mass while he was eating breakfast a telephone call came from  the home of the grandmother. The grandson,  was on the phone. He thought it was to notify him of the death and asked: "Did she die peacefully?"

The unexpected answer: "Grandmother regained consciousness and is now eating. He was ready to laugh at the ludicrousness of the situation. He had prayed in all earnestness for her to die peacefully and... Even after he left the parish he heard that she lived many more years. The ways of God are not our ways.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Deo Gratias


A pastoral bulletin has an article by a priest on happiness. He tells the story of a teacher who was always laughing and one of his disciples recalls he never showed any signs of sadness. Nearing death the disciple asked him what  was the secret of his happiness. 

"You are facing death, how is it that you can laugh about it? Without doubt there have been times in life when things have been unpleasant and you have experienced sadness, how come you  never showed that in your demeanor?"

The teacher quietly responded: "I met my teacher when I was 17 years old. I already knew sadness and suffering, and always felt depressed. My teacher was always laughing and I asked him the secret. 'Why are you always laughing?' He answered: 'I was like you for many years, overcome by sadness. One day the thought came to me that I was in charge in the way I was to live my life. From that time on when I woke up in the morning I would ask myself what would it be today? Would I be happy or unhappy?' "

Happiness is something that I will have to choose. Are we  walking with God or not?  Saints are those who have made the decision to walk with God and they are our example of a life well lived. This requires 'metanoia' -- change.

Every morning when we awake from sleep which is like death, we are born again to a new day. We like the saints are living a life of 'metanoia' and walk with God. It is my decision to make, and we know that we have the help that we need so life should be one long  'Deo Gratias' (Thanks be to God).

Paul Bourget (1852-1935), a French thinker said: "One must live the way one thinks or end up thinking the way one has lived." A person who is always walking with God will even at death be able to thank God for his life. 

Every morning  when we open our eyes, we give thanks. Our life is one of change and each day we are giving another chance to walk with God  which elicits from us a heartfelt: Deo Gratias.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Educating for Maturity

The Catholic Times had an article on how the Catholic Philosophers want to solve the problems of  our competitive society.At an academic conference the philosophers considered the evil in society that came to light with the Sewol tragedy, and our response. 

Participants discussed why do we have evil, and what to do about it?  Noted was a close connection of evil with money matters, and our insensitivity and lethargy to suffering and evil. Mentioned was the place of education in bringing about a change.

The Sewol tragedy was not just an accident but showed corruption and evil.The participants made clear that to keep silent is to be negligent, lack love for neighbor, and in the process end up doing evil.

Two of the participants asked was it possible to find some good in the evil of suffering? Does society see evil and make it known? Does our education contribute to eradicating evil? Does society criticize evil?  Absence of political ethical values promotes the  culture of death.The ways of God and human responsibility were all subjects for the talks. 

After the Sewol tragedy the existence of our indifference urges us to change. If the evil that continues to spread is to stop, and we want to change course and make suffering a reason to establish the good, we need to  seek the reasons for pain and make them known. In this way we will avoid future pain that the families of the victims had to experience with the tragedy.

The word accident was changed to tragedy in the mass media because they saw the workings of evil.  We have been educated for success in our economic life. We have not worked to create capabilities to oppose evil, but educated for competitiveness which has entered the education system and into society.

We need to  integrate our life and knowledge for maturity. In conclusion there was a desire to put an end to the stereotypes in our text books and look at the problems, worries the students face in their daily lives and come to grips with them and work through them to form the whole person.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pleasure of Writing

A celebrity blogger said that with the passage of time his personal life began to get complicated and ostentatious. As the readers began to increase he began to feel uncomfortable in reading his own blog. In the beginning it was like a diary and pictures were added, but he did not feel free and was overcome with discouragement.

A Salesian religious sister who has a degree in media ecology and conducts retreats writes about the benefits of writing in her column in the Catholic Times. Many who have blogs use them as a diary: an open diary for all those connected to the  Social Network Service. What is written for the viewing of others usually has more concern for the audience than for inner integrity of the person doing the writing. When this is repeated, she says, the danger is to have it intoxicate one.

The more a person uses Facebook and the SNS sites the less of an appreciation they have of their own  self-worth. The  sister reports a psychologist discovered this in his investigation. Many are looking for approval and praise from those with whom they are in  contact. Another psychologist in his experiments found those who excessively make known information on their blog do not have a good feeling for their efforts. The friends they make on SNS are only virtual friends, and their real friends, with the overload of information, makes their relation with the blogger more difficult. 

Moreover, using the SNS diary pages the intense feelings of elation one feels makes the gentle communications with family and friends unappreciated. SNS becomes a means of showing our pictures and writings and making our self known on an event page.

How about getting back, she says, to a paper diary that we have forgotten? Especially in the  digital age going back to the pencil and paper diary has a lot of meaning. We put aside for a time the digital equipment and with pencil and paper concentrating on what we write, we become intimate with ourselves. Stress, outside noises, our business concerns are put to sleep, our emotions subside, and as we write in the diary our inattentiveness becomes regulated.

She remember the years during overseas study when she had to deal with a new language and culture; her diary writing helped her solve many of the difficulties she faced. She has never forgotten the help she received from the writing and the closeness she felt to God.

She concludes with the words of a novelist who said that when he picks up a pencil to write, the body is pushing the pencil. This feeling is very important to him, without this feeling he would not be able to write even one line. Wouldn't it be wonderful, she asks, if we all had this feeling when we pick up a pencil?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Results of Pope's Visit to Korea

After the visit of the pope to Korea we have been looking to see what sprouts have begun to appear within the Church. A recent seminar wanted to know what we can expect from the visit as seen by a priest, sister, and a layperson. An article in the Catholic Times gives a synopsis of the talk of each of the participants.

The priest mentioned the centrality of the clerical in the make-up of the Church: this needs to be addressed for a reformation. The original understanding of Church,he said, was for the pope and bishops to  deepen the faith life of the Christians, giving them hope and to energize them for renewal of the world in which we live. The aim is to extend the kingdom of God, to spread the faith and not a place where we make our last will and testament to pass on our treasures. We want to have a deeper relationship with God: sharing among ourselves, a desire to learn, question and resolve our doubts; the lack of communication is a problem .

Justice and mercy are two concerns of  our Christian  life but there is no reason to discuss which is prior, for they are tied together. To be only interested in love and forgetting justice is a  temptation we face.  Without concern for justice, he says, and thinking love is all that is  necessary, we deceive ourselves.

The renewal of the Church requires a change in the structures of administration and culture. Secondly, make our Catholic identity clear, a need to  change our discipline to achieve unity. Thirdly, a need to deepen our religious life, which will require effort from our leaders and more openness. He feels there is a need to change the culture of our priests to a more Gospel based culture.

The sister reminds us that without a change in the way we looked upon a great many of the habits of the past in our religious life we will not have change.When the  religious orders in the past were faced with a crisis they  were able to change:  because of the strong impact this made on the religious. Religious were not under the organizational system of the Church which gave them more freedom. When difficulties arose the religious walked with God as their companion which was the hallmark of the religious.

Religious are the first to face the crisis and react to it. They are the prophetic voice against the unhealthy individualism, and against the accommodation with the times, and open to a greater courage to overcome the difficulties.

The layperson mentioned the Church has not been concerned with the poor but with external growth. We have become a middle class  community for fellowship which makes change difficult. He looks around and sees much that goes contrary to the image of the Church that the pope stressed in his visit.  The lay people are by far the largest segment of the Church and wants them to take the message to heart and work for its implementation.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Affective Literacy

Korea still values marriage greatly, but there is much  talk about the single life and cohabitation.  Marriage being what it is in the world today, people in small groups very openly discuss whether it is not better to live alone, and if one wants a relationship to have one without commitment that allows one to leave when desired.

Because of necessity those who have to live alone, do hear words of consolation, but those that oppose marriage are self proclaimed progressives. There is not just one way of talking about the single life and cohabitation for they take many different forms. Some have chosen the single life and others have not, some are temporary and some are not.

Cohabitation likewise concerns those with the intention of marriage; or those wondering if this is the future mate or not. Some are living a common law marriage or in a long  term relationship: an option and choice of life style.

A seminary  professor of ethics  writes about these issues in the  Kyeong Hyang magazine. He uses the book Agony of the Eros by Han Byung-chul a philosopher living in Germany for some of his ideas. Professor Han maintains many see the 'other' only as the mirror of one's own Ego. The 'other' is only an instrument for pleasure. "We" is a concept that militates against my growth and fulfillment.

The 'other' is like a commodity displayed in a department store. We can buy and return it for something else: a commodity and little else. I am what is important the 'other' is for my use.

The word love is not a word that we can discuss for it is only a commodity. There is a new type of person being born. The refusal to take upon oneself the burdens that come with the 'other' is considered the new wisdom, but what is forgotten is the way we came into the world. Before I was able to see the 'other' I was in the eyes of the 'other'. When they saw my naked body they laughed. Before I was able to see the pupil of their eyes I was groping for the breast of the 'other'.

The writer admits that his faith life has a lot to do with the way he sees the 'other' and himself. His celibacy is for God's reign and for the 'other'. It is because of the 'other' he can dream and  give himself to the vocation that he has chosen. Both the single life and married life requires austerity. The married are drawn to the union of the male and female, their intellects and wills fine tune the relationship so that they can find happiness in the life-long commitment to each other.

A person living alone who denies the attraction of the 'other', and those who are cohabiting and deny the goodness of the 'other' are affective illiterates. They are not seeing the hope that comes from our human nature they are deliberately fostering a life without goals and empty: a life of idleness, boredom and without festivity.

For a Christian the cross has great meaning for us. The single person and those cohabiting need to rid themselves of their self-centered ideology and begin a new way  of seeing the 'other'. He finishes the article by telling them to forget about romance and marry.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Living with Empathy

A Religious Sister, the head of a Research Center and a college lecturer, writes  In View from the Ark of the Catholic Times about mirror neurons. She mentions when watching a movie or a drama we are moved by the  same emotions the  characters express: crying or laughing. Why are these emotions, she asks, transferred to us?

Giacomo Rizzolatti an Italian doctor and his team noticed that when a monkey placed a peanut in his mouth the motor neurons would react, and this would also be true if the researcher put a peanut in his own mouth, the same neurons in the monkey would respond, and these were called mirror neurons. This was discovered with electrodes placed in the brains of the monkeys. She mentions that in California, scientists in 2010 discovered that humans have the same mirror neurons.

At sport events the spectator watching the athletes can have sweaty hands, be anxious, and when the athlete receives  a medal the spectator can experience the happiness of the  athlete. This emotional transference is called the mirror neuron. True not only with joy but also when one sees or hears about someone in pain. We are affected by the pain: empathy without the intention, comes to one automatically. 

Sister mentions a talk she heard by Daniel Goleman a psychologist. He talked about an experience he had when leaving work and going down the steps to a subway. A man was lying besides the stairs, without a shirt and not moving. People where oblivious of him and walking over him on their way to the subway. Golman stopped to see what was the problem and six other people came to where Golman was standing. The man had been walking the streets without anything to eat and fell because of weakness. He knew no English, was a foreigner, and had no money.Quickly a person in the group gave him something to drink and eat, someone called the police. Within a short time he got up and started to walk.

This little act on the part of Golman drew the attention of others to express their empathy for the man. All Golman did was stop beside the man; this gesture was enough to gather people around him. Latent empathy in these people was released by the action of Golman. 

Sister mentions  a study that was made by two scientist who said for every happy person you know, happiness increases by 9 percent, and for each negative person you know there is a decrease of 7 percent. We all know from our own lives that happiness and sadness are contagious. When a person smiles at me I am uplifted, when I see a grimace I am dejected. I need to remember I am a  person able to energize the communities to which I belong.

We learn strategies for survival, living in our capitalistic society where survival of the fittest is the norm. What allows us to maintain our life is not competition but sharing what we have, having sympathy and cooperating with others. We can hope for a consensus because of the mirror neuron.

She concludes the article by reminding us when we are only concerned about ourselves, and lack the leisure to go out to others, we will become a society without empathy. Feelings for others is not something exceptional, but simply words and gestures we use daily: a word of care for another, a smile, showing sympathy. She wants us have the leisure to make this part of our life.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Taizé Community in Korea

"Today, the Taizé Community is made up of over a hundred brothers, Catholics and from various Protestant backgrounds, coming from around thirty nations. By its very existence, the community is a 'parable of community' that wants its life to be a sign of reconciliation between divided Christians and between separated peoples.The brothers of the community live solely by their work. They do not accept donations. In the same way, they do not accept personal inheritances for themselves; the community gives them to the very poor." Words about the Taizé movement found on their web site.

On Oct. 4th over a hundred young persons, freely, gathered together in a small Protestant Church in Seoul: hearing about the gathering on Facebook, other Internet portals or by word of mouth. Catholic, Protestant  Anglican young people met together to pray and praise, making a temporary Taizé village. These young people prayed late into the evening with short hymns repeated, with prayers, silences, meditations, and sharing their faith with one another.

What makes these young people come together for no particular reason, despite their busy schedules? "They came to a place where they could pray freely."
"They are attracted to the Taizé way of praying... they wanted to share the allure of the Taizé method of praying with the Korean youth."

The origin of the Taizé prayer is from a small village of Taizé in France where 10s of thousands of young people gather every year. Those with faith and those without faith gather: 2 or 3 days if short, and if long for 2 or 3 years. They  remain in the village taking care of  their  personal needs for clothing, food and lodging, very simply, and giving praise to God.

One of the brothers who has been a member of the Taizé community in France has come to Korea on five different occasions. Brother Sin Francis, led the prayers on one of the days. This year has been a difficult year, he said, for Korea, China and  other countries of Asia, prayers are needed. They want to spread the spirit of Taizé in all of the countries of the world. They recall Brother Roger who over 70 years ago started the community with the love he showed to the refugees of the Second World War: Jews, prisoners of war, and many others who suffered. They were consoled with the prayers and the love they received within the community. 

Much time has passed but still the young people are attracted with the simple prayer life they experience at Taizé. Writing in the Peace Weekly about the community, the journalist, sees the strength that comes from prayer in the faces of the youth, and reports what he learned at the gathering.