Sunday, November 30, 2014

'Glad Game'

Today is the first day of the new liturgical year. Sister Hae-in Lee in her article in the Seoul Bulletin mentions how often it is noted that priests and sisters are difficult to approach. Their appearance is stern and stiff, which does not encourage people to come close. She has often been told to have a smiling face.

She introduces us to one of her favorite books the novel Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter. The word pollyanna has taken on the meaning from the novel, of a person with irrepressible optimism, and a tendency to find good in everything.

Pollyanna  while a child learned from her father, a minister, to be optimistic. The beginning for this way of looking at life began one Christmas when she  was hoping to pick out a doll from a barrel full of presents, but instead of a doll out came crutches. Seeing the crutches she began to cry and her father said: " You little fool why are you crying?  Shouldn't  you be happy that you don't need those crutches?"

From this incident she made up the 'Glad Game', a game which  consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. Pollyanna with this view of life was able to transform the cold and uninviting town in which she lived into a pleasant and joyful  place.

Sister Lee mentions in her own life she decided to start  playing the 'Glad Game'. Especially in situations that were the most depressing. When she does not see a way to resolve her problem, becomes dejected, feels lost as in a swamp, and her relations with others become tangled, with prayer and playing the 'Glad Game' she tries to avoid being in a funk.

The 'Glad Game' was helpful when she was in the hospital. When the nurses came to her bedside during the day to take her temperature, and blood pressure, instead of showing displeasure she tried to smile. When she had to undergo radiation and chemotherapy, how fortunate, she thought, to have the opportunity to receive this form of treatment, and when her guests said something that seemed to her out of place, she smiled, and tried to understand it favorably. She became adept in playing the 'Glad Game'.

Since we are beginning the season of Advent and a new liturgical year she wants her readers to play the  'Glad Game'. Foolish as it sounds, she believes it is the way that love wins out.

Christianity is filled with all kinds of paradoxes. What seems strange to our way of thinking and counter-intuitive, often looks different in retrospect. Would it not be an interesting experiment to  see how many of our actions during Advent can be truly counter intuitive, taken from the words of Jesus? We can start with the sermon on the mount. One of our most important mysteries is the paschal mystery: the most counter intuitive of all our acts-- dying to ourselves  in order to live. There are many ways of doing this daily, and a good preparation for Christmas.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Come, Lord Jesus

The Desk Columnist of the Catholic Times recalls a class in the humanities  where they were asked what  five things would they do if they knew death would come the  following day. She mentions up until that time she had no experience of death in her family, relatives or acquaintances. She only knew death from movies, books and talk, but no direct contact with death.

She doesn't remember what she said when her turn came but it must have been fragmented, romantic like preparations. She had her own experience of death shortly after with the death of her mother.  It came  suddenly. She  had  been a journalist for  the Catholic Times for a year when her mother died. She had no health problems, she was in a sleep from which she did not awake: a tremendous shock.

Both her parents where baptized shortly before, she believes it was  to help her along in her new work. They probably thought that  that being Catholic would  help her get points in the work place.

After the mother's death she would open her prayer book and often pray for the dead. She cried much but she also had the  hope of the resurrection, and the belief that she would meet them again which was a  great consolation. She believed in the communion of saints  which words she often saw in her prayers  which gave her great strength. Death for a Christian, sad as it is, also brings  hope to the person who is bereaving.  

 Elisabeth Kubler Ross (1926-2004)  a psychiatrist,  was the one who made a study of death and dying and gave us the five steps that are often experienced by the dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  A  priest working in Japan  who has  made death his own area of study, Fr.Alfons Deeken, a Jesuit  internationally  known in the field of education about death has added another step: a happy death-- the mental state of desire and hope. 
Hope not for a return to health but hope for eternal life and the meeting of those they loved. 

We are coming to the end of the month dedicated to the souls in purgatory, and the beginning of the liturgical new year with a new feeling in our hearts.  We begin the new again with expectations and hope.

Reflection is in order with our hand on our breasts to determine if we have made the preparations that are  necessary for the new year. During the first day of the new year we pray:  "Come O Lord Jesus". The word "advent" means "coming",  a coming  that is  here already and one that is not yet. 

We probably tend to  forget that the happiness, if we listen to what Jesus came to teach us and do it, should begin here in the now, and continue for all eternity.When we sing: "Come Lord Jesus" we are asking him to come to us now, if we are ready and prepared to meet him now, we are also prepared to me him at our death and at the end of time.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Doing the Right Thing

A religious sister writes in the Catholic Digest about her trip to the market and a taxi ride back to the convent. The taxi driver helped her with the packages and weakly asked her where she was going. He looked worn-out.

In the taxi he asked her the easiest way to get to her house. She was surprised by his question and  told him so, and he told her this was the second day of work, and began to give her his personal history like a reservoir that had burst, all came spilling out.

His wife had died a number of years ago. He had two sons, the older one died of a sickness, and the younger one was not married and living in Japan. He had borrowed a lot of money, despite it all his business failed, lost everything, and was in debt. Some of the debt was to persons that were well off but there were also those who had given him all their savings, and for these he was especially concerned.

Life had been hard on him. There were many times that he contemplated suicide but he couldn't do it because of those that lent him the money. He didn't want them to lose hope so he went to those that lent him money, and told them he would repay them, and began his work as a taxi driver.

When he thinks deeply about his situation he realizes that they are the ones that kept him alive.The sister could see in his  face the determination to make good on his promise. She  was  amazed at his words. Where did he get the strength to want to pay back his debt? Although he failed in his business he was not a failure in life. When life doesn't have too many downs it may not be difficult to keep smiling and keep going, but when the zingers are many the person's real and true self appears. These were the  thoughts running through her head. 

When he arrived at the convent he helped the sister with her packages, and before he got back in the taxi he turned to the sister and told her he also was a believer, but hadn't been to Mass in a long time. He wasn't able to overcome the shame he felt in not been able to repay the debt. He did say he would return to church soon. She thanked him, and told him he was always welcomed to come to her parish church. 

As the taxi moved out of the yard she sent a prayer along. She felt like she had just finished watching an emotional movie scene. She knows that God will  bless him for his desire to pay off the debt. 

She was greatly moved by the encounter. It  gave her another reason to appreciate the pleasure of living. There are many like him who overcome difficult odds to do the right thing, and show the resiliency that we are all called to manifest because of our trust in God.                                                            

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Indifference to Pain

College entrance  exams for 2015 have ended, and the same lies continue to circulate within society. The Desk Columnist of the Catholic Times expresses his strong opinion on the situation. "Those who have learned what the text book teaches have no difficulty with the exams," and  similar words, make little of the results of the exams. From November to the  beginning of the new school year in Feb. we will have more than 200  young people kill themselves. If family members are included we have over two suicides each day.

All are faced with few or many exams during life, but the college entrance exams are uniquely different for it will determine the life of the family for years to come. Results determine the price tag for the individual given by society. Scholars in the field see this as an evil,  making for a society of academic cliques.

Some see the problem as a weak disposition of the young people, others see it as a rite of passage that exists in all cultures, and we should not be too sentimental about the situation. The loss of so many young lives, and what we need to do is not a problem easily solved.

Suppose, he says, that the  number of students died because of Ebola or SARS  what would happen?  The government official responsible would have to resign,  and the president would be apologizing to the citizens with head lowered, and  measures to remedy the situation would shortly be in place. Why is it that the adults  do not look into the situation? But instead like parrots repeat: "they only need to study the text books...."

Christians along with the president and the ministers in education are disinterested spectators: a really strange society in which we live. All seems hunky-dory, and nobody wants to  ask the right questions.

Young students  are weak  living in a vertical and authoritarian society. They do not vote which is another reason for the lack of interest of the older generation. This lack of interest in the young is also shown in the churches where we have a large number of students no longer seen in the pews. Our response should be to approach them, listen to them, and feel with them.

One of humanities great gifts is the ability to sympathize with those who are sick or hurting: the capability of empathizing with others and to act. Jesus is our example; he was sent by the Father to be with us and he showed  this feeling for others by his healing. His empathy for others brought about the healing.

One of the great weapons that we have as Christians is the grace to sympathize with others in their hurt. More important than being number one is to relate with others. We need to become more sensitive to the hurts of others, and to develop this part of our personality. This seed was put into the hearts of the followers of Jesus, and this seed for love needs to find expression in our lives.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Joys of Farm Life

Farmers at this time of the year are  looking forward to a period of  leisure. The life of a farmer gives them little time to admire the scenery, and now with the  Free Trade Agreement with China there is a great deal of uncertainty and worry on what the future will bring. In an article on the opinion page of the Catholic Times, a city dweller, who worked for a large construction company, some 12 years ago  returned to the farm and began raising grapes. He gives us his thoughts on country living.

The situation for farmers, he says, is  like the flame of a candle in the wind. With  free trade he sees everything in a fog and is uncomfortable. He wonders whether there is a future in farming?  Many feel the  greater wealth of the country will lead to the greater happiness of the populace, this he strongly believes is  false. This is a belief held by many in government, and yet we know that wealth does not determine the degree of happiness of the citizens.

The numbers of those retiring from work is increasing. He mentions a number of his old buddies who ask  about life on the farm. They are now white haired and have time on their hands.They are looking for ways to occupy themselves after the many years in the work force. They mention how infrequent are the visit of their children and would like to see a change  in the way we live. He compares life for some after retirement like the male bee, the drone, who is kicked out of the hive.

His son will  be in third year high school next year and he comes home every other week end. The father casually told his son that after graduation from high school  he could always work  on the farm. The son shook his head derisively to which the father told him  if you go to college and after graduation you can't find a job you can always come back to a big farm which I will buy for you. Now when he comes home he is more relaxed and magnanimous.

In the country along the road you see banners fluttering in the wind especially during the winter months they look out of place. You have them congratulating some recent son or daughter of the country who has just received their doctorate, passed a civil servant exam, or was hired by a big company. They make known to all, the family situation, and how  proud they are of their children. He would love to see banners flying in the wind  mentioning a son who has decided to return to the country to work on the  family farm,  or a son who has set up a cafe in the area and is asking for the people's patronage.

Life on the farm is busy and the future will not see any big changes but he finishes his article with the joy that comes with life on the farm. He would like to see the government make life on the farm easier, with less worry, but he also knows farmers  have a great deal of joy from the small things of life that are all around them, and hopes this will continue in the future.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Miracle Apples

Recently in Korea as in other parts of the world there has been a renewed interest in  natural farming. We talk a lot about  organic farming  but natural farming is going to another level of the natural. In the View from the Ark in the Catholic Times, a priest writer introduces us to  a Japanese farmer, Akinori Kimura,  and his new way of growing apples. 

Another Japanese Farmer Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) a philosopher, besides being a farmer believed the less a farmer did to disturb the natural ecology- no plowing, no chemical fertilizers, no weeding or use of herbicides or pesticides the better the land would respond. Akinori applied this teaching to growing apples and gave us the 'Miracle Apple'.

The articles mentions a talk that was given at one of the concerts by an educator to raise money for unwed mothers. A video that was shown moved many of those present. The talk was about the farmer Akinori Kimura and the  documentary that caused a sensation in Japan when it was shown Dec.7th in 2006. His apples at a  normal room  temperature will not rot even after 6 months. They sell out as soon as they hit the market. A soup that is made from the apples is famous in all the first class  restaurants in Japan. When a typhoon hits an orchard he has  less damage than the  ordinary orchards. 

However, to reach this point in raising apples required a great deal of time, frustration and failure. Not using pesticides, blight and harmful insects reduced his harvest to almost nothing. Neighboring  farmers  considered him a fool.  He was so demoralized, he even contemplated suicide. He  withdrew to the mountains. During this time he saw an oak tree with its acorns that were not fertilized, no pesticides used, and  gave us healthy acorns. He realized that it was the grass and earth that allowed it to happen. It took him 10 years to reach this in his orchard.

He gives credit to his family for the success he was able to achieve. The immediate cause for the change was his wife's allergy to the pesticides he was using. The love he had for his wife enabled him to overcome all the difficulties that he met during the ten years of work. This was a difficult period for the family because during the transition little money was coming in for the family to live.

The priest reminds us the word to learn and the word for spouse in Korean are written the same, leaving us with the message that a couple are made to love and to learn together up until death. Sadly, he says that for many it is teaching and the power of authority that has priority. In families of this type all may seem well but they are not happy, and there are many problems between parents and children. 

He believes this is also true with  priests and  parishioners. They should both be interested in learning. The priest should  be learning from the parishioners, and achieve happiness by working for the miracle of love.

The lesson that can be derived from the natural farming methods for growing miracle apples can be transferred also to our place in families, communities and society. The reason that Akinori was able to work for 10 years to achieve the miracle apple was the love he had for his wife. He wants us to overcome  jealously, backbiting and lack of love which we often express, and make the effort to harvest the miracle fruit of love.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Monday, November 24, 2014

A New Start

This past Sunday was the last Sunday of our liturgical year, and this Sunday is the first of Advent and the start of the New Year for us Catholics. A vocalist and part time columnist for the Peace Weekly give us important words of advice to begin the new year.

Every time he goes on the stage or is being video taped for a program there is a great deal of preparation. Arrangement of his clothes, the makeup, the tuning of his guitar, always effort to make a better appearance for his audience and the TV viewers. Rehearsals are required and since this  involves others, a lot of time is spent waiting.

Rare is the time when he goes on the stage completely prepared.  At times after rehearsals and a simple meal he sees that his hair, clothes, and makeup is messed up and because of the weather his guitar is in bad shape. All requiring fixing  to get back to where he was in the first place. Despite all this preparation after the performance there is always the feeling that  something was not right leaving him dissatisfied.

He feels this is not only true with vocalists but with all of us; all we need to do is change some of the words he used for himself.  Especially at this time we have  the students who have taken the exams for college entrance and their parents who tried their best and are waiting for the results. But in retrospect there is often the feel there was a lack in the  preparation, and a feeling of regret. A feeling that we all have felt, and the next time, we say, it will be different.  

For a vocalist there is always another opportunity to go on the stage, another program. Of course there is always the chance of making a serious mistake that would threaten the end of the vocalist's career as a performer, but even here, working diligently there will be another opportunity.Only one chance to succeed: a life that would not admit of mistakes and failure would be hell. Difficult it is to even imagine that kind of situation.

We have St. Peter who in one  night time denied Jesus three times and St. Paul who persecuted the Church. Two good examples of  those who have been given a second chance.  Life is filled with second chances. Is it not true, he asks, that what we at times considered important looking back at the past turns out to be of little importance. 

The  opportunities that await us in life are like exams. What we did yesterday that worked out well may not be the case today. Life is filled with exams in which we test ourselves many times over. We learn from what we did that was not so good, correct our mistakes, and do the best we can at the next opportunity. 

He concludes his column by telling us that one of our greatest discoveries was the eraser. What we can erase, means we can start anew. Whether we are satisfied with what was done yesterday or not, it was yesterday. We want to completely erase our  mistakes; remember what was done, and begin again.

We have this opportunity with the start of the new liturgical year. Let us remember that we are always given graces to overcome our faults, and on our part  be prepared to accept them.            

Sunday, November 23, 2014

57th Trip to North Korea

Maryknoll Local Superior, Fr. Gerard Hammond,  was recently  interviewed by Catholic News (Here and Now). He has made 57 trips to North Korea and considers them as pilgrimages, for Bishop Hong and many Christians from the Pyongyang Diocese, and the Benedictine Religious, died a martyr's death in the North.

He  is secretary of the Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for National Reconciliation. The interviewer asked him what he  thought about the UN resolution on Human Rights in the North. Father considers his work with the TB patients in the North as work to extend  human rights. Need is for more humanitarian aid to the North. Sickness is prevalent and infectious diseases continue to spread.

Father has been working as a trustee in the Eugene Bell Foundation since 2003. The bacteria that cause tuberculosis has developed a resistance to the antimicrobial drugs used to cure the disease. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is TB that  doesn't respond to the drugs of the  the past and the foundation is working together with the public health programs of the North to eradicate TB with a new series of drugs. In many areas of the North the Eugene Bell Foundation is bringing in new medicines and medical equipment  to  help in the fight against TB.  Referring to the TB patients: Fr. Hammond says, "Jesus worked among the suffering of his time and we want to be among the suffering of today."

When those who are suffering are at their lowest, the Church should be with them. Conversing with them in a peaceful way, the encounter and the interest we show is naturally helping to reconcile the North and South.

Fr. Hammond mentions that one of the  most fearful things we face in life is the  lack of interest--apathy. We in the South have to show more interest in the North. We have to pray and act, not only with  material help, but to  search for ways to communicate with the North.

One of the big problems is the inability of the South to travel to the North. He knows that prayer is not sufficient: we need acts of reconciliation and ways of directly showing interest in the North.

Bishop members of the committee for reconciliation have shown a desire to visit the North. Fr. Hammond and the the Benedictine Abbot of Waegwon, before the division of the country are members of communities that worked in the North.

Every six months the  committee meets to discuss and examine the new information that has been  gathered about the North and decides what the South can do to help the North. Although the bishops may not be able to go they hope someone will go in their place.

Fr. Hammond has a special affection for the Catholic Church of Repentance and Atonement in Paju, Gyeonggi-do. For those that can't go to North Korea he would like them to make a trip to the Church to  pray, reflect on the fratricidal war between the North and South, and  determine how we can  help to bring about reconciliation and  renewal.

Although he is an American with  permanent residence in the South, he has no difficulty getting a visa to go to the North. He hopes to grow in humility and poverty and to work as a missioner in Korea until he dies. He has great sadness that those in the South are not able to meet those of the North. He is only acting as a  temporary bridge for those in the South, hoping the day will come soon when they will meet as brothers and sisters. 


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Heart to Heart Talk Is Rare

'Know that we are loved.' Is the topic the nun columnist in the Catholic Times wants us to remember as an important  part of the spirituality of communication. She gives us the example of a writer that came to the conclusion that he and his three teenage children were addicted to the digital screen. Any free time they had would be with the computer or the smartphone, glued to the screen. One day coming home from work, out of the blue, he declared: no more 'screens' for six months.

Let us suppose there were no smartphones or internet, what would we be doing? she asks. We would be walking in the park with our friends more often than we do it now; reading, and going to the dictionary, talking more often and looking people in the eyes and communicating, and wanting to understand another more deeply.

She recalls giving a group some homework:  go home, look a family member in the eyes, and have a conversation. One condition was to  spend 10 minutes doing nothing else put looking directly at  the person and conversing. A week later she asked for the  results of the assignment, and not one out of the ten spent the 10 minutes in conversation. One woman said that she couldn't find the time but did talk to her husband while she was driving. There was no time to spend in eye to eye contact, and speaking to one another.

In a  questionnaire recently, parents have difficulty speaking to their children for even 30 minutes a day, and mostly about their school work and their complaints. There are  many couples that do not even speak to each other in a proper fashion for even ten minutes. Reasons given can be unnerving: busy, fear of a fight, it is  useless. There are even those who communicate by means of Twitter until their anger subsides. 

Another study showed that those families that eat together at least 4 times a week have two times more satisfaction in life than those that don't, and relate better with the society in which they live. Communicating with one another is a  sign of a happy family.

A condition for happiness is relationships, and this requires communication. This does not only include talking to one another. St. Don Bosco in talking to his teachers said: "Do not just stop at loving your children but make sure they feel that love." To make them feel love means there is a need for mutual understanding. Full attention given to the  other, and speaking as if they were the only person present.

We are communicating with others without meeting the other. Communication is everywhere, but mutual understanding is rare. We are daily communicating with our smart phones, but are we meeting the other? How about spending ten minutes today speaking face to face with a person you love; you will find there is the  possibility of having it develop into a heart to heart talk.   

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tearing Down Walls Between People

For over a year there has been an hour long radio program, 'Korean Songs' for overseas Koreans, mostly in China, Sakhalin and North Korea. The best time for the listeners is from midnight to 7:00 am. There is little feedback but one of the vocalists writing for the Peace Weekly expresses his feelings on the outreach to the North with song.

On occasions he has met defectors from the North or those who have spent time in China before coming to Korea and has been told the songs and the program have been a great consolation to them. Some  listened secretly to the programs while in North Korea, or heard the  program in China while waiting to come to Korea.

Here in Korea we have TV programs in which North Korean defectors appear together with celebrities from the South so there is a coming together, but a distance is maintained, fear and avoidance of contact. The writer admits that even he after a year working with them doesn't find it easy to relate.

Those brought up in the South have difficulty with their way of speaking: coarse and stiff. From the time they were in elementary school they heard only negative remarks about the North which makes forgetting the past difficult. The North Korean defectors have entered a society altogether different from what they were accustomed. They find it difficult to open up to those in the South. With the passage of time,he says, we will reach a point where we will see them as members of our society. Separation has been long; it will take time to overcome the language difference and customs.

In our efforts to become closer we will bicker, have misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and feel uncomfortable. If we avoid these difficulties we lose the chance for intimacy. From the time we were born we have learned to relate with others. We need not only envision unification of Korea, and coming closer to the refugees from North Korea, but when we look around there are many with whom we avoid. We should be the first to approach them with a warm greeting.

Often we hear, he says, that the vibes are not right, from the start we exclude others from our company. But it is not difficult to see that others may not like the vibes they experience in our company, and choose to avoid us. We should ignore our feelings and do what we know is right.

When we were children our mothers often told us to get along with our friends. Not only not to fight, but to know what they like and don't like, and to  enjoy what is in common and to  understand what is different. This is the way we need to go if we are to see a change not only with North Korea, but with  those we choose to avoid in our society.               

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Doing the Ordinary in an Extraordinary Way

"Holiness doesn’t mean doing extraordinary things, but doing ordinary things with love and faith." These words appear in Pope Francis' Tweet for Dec. 13, 2013.  Sister Claudia Hae-in Lee writing in the Seoul Diocesan Bulletin gives us her thoughts  on these words. She prays that her ordinary life, motivated by love will become a beautiful and exquisite flower.

In the one of the rooms of her convent there are many scrolls on the walls, Chinese Characters expressing  words of wisdom; one of them is the 'ordinary mind'. She mentions the wisdom from the writings of St.Therese: to do the common things with uncommon love.

Also from the  Analects of Confucius, Chapter 14-45  we have the 修己安人 (Making our self better gives peace to others) cultivating ourselves, practicing  the virtues, so we can give peace to others.

When the sister is asked for an autograph she writes: 'may all your days be  renewed daily'. Although she has  lived in the convent for half a century she does not find living the ordinary life in an extraordinary way with humility, patience, and with love, easy. Eating, cleaning, washing, working, writing, reading, meeting people,  etc. and  to do it with a prayerful heart, and to the best of her ability is not easy. When this is accomplished the happiness that comes is not confined to one place, but prepares the foundation that opens us up to the pain in the world, our care for neighbor, and to be of service to others.

She wants to experience her journey of faith in a  special way, she wants to relate in a special way with others, in the field of literature she wants to be more elegant, and quietly vanity creeps in and annoys her. But she knows without the ordinary she will not get to the special. Without the tedious, and the desert like experience, she will not be subdued and matured by the ordinary.

Looking back on her life she sees times that were not ordinary and she has cried much, but she is looking forward to the ordinary and the joy and song that will come. She wants to invite all of us to walk this way of the ordinary

"Lord, today give me the grace to accept the ordinary boredom that comes. Make me remember that faithfulness is the first step in the way of the  spirit."                                                           

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Church a Great Mystery

Korea is a small country, divided now into the North and South. The organizational abilities of South Korea are well known, and this ability also appears within Christianity. Korea is a fertile area for home grown religions, and Christianity has many. They have charismatic leaders and organizational ability and as off-shoots of Christianity use the Bible to spread their particular ideas. This is the tragedy that Christianity has faced from the beginning and time has only made it worse.

Almost  half of the Korean population has no religious belief and the other half would be divided among Protestants, Buddhists, Catholics and Confucianists, and many other smaller sects. Protestants have a strong aversion to the cults and pseudo religions. Catholics are more laid back, but are conscious of the harm that is being done and alert Catholics in their religious press of the dangers of these groups that often seek out Catholics and work to bring them into their fold.

Many Catholics do not have trust in the Church, a knowledge of the history of Christianity, and a solid foundation in Scripture. Many  of the cults use the Book of Revelations as their text book, and many Catholics lack even a rudimentary knowledge of the   book. Often in the Catholic press we hear reported  the large number of Catholics who have difficulty with the teaching of the Church and do not have a loving attachment to the Church, which would make them an easy prey for these fringe groups.

Catholics realize that the culture of life is disregarded in society, but in their lives not even half  follow the teaching of the Church. The survey made in preparation for the Synod in 2015,  84 percent of the respondents think the disregard for life has got worse. And 94 percent think that something should be done. There was not a big difference between believers and non believers. However, only 52 percent of the Catholics felt that life began at conception. 73.6 percent have no difficulty with abortion, 74.3 percent accept euthanasia, and 52.1 percent, capital punishment. Only 25.5 percent accept all the teachings of the Church.

A professor at the Catholic University says the results of the  survey shows the separation of life and belief. We see a red light that has to be addressed, he says, in the  programs to educate our Catholics, not only to do what the Church teaches, but to know the reasons why, and to understand them. 

The failure of many of the Catholics to understand the teaching of the Church makes them open to the enticements of the these small charismatic fringe groups.The editorial in the Peace Weekly mentions the warmth of these small sects and the concern shown to the newcomers. The lack of Scriptural knowledge makes many of the Catholics receptive to the invitations, in many cases they do not even know it is a cult, but once they are involved they find something they did not experience in the large impersonal communities to which they belonged.   The estrangement they already have from the Church's teaching prepares the way.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Mission of Reconciliation

A parish priest writing in a bulletin for priests asks: Does the Church recall the feelings of the Sabine women in Roman 'history'?

Jacques-Louis David was a painter who found favor with Louis 16th, the King of France. When the French Revolution began he was a member of the revolutionary forces but when he saw the excesses of the Jacobin Club, the radicals, and the Girondins who wanted a more  moderate course, both pro-revolution and fighting among themselves, he painted what we know as: The Intervention of the Sabine Women.

The French Revolution promised the French populous  living in difficult times:  Liberty, Equality and Fraternity--a better human life, but instead the revolutionary movement became divided, and violence and conflict developed. David  the artist wanted to see this end: the message of his painting.

Romulus the founder of Rome and his fellow Romans had few women among them so they went to the neighboring  tribe of the Sabines, who were gentle and meek,  abducted their women for wives, and killed their men. The Sabines angered and in time invaded Rome. The war that issued is the story depicted in the painting by David.

The Sabine Women are in the middle of the painting asking for peace. On one side their former husbands, and their paternal  families, on the other side were their present husbands and children. In the center of the painting  you have the woman's father on the other side her husband and the father of her children. The  women have no  choice, and the tragedy is that  they are asking for peace with their bodies and the bodies of their children.

In our society we don't have trust between the government and the  citizens, lack of harmony between the rich and poor is increasing, and  anger  between those in the country and city deepens. The older generation, he says, doesn't want to lose control of  the society or let it pass to others so they unite; the younger generation disregards what they hear and distrusts and resents what is going on. He wants to know what the Church is doing with this situation?    

The Painting reminds the writer of the essential  mission of the Church: to facilitate  communication between God and humanity. Daily, seeing the conflict and hostility in our society he reflects on the desire of  Jesus for reconciliation, and wants the Church to take a move active roll in the reconciliation.          

Monday, November 17, 2014

Slow to Speak

No need to  learn how to criticize, we find ourselves doing it easily. Without any effort another person's flaws come readily to the eye. Why do we have so many people without manners in the world in which we live? People talking loudly in the subway, driving without concern for others, parking any place....

On the opinion page of the Peace Weekly the columnist mentions going to a martyrs shrine for Mass. The shrine is close to his house; he and the family walk frequently to the  shrine, not only is it close, he likes the atmosphere at the shrine.  A small parking  space is located adjacent to the shrine,  but those who  come from a distance usually park out side the area of the shrine, and walk. Buses that come would also do the same.

On one  occasion as they were walking along a narrow street, a car came by, and those walking went to the side of the road to give the car space to  pass. If he is going to Mass, the columnist thought, why doesn't he walk the last section of the road to the shrine? He watched the car go into the small parking lot and as the driver descended he thought to himself, here was a slow witted person. The driver went to the trunk of the car, took out a wheel chair, and helped the woman get into the wheel chair.

During Mass he found it difficult to look in the direction of the man and the two woman who were with him. He was completely embarrassed by how it all worked out. He realized that he was too quick to  judge and didn't see the whole picture before he  jumped to his conclusion. Many are the  times he has judged without the necessary facts, and felt embarrassed. "Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you" (Matt.7:1).

How many times do we have to change the way we think because of what we learn? A lesson not easily learned because of our habits. We all have experienced blurting out words without thought and reckless actions for which we are sorry. 

What we see is not always all that we should be  seeing. To make a judgement on fragments that we hear or something that we see without sufficient thought is looking for trouble.

We are living in times when speed is important, but when it is dealing with our fellow human beings it is well to give ourselves  plenty of time before coming to a conclusion.

 "Do not keep judging according to appearances; let your judgement be according to what is right" (John 7:24).

 "Remember this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to human anger" (James 1:19)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Importance of Evaluating

A priest writing in a Bulletin for priests recalls his days as an elementary 5th and 6th grader. He had to walk 40 minutes to get to get to church and on Sundays they had Mass in the morning and Sunday School was in the afternoon. Because of the distance he would often miss Sunday School.

Often prizes of clothes from relief goods would be given to the students who had a a good attendance record. He never was one of them. Those who lived close to the Church would be the recipients.The prizes were not enough to overcome the distance he had to walk.  

Two years ago 20 to 30 children from a city parish were given a free trip to Everland, the largest  theme park in South Korea.  All expenses were paid by the parish. The priest wondered about the results of the trip and the  feelings of those that were not selected to go. 

One of the parishes gives electronic gifts to those who attend Mass faithfully, and he gives another example of a priest who gives presents to those who answer his questions correctly during the sermon.  There are a differences in the kind  gifts that are given, but the giving of prizes is a common occurrence.

The interest of children in religious  teaching is disappearing.  Mass  attendance is low and  those who are responsible for the parishes are looking for ways to stop the tide. Some of the priests work with the liturgy, music, sermons, visual aids  and the like, while others make use of material goods to increase the interest.

There are times where this giving of  prizes as an incentive is acceptable, but educationally and looking at it from a religious vantage point it he does not see it as wise. When one receives a prize one considers that it is deserved, there is little thanks and little humility. When one takes care of a younger sibling and is given a prize, we  lose the chance to inculcate the importance of brotherly love. Religious education is to instil responsibility and maturity. 

Our society draws people by material goods and competition. Those who win at  competition and pile up material goods are the ones who are setting the societal standards. Those who have lost out in competition and have little are those who go to the  the periphery of society.     

When the church uses the same methods of society, we are failing to educate wisely. Jesus complained about the way society shunned and alienated people, and the same can be done in our religious teaching programs.

After an event we as church do not meet formally to evaluate what was done. When many thousands of dollars are used for trips and in prize money, time should be set aside to assess the pros and cons of the event. What did the students learn? Was it valuable?  What was not of value?

Most of the time there are informal evaluations made by those in charge but this is not sufficient, he says.  What is necessary is to examine in detail what was done,  and to analyze it with the future in mind. This would prevent many future mistakes and allow growth to happen. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fighting to Eliminate Poverty

In his column on  the social teaching of the Church in the Peace Weekly, a seminary professor brings to our attention the poverty in the world and the efforts to eliminate it.

While in Rome he met many people from different nations and especially priests who were in Rome to study from Africa. Many of them had no help from the dioceses, and  had to make their spending money by helping out during the summer months. Korean priests were helped by their dioceses. African priest would be given scholarships from the Congregation of the Evangelization of People, but their personal expenses they would have to earn.

On their return to Africa you would see them bringing many household goods and electronic  equipment back with them to Africa.They would be going back to a difficult life, and a continent that was often at war and fighting against hunger to stay alive. Sadness was the feeling he had seeing these priests going back to Africa.

We have all seen the vast expanses of Africa and their many resources. They can climb a cocoanut tree for a  refreshing drink or gather some bananas but they all have owners. They have the largest amount of gold and diamonds in the world but the  wealth is not shared. The way it is shared depends on the  politics of the region. We have all seen on TV the  leaving of the continent by boat and the numbers who have died.

Pope Francis after becoming pope made his first pastoral visit  to the Italian island of Lampedusa  a stop over for many illegal emigrants from Africa  seeking refuge in Europe. The pope in his sermon  criticized the indifference of the international community and wanted to  awaken consciences and  the love we should have for humanity.The pope wants society and the  Church to take an interest in this great suffering of so many.

Lampedusa is only 120 miles from Tunisia and in the first half of 2013  the UN's Refugee Agency reported that 8,400 refugees had arrived on the island.The sinking of boats and the lost of life is all too well known. They are seeking a better life in Europe. Africa was invaded  and colonized and suffered at the hands of  Europe for centuries. After the second world war many of the nations became independent,  but because of the rule of despots and corruption many of the people were not able to free themselves from poverty. If there was a just sharing of the wealth we would not have the tragedies of Lampedusa.

"The fight against poverty finds a strong motivation in the option or preferential love of the Church for the poor. In the whole of her social teaching the Church never tires of emphasizing certain fundamental principles of this teaching, first and foremost, the universal destination of goods. Constantly reaffirming the principle of solidarity, the Church's social doctrine demands action to promote 'the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all '. The principle of solidarity, even in the fight against poverty, must always be appropriately accompanied by that of subsidiarity, thanks to which it is possible to foster the spirit of initiative, the fundamental basis of all social and economic development in poor countries. The poor should be seen not as a problem, but as people who can become the principal builders of a new and more human future for everyone.(Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church #449).

Friday, November 14, 2014

What Are Our Priorities?

A grandfather who was living alone in a  rented room, was notified that the house was sold, and he had to move.The situation was serious,  despondent, he took his own life. Those who were entrusted with the moving found a note waiting for them; in the envelope was 100 dollars to have a meal with rice and soup. Another envelope had enough money for the funeral expenses, electricity, water and taxes.

In Feb. of this year we had the  suicide of a mother and her two  daughters by carbon dioxide  poisoning  because of poverty. The daughters because of sickness were not able to work, and the mother in her 60s worked in a  restaurant to support  them, but could not work because of an injury. The incident was reported in the news and caused a great deal of remorse on the part of many.The government was moved to work on ways to help the indigent, and  prevent incidents like what happened to the grandfather.

Around the same time was the case of another death of a popular singer that pushed aside news of the mother and her two daughters. The columnist, writing on this issue, in the Peace Weekly, knows that death brings sadness, but was again reminded that money and honor, in many cases,  determines how we look upon death. Putting his thoughts together on the grandfather's death the columnist felt distress.

In Buddhism birth and death, prosperity or failure are all transient; important to see all as vanity. A Christian, however, sees life as a sign of God's love and to put an end to life with one's willful act is not acceptable. We are to respect our bodies for they will be resurrected on the last day.

The bishops in their recent meeting lamented in the way money and power is pushing people to their death. We have put money and power on an equal footing with life. Materialism and money are trampling the poor under foot, and the bishops have decided to be with them. Up until now we have had a  middle class church, prosperous, on mission, a big church, that has not chased out the poor, but have not made it easy for them to find a place to stand or feel comfortable. Bishops have expressed their sorrow and plan to do something to change the situation.

The world is beautiful because one can find love. A world with love is filled with human-like lives: a world that is lived according to the principles found in creation, and is filled with the  immanence of God. When the first Christians in Korea were  persecuted and escaped to the mountains, living together in difficult circumstances, no one died of hunger or lost hope.

Like  the bishops we have to meditate on the situation we have today in the world, and work to put an end  to those who kill themselves because of  alienation and  poverty. In November we meditate on death and pray for the dead. A  time to  change our attitude, and begin to see what is important and what is less important in our lives. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Choosing Our Attitudes

'Happiness and  healing' is a topic we hear a lot about in our society. But at the same time society is filled with  great suffering. The death of a loved one fills us all with bodily pain and mental suffering. A college philosophy professor writes in a column in the Peace Weekly about losing his parents 3 years ago,within 6 months of each other. The loss was deep and lasting and before he was able to accept the loss, a very close friend died. The death was not   expected which made the loss more difficult. 

According to Viktor Frankl in Logotherapy, humans are motivated by the  search for meaning. The columnist shows, according to Frankl, we find the meaning in three different ways: in what we do, and what we experience or by the attitude we have  toward the unavoidable suffering in life. There is no way we can prevent our own death or the death of another, but we can choose our attitude.

Before the death of his friend, a fellow professor, he  visited him with his wife and even at that time he was considerate of us and told us that because of his weakness he found it difficult to talk. That was a indication of the thoughtfulness he had for others. Right to the very end you would see this concern  which increased the sadness of those visiting. After his death one easily saw the high regard he was held by  all those that knew him: the students that came to the funeral rites with tears in their eyes.

There are  those that death could come as a penalty, but they live well and enjoy life and then you have  those like his friend that had so much talent and doing so much good, and death comes so suddenly.  If they lived longer they could have done so much good and showed more love to others. The columnist has  read all kinds of philosophy books, and not once has he come across a good answer to his query.

During the Mass of the Resurrection in praying for the professor he did find some consolation. On the 49th  day after death one of the students who received his doctorate with the mentoring of the professor visited the grave of the professor and offered up his doctoral dissertation. At the sight, the columnist experienced a warm feeling.                                           

With the death of the ones we love we bury with the  one deceased part of ourselves which is part of the reason for the sadness that overcomes us. However, a part of the one who has died also remains with us.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fill the Head and Capture the Heart

An eye doctor, who is also a teacher at a university asks the question: Does a teacher want to  fill the head or capture the heart? In an article in the  Kyunghyang magazine he tries  to give an answer. He admits that when he explains what he plans to do to a patient, he wonders how much they understand. Patients,at times, do not answer truthfully,which leaves him bewildered when he finds out. In his lectures he finds even though the topics are 
strange and done with little humor there is much conveyed.

He finds the presentations of Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple, extraordinary. Although he has died, we can still find on the internet his presentations. The doctor wanting to improve his own presentation, borrowed a book from the library on Steve Jobs' way of making presentations. What surprised him was that it took a whole book to explain what Jobs did in a one hour presentation.

He quotes a poet who wrote: "Life is difficult but to write poetry on life is easy which is embarrassing." The book he read on Jobs' presentation changed his way of thinking on the subject but then again we have people telling you how to become rich on the internet, and with the printing of their books become rich, but those who read the books remain poor. 

In any event, says the doctor, to see something once is better than a thousand words. He introduces us to  Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement Speech 2005, and recommends those reading these words go to the internet: found by putting Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement 2005 in the search engine.  

A doctor is not a salesman but he feels there has to be a balance between filling the heads of his audience and moving their hearts. He has to give them knowledge that they didn't have and contribute to what they did know, and at the same time move their hearts to follow his instructions: a sign of a good presentation.

When he reflects on the time and effort required in preparing his presentations this leaves him with a  big load on his shoulders. 

We all have small or big 'presentations'  to make everyday. Not only what we say, but how we say it  will determine what is accepted. The truth we speak is often not accepted because of the way presented, but also the way a person looks upon the one speaking. Some of the elements are under our control others are not, but we need to keep all of them in mind.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Korean Bishops' Autumn Meeting

The recent Catholic news and editorials have taken into account the results of the Autumn General Assembly of the Catholic Bishops. Clearly and unambiguously the  bishops have opted for change, and shown a strong will for renewal that will begin with the bishops. They will leave behind luxury, stress a pastoral approach, 'go in search' and work to communicate and collaborate to make a Church for the poor.

One of the changes, different from the past, was an approach to problems that came from below, and not from above. The bishops worked with the results of  what the church members wanted to see changed, and the bishops agreed to be the first to change. They will approach problems with their actions more than words, in the manner of Pope Francis. One of the editorials are waiting to see how the bishops will be an example to the Church.

A survey by the bishops was distributed by e-mail, and on the bishops' homepage. +During Pope Francis' visit the  most memorable scene. +Words that  moved you the most in his talks. +The word that comes to mind when you think of Pope Francis. +After the visit of the pope the greatest need for     change. +What the members have to change.

The scene that moved many viewers was the pope's easy interactions with those he met, and the way he related with parents of the Sewol tragedy.The words 'sympathy' and 'communication' stayed with many. In the pope's talks his reference to 'remember and have hope' were meaningful. 'A poor church', and 'before suffering there is no neutrality' were mentioned. The 'comfortable' life of the religious hurts the Church was mentioned by many.

The prominent issue,receiving the  most interest was becoming a poor church where the poor would feel at home. The community of the faithful wanted to see changes in the  bishops'  manner of dialoguing and communication. They pointed out  a lack of vision and leadership, authoritarianism and self righteousness, and wanted a commitment to the  Social Gospel.

Clericalism and self righteousness of the priest was  mentioned by both groups as the biggest issue with the clergy. Also mentioned was a lack of spirituality and a prayer life, a wealthy and comfortable life style, hobbies that are luxurious, and working only with the wealthy. 

Religious have a need for  prayer and spirituality.  Narrow mindedness and a one way approach to problems were listed.

Laypeople were seen to  lack a prayer life  and spirituality. Lack of participation in the Social Gospel of the Church, factionalism and problems with getting along with neighbors were listed.  

The whole Church needs to be more conscious of the poor and become a Church of the poor. One of the editorials wrote we have become a middle class Church where the poor do not feel welcomed and all the members need to work in changing the image      with the  bishops out in front with renewal.