Thursday, April 30, 2015

Failure to Understand the Gospel

'Catholics Protecting the Republic of Korea'  made known at a press conference, the list of 100 priests who they considered friendly to North Korea, against the United States and the Korean Government. The Catholics protecting the country made it clear they were not condemning the priests but only wanted them to repent and be converted. They are sick and tired of activist priests, and think they represent the ordinary believers.

Similar protests are seen in many other countries where those who see the social aspects of the Gospel as important as the spiritual. We are made up of body and soul and Jesus made it clear that the commandment to love includes God and our brothers and sisters. This  holistic understanding of the Christian message is understood by most, but here in Korea as in other parts of the world, many have difficulty when the Church speaks about social issues.

A large number of  Korean Priests  have been vocal on the side of the social Gospel from the time of the  democratization in Korea. Catholic Priests' Association for Justice played a big part in moving to democracy when they began in 1974. Sad, when we have Catholics fighting over what should be understood by all as integral to our message but  in the minds of many, it is not having problems with the way it is done, where a difference of opinion would be expected, but the confrontation seems to be religion has no place in the public square.They want the priests to stay with the spiritual.        

In the Pastoral Bulletin one of the priests whose name was on the list of one hundred writes about his feelings on seeing the list. He admits that in every group or organization you have a difference of opinion. If we are not to go contrary to our beliefs, we are free to express our opinions frankly.

However, there are limitations on what we  say,  especially when names are made known. Even in society to say something false about another is libel, and there are  criminal  penalties-- no small matter. In the list was the name of his bishop. Seeing the name of his  bishop he was astounded, and the names  of two other bishops were also on the list.

Looking over the 'Catholics Protecting the Republic of Korea', he gives us his thoughts on the subject. They want the priest to repent and be converted and he can't figure out what they have done wrong. He is willing to even put his priesthood on the line to defend his bishop. He has not heard one word, seen any action that was contrary to his  calling as a priest. How can one without hesitation show this kind of disrespect. 

What have these Catholics done for their fellow human beings who are on the periphery of society? His bishop, in a general meeting of the priests, has requested when he visits a parish every thing be done simply.  He asked the priests to put no burden on the parishioners when they are assigned to a parish or on their feast days. They are also giving 10%  of the income from  Mass stipends to help the poor. Does it make any sense to criticize this bishop. He's surprised to see how many Catholics have allowed this to continue. The language they use is far from what we would expect from those attending the same Mass. To the credit of the priests' association they have kept relatively quiet in the face of the criticism.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Living the Gospel in Retirement

A priest recalls the days he was studying at a Buddhist graduate school, whose students were either Buddhist Monks or devout Buddhist laity. Hearing there was a Catholic priest studying at the university, the news spread quickly, he was approached by many of the students with questions. Most of them were interested in who was responsible for priests after retirement. He writes about this in the bulletin for priests.

How did you arrive at the treatment for priests in their declining years? There was a great deal of curiosity about the lives of the priests after retirement. The Church takes care of the needs of the  clerics and religious in their retirement years. Was the answer given by the priest. Consequently, the priest does not have to save or do anything that would be contrary to Church teachings to make money.

Often priests give money as sponsors for different movements, donate to welfare programs, and assist people in need with their money, and at times they have little for their upkeep. However, there is no need to worry for the Church will take care of their needs in old age.

If the priest doesn't indulge in buying a luxury car,  and expensive hobbies, he has enough money to help others. He was proud to express himself in the way  he did to the Buddhist students, and hopes what he said was true.

Many of the faithful do not understand the life of a priest but priests do.There are many priests who live simply and are helping others and they do it without pride and no desire to make it known.They consider it a way of living the spiritual life and they don't see it as pitiable. It is the reason they became priests in the first place.

Recently there are priests that are having difficulty in their retirement. It all depends  on the way one wants to live. If what is received is less than they would like, they should start living the Gospel life. No matter how difficult the financial circumstances there is no need for priests to put money in the bank.

In conclusion: if someone should ask him now, who is responsible for a priest's retirement years? His  answer: " I am responsible for my retirement years." Structural provisions are in place but we need the  determination to live the Gospel life.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Today's Fortune

Catholic Times' column on spirituality, shows how easy it is to be moved and influenced by what we do not believe and even think foolish.The columnist, a priest,  on passing the  lobby of the monastery  saw one of the senior priests reading the newspaper.  

 "Father, what grabs your interest so early in the morning?"  The priest:

"Looking over the news I saw today's fortune column, and spent time reading it. What is your birth year,month and day? Let us see what they say?--  Be careful today to avoid a big disagreement."

The columnist knew the  priest would not be in the least  interested in fortunes, and here he was reading the horoscopes. It didn't make sense."Father when did you start becoming interested in horoscopes?"

"Heavens, I am just playing around, just  curious to see what people are reading and believing. I looked to see what my horoscope was and I am to leave by the North, and will meet a noble person.  Aren't we all noble persons? What are your plans? "

"I am on my way to the research center and just dropped in to say hello.  Have a good day." The columnist took leave of his fellow priest. He was to meet three of his classmates from the diocese. They were going to donate a gift to the research center. Three of the classmates met him at the center and they went to the market to see what was available. One of the classmates asked him:

"Father, pick the color and the design that you want."

The columnist suddenly remembered what his priest friend told him to beware of  disagreements, and answered: "They're all fine, no problem."

The classmate was surprised at his response.This was not the person he knew."Hey, you will be using it at the center, pick what you want."

The columnist continued to tell his friend it didn't matter what he bought they were all good. "You are giving it to me as a gift so it is proper for you to make the choice." That day he was getting into a fight with his classmate over what to buy. It was crazy, he was fulfilling what the horoscope had predicted could happen.

This prompted the columnist to give the whole  thing some thought. The words of his brother priest at the monastery indirectly influenced him that day. If he was moved by a positive mind in the way he was living, and was not tied and bound by the here and now, but had his eyes on what was eternal he would be more authentic, and know himself better.

Monday, April 27, 2015

We Can't Be Neutral in the Face of Suffering.

Memory is selective and partial. No one remembers everything.The Exodus from Egypt is the memory of Moses, and not of the Pharaoh. The memory of those oppressed is not the memory of those oppressing. People remember what they want to remember, consequently, oppressed and the oppressing will have completely different memories of what happened. 

Many are the psychologists who say the doers of harm have reason for their actions, and others faced with the same circumstances would do the same. If one apologizes for the act, we need to forget, and consign it to the  past. The one who suffered wants to remember, and wants the wrong doer to remember it too.

These words introduce the tragedy of the Sewol; April 16th was the first anniversary of the sinking of the ferry. Writing in the  Peace Weekly, the columnist wants us to see the problems we have in society surrounding this issue. We have those who want  to consider it an accident and to forget it, and get to work on the problems in our society. This would be the typical viewpoint of the wrong-doer. However, the victims don't want to forget. 

The incident is such a large one that you have people taking sides. You have those who want to forget and those who don't. Many who have no sympathy for those involved as perpetrators in the tragedy, are moved by others, the press, and the groups to which they belong. In Korea the writer explains that society is often divided into two groups and these groups are influenced by the smaller groups to which citizens belong.

The columnist mentions how one needs to be accepted by their group and feels it is because of the  difficulties of our history. He compares it to the feeling one has to buy something everybody else has. The best way is to study the situation in depth and to decide, but this is not easy for most to do, and he recommends going to a person you respect for an opinion.

However for a Christian we are helped by the teachings we have received. We are to be on the side of the poor, suffering, weak and those hurting. Pope Francis has also expressed this with his words: in the face of suffering we can't be neutral. The columnist uses the often heard words of Dante: the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.

On the anniversary of the tragedy all the dioceses had Masses to remember the dead and their families. There is no reason for politics, right or left  but to show mercy to those hurting; to remember and be with them.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Both  editorials in the Catholic papers bring to the attention of the readers the difficulties of the  migrants in Korea. Today Korean Catholics remember the 101st  World Day of Migrants and Refugees along with Vocations on Good Shepherd Sunday.  

The world village in which we live brings the reality of different people and cultures living together. Korea has ethnic Koreans from China, Russia and North Korea and many other migrants with different facial features who have come from poor countries and are here to do the difficult, dirty and dangerous work of the society, often discriminated and shunned. There is also a large number who have married Koreans and are living in the country.

They are often treated worse than those in the lowest stratum  of society: they are  the invisible persons in society.Very basic human rights are not respected, health care, educational aid, and when sick hospital  care is not easily found, and in school ignored by classmates. Even in the Church we see this happening. We have separate Masses for them and they are not relating with the parishioners. When we  don't accept a foreigner we are refusing something basic of a person's humanity. We are treating  another as a commodity and fitting them into the  structures of the society we have made.

In our elementary, middle and high schools one out of a  hundred are children from another culture. This shows that we are becoming a multicultural country. This requires we change the way we think and act.

Many in society do not hear the cry of the weak, and fail to see their pain and the need to find solutions. A survey made  recently found that those married to Koreans, in 2009,  36.4 % felt discrimination and in  2012 it increased to 41.9 %. Three years ago 3.% of the migrants  said prejudice  and discrimination made life difficult, this has now gone up to 7%. A sign that we are not doing  well in our efforts.
Pope Francis  in his message for the 101st World Day of Migrants: "The Church without  frontiers Mother to all, spreads throughout the world a culture of acceptance and solidarity, in which no one is seen as useless, out of place or disposable. When living out this motherhood effectively, the Christian community nourishes, guides and indicates the way, accompanying all with patience, and drawing close to them through prayer and works of mercy."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Opening Church Doors to Marriage

In April, for the last two years, we had issues which caused a great deal of public anguish. Last year, the sinking  of the Sewol Ferry, and this year the news of large scale corruption in government, but it is also the month of flowers and weddings.

Many are renewed by the attendance at a wedding with the newly weds expressing their joy in a new life that begins. Peace Weekly, Peace Columnist,  recounts the joy of attending a Wedding Mass and all that is associated with a wedding. He laments, however, this is not something that all can enjoy and precedes to tell us why.

He introduces us to a book by two professors Cabone and Cahn who have written Marriage Markets, which describes  how income of the couples influences the markets for marriage: less marriage when the income is lower and more when higher.

This is also our reality. A  marriage business enterprise, working in the field is quoted as saying,  the average money spent on a marriage including the home would be over 200,000 dollars. Without this kind of money available one can't contemplate marriage.

In Korea those who are not married by 50 are consider unmarried for life. In 1980 only 0.4% were in this category, in 2010 this has increased to 5%. Japan is in a more difficult situation, in 1980 only 2.6% were unmarried, in 2010 it rose to 20.1 %.

This year we will have the population house census made every 5 years. Since Korea, in respect to population transitions, has many similarities with Japan, the writer surmises that there will be big surprises in the numbers who remain single for life--those who have given up on romance and marriage because of money and emotional reasons. 

Last year we had the extraordinary synod on the family and Cardinal Yeom of Seoul was quoted as saying that with the solving of the problems in the family all will be solved. The first  barrier for this is marriage itself and a need for the Church to get involved. The family is what supports the country, society and the church, We don't want to go in the direction of the United States, where marriage   becomes the choice of the elite and middle class.

The Church needs to open the doors of its 1,682 churches to those who are dreaming of marriage. The church needs to lower expenses and start spreading  news to make a new culture for marriage.                

Friday, April 24, 2015

Church Losing Its Prophetic Voice

A survey made by the Catholic Times in 1988 showed how the Church had become middle class. In the 90s the word 'middle-class' was used by religious sociologists, and appeared in many articles written about the church.

A professor and deputy director of the Catholic Cultural Research Center has an essay in the Catholic Times about the weakening of the Church's prophetic role in society and the reasons. Scholars see this as a change in the Catholic situation in society.

By using these words we are saying the majority of the Catholics belong to the middle class. The professor believes we may think the number of  Catholics in the middle class would be about 70%  but it is closer to 45~55%,  5% of this number would be the upper class. With this being the fact is it possible that we are making too much fuss about this? But the reality is that Catholics before 1980 were poor, the results  of the religious  persecution  that lasted for over one hundred years.

In the 1980s the young, highly educated, and economically well-off  began to enter the church. Those entering were imbued with the dynamism  from the church they entered which lasted up to the end of the 90s. Numbers entering began to increase greatly.

Those entering were changing the make-up of the Church, both within and without: numbers of church buildings and their sizes increased, the quality of the material improved, the number of welfare programs improved, shrines for the martyrs were developed, and the exterior of Catholicism was changed.

Catholics with money and time were only half of the numbers registered in the Church, but they were the ones attending the Masses and involved in church  activities, however, the prophetic role of the church  decreased greatly. The symbolism of the old time Catholicism and its culture grew weak.

 Catholics increased, but the quality did not  keep pace and we hear the continual voice for renewal.This, in the words of the professor, explains the present Catholicism with which we are faced.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Preferential Option for the Poor

In April our Korean Bishops made their regular visit to the Vatican; and as  was reported in the press the first thing the pope asked the bishops: "How was the Sewol problem being decided?" The pope on the other side of the world was showing solidarity with those who were hurting.

While here in Korea he showed concern for the families of the victims and  accepted a yellow ribbon which he wore while in Korea. On his way back to Rome on the plane at the press conference he was asked a question about his position on the Sewol ferry tragedy.

 "I put this on (the yellow ribbon given him by the relatives of the victims). After half a day of wearing it, I took it on for solidarity with them. Someone came up and said, it's better to take it off. You must be neutral.  But, listen with human sorrow you can't be neutral. It's what I feel." 

These words and the attitude of Pope Francis shows us what  the Christian essence of love should be. We need to show mercy and solidarity to those who are the sickest, and poorest in society. In our social teaching we express this with a preferential option for the poor.

You can't be neutral in the presence of human suffering. Before the poor become a concern of politics, economics and  culture, the issue is theological and religious. God was on the side of those hurting in Egypt and Jesus: "I was hungry and you fed me" (Mt. 25:35); Jesus identifies himself with the poor.  

"The poor person, when loved, 'is esteemed as of great value', and this is what makes the authentic option for the poor differ from any other ideology, from any attempt to exploit the poor for one’s own personal or political interest. Only on the basis of this real and sincere closeness can we properly accompany the poor on their path of liberation. Only this will ensure that 'in every Christian community the poor feel at home. Would not this approach be the greatest and most effective presentation of the good news of the kingdom?' Without the preferential option for the poor, 'the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words which daily engulfs us in today’s society of mass communication" (Joy of the Gospel #199).  

There are many in society who select those hurting,  and being with them inspire us with their service for the poor.However, it is also true that many do not understand and worry about the results. We have a person who told the pope won't it be better to remove the ribbon since you are to be neutral. It was then  he answered: we can't be neutral in the face of suffering. Work with the poor and the suffering always goes beyond politics.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Changing to Live Like we Should

Koreans enjoy using aphorism, and Catholics using what we  called spiritual nosegays. They were like a bouquet of flowers that we could take out when needed  to overcome other odors that were harmful or at least distracting us from what was important.

Articles in both Catholic papers, mentioned a movement among the different religious groups in Korea to live what we believe: living according to our identity. One writer  quotes Pope Francis in his talk to the Asian Bishops while here in Korea. "If we are to speak freely, openly and fruitfully with others, we must be clear about who we are, what God has done for us, and what he asks of us."

Identity is a difficult word, the representative of the 7 different religious groups did decided in the common campaign to live what we believe: like a mother, like a human, like a citizen, like a Catholic, like a worker, like a believer.  A consensus among the different religious groups in a  campaign to work together is itself of great import.

The declaration of the campaign listed: to look first  for the  reasons for our problems in ourselves, to understand correctly  what we do, and  act accordingly. See our mission directly, and  make it our starting point; pledge to act in the family, in the church and in society like a member of that community should.

Not an easy thing to do. We have to understand who we are and realize how precious we are and live in the way we know we should. Cardinal Kim who was the  ordinary of Seoul is quoted as  saying:  " It  took him a life time to have what his head knew descend to his heart." The effort will be that of a martyr.

Each religious group will have different resolutions that they will explore and carry out according to their beliefs. The hope within the Church is that it will spread to all the dioceses in the country. 

The pastoral head of the  Seoul Parish Council reminds us of the sinking of the Sewol and how easy it is to have all our problems sink like the ferry into the unknown. In order to change the lack of trust in society we need to live according to the  will of God, which is living what we believe.         

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Need For Rest and Leisure

Koreans are tired. They have the longest working hours, and children the  longest hours for study. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its survey of 18 countries showed that Koreans had the least hours of sleep for both adults and children. Korea in the last 50 years was the country that achieved the  fastest  rate of growth,  a sign of their diligence, and if they did not achieve this success with sacrificing even sleep would it have been normal? The  leading role in this leap in progress are now the elders in our society, and of 91 countries, Korea was listed as the 67th  in welfare programs for the elderly, which the columnist considers a big embarrassment.

The columnist is an educator who writes in Window from the Ark of the Catholic Times. Our present competitive society directs us to will what we want to achieve, but at a great price, sacrificing leisure and overworking; often times feeling guilty for resting and becoming addicted to work. The environment  in which they work, pushing for efficiency and production leads a large percentage of the work force to feel burnt out. 

At this stage there is a loss of desire. Similar to an excess of voltage in an electric line which causes the fuse to blow. The worker loses the meaning for life, and runs out of energy.

Burnout Syndrome does not only affect the person but his family, the work place and society.When together with others we have the meeting of a tired society. This becomes contagious, easily spreads and we have the making of psychological problems. 

Rest and leisure are not a waste of time. Why is it that we don't understand the reason for rest and leisure?  He mentions a study made that showed that those who have leisure and sufficient sleep are better able to fight off dementia: the best and cheapest way of fighting off the aging of the brain.

God made us to play. He shows us a number of passages where we have the day of rest, festivities, dancing, and banquets.There is a need for a rhythm in life of work and rest. We are  made to  celebrate-- homo festivus. The Sabbath Day is the best example of this. He concludes the article by asking the church to take notice of the  seriousness and sorrow in  society and help the tired ones to enjoy the creation that God has given us.                                                                          
“I praise the dance, for it frees people from the heaviness of matter and binds the isolated to community” [Augustine]

Monday, April 20, 2015

Trickle-down Effect Of Economics

We often hear our large scale enterprises must do well, if the common people are to live well. Jobs are made, incomes improve: at first glance this makes a lot of sense. A priest sociologist working with laborers, in an article in the  Catholic Times, does not agree.

Government apparently believes this to be true, and does what it can to make the growth of these conglomerates as smooth as possible. Removing many of the obstacles that prevent growth. However, is it true that the workers benefit from this largesse?

When big business does well, and we have the trickle down effect as it is called, the  overflow of wealth from the big enterprises and the rich will  enter the lives of the masses--no proof, only an hypothesis  and common belief.

Government and the Korea Bank Statistics shows something different. Under the government of the  past president the income of the conglomerates continued to increase with the business friendly policy. The income of families on the other hand continued to decrease. Why are the incomes of the families supposedly increasing, and why more poverty?

Pope Francis has expressed the opinion that there is little to warrant this kind of thinking, and said so in Joy of the Gospel. "In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."

In 1997 the Catholic Conference of England  on the issue of the common good was sharp in criticism of this thinking-- when the rich get richer the situation of the less wealthy and the poor is improved-- The bishops expressed doubt on this position, and said there is no evidence of this and goes against common sense. This kind of thinking only goes to justify the search for wealth.  

When big business does well this does not translate into the good for the ordinary citizen. For this to happen the government has to get involved with regulations to make this happen, and to  extend the welfare system to include more people. When the  government sides with big business and abrogates many of the regulations this is not only hurting the citizens but not making for an efficient financial market. If the government is to take an interest in the life of the  citizens they have to be conscious of the solidarity of the basic community and the common good.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

2014 Statistics for Korean Catholicism

Both Catholic papers in their recent issue, introduced to the readers the statistical report on the  condition of Catholicism in Korea for 2014. Summarizing: there was  an increase of 5% of those  entering the church from the previous year, and another decrease to 20.7 % of the Catholics who go to Sunday Mass.  

In 1999 the index of those attending Sunday Mass dropped to the 20% level from (29.5%); 15 years later it will be entering the 10% zone. In 1980 the church was at the height of its favorable opinion among the citizens, but this did not show in the  devotional life of the parishioners nor in their community life. 

From 1999 there has been an increase of 40.89% in the number of Catholics. However, sacramental life, group activities and  religious studies have decreased. We can't base everything on these statistics but  they do show direction. The  future for Catholicism in Korea is not  overly bright  and demands some serious concern and alternative proposals.  

One of the editorials mentions the 'Pope Francis effect' on the church may have some truth, but it should show in the numbers going to Mass and the Sacraments and this is not the case. Until we see the change in those who frequent the Sacraments and attend Mass, and become involved in group activity we can not  speak about the 'Francis effect' in Korea, was the conclusion. 

The number of priests and religious is also showing a decrease from previous years. The age of the Catholics is also increasing with the ages from 50 to 55 being the largest with 9.8%. Those under 19 have decrease to 3.6%. Those over 80, the women number 74.3%.

Korea is listed as the 46th country with the largest number of Catholics, and in Asia they are the fifth after the Philippines, India, Indonesia and Vietnam according to the  Statistical Yearbook of the Church.

Numbers of those falling away from the Church is  seen by the drop in those  going to Sunday Mass, and the numbers who are no longer going to Confession. The task of those responsible for the pastoral work will need to find solutions to stem the tide, and new ways to evangelize those in the pews.                     

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Capital Sins and Mercy

In the  Peace Weekly Column the writer brings to our attention the seven capital sins which has  always been an important concern in the spiritual life of the  sensitive Catholic: pride, avarice, lust, envy, gluttony anger and sloth.

Our  ancestors of the faith in Korea were familiar with the book of Diego de Pantoja (1571-1618) Seven Victories over the Seven Capital Sins. This book gave the antidote for ridding ourselves of the seven capital sins and was influential in the spiritual life of the first Christians of Korea. They followed right reason and the laws of nature in practicing the virtues with little difficulty because of the Confucian traditions with which they were familiar.

They found in the  makeup of Jesus and his public life-- the unlimited  gift of mercy he wanted to give us. In today's world it is difficult to experience and  practice mercy.

The writer says he begins with himself in not being familiar with the capital sins. Pride is see in all aspects of his life. not only is he stingy but greedy, lazy and quick to envy and gets angry. I am number one, in the presence of the strong and influential he is humble but with those who are in his eyes lower in social status he can be cold, discriminating and not notice them. Money is a cause of abuse, with a little too much to drink he can be overcome with false bravery, and consider himself different from others.  But when he comes to his senses he realizes that he is in the service of an idol and in need of mercy. 

In today's world  everything is controlled by money,  and the capital sins are no longer evil habits but the standard for what makes the world go round. Living in a society with unlimited competition, not seen as something bad-- there is a need to trample others-- the capital sins are necessary.  

The Church itself has become infected with this kind of thinking. The treatment of the handicapped, the hiring of irregular workers for the church, are  examples of this thinking. We are told by the higher clergy that to search for peace of mind in our religion is not a good, and we have  8 out of 10 who do not attend Mass on Sunday. Catholics are not only at Mass to receive the grace from the sacraments but also to hear words of consolation from the  priests.  Reasons for the low Mass attendance need not be spelled out....

Pope Francis  is appealing for mercy from all of us. A necessary condition for this to happen is to rid ourselves of the vices and work with the seven  virtues that have to  become part of us. Mercy comes with the disposition of  welcoming  our brothers and sisters and not money.  

We need to rid  ourselves of discrimination, he concludes,  and have a welcoming desire for a new heaven and a new earth, and begin living like humans.          

Friday, April 17, 2015

Communication a Human Need

A couple came to see the pastor about the lack of communication between them. Married for over thirty years, and recently experienced an iron wall separating them. The  priest writes about the  encounter with the couple in the Pastoral Bulletin; wonders about the results of living in this way.

The couple expressed in detail their problem and was hoping for some words of wisdom from the pastor resolving their difficulty. The priest prayed that the couple in receiving Jesus in communion they would again find trust and the flame of love again.

Communication is at the heart of relationships. One good at communicating is looked upon kindly, and  easily approached. They show concern for others and their own situation, and are looked upon favorably--  all enjoy their company.

We have the smart phone, the internet, and many other means of communicating but it  has not improved but rather distanced ourselves from better and deeper communication, and we are called to be communicators.

God's desire in the Trinity is to be intimate, and open to communication. We are not  responding to the invitation to be open to the other when we only remember the scars inflicted, and close our hearts to the other. We justify our actions by not wanting to be scarred again. Closing our hearts to others, we are isolating ourselves, making us lonelier. When we close ourselves off from our neighbor, the world and nature we imprison ourselves in a cave.

Communication is an essential part of our existence.  Without communication we destroy our humanity, become overly nervous, and depressed. We don't communicate only to achieve some result but to be who we are. When we are with a close friend we speak without fear of being misunderstood. Opening ourselves to the other and being accepted we know we are worthy of love which renews us.  

Our Lord is calling us to an intimacy of friendship. We are completely open to him giving him even our sins and failings and receiving mercy and forgiveness. We need to be open to communication, or we will not be living a truly human life. God the Father communicated with us by  giving us his son;  Jesus gave himself completely in communication as food-- Take and Eat.                                                                                                           

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi Emptying Himself

Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi died on August 22, 2012 in Taipei Taiwan at the age of 90 and left us an account of his experience recopied in the Pastoral Bulletin. His account of the trials and embarrassment he endured is even difficult to copy. The article did skip some of the most difficult aspects of his last days.

" In Taipei, I could not defecate for two days so the doctor gave me some laxatives. They started to work around midnight. I woke up the male nurse to help me get to the washroom. Before we got all the way, my bowels emptied; the feces dropped out of me, fell to the floor and the nurse stepped in them. He was not happy. While he washed his slippers and the floor, he muttered words that I could not understand. He then took off my soiled pajamas, sat me on the toilet bowl naked and, while he washed the shit off my legs, scolded me like an adult scolds a child."

“Just two or three steps from the toilet and you couldn’t hold on. It gives me so much trouble. You have to tell me earlier next time,” was the bawling out he got from the male nurse. 

"I felt like a one-year-old kid. Every sentence was like a sharp knife, cutting away all the esteem, honor, titles, status, authority and dignity of my past 90 years. After cleaning me up, he laid me on my bed and quickly went back to sleep.

"I was prescribed with a strong diuretic to expel the fluid in my lungs – but I wasn’t told about it. The medication took effect during Mass. By the time I got to the readings, I had to go to the toilet. On the way, I wet myself so badly my urine left a trail on the floor. Since my ordination 57 years ago, that had never happened during Mass. I lost my dignity. I felt I had no place to hide in front of the nuns, doctors and nurses. This is how God started to cure my vanity.

These experiences made me realize two important spiritual facts--One: If you want to get close to Jesus, you must depend on God’s assistance to empty yourself. Two: When our loving God plays tricks on us, making us embarrassed, chronic problems of our heart and mind can be healed; obstacles on our spiritual path will be removed.
That embarrassment brought rejuvenation to a nonagenarian suffering from terminal illness." 

In just days, it took him back to the innocence he had in his childhood and expelled unhelpful habits that had accumulated for years.

“For God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Korean Catholic Missioners Giving Hope

Korea,  for many years has been a leader in sending  missioners to other countries, and most  of them would be Protestants, but Catholic numbers are beginning to grow. A Catholic Times article reports that  the Church began in earnest  sending their members overseas in the 1980s: the Korean Foreign Mission Society sent  three missioners to Papua New Guinea in 1981, Jeon Ju  diocese sent priests to South America, and religious orders sent men to missions.

Korean Benedictines sent two men to the Philippines, the Korean Foreign Mission society in 1990 sent three missioners to Taiwan-- not only religious and priests but also laypeople. The Columban Missionary Society  sent a team of laypeople to the Philippines in 1990. The  Columban Mission Society,  each year in their missionary formation programs, educate and  send missioners to different parts of the world. 

In Asia there are many Koreans who are working in difficult situations. According to the figures from the  Vatican in 2009 there were 316 Koreans in 20 different  countries, and in 2014  there were  385 missioners in 21 countries: 225 in 17 countries of the Americas, and  79 in 20 countries of Africa. In Asia the largest number of Asians working on the Catholic mission field would be from Korea.

The Asian missioners have learned a great deal from the missioners of the West and in their 40 years on the mission have  learned by trial and error, and the mistakes made by the missioners in history.

Missioners usually go to the poor and marginalized  peoples of the world. They work with the handicapped, women, children, young people in education programs. In these impoverished areas devastated by natural disasters, war and tribal disputes, they bring medical help, welfare, and aid  to better their lives with a new value system and hope for the future.

A Columban Sister has been in Myanmar for 11 years. She is helping them to discover God and giving them a way of life that comes from the teachings of Jesus. They are seeing results from their labors. They have seen those moved by the missioners and have decided to become priests.

Missioners need a good education to overcome the many difficulties they find in the  mission field. It is the same continent but many cultures, religions, and languages. One priest wants the missioners to ask themselves how much do they know about Asia. There is a need to know the culture, the histories and to begin dialogue between the religions and work to incluturate.

Mission in the future may be working with the atheists and unbelievers whose numbers continue to increase and believers decrease. Life has meaning-- may be the clarion call of the missioner to those who trusted in themselves and what they could see and touch, and found that it sapped their energies and left them without hope. Missioners will have the need to  evangelize themselves to bring hope to the many who have lost a reason for living, less in Asia, but numbers  continue to increase.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sacredness of Marriage

Marriages in Korea do no better than any other part of the world. Last year Korea was listed as number 8th in the list of countries with  the most divorces. The efforts of the Church to stem the  tide is ongoing with movements, literature, and efforts to educate  parishioners.  One of the  diocesan bulletins is running a series of  articles on understanding the problems in marriages, and offering solutions.  

There are many commonly held ideas about marriage while common are not helpful. An aspect that is  basic to all of them is trying to change the other. When we achieve this, problems will disappear but they don't.  We look for the answers outside of ourselves. 

What is important is to change ourselves. These wrong notions that we have about marriage make finding the solutions more difficult.The wrong headed ideas:   

1) Both have to change.

2) Working hard to change the partner. 

3) My partner is every thing.

4) My partner has to satisfy all my wants.  

5) Marriage does not require a great deal of work. 

6) Efforts  continue with no change.

7) Love is in the feelings.

8)  Ideal love is outside marriage.

9) My parent's marriage went smoothly so will my marriage.

10) Great change is required for a good marriage.

The relationship of husband and wife is the most important relationship in the family. When this is healthy the other relationships grow. Children learn from this relationship: the values that make for a happy life and the way they will see the world. After children are born often the concern is for the children. The couple's relationship becomes less important, and ignored, will surface again after the children leave. The estrangement will appear in their awkward relationship: silence and avoidance will just make the bond more difficult. This  relationship will leave scars on the children that will last a lifetime.  This reality is well know by most parents, and a prod to nurture the love they have promised each other. A precious gift to the children.

Monday, April 13, 2015

First Year Anniversary of the Sewol Tragedy

April 16th is the first anniversary of the sinking of the Sewol;  both Catholic papers continue to write about the tragedy and the problems that are appearing as they begin the investigation of the tragedy.         

When the bishops of Korea were on their ad limina visit to the Vatican, Pope Francis asked them how were the problems associated with the sinking of the ferry working out. One of the columnist mentions  that he doesn't know how the bishops answered, but they were no doubt confused. 

Families want the government to raise the ship, find the bodies of the missing, and get to the truth of the sinking. A year has passed and Lee Suk-tae who was nominated by the families wants to start the investigation but obstacles are put in their way,  preventing an objective search for the truth. Politics continue to enter the picture. The families do not want the  government to influence the outcome by appointing officials to committee posts.

Confucianism is strong in Korean society and not finding the bodies of the dead is a difficult situation for the families to face--without closure that comes with a funeral.

The Catholic Church continues to be a strong voice siding with the families and keeping the issue before the public with Masses and meetings throughout the country. Society has felt the pain of the families and has shown respect and sympathy for them, and those involved in the tragedy. Even those who did not die in the tragedy have suffered trauma that will be with them for life.

Chairman Lee Suk-tae payed a visit to Cardinal Yeom of Seoul asking for help to give the committee the strength to do its work. The investigation will uncover a great deal of corruption, laxity, ignoring of safety standards, all in a desire for economic growth. Cardinal expressed the opinion that the very essence of the investigation is to find the truth behind the tragedy.

The special committee has to be given freedom to begin the investigation, and  politics should have no place in the workings of the committee was the strong statement made in one of the editorials.                    

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today is Mercy Sunday and throughout the Catholic World a time to reflect on how merciful we have been to others and how open we have been in receiving God's mercy in the confessional. Pope Francis has proclaimed a Holy Year of Mercy starting on Dec. 8 of this year. A  time to experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope.

In the archives of the Pastoral Bulletin from last year there  is a lesson on how mercy was shown by two men, Mr. Kim and Mr. Park, who were contemplating suicide, and whose friendship changed their lives. The story of their friendship and change in life did make the international news a few years ago.

Mr. Kim gave surety for a friend  and was left with a debt of over 300.000 dollars. Mr. Park  lost his wife in a traffic accident, and was being sued for wrong doing, and during the litigation became depressed and decided to end it all. They both found their way to the Han River bridge. The police were called and they were helped to change their minds and  promised to give life another chance.

The police mentioned how the two of them left the bridge and ended up going for a drink at a  nearby pub, and became close friends-- both in their late 30s. That night each decided to buy 10 lottery tickets  and if they won they would split the money. They came in second and won over 300,000 dollars. Mr. Kim had the winning  ticket but both men had a naturally kind nature, and each wanted to give the money to the other.

They exchanged letters and briefly: Mr. Park wrote  he had a job, and could  take care of his family but Mr. Kim had a debt of over 300 thousand dollars and that was the reason he was thinking of suicide. Mr. Kim, however, said because of the death of Mr. Park's wife, the family was without a mother and the litigation made his situation more serious. They went back-and-forth  trying to give the money to the other. 

One night Mr. Kim, having too much to drink went to the house of Mr. Park, or so he  thought, and put a letter in his mail box with the winning  ticket.  Mrs. Zin, however, was the owner of the house, and seeing the ticket and money, notified a newspaper, where it was reported and became internet news. 

A bank hearing the story of the two  men, offered to give a similar sum of money that they won in the lottery to Mr. Kim, to take care of his debt,  and  pay for the best lawyers in the country to help Mr. Park in his litigation, and solve his problems with the law.

The article concludes with the words of a leader in  society who recalled how winning the lottery has broken up families, and in this case how  each was only concerned for the other, brought tears to his eyes. There is still a lot to be grateful for in society."A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just." Pope Francis

Saturday, April 11, 2015

What Is Our Culture Doing to Us?

A man remembers the exploitation of the elementary Sunday school children some fifty years ago in the building of his  parish church, and writes about it in the diocesan bulletin. Many of the children would take a whetstone attached to poles with which they polished the imitation stone on the floor of the church. Many of the children ruined their clothes in the process. This was their Saturday afternoon work for a couple of months.

While building the church at the end of the 60s the writer mentions that he would spend his weekends at the construction site doing miscellaneous tasks--  no catechism during that time, all done under the watchful eyes of the parish sisters. The construction site was a dangerous place with all the equipment on the property. Today the church would have been sued for labor exploitation of the young, but because of the poverty of the times this wasn't even imagined and all joyfully joined in the work.                        

Many times during the construction, the work stopped because of lack of funds. Adults would be doing odd jobs and the children kept busy with their tasks.  Often the floor of the church would be covered with newspapers, and the parishioners would attend Mass sitting on the floor.

His mother hearing that her son was at the construction site, and working, made her happy. They were not able to give much to the construction of the building so this was a way of participating in the building of the church. The thinking of those days is hard to understand by our present generation: we have difficulty putting up with inconveniences.

Whenever he goes back to his home parish and attends Mass he looks down at the floor that he helped to build, and  feels good about his participation. There are many from those days who have  entered religious life,and have done well in living their faith as lay persons. 

In entering  a newly built, top of the line church,   the feelings of the parishioners are different from those he had as a child. They were able to live with the imperfect and simple, difficult with the new generation. Community was very important in those days, not as true in our times.

He concludes his article with thoughts on how we  become imprisoned by the culture in which we live, without thought of what is causing us to go in one direction instead of another. We are being changed. A present need is for us to observe our culture and judge its worth and failings. Moral judgements need to be made and it is not only a question of what political party is in charge.

We don't reflect on what the culture is doing to us-- necessary if we want to be evangelizers. We need to know what is imprisoning us. The very thing the culture tells us is freeing us is  taking our freedom away, and we are blind in not seeing what is happening.  He uses the story of Lazarus and Dives in Luke 16:19. A good man who was so influenced by his culture, he couldn't see anything besides his own needs.                                                      

Friday, April 10, 2015

Gospel Contemplation

A Jesuit retreat master in the Catholic Times, introduces us to 'Gospel Contemplation' which he distinguishes from meditation on the Gospels. Easier than meditation because there is no need to use our powers of thinking and reasoning. We read  a passage a number of times, and recall it for our Gospel contemplation. 


The Gospel passage is a very brief written expression of what transpired in the time of Jesus. The incident in Mark where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, is an example. Jesus came from Galilee, and was baptized by John at the Jordan-- only three lines of print. What we need to do is to fill the spaces between the lines and pray.  We select something of interest to ourselves, ask questions, and wait for the answers.  


In this situation we look at Jesus leaving Nazareth, his trip to the Jordan. How many were there? What were they doing?  What do we want to know? We wait for the answers to come from deep inside us. It is like the  unfolding of a novel we are writing, but we stop at what grabs our attention. We interact with the Gospel incident, dwelling on what is before us:  an image, thought, feeling, whatever touches us deep down inside, bringing something to our attention that we never imagined before, that could trigger a change in our view point and disposition and make us a new person. This is the heart of contemplation. 


During the contemplation what is not described in the Gospel passage: the feelings of Jesus, his actions, are given meaning by us, we come to an intuitive understanding of the situation. Our hearts are moved, our love grows, and we want to follow him more closely.


There are those that recommend  becoming one of the participants in the scene. In the example we have with John the Baptist and Jesus, one  could take the place of John the Baptist and ask Jesus questions and react with him, but he does not think this is helpful-- too much psychology, and one remains on a superficial level-- meaning for him, the  chances for  change in one's life would be minimal. 


He would like to compare what we are doing to visiting a country market day, and watching what is transpiring and developing in front of us. When something  moves you deeply you stay with it, and think about it, and let your feelings speak. You move from one to another of these situations and let your intuition decide what to do.


Many say their imagination is not good which militates against the Gospel contemplation. He concludes, with his conviction, it is not the imagination that is the problem but the lack of love for Jesus.                 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Living the Simple Life

Earthly life is a one time event and precious; we enjoy seeing life in its many varieties. All life makes efforts to maintain itself. Plants adapt to the rain, winds and sun, and send their roots down into the earth; propagating themselves with the seeds that they send back into the earth. Animals do the same, they make all the necessary efforts to propagate even at temperatures at 90 degrees below zero, as does the female and male emperor penguins, taking turns in caring for the young.

The 20th century gave us a great deal of hope but in the 21st we are beginning to notice the problems of our earth. Looking over the analysis and statistics we are  riding on a bus in which the  breaks are giving us trouble. These are the words of a professor at the Taegu Catholic University and the head of the Human Spirituality Center in the diocese.He writes about the  problems we face in this 21st century in an essay in the Catholic Times.

He wants us to look at the area of Admont around the famous abbey, the surrounding area and the whole  Country of Austria with a population of 8 million--  a  little smaller than South Korea. Even without trade with other countries they are self sufficient. They make efforts to maintain a clean environment, separating the trash for recycling, and the garbage, and willing to accept penalties for failure to do so.

No matter the efforts there is no guarantee they will  receive what they seek for the neighboring countries influence their own efforts. They are  still struggling with the refugees from the recent war in a neighboring country.

We are given certain limitations in our development and we need to keep this in mind. There are limits in space and conditions that we need to follow or we will pay a price. Buddhism and other advanced religions  have seen the  need for an understanding of voluntary poverty-- the simple life--  to prevent us from destroying ourselves.

Pressure is on us to make the change. He recommends we not only be attached to this earthly life, but keep our eyes on the resurrected life that Jesus has promised us, and desire it with a stronger faith. This hope will give us the  strength and  courage to accept the limitation of this life and do what is necessary to solve the problems with our environment.

He concludes the essay by telling us there is no need to spell out  what  needs to be done, for we all know deep in our hearts what is necessary, the problem is to do it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Proclaiming the Year of Jubilee

Jubilee is a  joy-filled word which gives us reasons for jubilation. The Old Testament Jubilee was celebrated after the seventh sabbath year, the 50th year. Everything would return to the situation  at the start of the 50 years: land restored, debts forgiven, slaves freed, even  the land was not cultivated and all would be free to eat of the fruits of the land--a new beginning for all.

Bible & Life magazine has three articles on the Jubilee giving us an understanding of that legislation that most authorities say was never really completely practiced; not difficult to see why, the wealthy would have had great difficulty in giving up what they had earned. Avarice and selfishness is part of our DNA; the Jubilee for the most part remained a  dream an ideal. However, at the beginning of  Our  Lord's public life this Jubilee was a part of his blue print as expressed in Luke 4:19.

It's a dream we have as Christians. We can see the similarity of the Jubilee Year to God's kingdom that we all entered at baptism with our decision to imitate Jesus in loving, forgiving  and showing mercy: a way of life  we decided to live. We have been bathed in this light and our work is to have all enter the community of humanity, leaving  no one on the  peripheries.

 Looking over the creation story and the way it has developed despite the teaching received can leave one with a feeling of despair. However, seeing it with the eyes of faith and going beyond the history of sin we can see the hand of God.

One of the articles  shows how we sometimes look at the Scripture as only a written account of the past and fail to see it as a blue print for the future. Looking over the history of the past there is much sadness and suffering but the message of glad tidings (Gospel) is  always present to stimulate and inspire us.

Pope Francis has asked us not to remain in our own communities but to go out into the streets of the world. This is our work to proclaim the Jubilee to all the nations of the world.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Globalization of Indifference

Apathy is a lack of feeling when action would  not only be appropriate but required. Indifference is a synonym  for apathy and its opposite would be concern and sympathy. Many are the sermons that put apathy and not hate as opposed to love.It may be easier to go from hate to love than indifference to love.

A short article in the Catholic Times  draws  our attention to the subject. She mentions drinking coffee in the morning and those who see the face of a 5 year old child picking the coffee beans in the hot sun.  Not only in a far country but in Korea we have the indifference shown in many ways: to the handicapped, those with problems in marriage, the poor and suffering.

Pope Francis has mentioned often the globalization of indifference. Failure to see what is happening right before our eyes.  "'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:15-17).

We need to sympathize with the other, to walk in their shoes and to understand others who are hurting.These thoughts are not only expressed by Christians but by many others: philosophers and thinkers of other ages. Mahatma Gandhi said it well: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service  of others."

Tragedy and apathy are at times associated. The Sewol tragedy was preceded by apathy, and many saw  apathy during and after the tragedy. The accident will not just disappear into history for the families of the victims will not allow this to happen, and  many in our society and in other parts of the world are joining the families.

Apathy is often triggered by market values that blind us to the importance of human life and its dignity.  Tragedy could have been averted but apathy  preceded the tragedy, incompetence during the tragedy, and mistakes made after the accident by the public, the media and the government.

Hopefully the apathy before the tragedy will be acknowledged and we will have complete transparency and be able to admit the faults committed and  prevent them from happening again. "When one suffers all suffer"  (I Cor, 12:26). We need to turn our vision towards those who are hurting.