Sunday, May 31, 2015

Happiness: a By-product of a Life Well Lived

Today,Trinity Sunday, the editorial in the Peace Weekly reminds us that a true understanding of our faith is a short cut to happiness. Strange that we have to be reminded of this but there are good reasons why this seems necessary.

Humans were made to be happy. What we do and think will determine whether we are happy or not. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we hear: "The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it."

On Trinity Sunday we talk about God who is love, sending the Word in love who is Jesus, who in turn  sends us the Spirit  to instruct and lead us so that we will have joy now and forever. We  forget this basic teaching which is that we were made to be happy now and forever.

The editorial mentions that today in Korea we also celebrate Youth Sunday.The young people are not happy. They study with great effort to get into college, achieved they have to find work, and then romance, marriage and raising a family, this package of three in many cases has to be  postponed.

Young people are not getting the courage and consolation from their attendance at Masses, and  consequently they are leaving the Church. They are not finding  answers they need.

In the editorial mention is made of the message of Pope Francis to the youth of the world. He  stresses true happiness. “Dear young men and women, in Christ you find fulfilled your every desire for goodness and happiness,” continues the Holy Father. “He alone can satisfy your deepest longings, which are so often clouded by deceptive worldly promises.”

Youth is a time of storm and stress. They have not found their  place in life, are uncomfortable, and  open to all kinds of temptations. What is kernel and what is the shell are not  easy to discover, and to find the truth in their faith life is not easy.

Pope Francis  earnestly entreats  they never forget  that God wants their happiness.  For a Christian happiness is not only the object of life but also our duty, and the easiest way to achieve happiness is living our religious life.

The problem that arises is that the happiness that is given is not in the way the world gives, and here is the difficulty that many of the young do not  understand--it is not found by searching for it.  A Christian paradox which apparently few understand and one of the most important. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Are We a Church of the Poor?

Pope Francis continues to be a topic of interest in even  his smallest actions and words. A fashion specialists after making a study of the pope's style calls it 'minimalism'. This keyword includes simplicity and  plainness. A Salesian,  priest columnist, who writes in the View from the Ark, examines the life of the pope and leaves us with his reflections.

Pope Francis in  his visit to Korea was using a 50 dollar watch. He was wearing shoes made by a small shoemaker in Buenos Aires, the ring and the neck piece were made with silver. In his very person he was showing us a distancing from materialism with which we are surrounded. In Korea, especially, we have the economic progress firmly compressed,  which makes the virtue of poverty difficult to practice

Jesus lived poverty but it was not a miserable life. It was a life freely chosen, which was his glory and  blessing. Poverty gave him freedom. When a person feels the miserableness of poverty than we have real poverty. Christians today need to examine this  theme in detail, we need to make known that poverty is not  something bad. We need to show that we can be happy without money, contrary to the spirit of the times. Money when it becomes the answer to everything we are on the verge of falling into big hole. We are driving our older people to the edge of a cliff, making for a bleak future.

Pope Francis in seeing the poor leaving the church is angry. The Church needs to lessen the gap between the poor and rich. A beautiful bridge needs to be built between them.Religious living the life of poverty is a good, but they need to share this with the poor.

Pope Francis is beginning to give us a  spirituality of poverty  following on that of St. Francis. The priest columnist  remembers the visit to Korea of the pope and all his travels. He showed us what humility and poverty meant with his whole body. Everyone of his actions in meeting with the poor were intimate and  natural. His visit has made for a new spiritual awakening for the Church.

We need to take his lead and work to bring about a change in our life as followers of Jesus. We don't  want to change the direction he has given us--a small, poor church, with poor and humble pastors getting close to the poor.

The pope's words continue to resound in the ears of the columnist.  We want to change the bureaucracy of the clergy at the center, and careerism within the church. We need to become a church of the old, the poor and the young. And concludes with the question: Are we making it easy for the poor to enter our communities without any feelings of discrimination and alienation?  

Friday, May 29, 2015

You Can Be A Saint

“I tell you the truth, I am convinced that if each one of us would purposely avoid gossip, at the end, we would become a saint! It’s a beautiful path!” These words and similar ones on gossip  are heard often from Pope Francis. An article in a secular newspaper mentions the direction the Church is making with 'poverty'-- the words of a columnist who mentions Fr, Jin Seul-ki, who wrote a book titled: You Can be a Saint By Not Backbiting.  A collection of the  sayings of the  pope. 

Fr. Jin Seul-ki  a Korean priest who is in Rome studying philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University translated a collection of the pope's saying under the title You Can Be A Saint.... He has also uploaded the pope's sermons to YouTube with Korean subtitles, and in the book he has the  video clips with QR code, for those who want to access the sermons. 

Pope Francis has continued to express the  need for the Church to identify with the poor of society. The article  mentions the talk he gave to the  priests and religious in Naples. He said diocesan priests do not take the vow of poverty but they should live the spirit of poverty. When profit comes into the parish life we dirty the message.

He also spoke of the danger of attachment to worldly goods. He said when priests or religious  are attached to money, they will  prefer people with money. In a humorous aside, the Pope told of a woman who was so attached to money that when she fainted someone suggested putting 100 pesos under her nose to awake her.

He also was very pointed about poverty when he talked to the bishops and priests in Korea.  When he was asked how  he viewed the Korean Church  he answered: "Your Church is a growing Church, a wonderful  evangelizing Church, a big Church. With the prophetic mission of the Church you don't want to exclude the poor. A Church rich and for the rich, a Church of well-being is not the Church you want to be." These words were sharp and bitter to hear.

In one of the talks the columnist mentions the pope said:  when we are too interested in money and its  benefits we lose our freedom to speak the truth.

He concludes his column by stating that the religious groups  are busy determining how they are to become transparent in the use of monies. People want to see clergy live a poorer life style, and reminds us that here we have the original thinking of all religions.

Spirituality Is Not All the Same

This Chinese Character  is the one we use in Korea for the Holy Spirit and spirituality in general. This doesn't fit our Christian understanding of the spiritual. Korea's shamanistic history shows itself in the way the icon expresses the spiritual. The top part of the character is the  icon for rain, the three mouths  are said to express the rain falling and the bottom character is the icon for sorceress who  dancing, asks for rain.

A seminary professor who teaches spirituality begins a series of articles in the Peace Weekly on the subject. He has the need to speak about spirituality with the modifier Catholic, because of the possibility of misunderstanding, due to the shamanistic understanding of spirituality in Korean history.

After the second Vatican council we use the word spirituality often in our teaching. Not only within Christianity but even outside of religion altogether. But the professor makes it clear that in Korea the word does have a context that is different from what we would understand by the word. In Korea the word would  mean marvelous, magical, and strange. The context in which the West understands the word is missing. He admits this is also changing in the West. The Church in Korea started using the  word regularly about 20 years ago. He says it is not an exaggeration to say that  Christians are forcing a Christian meaning on to their past understanding of the word. In Korean society all feel no restraint in using the word spirituality, which he says requires we be attentive to this reality.

The shamanistic history of Korea will continue to influence the native religions and those  from the outside and society. This common denominator  probably is the reason that Koreans have a good feeling towards the practices of other religions.   

Spirituality as used in Korean society does not have the Christian meaning of the word. If we do not understand the Christian meaning we will easily, without any discernment, have an eclectic acceptance of other religious beliefs, and the possibility of losing our faith. 

We have in recent years accepted a great deal from what we have learned from anthropology and psychology in our spirituality which is a good but we have to discern otherwise spirituality can be just the results of what we have learned from psychology.  Our spirituality becomes  a hodgepodge of the teachings of many other religions and ceases to be Christian, consequently, he concludes the need to use the  modifier Catholic when he speaks about spirituality.                 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Natural Family Planning

Back in last years of the 1970s, a retired professor from the Catholic Medical School, remembers a two day workshop he gave to a representative group of mothers in a diocese at the request of the bishop. The workshop was sponsored by the Happy Family Movement and was to teach the Catholic birth regulation methods to the women who were to spread the movement within the diocese. 

The method was the natural regulation of births, now well know in Korean society. Whether a person wants to become pregnant or avoid pregnancy, women are taught  to notice the changes during the period of ovulation by tracking changes in the vaginal discharge. Examining the  mucus would indicate the need for  avoidance or not.

After the end of the workshop he asked the group of mothers about their thoughts. He recalls the  sharing that took place,and how  moved he was. Each person gave  their assessment of the program, the common element would be the physiological mystery of the women's fertility cycle, and their surprise in hearing about it, and the desire to spread the news to those in the diocese. 

One woman in the group when her turn came had her head down and did not  arise from her seat. He thought she was overly moved by the sharing of the group, and urged her to speak out. Having no other option but to stand up, she began speaking very softly.

She and her  husband had only a elementary school education, and accepted children as they  came along. She had five and not able to take care of any more had two  abortions. Hearing  all that was needed to avoid a pregnancy was to refrain one week before and after ovulation broke her heart. Her husband was a devout Catholic and avoiding the time of fertility would not have been a problem. Would a person like me be accepted in heaven, and she began to cry. 

The hall became solemn, and the professor saw many wiping tears from their eyes. For a moment he didn't know what to do, went over to the woman and held her hand. Sister, do not worry, if God is going to get upset it will be with me  for not making the  message known before. 

People do not like to talk about abortion, contraception  and matters of sex but they are important matters dealing with our religious life and should not be neglected. The Church  spends much time teaching about these matters and what is central is the need for self-discipline and responsibility.  

These virtues are not only needed in matters of sex and contraception for they are important in all  areas of our lives. In matters of sex we are not free to do anything we want to solve our problems but need  these values  to be present--a mysterious reality of our lives.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Catholicism and Web 2.0

With the evolving Web the Church needs to adapt to the changes that continue to come. Popes have expressed  the need for us to get involved. An article in the Catholic Times introduces us to Web 2.0. The Web 1.0  was mainly static but now we have interaction and user-generated content.

With the Web 2.0 we have a new way of involvement and a challenge to the Church--a dilemma.  Catholicism is not managed according to democratic principles, it has a fixed structure. When all can create information, opinions and become owners of the new media, the one directional information conveyed approach will be challenged.

Back in the 90s most of the parishes established their own parish web-sites; today they have few visitors and many have been discontinued. New technology needs to be accepted and used. In 2000 we began using the so-called Web 2.0. Users can now create data, process,  preserve and publish.  We  have SNS and UCC (User Created Content)  and Wikipedia, Tweeter and Facebook and the like.

Korea is familiar with Web 2.0. Our diocesan bulletins  are no longer only giving information but the form and ways of  accessing  the bulletins have changed. QR code ( a code consisting of black and white squares that can be read with your smart phone) can allow one to access the bulletin easily. One can interact with the site and in certain bulletins we have a code that allows those with impaired vision to access the spoken word. Podcasts are available.

When the tools and methods of communication  change, it is well known that communication's enviroment  changes: politics, economics, culture  and society change. The way we live and think, religion too will be affected. Our understanding and behavior, the pastoral enviroment in which we live, our Christians  and the environment in which we seek to evangelize, and our attitudes change.

One of the priests of the diocese in an essay he wrote for the Catholic Times in 2004, at the beginning of the Web 2.0 era  said: "The flood of information calls for a different behavior on the part of Catholicism." We have a paradigm shift : "Catholics have to begin to  get into the pastoral work of the Church. This change has to take place before they leave the Church."

In the future we will have Web 3.0 and 4.0.  Web 2.0 is interactive, Web 3.0 will have communication, customized to the individual. If the  Church is not to lose its essential nature she will have to adapt and  plan counter measures. If we see the technological advances as only something that is adding to our comfort we  miss what is important.The article concludes reminding the readers that all those using the internet are no longer one way users of  technology.                              

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sacrament of Matrimony

Everybody likes a wedding. After Mass, with a background of flowers, when pictures are taken with the bride and groom at the front of the altar, you have many of the congregation crowding around the photographer enjoying the happiness they see expressed in the newly wed.

A religious sister writes in View from the  Ark, in the Catholic Times, about her feelings at a wedding.  Very naturally what comes to mind are prayers for blessings and graces for the married couple as they  begin their journey to the horizon.

In Asia, marriage was always considered one of the most important matters in life. Many things have changed but marriage still retains this meaning. God  made us out of love and made us in his image. He wanted to see the love that exists in the Trinity exemplified in the love that we humans freely share with others. We realize ourselves when we love. All have this calling to love, especially those who have been called by baptism.

Married couples show us how God loves us. God loves us who are so different from him, he respects this difference to love us. Couples are called to overcome their differences in loving. They are called to a bond of friendship.   

One of the biggest problems in society is communication, we understand differences but are unable to accept one another. We need to accept the other's  humanity and dignity. Families should be in the forefront in doing this. In the sacrament of matrimony we  announce this love of God, protect it, and make it  real. God's love is  like a  tabernacle that remains in the couple. "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him"( 1 John 4:16).  

Family as the basic church community is where the  the first pastoral efforts are made. This should be understood by all who are sacramentally married.   Love in the family is not the same love we know in the world;  parents love nurtures and educates the children who in turn spread this love to others.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Catholic Laity in Korea

Words determine the thoughts we have. Laypersons in the Church are the sleeping giant and movements exist to wake them up. We can call them collaborators with the clergy or we can understand them as co-responsible with the clergy. Pope Benedict expressed well the understanding the Church has about the laity. 

 "Co-responsibility demands a change in mindset especially concerning the role of lay people in the Church. They should not be regarded as 'collaborators' of the clergy, but, rather, as people who are really 'co-responsible' for the Church's being and acting. It is therefore important that a mature and committed laity be consolidated, which can make its own specific contribution to the ecclesial mission with respect for the ministries and tasks that each one has in the life of the Church and always in cordial communion with the bishops."     
Both Catholic papers had articles on a symposium held in Seoul on the work of the laity in the  new evangelization: the topic was who and to whom? 

Korea's Catholic history is different from every other country, and the laity's rightful place in church life is easy to understand by looking at their history.They brought the church to Korea, and was active in the propagation of the Church without the help of the clergy. Laity who were poor and ostracized from society, were able even to increase their numbers, during the early years of the Church in Korea. 

A seminary professor gave a talk on the poor, and the new evangelization. What do we mean by poverty,who are the poor and why does the Church have a predilection for the poor?  We should not only rid society of forced poverty but each member of the community should  desire to live voluntary poverty, and the community itself to aspire to a more simple life of voluntary poverty. Forced poverty is the poverty that comes because of the structures of society and the difficulties that come with financial matters; voluntary poverty is poverty that one chooses.                        

With  voluntary poverty we are  helping to change forced poverty. Those who are living a forced life of poverty by the way we preach the Gospel will have a new understanding of what voluntary poverty means. The professor also said  that the Church chooses the poor first because they can serve as means of liberating others. God will work through the poor to liberate all of society.

Another presentation stressed that the laity are in the world as the yeast; they are God's sign and tool to those in the world. The lay people imitating Jesus in their lives  are a sign of what God wants to do in  society through the laity. Laity are the presence of God in society, the sign of God, and this is their true identity the gift that they have received.                                               

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Reversing the Curse of Babel

Today is Pentecost the birth of the Church.We  can see the feast day as the reversal of the results of the tower of Babel. On that day we have speaking and communicating with other people and the appearance of tongues of fire. God's desire is to see his creation communicating and living in harmony with others, an extremely difficult task and yet the mission that we have been given.

Regional problems are present in most countries of the world; the Catholic Times' editorial brings to the  readers' attention the Youngnam and Honam historical conflict. Daegu and Gwangju would be the metropolitan cities, respectively.

Back in the the time of the  three kingdoms of Korea: Baekje and Silla  made up what we now know as the  southern part of the Korean peninsular. Baekje was overcome by Silla  and in government and society they were ostracized, no longer the case, but the discrimination continues even to this day.

In society at large, efforts have been  made to come together in academic, literary and artistic ways to overcome the  deep seated prejudices in society.This has not been the reality in the past but it's an effort we see at present. Where is the  Church in this effort? Is a question the editorial asks. Not easy, says the editorial, to find efforts of the Church.

Both groups of students, from the two dioceses of the country, remembered  the movement for democracy on May 18th. Both joined a  walking pilgrimage to the  5:18 Democratization Movement Archives, historic sites, and the democratic cemetery where they had a Mass celebrated together. Meetings of the two sections of the country should be a common event. Bruises from local feelings should not be allowed to continue beyond the older generation. 

What was the teaching of Pope Francis' visit to Korea last year? Love, peace, consolation, forgiveness, reconciliation, hope, compromise, sharing.... In order to live these teachings we have to meet one another. 

Local sentiments and  feelings are natural but when they harm the common good it has reached an impermissible level-- we have to eliminate it.  Politicians and the mass media  should especially be sensitive to  this malady, and the Church make known this disregard in public life. We are beginning a time for national reconciliation, a new era. The Church should be involved. We who want to  see the justice of God spread, meeting each other, is the way we  grow in affection. The editorial ends with a wish  people of faith find the opportunity for the two areas of the country to meet often.                   

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Being Number One

We all came into the world empty handed and will leave empty handed. These words start the article in the pastoral bulletin that had been taken from Osho an Indian mystic. The article deals with the desire to be number one but does it bring happiness?

The world tells us to grasp  what you can, get more than the other-- it can be money or virtue, this world's goods or the other world's goods. Be attentive or otherwise you will lose  what you have. Don't let it be taken and make sure your taking. We have heard this from early years.  From the time in school to college we have heard the need to compete.

Real education does not teach us to compete but to cooperate. Fight to be first is not what is taught. Do not compare yourselves with others,  Be a creator, a person who loves, be a happy person. Be better than another be number one, and be happy, is not what is being taught.

You will not absolutely not be happy being number one. Being number one will require a great deal of hardship, and in the process your body will be accustomed to this. To become a president or statesman will  require a  lot of hardship. That hardship becomes a second nature. That is all that is known.  Worry and anxiety have become a way of life. You have become number one but you are impatient,  fearful, you can't change the desire to be number one.

Real education does not teach you to be number one. Whatever you do the results are not important you are meant  to enjoy what you are doing. That is what  the artist aspires to. There are two ways to paint. One is to imitate another person but than what you paint becomes a style of another, you are imitating.  It is not you that is painting. You want to be recognized as an artist.  In this case  you are not absorbed in what you are doing, and will not enjoy what you are doing. You are only interested in success. You are on an ego trip.

A real artist has to rid herself of the ego. He needs to get rid of the desire to be famous and selfishness, and lose oneself in the painting.  It is then that  the beauty of the  universe will enter into the painting, and your brush and  hands will make something beautiful. Egoism will not  help you to make a masterpiece but without ego and with abnegation  you will have what is necessary. Jesus reminded us of this with: the first will be last and the last first.         

Friday, May 22, 2015

Need to Purify our Motives

In a bulletin for priests, the writer wonders if society is headed for serious confusion. People are condemning with 'swords', under the banner of justice, and enjoying it. The writer has an eerie feeling towards what is happening. Even though those who have been singled out for the 'sword' for their wrong doing and immorality, they are wielded cruelly.

He doesn't feel that the  condemnation is for the betterment of society but rather like the hunter who has hit his prey with the arrow, those  on the sidelines seeing the blood yell: kill, kill.  Externally it seems there is an interest in justice, but he can't help but feel that the interest is more in the cruelty of the violence. 

Years ago, an experiment in which a person who had a slight justification to throw a stone, when he does,  becomes sadistic. The Stanford Prison Experiment  prepared by the psychologist Zimbardo  who selected 24 student from middle class backgrounds to roll play prisoner and guard in a mock prison, showed this to be the case.

The aim of the  experiment was to  see how readily people would conform to the roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise that simulated prison life. Surprisingly, the  experiment had to be discontinued after just a week for the guards began to act sadistically towards the  prisoners. 

Zimbardo determined from his experiment that no matter how kind a person may be when the enviroment is evil and one is given the right to punish, this  easily turns into cruelty. In the beginning it may start off as a joke but the students when they were given authority, internally the latent power, desire to control, and gratuitous attacking appeared.                                                                                            

When we condemn someone, the same dynamics are experienced. In this case the one who is punishing the condemned, feels a sense of superiority and a feeling of pleasure in that he is realizing justice, which can increase the degree of condemnation.  What is even worse is the righteous anger with which we are filled,   sees others who are not concerned as escapists, small minded, and cowards. There are many in society who see the corrupt as sinking the society as the Sewol sank, and are speaking out. 

This kind of thinking is very natural to us. We have to be careful with these feelings. Do the stones we are throwing  really have something  to do with justice or a way to  resolve our own violence? We need to examine ourselves  to determine if these  words of condemnation are for the sake of society or coming  from our brutal nature. If not we are like the Khmer Rouge who killed  the innocent without any sense of  guilt.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Future Depends on Family Life

May, the month of the family and Mary's month. A beautiful month but we don't always hear beautiful things about the family. A  professor emeritus in the Peace Weekly relates some of the problems we face.  

We had killings in Seoul of parents for inheritance last year; almost half of abuse of the elderly was committed by sons. A  country that was know for its filial piety is no longer seen as such. Last year  police department statistics say that over 5% of the murders are in the family--more than the United States and England.

We like Cain have the tragic possibility of disobeying the call of God: selfish acts we  see in ourselves daily. Those who commit murder are not conscious of the connection we have with each other. The inability to see the strong connections  we have with one another are replaced by individualism and selfishness even in families, weakening family bonds.

Industry in our capitalistic society makes us worshipers of money and its slave. The sudden development of technology has brought into the family TV, and the smart phone which have become family. This ends family communication, the family's values and ethics give way to  each his own understanding of family. This is not only a Korean problem but a world wide problem, and the synod on the family which began last year and will continue this October, has this as one of the issues.

Families in Korea have serious ailments, and the  wounds  have to be faced.  We have one of the lowest birthrates in the world and the number of suicides are highest. The older one is, the  greater are the chances of suicide.  

Family problems arise in the eyes of many in the desire to succeed which is the answer to everything. From an early age  study is first; fixed in the head is competition, and what follows is stress and  depression. Number one reason for deaths among the youth is suicides, and the  number of young people who have thought of suicide continues to rise. Young people who have  stopped going to school and those who have run away from home are many.  

Over  20,000 have  run away from home and  over 60% are girls. Recently a girl of 14, a runaway, when she ran out of money sold her body for sex, and was killed  shocking the nation. This is one of  the reason the bishops in synod will be considering children on the streets. 

When adult this stress does not disappear; this way of living follows them in adult life and they continue to be self-absorbed.  After marriage rather than  solving their  problems  with love and understanding we often have violence. Instead of the beautiful understanding of marriage as the joining of two for a life time is destroyed, and we have separation and divorce and the violence that is seen in the family is handed down to children.

Our professor concludes asking for prayers for the coming synod on the family that it may help us in treating some of the problems families have in society, and hopes it will be a light to us in Korea. Pope John Paul said the future depends on family life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Silence of God

A professor emeritus of the Catholic Medical school in his Peace Weekly column, remembers the question of his mother: "Does God  really exist?" He was greatly surprised by this unexpected question.  The son with a perplexed look on his face: "Mother why such a question at this time...?"  "God has told us he will answer all our petitions but he has not answered my prayers,"  was her answer.  

She has over the years prayed fervently for the  grandchildren to do well in school, prayers for the children to get good jobs after college, to enjoy good health, mostly for family and in her eyes these prayers weren't answered. Somewhat confused and evasively he answered: "How can God give answer to everything that people ask at the same time? After a long time, in God's order, all will work out for the good." Not only his mother, he says, but many are perplexed and their prayers leave much to be desired. 

The Japanese writer Shusaku Endo considered this silence of God in his novel Silence. This book continues to be read by many of our Catholics in Korea. Briefly the plot is based on the 17th century persecution in Japan. A  Jesuit  priest Ferreira,  a beloved teacher in the seminary, was sent to Japan as a missioner, and word came back that he had apostatized. His student, Fr. Rodriguez, went to Japan to find out what happened and he himself apostatized in an effort to stop the killing of the Catholics. He did all that the authorities wanted which was to step on the image of Jesus.

Fr. Rodriguez  overcome with remorse, guilt, and resentment cried to heaven: "Lord, why seeing all this suffering  do you keep silent, it is impossible to understand." Then to Rodriguez came the voice:  "Son!  I am not silent I am suffering with you and in torment with you."

Those reading the book and seeing the suffering of the Christians and feeling resentment in the silence of God, with the words addressed to Rodriguez have a greater love for God and a greater trust in him. Are there any words that can give more consolation and hope?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cuckoo Bird

Spring is here; we hear the sound of the cuckoo bird and are filled with the sentiments that come with the season. The sound is plaintive and evocative of feeling. However, the bird  has the habit of laying its eggs in another bird's nest, and fools the mother birds into thinking they are their eggs. The other eggs are destroyed and the cuckoo bird monopolizes the nest. A priest writing in a pastoral bulletin tells his reader this is a shameless way of behaving, and wonders if, at times, we act in the same fashion.  

In order to prevent this from happening--where the  cuckoo male becomes the father of the birds in the  nest--makers of the nest have develop methods to  distinguish  the intruder's eggs, but in most cases they trust the  eggs to be their own, and lovingly take care of them. The mother cuckoo waits until the babies are grown and keeps on circling the nest until  they are able to live on their own and takes them. From one mountain to another in its call the cuckoo is alerting the baby cuckoos of its presence.

There is fundamental  difference between the way we deal with people and the way Jesus did: we can  consider a person as a means or as an end. Jesus gave himself completely to others. This was his love for all. Love was not merited, but  love was the reason for his life. This journey required giving, emptying himself and even the cross. We were never a means.

However, we can use God as a means to satisfy our greed, desires and egoism, but we  end up with  emptiness. We don't prize the giver as much as what is given.

This kind of person is concerned only about his fence,  family, and  resembles the cuckoo  bird  in  wondering how the nest of another will be of benefit.  It may seem like success for some but not able to put roots down, and living like a tight rope walker gives little peace.

When we hear the call of the cuckoo, the writer concludes, let  us ask  ourselves if we are using God as a means or as an end.When we are using another to satisfy our needs we are no different than the cuckoo bird. If we understand God to be our end than we need to act in this way when relating with others.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Catholic Spirituality

A professor who teaches spirituality in the department of Catholic University writes in the Peace Weekly about his talks, which he gives on Spirituality, and on every occasion he mentions the Gallup survey that was made in 2004.

One of the questions on the survey was why do Catholic's believe. Our professor was surprised  that  73% of the respondents wanted peace of mind. He admits that the survey is not a specialized study but it does give an indication of the thinking of the Catholics and a great majority have accepted religion for peace of mind. The real reason one accepts religion should be eternal life here and hereafter,  but only 5 percent gave this as an answer. In his talks he wants the audience to think about their responses.

Last  year a similar survey was made, 10 years after the first one, with a slight  change in the results. This time 63% wanted peace of mind, and those who were looking for eternal life rose to 12%. How much of the change were  because of his efforts, he leaves as a question, but he thinks Pope Francis' visit had something to do with the change. But still we have a problem with the thinking of our Catholics.

 Those with no religion believe that 60% of religious people are looking for peace of mind, and  presume that 14 %  are looking for eternal life-- similar to  the Catholics' answers.  With this kind of thinking the priest wonders whether spirituality and psychology become one. Of course he agrees that this was not absent from our history of spirituality but it was secondary.

Peace of mind is offered outside religion where  spirituality is replaced by  psychology. Searching for peace of mind has nothing to do with religion, and can be found in all areas of life outside of religion--  not the way we arrive at a Catholic spirituality.

As Catholics we are looking for salvation to be with God now, and for all eternity.This is the makeup of    the spirituality we choose, and not looking for peace from the blessings of this world.

We have been called to have the joy that was in Jesus and to imitate him. We are called to mission which is the spirituality we want.The peace of mind is a by-product and not motivating force. If we  consider only our needs and desires we become selfish, and forget why we have been called, and make religion a means and not an end. We have been called to be like Christ and to love as he did.                                                                                                      

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ascension Sunday

Today is Ascension Sunday, and the 49th Communication Day. This year however, we see the message of the Pope directed not to preaching the Gospel to the whole world but for the first time the need for communicating in the family. The  Peace Weekly editorial comments on this change of emphasis. "The family, in conclusion, is not a subject of debate or a terrain for ideological skirmishes. Rather, it is an environment in which we learn to communicate in an experience of closeness, a setting where communication takes place, a “communicating community”.

The Church has shown the importance of the family in the two synods with family as the subject. Last year the extraordinary synod and this year in October the Ordinary synod  both on the family. All the problems come from the family, and can be solved in the family.

"Communication, consequently, is an important part of family life, and we need to facilitate this kind of environment in the family."In the family, we learn to embrace and support one another, to discern the meaning of facial expressions and moments of silence, to laugh and cry together with people who did not choose one other yet are so important to each other. This greatly helps us to understand the meaning of communication as recognizing and creating closeness."

Communication in the family is a problem because of the structure and environment in which families live. In an article on the subject  we are told that  communication in the family is disappearing. From the office of statistics we are told the time children spend talking to parents continues to decrease, and noticed especially with the increase of smart phones. It is not unheard of a family, sitting down each with their smart phones, waiting for the food. Even a bigger problem is not to have anything to say when attempts at dialogue are made.

Father in his way, mother in her way and the children in their own way, make up the family. Only at some big event are they all together. There are days when they  do not meet. Even the couple, in one out of three families, doesn't  talk to each other for more than 30  minutes a day. The older the children get the less talk between the spouses.

 "It is in the context of the family we learn how to communicate. Focusing on this meaning can help make our communication more authentic and humane, while helping us to view the family in a new perspective." These  words of the pope help us to understand how precious family ties are. The article on the subject ends with the words of a priest,  head of a diocesan research center on the family:  "members of a family have to realize how important members are to each other, and how precious to the growth of a person life in the family is."       

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Family Life

May is the month of Mary and family. The family is the smallest community in society; the nation and society exist for the family. This teaching of the Church is emphasized, but sadly the family is not what we expect and desire. Families are old, have a low birthrate, divorces are many; single parent families, grandparents and grandchildren living together, make family life difficult. In the Catholic Times the columnist spells out the problems he sees in society and asks: Is your family life happy?

Society can't take care of all the problems families face. Families are  considered necessary for economic development, numbers being an important index. Labor and  education, with their competition are making life  difficult for students and our young people. Peace of mind, that God wants for these young people and a feeling of worth is difficult to achieve.

Not having a social safety net, the war of competition is the reality, and in many cases when they do have a job they have difficulty making ends meet which makes for a low birth rate. After the birth of the first  child they see the difficulties of raising a child and decide against any more. In a study that was made  at Oxford University in England: with the present birthrate,  Korea will no longer exist  as a country in 2300.

Confusion in society does not allow one to examine their condition. Emptiness is felt, and the family is of little help. Even over small matters their are conflicts and marriage is faced with the  possibility of divorce, and yet without the time to think over what they want in marriage, they feel pushed into marriage. Children are the  ones who suffer from this condition. 

Both father and mother have to work and the children because of the structures of society often do not have the love and warmth of family life. Loneliness is filled with the smart phone, computer games, or the violence and stimulation from images. Grandparents are tried beyond their ability in caring for the children. And we have those living alone in one room shelters who have to eke out a living.

All these are conditions of our society. It is not easy for the government to find where to begin their efforts. As the basic  community in society, in which  one is born in the image of God, we are to feel this dignity and called to live accordingly.

We don't as people of faith just look at our families and sigh, and worry about the future of the children, and the elders in society. We don't only want to pray  and worry about the future but also want to make  the next year's month of the family a better place in which to raise a family.

Friday, May 15, 2015


We hear a lot about 'well-being' but little about 'well-dying'. In the Window from the Ark, in the Catholic Times, a university president expresses his opinion on the subject.  He begins his column with the famous list  that was left behind recently in Korea, and the suicide by the person responsible for the distribution of the 'black money' to politicians. Shock and lack of trust was the feeling of many in society.

Korea has led the world for the last 8 years in the number of suicides. When a person comes up against a wall, instead of trying to overcome the difficulty, it  is easier to end it with death, this has become  endemic to society. Values towards life and death when confused, society will be confused: a sign that we have not given death sufficient thought.  A society in search for bodily pleasure is not going to be interested in the aging process, and death.

We don't like to talk about death, however, religious people are experts on the subject of death, when we avoid the  topic we are in dereliction of duty.

Since the 1960s, in Europe, they noticed an attitude to erase death from the thoughts of the citizens, and started doing something with programs for awareness of death-- what followed was the study of death: Thanatology. In Europe this has become a subject in middle and high schools, and in nearby Japan, since 2002, they have made it a subject in their curriculum.  Since we instinctively try to avoid pain we want to avoid the talk about death, but it is a way to growth. We become humble and grow in sanctity. When we face life and examine it closely we aspire to change and grow in virtue. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross,  psychiatrist, said that death was the last growing experience we humans have.

Elegance is not only a mark in life but also in death. Not only the way we live is important but also the way we die. Life has dignity but so also does death and we have to respect it. The way a person dies will depend greatly on the way they lived. A good life brings a good death. Nurses who have worked in hospice often experience this fact.  A mature  person faces death with peace, quiet  and courage. Catholics express this as praying for a good death; this needs preparation.

Our professor would like to see the culture of life spread throughout Korea and especially among our young people, in our Sunday school programs, studying about death. This concern for death will paradoxically help us to appreciate life, and work to bring about a culture of life. When the color of white is contrasted to black  they both stand out all the more.  When we study death we  are more perceptive in the way we see life, and helps us mature. It is not only to eat and live will, but  the  time has come to prepare to die well.                                      

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chatting Rooms for the Married

Law criminalizing adultery is no longer unconstitutional in Korea and has  received  a great deal of comment in the press and among citizens. A  religious sister in a With Bible article, uses the words  of a woman  in her forties: "Why marry?  Living by oneself is so pleasant. Marriage is binding,  we can love and live alone." 'Neither a father or a husband' is a popular SNS internet novel that many find good reason to not want to marry, and in the comments show their enthusiasm and agreement.

Numbers of those living alone increase daily;  living alone is not lonely but  peaceful. With the  social network one feels connected with others even though living alone. The social network has become the refuge for the lonely and a way to eradicate loneliness. We try to  avoid  loneliness by  buying  fun and love. The efforts to expel the loneliness  does not work--only temporary relief. We spend more time and want more stimulation, and  become  slaves.

Sherry Turkel,  social psychologist,  says that our expectations from  technology are increasing and our  trust on  people decreasing.  We are using  technology more to take care  of ourselves  than to help us to relate with others. Technology has promised us comfort and freedom and instead  imprisons us. We are using the technology to communicate love and friendship but instead of making us more peaceful we are becoming lonelier and confused.

Greek mythology  has the talkative  Echo and  self-loving Narcissus whose inability to make their love a reality ends tragically for both. In the SNS  world  we have many Echos and Narcissuses who want to make themselves known with their selfies and self-praises. 

More than any time in the past we enjoy more freedom but are we more free? Freed from the  taboos about sex and bodily pleasures, are we less lonely? Fast food, booze, games, drama, gambling,  lottery, many temptations  but are we more fulfilled?  With the advance of technology we are more comfortable but are we less tired?  

Unfortunately, our quality of life is decreasing, our thinking more superficial, and our memories   poorer. In the digital age we have anxiety disorders, obsessions and depression, that many have to  deal with. In Korea we have large numbers who have no reason to live, more communication but more alone,  more things to enjoy but lonelier. 

Love for a Christian is not something that is instantaneous, but takes a great deal of effort. God takes the initiative  and is leading the couple. Purity is an important virtue of those marrying. She mentions in conclusion the large number of married people who are entering chatting rooms. What should  Christians make of this? Aren't our neighbors those that are the closest to us- family members? Aren't they the ones we want to communicate with at a deep level? She concludes the article with the words: "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God's  will, what is good, pleasing and perfect" (Rom. 12:2).                                                            

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Seeing the Plight of the Workers.

Both Catholic papers brought to the attention of the readers the Simdo Textile Factory (1967-68) incident which inaugurated the Church's entrance on the side of the workers in their struggle for justice. 

Incheon Diocesan Labor Sunday, commemorated the day with a symposium recalling the forming of a labor union at the Simdo Textile Factory, and the struggles required. Workers at the factory considered themselves dust rags, exploited and oppressed and decided to  form a labor union. Members of the  JOC (Young Christian Workers) were leaders in the formation of the labor union, angering the company, all fired and spied upon.

Fr. Michael Bransfield, a Maryknoller, was pastor of the Catholic Church on Kangwha Island who gave them space and indirectly supported the workers, which angered the company. They warned him for breaking the law against helping Communists, and threatened him with arrest.

The bishop of Masan, who later became the ordinary of Seoul, Cardinal Kim, was the  president of the JOC  at that time, representing the Church, he came to the island to speak with the workers.The bishops responded with a statement that supported the workers in their efforts. They were successful and all the fired workers were reinstated.

During the symposium the  first  topic of discussion  was recalling the Simdo Textile incident, and its  meaning; second topic was the situation of laborers and the future, third was the direction the Church is to walk with the laborers.

On May 10th many of those who were involved in the forming of the textile labor union went to the grounds of the old textile factory, and put up a monument on the  grounds of the factory to remember the incident that opened the eyes of many to the  problems of workers in society, and the first step in the Church's involvement in society,speaking in support of the workers.                                   

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Body and Soul

Is health the most important aspect of our life? A Jesuit priest who writes on spiritual matters in the Catholic Times begins his column with this question. Jesus spent a great deal of time in his public life curing the sick. We need to search for the meaning of these actions of Jesus. What do we mean by disease and health?

As in the time of Christ we have many who are sick. When a  family member is sick we pray for them, but not always with the  results we want. Why is this the case? There are those that pray and believe their prayers were answered, and those who prayed for the sick only to see them die, giving them great sorrow. How do we understand Jesus' curing of the sick?

We say health is our most important asset. True, for  when we lose our health we can no longer do what we want, and are dependent on others. We lose much. Consequently, when we watch TV we are bombarded with advertizing concerned with health:   beauty, live longer, good food, medicines, exercises-- tempting us with many hours and expenditure of energy for well being.  

Is bodily health that important that it takes first place in all our concerns? Isn't that the reason Jesus cured so many people? Our columnist doesn't think so. In John's Gospel, Jesus says the spirit is what gives life, and the body is of no value. But Jesus did cure the sick, what is the meaning of this? Jesus wants us to understand that the soul is the most important part of our existence. We are tempted to think that the body is everything and miss the place of the spirit in our lives. We are one body with God by means of the spirit which is the important dimension. When we have the right understanding and sensitivity of spirit, the body follows.

When we concentrate on the spirit  and are no longer tied to the body, the body regains health. When Jesus cured the sick he told them it was their faith that cured them. It was not his power but the belief  of the sick person. This is what cured the person.

The columnist concludes with the thought that we need to remember this when we reflect on the actions of Jesus.The body in itself is not what is important. The essence of our human existence is the soul which  acts and loves.

When we speak in this way it is easy for some to think disease is all our fault, which is not what is   being said, and is cruel. An important message is being delivered and we don't want to miss the message by a black and white approach to the subject-- seeing only the two opposite extremes of the issue. Our efforts should be directed as followers of Jesus to understand his teaching. Attitudes, have a great deal to do with the kind of health we possess: a principle that few would deny. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

'Live Like We Should'

We all have rights as human beings.  Christians believe we have been made in the image of God and we have to respect this in dealing with our brothers and sisters. Article 10 of the Korean Constitution: 'All citizens are assured of human worth and dignity and have the right to pursue happiness.  It is the duty of the State to confirm and guarantee the fundamental and inviolable human rights of individuals'.

The Peace Weekly columnist in his  examination of current affairs asks the readers what is necessary to respect this dignity of life. He mentions many of the problems in society, the corruption and the absurdity of much that we see. This is true of  all the parties within the government,  big business, and  throughout much of society.  Peace is the fruit of justice and without justice we will have chaos.  

In Korea, seven religious groups have come together to begin a movement to 'live like we  should': like human beings, like religious people, like government officials, like workers, like fathers, like mothers and so forth. Since over 50 percent of the citizens have a religious affiliation this would make a difference in society. 

A university professor in his talk on the movement  said the principles behind a new civilization for the 21st century will have a connection with the social teaching of the Church. He feels we have to move from the ontological (from my existence) to the relational. 

In Europe modernity was  advanced with the  emphasis on the individual, the group or nation, and its strengthening and increase;  in Asia the classical approach was the relational connection with others. This paradigm fights against the cut throat competition, and win and lose philosophy of capitalism, and works for a just society without sacrificing the weak. 

Doing what we are called to by our duties in society faithfully, is the intention of the movement to 'live like we should'. The columnist hopes the movement will spread and influence society. Religious people should have a special option for the poor and weak in society. After the visit of Pope Francis he hopes the motive force of the movement to 'live like we should', will influence our society with the relational bond we have with one another.          

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Results of Patience

Life is filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, and not a few struggle to find the way out of the maze in which they are in. The Serenity Prayer often comes to mind: we change the things we can and have the wisdom to know the difference between  what we can and can't change. This is not always easy to do.

In the Seoul Bulletin a Ballerina who now teaches, mentioned an incident in her life which has taught her a great deal and wants her readers to gain strength from her experience.

All of nature continues to teach her a great many lessons and the providence of God is always present to her. Some years ago after ten years of dancing for the National Ballet as the senior ballerina and experiencing great joy suddenly she was diagnosed with a  foot problem that would require no longer wearing her ballet shoes. This was to her hearing a death sentence. She received this news from a famous university hospital and with hope in her heart went looking for places that would give her hope.

She heard about rehabilitation of athletes, and  joined a group where she would be working 12 hours a day with exercise. After ten months her instructor told her to put on her ballet shoes and the pain had disappeared, and had no problem with dancing. She remembers this moment  as being even happier than when she  started dancing. 

After overcoming the foot  problem she returned to the National Ballet and in her senior position was  able to share her  joy with the  audience. She later even received  the most coveted prize in ballet; she remembers how close she came to seeing the end of her ballet career. Her patience earned her a great deal of happiness.

The words of a priest came to mind who said that it took Noah 120 years to build the ark and Jesus took 30 years to prepare for his public life. We don't need these long periods of time but patience and wisdom are necessary in our lives. Looking back on her life, if she  gave up ballet, as doctors said was necessary,  what would that have done to her? She had enough patience and wisdom to keep on looking. 

Looking back she sees the unfortunate situation she faced as a blessing, and appreciates all the joy that it has brought to her life.