Friday, July 31, 2015

Envrionment And Laudatio Si

In both Korean Catholic weeklies we have articles and a interview with a  married couple who are  well known in environmental studies. Professor Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim who are co-directors of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale, and are giving lectures on ecology, while here in Korea. Both are disciples of the well known Thomas Berry, a priest who was a leader in the field of ecology, and who felt the whole issue was a spiritual one.

Why do you think the Laudatio Si  was an important encyclical?

Mary: The  encyclical is an important milestone in our present history,and addressed to all humanity. We have the three Es: Equality,Ecology and Economy that have been joined into one. She mentions the popes have been stressing the concern  we need to have for the  universe and  mentions how the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew has called the harm done to the environment a sin.

John:  Laudatio Si gives us a new way of seeing-- a new perspective. We can find happiness without the unlimited consumerism of our society. This is the reason Pope Francis talks a great deal about poverty and simplicity. It is not a return to the stone age but the way to raise up those who are in extreme poverty. We are looking at the universe as a whole.

What is necessary to make the message of the encyclical have universal validity and be persuasive?

Mary: As a couple we wrote the book: Journey of the Universe. When we realize how long it took humanity to appear on the face of the earth, we can't help but be amazed and see the beauty and be renewed in wanting to naturally protect this life-- wondering at the beauty of life.

John: According to Fr.Thomas Berry who speaks about our relation to the culture, in each culture there are common and different elements. When religion and culture meet they don't  become one but they replenish each other to  become  more complete. It is our task and challenge to show the universal validity and persuasiveness of this thinking. 

What is the responsibility of the Church?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
Mary: Without regard to existence or non-existence we are a part of nature. Once we understand this our thinking will change.  Forests, fish, mountains and many aspects of nature have taken billions of years to appear-- why do we want to destroy them we belong to them?

John: Three persons were carrying stones to build one of the Gothic Cathedrals and were  asked what were they doing. One answered he was carrying stones. Another  said he was building a wall and the third  said he was building a cathedral.  We should also see the big picture we are not just recycling and protecting the environment but helping the planet.

We are related but what do you think should be our Asian perspective and our Asian theology?

Mary: Asia  modernized very quickly. We need to examine what this quick development has done to the environment. Two thirds of the world's population lives in Asia. What is done in one area is going to affect the other areas . The pollution in China is a concern of Korea.  The central theme of the encyclical is the oneness of ecology. In Asia we have  heaven the father, mother earth, and humans. In Asia we do not have divisions but participation in the universe.

John: Many Eco-theologians in their own way describe our relation with nature and the universe. We save the things we love. In answer to all this one can respond: we only need to go to church. However the times in which we live  are  asking much more:   climate is changing, oceans are rising, and we are destroying the top soil etc.;  we are called to get involved. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Eucharistic Unity

Religion should unite--one of the attributes of Catholicism should be unity. Today, we no longer see this as something obvious, more an ideal that should be, but rarely seen. Liberty of conscience and being one's own person seems to have become all important.

On the spiritual page of the Catholic Times, we have a column  in which the writer, a priest and head of a research center, sees an aspect of this unity in something very insignificant, and gives thanks.

He was entertaining some guests who worked as volunteers with his research center some years before. They came back to see how he was doing in his new location. They told him what they have been doing since leaving the center: active in their parish with scripture study and as members of the Legion of Mary in their parish. He also brought  them up to date on the work he was doing at the center.

Outside it was raining hard, and they decided to take a bus to the nearby town for a meal. They went outside to wait for the bus but no bus. A driver stopped his car and asked if he could take them to where they were going. He apparently recognized the priest and was from the neighboring parish. The priest was not in the habit of imposing on others, but he had his guests, and the bus wasn't coming; he accepted.

As they were on the way they began talking of their plans for the evening, and the priest told the driver, they were going to the next town for a meal. The driver who was with his wife said would it be OK if they  joined him since  it was time for the evening meal. The wife gave her husband a jab in the ribs when he spoke, but the two guests quickly responded it would be great. The priest was not too happy with the turn of events.

The evening they spent time together in  a Chinese restaurant talking about what each was  doing in an easy manner, while eating their jangjangmyen and chanpon. When he heard his guests  talking about their work in the parish, he listened only with his ears but the couple were truly interested  in what they heard. Even though they were meeting for the first time they listened carefully and even offered advice. This surprised the priest for it was a sign that  having to know a person for a longtime to speak at a deep level is not necessary.

Returning to his room, he began to think of what happened that evening. He wondered what made for almost  instant rapport with persons they met for the first time. They could  speak about spirituality and matters of deep value so easily. He concluded that it was the Eucharist which made it easy for the five of them to freely and naturally share themselves with others. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Participating In the Divinity of Jesus

As Christians we know at baptism we became  the sons and daughters of God. Many of  the Church Fathers  expressed this belief in a dimension that vastly exceeded this. St. Athansius said:  “God became man that man might become God.”  St. Thomas Aquinas and many other Saints have expressed this same thinking in different ways. Writing in Bible & Life a Korean pastor writes about this divinization and wants us to meditate on its meaning.

At the offertory of each Mass when the celebrant pours the wine into the chalice he will then pour a few drops of water into the wine which is a sign of our humanity joining the divinity of Christ represented by the wine. While doing this the celebrant recites the prayer: "By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity."

This is said quietly at the Mass and since the congregation is usually singing at this time few are familiar with these words. What we do in symbol we believe happens at each Mass:  we participate in God's divinity and at the Communion we approach the altar to receive him in the Sacrament. Once this sinks in we can't help but be absolutely astonished  by what we believe.

One day when saying Mass he recalled thinking that  when he was pouring the water into the wine he was being mixed in with the wine.  The few drops of water would be embraced by the wine He prayed that he and his life would change by the happenings on the altar. 

At each Mass we are not only offering up the bread and wine but we are putting ourselves on the Paten. Each Mass is a time for a change in our lives. After the resurrection  we see the big change in the apostles. They were afraid, all the doors locked, and with the encounter with Jesus all changed, Death was no longer fearful, the apostles really became what they were meant to be-- men on fire with the Gospel message.

Each Sunday at Mass we offer not only bread and wine but also our monetary gift which symbolizes our sweat and difficulties of life,  they also go into the basket. He concludes the article by wanting us to remember that Jesus became man to enable us to participate in his divinity.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Words of Consolation Not Easily Found

Many times in our lives we are in a situation where words of consolation are in order. It may be a letter which carries our attempts at comfort, an e-mail, a telephone call, or the meeting of the person hurting. Bible & Life has an article by a pastor with the  pastoral responsibility of workers in the diocese. 

He asks the readers what words of consolation have meant the most to them. What words or ours have been helpful to those in pain who have come to us for words of comfort? His article considers the injustice  a woman experienced that left her lonely and dejected.

He was approached by the woman who wanted to speak to him after they finished the meal at the work place. They went to a nearby coffee shop to talk. As soon as they sat down she began to cry and shake. She explained how her boss scolded her for something she did not do, and will have to leave the company. Moreover, they both belonged to the same religion making the situation all the more intolerable for her.

What was he to say to her? Glancing at the woman  he was wondering how to respond. He tried to recall some Scripture quotes that would be appropriate. No-- would it not be better to simply tell her to be strong and trust in God? He finally decided what to say but his head and heart didn't agree. After she finished talking she excused herself and went to the bathroom. He was confused and the coffee was getting cold, as he continued to finger the cup.

In prayer he asked God to either help him say the right words or in some way console the woman. In his grumbling he open his carrying bag and took out a memo pad and began writing what was in his heart very slowly. "Sister, hearing your very difficult situation I do not know what to say, but I will keep you in my prayers." He inserted the paper very carefully in her purse.

Returning from the bathroom she told the priest she  had an appointment and would have to leave. They went out together and with the parting salutation  each went their own way. He had a heavy heart returning to his office where he received a text message from the woman. " Father,  thank you for listening to me and I will also remember you in prayer."

The article concludes with his knowing that he is not going to have the necessary words that people need to hear when they are hurting. However, at night before going to bed he remembers those who have entrusted themselves to him in prayer, those who are facing problems and those who have  annoyed him, and he brings them to the attention of God.

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Go the Mass is Ended"

How many priests give good sermons? In the opinion of a retired professor of humanities, writing in With Bible, at the most two out of ten.He is not talking about revivalist preaching or eloquent sermons, but a sermon that connects the Gospel to life, and helps  listeners to reflect on the words and motivates them to put the words heard into practice. These kinds of sermons are rare, and is it not the reason we have many reading the parish bulletin during the sermon?

Priests consider the homilies at Mass important but some spend time giving theological explanations and some just give a perfunctory sermon. He says he doesn't know how they teach homiletics in the seminary but listening to the sermon he can make an educated guess.

Liturgy is important for we are given the message of the Gospel, God's love in the liturgy, and the sermon is the key to this message. Young priests read a prepared sermon very carefully, and the older priests speak very confidently, without help, but  they don't deal with the problems Christians are facing. When we just hear theology, talks about attitudes, and Church news, they are not helpful in our daily lives. What is happening in society and the way it impacts the Christians is an aspect of the sermon that can't be overlooked, although some Christians have difficulty with this side of the Gospel message. He feels the Church should take notice that many of the clergy are not doing a good job in their homilies. Parishioners besides Communion do not see the importance of the other parts of the Mass. He would like to know how many are moved by the Mass and have tears come to their eyes.

Homilies should prepare people to receive our Lord in Communion and be changed. Each day we need to be born again and is this not taking part in the death and resurrection of Jesus? He feels that this element of being changed by what happens at each Mass is not a big part of the Church's concern. A big reason is the lack of homilies that fit the situation in which the Christians find themselves.

He admits that he has to come to a new understanding of his life as a Christian. Our present times he feels could be gloomier than the time when Jesus was on earth. Love is what is able to break through the darkness which we face. We need homilies that make us understand our lives and help us to live as Christians.

In his talks to the seminarians he tells them to be conservative in what they believe but progressive once they become priests in what they do. If the priests do not prepare the congregation to receive our Lord in Communion they should blame themselves. A priest  who doesn't see what is going on in the world may be a good high priest but he is not a prophet. The sermon is what lights the fire. At the end of Mass we have the Sending: "Go forth the Mass is ended" we are meant to live the Mass and be the hands and feet of Jesus to others and the world.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

'Treat Children As If In The Womb'

Questions are an important part of learning. A professor and educator with experience in her field, brings to the readers of the Kyeongyang magazine the issue surrounding questions that were treated in a TV program.

Question 1)  Generally when  do persons make a decision on their  dream and  happiness?
1) teens  2) twenties 3) thirties 4) forties 5) fifties

Question  2)  What is the common rule one follows on the athletic field, class room, library?
1) washing your hands 2) running  3) greeting others 4) sitting quietly 5) walking on the right

Question 3) Trying to realize our dream what do we do when we meet problems?

Answers: Question one  (1)    Question two ( 5)    Question three (Continue to realize the dream)

Students at one of the elite universities in Korea were asked these questions and few gave the model answers. Foreigners asked the same questions had difficulty with the model answers. She explains the more one thinks about the questions the more questions one has. Some would prefer to stop thinking and memorize the answers. Our students she says, preparing for college entrance, suspend their questions, doubt and thoughts, and unconditionally memorize the answers which is the way to avoid mistakes.

She mentions the need to change the atmosphere in the classroom. We don't ask questions of people who are not connected to us in some way or of authority figures. Consequently, in the class room if the atmosphere is not conducive to questions, because of the traditional authority of the teacher, this has to be put aside, and a horizontal relationship maintained, to allow questions from the students.

This change is taking place in the classroom but how about in the home?  When a woman is pregnant, and knows it, she begins talking to the baby, and gives  the baby a womb name. "Hello?" "Are you waiting to see your mother and father?" "What do you expect from your father and mother?" These and many other questions, and talking goes on during the time in the womb.

After the baby is born the parents are keen on every hand gesture, yawn, muttering, movement of the body, crying and wanting to give the baby  everything. When the child begins school we have scolding, the orders-- "do it", "was it done?" and conversations  are often limited to yes and no.

'Anger sickness' (an ailment supposedly caused by one's pent-up resentment) is not only a problem with middle age women but also with the young. College entrance exams require that students give the answers that are ordered by the questions, and they are not allowed any retort. This is the reason for the 'anger sickness'.

Without the atmosphere in which a person is allowed to speak what is their hearts there will be resistance and strange behavior. She recommends that parents return to the way they treated the baby in the womb, and enable the children to be themselves and speak what is in their hearts.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Movements in Formng Character

In recent years many have seen problems with a lack of human qualities among the students: responsibility, honesty, courage, respect for others, and the many other virtues necessary to live well with others. They wanted to do something about the situation and we have a law that now is asking all the teachers in elementary, middle and high school to prepare students with programs that will help develop this aspect of their education. Peace Column in the Catholic Peace Weekly, brings the issue to the attention of the readers. 

The proposal is hoping that all of society will benefit, but it is mainly an issue with the teachers in the formation of students in our primary and secondary schools. Programs are now only at the  beginning stages, for the details and budgets have not been made and the programs will not be completed until the end of the year.

In the beginning it was proposed that the teachers  have 15 hours or more of study and training in preparation, but because of strong opposition it was decrease to 4 hours. The program is required. Concern for the building of character was missing in the past and efforts are made by law to remedy the situation. In order not to give the semblance of force they have added the word 'encouragement' to the name of the law.

One educator made it clear that in his judgment the law was a throw back to another age-- for the government to intrude in a persons' basic and personal rights. Schools need to be interested in the human formation of the students but this is not the government's task. Enacting a law for this purpose leaves him with a bitter taste.

In the first article of the law we are told of the need to develop the internal in a  correct and healthy
fashion, and  in order to relate with others, society and with the environment, character and human qualities have to be nurtured in the educational programs.

A movement that is active among the different religions of Korea is to live according to one's values. This is similar to what is being attempted with the school children. He concludes the article hoping both programs find an audience that is open and willing to work for a change.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Results of Poverty

A priest, and seminary professor, in the Kyeongyang magazine begins with an indirect apology for being blunt in his questions. Does the Church live according to the Gospel for the poor?  Is not the Church quite different from the original Gospel of the poor that it once preached? We are no longer able to harmonize the life style we live with the original teaching of the Gospel. The writer reminds the readers that poverty was the essence of Jesus' message (Philippians 2:5-11).

The writer uses the words of Pope Francis in the exhortation Joy of the Gospel to speak about  poverty. In Korea the response to the pope's words on the economy had little opposition within the community of faith. Surprising is the failure to understand the pope's words in the West, many see it as Marxism, when in reality it is an attack on distortions of the new-liberalism and not the free market economic system with an ethical ethos. Pope Francis is only repeating the traditional teaching. Many refuse to see the problems within the present economic system.

"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away when people are starving? This is a case of inequality" (#53).

When the market and money are idolized we have exclusion and social problems. Neo-liberalism  works often with the motivation that comes from greed, and persons are often used, and their dignity not respected. Pope Francis was not in favor of the trickle-down help for the poor.

Between 1997 and 2008 Korea had two economic crises as they were pushing for globalization--not only an economic issue but it affected all of society. In the OECD countries Korea had the largest number of irregular workers, largest number of suicides, and high in the unhappiness index for the citizens. He mentions the death of two well known  people, one died of hunger and the other of a sickness, and his body was discovered 5 days later.

"The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality,no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills" (#202).

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Being Alone Like Jesus

Each of us, no matter how busy, needs to take time from our schedule to reflect and examine ourselves. When driving along a dark road nobody flicks the light on in the car in order to see better. When dark we see the outside clearly. I  need to turn all the lights off and be in solitude and have all my senses turned inwards. A time to be with God and myself. Bible & Life has this topic featured in the recent issue.

A priest in his article reminds us that one third of our time is spent alone. In bed with one's spouse you are alone; even when busy there are times when you are alone. God when he saw that Adam was alone he made Eve to be his companion. Life is composed of times alone and with others.

However, we often think that a person who likes to be alone is fastidious, a loner and resents the presents of others. We need to discard this way of thinking; in the present world it is difficult to find time to be alone. Riding in the subway we see many sitting alone but busy with their smart phones and connected to the world.

Proverbs 4:23 we read: "With closest custody, guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life." In our deepest recesses we have a reservoir that we are not familiar with. When we are alone we can look into this reservoir and meet God. 

To understand this he give us something for our imagination. Someone is sitting by a lake in a forest. Fresh and brisk air fills his being, his head and breast feels free. Like a mirror the water reflects the trees mountains and sky in the lake. He hears the sound of birds and other indistinct sounds from a distance. A bird comes into view as it flies over the lake. As it flew over his head a speck from the wing of the bird fell into the water right in front of him.

He sees and then he doesn't  the small particle in the water, but as the water rings gets bigger the particle  comes to stop at his feet. Many thoughts come to mind but he doesn't  give notice. Being in that place was a gift but he is able to leave at any moment. He reminds us it is only those who are able to be alone that have this peace.

"In the busy world we are in we lose contact with our
true self, and begin to tire of our daily tasks, and our pleasures become boring and being alone brings great joy." These words of a poet are the writers wish for us. Our Lord in John 16:32 --(Yet I can never be alone; the Father is with me.) Jesus was never isolated a loner, he was always one with the Father. This he concludes is the reason we need to find time for silence and being alone.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Problems with Adoption in Korea

A priest in the welfare apostolate  of a diocese was asked to come to an adoption home run by sisters, for an interview with a woman from France. The woman was in Korea to take her son, who was adopted from Korea, back to France. He was addicted to liquor and drugs and no matter how much the parents wanted him to return, he refused. The mother had to return to France alone.

The priest, writes in a  bulletin about his experience with adopted children, and what he has learned. At that time he met the friends of the boy who had returned to Korea from France. Many years before the priest had studied in France, and met many Korean young people who had been adopted and living in France, he wanted to help them.

When he left the work in welfare he didn't want to put a burden on his successor but he finally did get around to starting a legal cooperation 'Nest' to be of service to the unfortunate adoptees.  More than 230,000 were adopted after the Korean War. Not all  were fortunate in the parents they found and in their new homes. 

Many have devoted parents and have adapted well to their new environment but some of the parents did not do the necessary paper work, either unknowingly or deliberately, to  make them citizens of the country; in the United States we have some who are considered illegal aliens and in prison.

Adopted children are crying out and looking for their birth mothers. He strongly feels that Korea  has to change the way they look on unmarried mothers and  help them keep their babies. He reminds us that there are two or three infants everyday being sent overseas. He doesn't hear people raising their voices in opposition to this in a country that is tenth in financial strength.

We speak about the low birthrate and aging population, loudly condemn contraception and abortion, should we not also start making a society that will accept the unmarried mothers and help them to keep their child? Changing the thinking on adopting children within  the country is also a need. And concludes with a desire that we remember the  many Korean children who are adopted and living in other countries.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


In a bulletin for priests the editors give us the example of two persons who as children received much from others and in their later years in gratitude wanted to return what they had received back to humanity. 

One of these men was John. He was extremely poor. His father died when very young and his mother supported the family with working odd jobs for others. He was helped by a religious order and others to continue his schooling. He graduated from college and worked as a teacher for over thirty years. After retirement he went to China in gratitude for what he received as a youth. He worked for three years without pay as a teacher among the ethnic Koreans and was  an inspiration to many.

They also give us the example of Dr. Albert Schweitzer who spent most of his life helping Africans in medical work. His father was a minster and he was brought up in well off circumstances. One day he was in a fight with a child his own age, and he made the better of the fight but at the end the loser said to  Albert: "If I ate meat soup like you, I would not be on the losing end of this fight." This made Albert cry. It was from this experience that he began to take an interest in the poor, and finally ended up in Africa. "I am enjoying life but many do not have this opportunity." He became  a minister, philosopher, and teacher.

He knew that he receive this happiness not from his own efforts but from God, parents and environment.  In gratitude he wanted to repay this gift by devoting his life to Africans who were deprived of much of what he enjoyed. At the age of 40 he became a doctor and went to  Africa. 

A proverb in Korean is to write the name of your enemies in water, and blessings in stone. These two men inscribed what they receive in stone and remembered it in their lives. Many instead of repaying what they have received forget it, and write it in water, and their grudges in stone. This is not an easy proverb to follow. But gratitude makes for a more fruitful life. There is another saying:  if we don't have anything to be thankful, we  need to look over the way we have lived. 

The article ends with the incident in Luke 17:15-17 where Jesus cures 10 lepers and only one returns to  give thanks. Jesus asks where are the other nine?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Homosexuality in Catholic Thought

Homosexuality is a topic you would rarely see mentioned in the Catholic press but recently with the results of the referendum in Catholic Ireland and the legalization of homosexual marriages in the Christian United States we see a response in the two Catholic papers.One priest columnist In the Catholic Times reviews some of the issues involved for the readers.

During the last Sunday of June in Seoul they had a queer festival for the supporters of homosexuality. He mentions how many of the Protestant Churches in the West have accepted homosexual marriages and have dropped the terms husband and wife for the word couple.

Not a small number of Christians have accepted this drift in society which they consider progressive and are waiting for the Catholic Church to join. The columnist limited by space addresses the issue from a Catholic understanding of marriage.

First it is necessary to understand the Church's teaching. Sex can not be separated from the understanding of procreation in Catholic thinking. The love of husband and wife lead to the fruit of life. Consequently the use of the sex outside of marriage is not supported by the Church. For one's own pleasure in masturbation, sex outside of marriage, before marriage, prostitution are all the same. True also with two people of the same sex for it has no intention towards life. However, the Church does not condemn the tendency but only the homsexual acts.

Secondly, whether homosexuality is legal or not, supported by the public or not, we should not consider the issue superficially.The Church like a mother has always embraced those with these inclinations and accepted them although there have been times of strictness in outlook, they have tried to help those with this tendency. He hopes with the crisis in the family life and the talk we are having on these matters will help us to come to a better understanding of family life.

Thirdly, with these discussions our faith life, actions, and the Church's relationship with society must be examined. Like many of the other religions who have accepted the will of the majority of the citizens the Church does not see it as a matter of majority vote. Our faith is not something for the present only, and requires more attention from us. We have to know what are  the essentials of our belief and examine ourselves on how to behave in the present world.

We talk a lot about the cross and this is also present in dealing with this issue. We are all faced with carrying the cross and those with this inclination also have a cross to carry.Our faith tells us that  in following the way of the Gospel we will enjoy the resurrected life here and hereafter. We all need give the issue a great deal of thought on how to live fully with what we can't change, and change what we can and trust that we will be given the grace to live with joy  and peace if we follow the dictates of our conciences and Church teachings.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Korean Farmers' Sunday

Today we  celebrate the 20th Farmers' Day in Korea-- remembered each year on the third Sunday of July. The Korean bishops established Farmers' Day to bring the problems of the farmers to all the parishioners and to mobilize concern for the farmers in 'save the farm movement'. They were also concerned to thank the farmers for their participation in the work of creation.

In the two editorials in the Catholic papers, sadly, we learn that during the past 20 years matters have become worse. The money invested in farming  and the farmers' assets have decreased. The potential for growth also has eroded.

Production has increased  by 20 percent and the prices have increased by 39 percent;  farming materials have increased by 112 percent and gross income has decreased by 36 percent. The import of farm products have increased two fold and commodity prices have increased 82 percent. The gap between city and country has also increased. With the free trade agreement and the import of foreign rice, which is much cheaper, does not point to a bright  future for farming.

"Solidarity and Fraternal Charity" is the theme of the the bishops' message to the Church.  All the citizens need to be concerned with the life on the farms. Many have been interested in cooperatives, and buying locally and  working for food sovereignty: the right to healthy food produced and controlled by the farmers. These efforts have been made but with little success.

The government has been  concerned with the growth of the industrial section for good reason for that is where the biggest changes are found, but for the good of the country and the future of Korea it may be the time to think deeper and not put all the eggs in the same basket.

Young people are leaving the country for the cities, and the elderly farmers are not being replace which means that we will see changes in the country in the years to come. Farming is a treasure and the benefits for the whole country are not readily seen and once lost will be difficult to regain.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ubi Caritas: God is Where there is Love

"For the  glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God. For if the manifestation of God which is made by means of the creation, affords life to all living in the earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word, give life to those who see God" (AH IV, 20, 7). 

We use these words often not always with the meaning that St. Irenaeus had when he  wrote them. Life is a gift but not always enjoyed, and the reasons are many. As Christians we have both the vertical and horizontal aspects of life which expands our vision and should make life more joyful and meaningful but one of the problems is our relations with others is not always smooth, nurturing and beneficial for the two parties, which will affect our relations with God. 

Jesus was strong in the wording he used to show us the importance of being on good terms with others. "If you bring your gift to the  altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift" Matt.5

A priest in the labor apostolate gives us his thoughts in Bible & Life that come from his years working in labor groups within society.The article is about the liturgical meetings  he has  in the work place for the Catholic workers once a month. He recalls one of the Masses where he told the workers after they retire they are welcomed back to the meetings.  He knew that this would be a difficult thing to do but he sent out the invitation.

One of the men who had  retired  came to the monthly Mass and made everybody have a good laugh for the reason he came was to see if the group was continuing  without his presence. There was another man who the priest  noticed did not seem to pleased with the presence of the retired worker.

Before the Mass the worker  approached the priest and  wanted to talk;  they quietly left the group spent some time together. He told the priest that the retired individual was his boss in the factory and although outside of his work position he was pleasant to be with in the work place he made the work difficult. And was sorry to see him join the group. They finished the conversation and went back to the group and the Mass.

After Mass they went to the meal but the priest noticed that the two were missing. He was afraid some thing not nice had happened but the retired person returned and told the priest about the problems the two of them had in the past  but that night they were to go out together for a drink.

He concludes the article with life is difficult but we make it more difficult by not maintaining good relationships with others. The two were taking the steps to improve their communication, and he would like all of us to be on good terms with all especially those of the community of faith. This would go a long way in improving the environment of parish life, and fill us with joy that we would want to share with others.                                     

Friday, July 17, 2015

Church Needs to Remain Humble

Catholicism has for the last 25 years compared to other religions, the greatest amount of trust  among  citizens in the surveys that are made by different groups in Korean society. In an article in Now/Here (Catholic-news) the writer reviews the contents of the surveys for readers and gives us his opinion.

He mentions some red lights that are seen and one of them would be in comparison to other religions Catholicism does have more trust but not in comparison to other organizations in society. Citizen organizations have 27.8 percent public confidence, second is the press with 10.6 percent, and religion is 3rd, with 9.2 percent, and the writer says this is continuing to fall.

Women had a higher rate of confidence in Catholicism than men. Those in their 50s had the highest index of confidence when comparing ages, and 32.7 percent of unbelievers had the highest rate of confidence, and the  more education the higher the level of confidence in Catholicism.

The writer mentions the confidence level will not change in the near future but he gives  five reasons why this confidence in Catholicism in comparison to the other religions in society could change overnight.

First, he  doesn't believe the confidence is directed to Catholicism but rather a lack of confidence in the other religions. Once the other religions make some positive changes and portray a different image the relative ascendency of Catholicism will change.

Secondly, the Church can continue to weaken its strong points. Unity has been one of the images of the Church. Protestantism is seen with their many divisions, and Buddhism with their religious factions fighting with each other, something the Koreans did not see in Catholicism. On the other hand with the democratic movement in society, and the Church's authoritarianism, we see a negative response by some.

Unity as a strong point is no longer what it was. When we have dissent being expressed within the institution, the unity becomes weakened.Within the conference of bishops we have agreement and some bishops speaking,and behaving differently from what was decided. We have groups like the Patriotic Catholics for Korea which don't care for some of the directions the Church is taking. We have the Justice and Peace Priests not always understood, and some devotional groups that speak differently on traditional teaching. All these will be seen as  disunity and lower the confidence of the public in the Church.

Sex scandals that became known in the States was a great problem. We have some Catholics who with some Protestants have an unfriendly attitude to other religions. Sex scandals and financial corruption in works of welfare given to the Church by the government, and bankruptcy will all lower the trust in the Church.

Thirdly we have the possibility of seeing the Church as overly strong and pushing its might on society. Fourthly, not continuing their work of service for society as in the past. Our religious are getting older and retiring from their work and they are not being replaced which will make a difference in the way society looks upon the Church. Fifthly, we have the way society looks upon the Vatican: at present it is very positive but like Europe it could change.

As was mentioned in the beginning the confidence that religion has in society is 10 percent points lower than  citizens' groups. The Gallup poll that was made in 2014 mentioned that religions over the last 30 years continue to get criticized and the writer reminds the Church to be humble  and keep a low profile.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Reading the Story of Cain and Abel Differently

Why did Cain kill his brother Abel?  A priest from the Seoul Diocese asks the question and surprises us with an answer which you rarely hear, and it makes a lot of sense. The first Israelites were  sheep herders, and the story is a teaching story for their descendents, and it all fits together. He explains his interpretation in an article in the Kyeongyang magazine.

We usually say it was jealousy on the part of Cain but if we leave it at that we make God the one who aroused the jealousy. Did God prefer meat over the crops, fruits and vegetables of the land? The writers want us to understand that Cain was a sedentary farmer with a lot of land and rich, while Abel was a wandering shepherd with his little flock going from one pasture  to another. He was not what we would call a large stock farmer. He had to work in the rain, and cold; he was a poor shepherd. God appreciated the life of Abel and accepted his sacrifice.

We today in the Church take the  example of God in choosing to be on the side of the poor.This choice is not always easy. Pope Benedict after he retired was considered a very conservative pope, but in his Encyclical Charity in Truth he was called a German Communist in certain areas of the World. Here in Korea we have the same response when anyone speaks for the poor, listens to their complaints, and becomes active in their cause-- they are labeled 'followers of the North'.

What kind of world are we living in? We still have many who are without property and are living a difficult life. We meet many of them in Korea. Marxism was a movement that wanted to liberate them and at one time had over half of the world in their control. The curtain came down on their efforts, workers were hoping that a change would come in their situation, but it has deteriorated. Today the gap between the rich and poor has grown larger. We have another Cain and Abel story.

The priest looks at the situation in Korea. As a member of OECD ( Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) it has the largest number of suicides and the lowest birthrate, a sign that life is not very attractive to many Koreans. Land is no longer easily bought. The number of industrial disasters is the highest, hours of work are the second longest in OECD. Of all the countries money spent on welfare is the lowest, and family debts are high.

The middle class is ceasing to exist and the rich are getting richer. Young people are finding it difficult to find work, and the  many irregular workers always in danger of being fired. The condition of the old people in society is the worse in the OECD, and we are absorbed in improving the situation for the wealthy, and this is the reality in most of the world.

He concludes the article with a hope that instead of greed, disobedience, and jealousy we will accept modesty, humility and  be influenced by the teachings of Jesus. The dignity of all human beings, hopefully will be recognized. We should not only help the strong  we need to work for a society in which we are all brothers and sisters. We all need to work for a society in which we all are holding hands working together.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Working for the Common Good

Pope John XXIII defined the common good as "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily" (Pacem in Terris # 55). Common  good is a term that appears often in the social teaching of the Church and a basic  concept.

A priest with a doctorate in social studies and now working in the labor apostolate sees the lack of  sensitivity for the common good as one of the  primary reasons for the  MERS epidemic, contagion and death that resulted from the epidemic. He writes about the spread of MERS in his column, and gives a great deal of the blame to seeking efficiency over the common good.

Information on the spread of the disease, and the name of the hospitals involved was not made known at the start, and keeping this secret did much to help  the spread of the disease: more  concern for private issues than for the  common good.

The desire of the Church is to work in the area of the common good. He finds the government retreating in the areas  of public health and promoting private health endeavors. This he also sees as a reason for some of the problems experienced during the MERS epidemic.  

His thoughts come  from reflection on creation. God gave the goods of creation to all of us. We should all benefit: not especially difficult to understand. There are times when a decision made will result in a loss either materially or in humiliation, but the public good benefits. The columnist gives blame for the quick development of capitalism in society where efficiency is everything. Medical care, education, labor, and lodging all become commodities in the market, and those who are sacrificed for efficiency we do not see.

In conclusion, he wants us to learn a lesson from the MERS epidemic. More than to maximize efficiency in our society we need to increase our concern in working for the common good, which will promote a more peaceful life for all. Also help us to live according to the order of creation and the road  we Christians are called to follow.      

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Questionnaire on Godparents

Godparents for the baptized is a tradition seen in many Christian groups. Tertullian, in the 200s AD mentions the use of godparents in his book on Baptism. In the early Church the baptized were mostly adults, and had a godparent of the same sex. They assumed the responsibility as mentors for the newly baptized.

The Peace Weekly has a 'cover story' on godparents and their godchildren. Godparents are to guide their godchildren in the life of faith but this is not what happens. Often it is only a name that goes in the baptismal book, and merely a formality that one follows, without meaning. Godparents are to pray, and lead their godchildren in imitating Jesus but few take the responsibility with any seriousness.

The Weekly prepared a questionnaire that was given to 446 parishioners to determine the situation in the  present Church. According to the questionnaire over 50 percent have no contact with their godchild. 38 percent of the godchildren have no contact with their godparents. 15 percent do not  know who their  godparents are.

55 percent say the distancing from the  godparents came from the lack of contact. 25 percent said that they didn't know the  godparent when they were baptized so  quickly lost contact. To prevent this from happening a priest is quoted with five steps to be a  good godparent. Praying for the godchild, talk and listen to them, study to answer their  questions, introduce them to the liturgy of the Church, and keep in contact with the godchild. 

How is the situation  going to improve? One suggestion in the article from a Sunday school teacher recommends  to match the godparents with the ones to be baptized into three groups: infants and children, young people, and adults-- for infants close relatives, for young people Sunday school teachers and devoted young people, and  for adults, members of the different societies in parish communities. 

Serious efforts to change the way godparents are chosen and programs to educate those who are in such a spiritual relation will do much to change the atmosphere of a parish and make for a community of faith.                           

Monday, July 13, 2015

McCarthyism Syndrome

In the  question and answer section of the Peace Weekly a priest asks: In private conversations he is often asked why does the Catholic Church disregard the countries' security problems, and  continue to criticize the government. When he hears words which incites people he is upset but when he gets these questions he is at a loss for words, and feels silence is the best answer but remains irritated. 

The columnist understands his perplexity. He doesn't agree that the Church has no interest in security. Korea is surrounded by strong countries, and North Korea has has shown hostility to the South. No one wants to abandon our security. However, the Church's understanding of security is much more extensive than the ordinary citizen, and looks towards the future. Many see security only as related with Communism. 

He gives the example of the training of children in Japan.They are taught to be considerate of others. In order to get them accustomed to the cold, children wear short pants in the winter. They receive leadership courses, patience is considered a great virtue, and are taught frugality. There is a difference in the way we can look upon this formation: on the short term we can see the sincerity of the Japanese, in the long view we can see them wanting to form a strong populace, and in case of war be able to withstand the difficulties of daily life.  

The columnist  compares the Japanese children with Korean children. If the children does well in studies parents have a tendency to ignore their behavior. This later shows up in society. We have even in small things uncontrollable emotional outbursts, and those with little knowledge want to solve difficulties with emotions.

The Church is an alternative community which tries to deal with these problems. To have care for the other,  respect the other, to educate the whole person to live with others. It is  education for life. 

One of the maladies of our society is the  McCarthyism syndrome: (a witch hunt, unscrupulously accusing people of disloyalty by saying they were Communists). When we hear criticism of the government, persons speaking honestly and see a need to change certain behavior, we have those who consider it a subversive act. We still are dealing with this kind of thinking in Korea. It is an emotional problem.Those that point out the problems in government may truly love the country and are doing more for the security of the country than those who do not criticize.

We need to understand each other and respect each other's opinions.When we don't allow the others who think differently to speak and call them communists we are dividing the country, and we can see this happening in many countries of the world. As Christians we should see this kind of attitude as working against building the kind of world that God wants. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Why do we think we are always right?

In her column in the Peace Weekly the writer reminisces on the many people she has met, and lost contact with during her years of work. Of that number were some  she was able to speak to openly and frankly. She doesn't know why but  many of the relationships became awkward, and gradually the degree of coldness increased.

Just before retirement one of that group came to visit with the writer. She doesn't mention what instigated the unburdening of her pent up resentment but she fully expressed her feelings to the person. Made known her hurts, resentments, criticism, grudges-- all poured out in a short period of time, all  negative. However, she admits that the anger did not subside after it all came out. During the monologue the one-time intimate did express herself.

After retirement she did remember the words of the visitor that were expressed that day and they continued to reverberate in her head. The sentence that continued to bother her was: "Why do you  think that everything you do is right?"

When she let it all out, she also refuted this statement that was one of the retorts by the visitor and  her response did get the person to nod in agreement, but the words remained with her and continued to bother her. This is what they saw in her that prompted the estrangement: everything she thought, said and did  was seen as cold  hardheartedness by them, and now in every situation in all circumstances these words come to mind.

North and South Korea both have different understandings of the situation. The North and South have different ideologies, and is it not possible to say problems arise when we think that we always have the right answers? Isn't the  problem between the  North and South basically that each maintains they have all the answers to the problems and don't want to listen? And she concludes with the words of the Scriptures.

"Why look at the speck in your brother's eye when  you miss the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take that speck out of your eye while  all the time the plank remains  in your own?" (Matt. 7:3-4)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Thoughts On a Visit to a Hospice

'In random thoughts on religion', the columnist in the Peace Weekly, writes about a woman who helped him in his work both materially and spiritually. She was told by her doctor she had about 15 days of life remaining. This news upset her greatly. She was far from her seventies; the news left her in shock. She attended Mass and went directly to the hospital.She never lost her dignity. She prayed earnestly for a cure and dreamed of returning to her former ways.

He heard that she was in hospice-care and went for a visit. "I don't want to die", "I want to live" were her words, said with very little strength. He visited her a number of times but all he could do was hold her hand and and say nothing. No words of consolation came from his lips. Our Lord hearing of the death of Lazarus and meeting Martha and Mary he cried. Because of the human condition and original sin we will all die. However, with the Resurrection of Jesus we have hope. Leaving the woman for the last time in hospice, he had the consolation she was going to a better life.  

Just recently he had two other friends who were  recently given a death sentence. He was at one time very close to them and both of them, not even in their 60s, were now in hospice care. The columnist  was overcome with a feeling of ingratitude towards one of them, and the other he grew apart because of his friend's uncontrolled temper. Hearing that they were in hospice-care he quickly went to visit them.  

In these times when we talk about people living to their hundreds it is a sad sight to see these men who where until recently men with great presence and   vigor who were haggard images of themselves. Seeing them in this condition brought tears to his eyes.

He wanted to bring them to a knowledge of faith and give them a reason to hope. In his own life the faith he had was a great consolation in facing death, and he wanted to bring up the issue but they were  in  pain and he felt it better to leave the job to their wives.  

He leaves us with the words of a Germain psycho physicist Gustave Fetcher: Man lives on earth three time,the first state is continual sleep in the womb. Second stage is the present where we sleep and awake in turns. The third stage is always awake. In the first state one is prepared with the organs of speech, sight, smell and hearing which will be used in the second stage. In the second stage preparation is made for the last stage. When the baby leaves the womb the transition is like a death to a new environment and new life. It begins with a cry and a whole new environment with laughter and joy. The third state is one we don't know much about,  full of peace and liberty.We see the last stage as one with a very narrow door and dark, but it is the way to eternal life.