Monday, August 31, 2015

Searching for the Light

'Return of the light' is the word used for the end of the Second World War and Korea's freedom from the Japanese. This year was the 70th anniversary, and we still have many of the  problems with us from the end of the war. The columnist in the Catholic Times reminds us of the situation.

The comfort women are dying, and we are not closer to a solution or an agreement over compensation. We still need a solution on those who were pro-Japanese Koreans during the war, distortion of history, claims on the Dokdo Island, and similar issues still pending. The end of the war brought joy but also sadness over the division of the country. We have the North Limit Line, political and military problems that remain.  

For a Christian, Jesus is the light. At the Paschal liturgy we sing Jesus is our light, but to receive this light we are told  we have to face our faults and scars. The light is always shining on the darkness.  We can't just concentrate on the darkness of the Japanese occupation, but we need to see the darkness in ourselves.

At the end of the war, Korea's provisional government  in exile was not recognized, which did not help solve the problems with compensation, land and the pro-Japanese groups in Korea. The decisions were made by foreign powers, and the problems were stitched over, leaving much in darkness. 

Koreans shed much blood but when it came to the armistice agreement, we were missing from the negotiations, there were many mistakes and one was the North Limit Line decision; this decision on the military line on the sea was not made. It was made later without the presence of the two parties. North Korea at that time did not have a maritime military force, and did not express disapproval, which has been a point of controversy.

In solving problems in the social area, we use the three steps: observe, judge and act. On this 70th anniversary of the armistice we should not interpret history for our benefit. We have to see the pain that we are experiencing presently (observe). We don't want to face this with division and war but overcome it with the light of Christ (judge). We don't want to  go around in circles with the judgements of the world but (act) in the way Jesus would. When we see  reality as it is we have what is necessary to act correctly.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Growth in Spirituality

Scriptures and the Magisterium are the lifeblood of our spiritual development. A professor at the Catholic University in the field of spirituality shows us the reason we need rational knowledge of Christian spirituality. The object of spirituality is revelation and personal experience. Spirituality in its development from the beginning to end is not a subjective study but a rational attempt to understand systematically  what is involved. The study is mainly one for theologians  but the layperson  also has the need to approach the study of spirituality to help in its development.

However, in visiting a Catholic book store and looking over the books in the spirituality section, many books deal with the authors' meditation on their personal emotional experiences of spirituality. Obviously reading these kinds of books is better than not reading any at all, but there is the danger that we come away thinking spirituality is all about emotions and sentiment.

One who is interested in a healthy spirituality needs to be familiar with the Scriptures. Not only have the  writers being inspired by the Holy Spirit but  the Church guarantees the contents of the Scriptures for our growth in spirituality. In the Old Testament, we have the stories of God's workers in their journeys, and in the Psalms, prayers that bring us closer to God. The New Testament gives us the teaching of Jesus and how this teaching was applied in the daily lives of the Apostle.

We also need to give ear to the teaching of the Church. In the beginning, we had the Creed and its teaching was central but with time the Church began  to teach us with its documents and especially in these times of rapid change in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. In a person's religious experience, there are few things that should be remembered. In the 2000 years of church history, there have been many spiritual giants. They have passed on to others their experience of the spiritual life but also theologians have used their words and looked at them in an objective manner giving great help to the readers.

Individual personal experiences of the spiritual life are important in the development of spirituality. But when they are too subjective there is a danger of distortion. Necessary is to have a spiritual director to give an objective evaluation of what has transpired. God has made us all different, and we have different ways of growing spiritually, which is a great help in understanding the possibilities that we have.

In the development of a theology of spirituality, we see the tendency of using the human sciences.  In the past we have seen certain saints use help from the sciences in their teaching and writing; however, it must be remembered that this knowledge from the human sciences can't replace spirituality. They help  to see what is going on in an objective way in the spiritual life of an individual.

What happens in the spiritual life is an individual work, but it has to be looked at objectively if it is to be of help to others and oneself. The professor concludes the column by recommending that the readers spend time with a rational explanation of the spiritual life even though it may be a little difficult at the beginning, this academic approach systematically done will be of great help to the individual.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Disordered Individualism=Selfishness

The speed of change is accelerating. Rationalism and Individualism have entered our culture from the West, and brought changes. Many of our traditions have become dead letters so writes a seminary professor in the Kyeongyang Magazine  under the title of temptation.

We are looking  for happiness and leaving aside the rules and regulations that were passed on to us. With the economic betterment and without serious worry about eating and what to wear we are searching for a better quality  of life  which means money and  pleasure. The moral code also becomes  centered on self. Pope Francis mentioned individualism  as a  danger both within and outside the Church.

However, when we talk of individualism, we need  to distinguish  it from selfishness. Individualism has been given great help by the  teaching of  Christianity.  Our individuality,  happiness  and freedom  are values that can't  be replaced. When we are ignored and looked down upon, not treated as persons  and used, we know the sadness that it engenders. In the Gospels,  we see how Jesus related with those who were hurt, the poor, the suffering, those who lost hope they were all  made in the image of God, his  temple, and  received God's love.

A wrong understanding of this individuality is something quite different. When you forget the dignity of others and only see your own dignity, and treat others as tools to aggrandize yourself, we have a distortion of the individual. The same way we look upon ourselves; we need to look upon others and the community otherwise we have a disordered individualism and fall into selfishness and egotism,

In spiritual words when one is only concerned with his own salvation and  forgets  others and not concerned with the needs of the world this is not what Christianity is all about.  Nor is it on the other hand, concerned only with  present needs or blessing.

How do we overcome this disordered individualism?  To believe is  to answer the call  we have received, to give answer to  God's word, his will, which requires   forgetting ourselves. We also have to remember that we are called to be evangelizers and this is not only to increase the numbers of Christians but to expand God's kingdom, which is filled by the love of God. With  this love, we interact with others and the world. "If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples" (John 13:35).

Friday, August 28, 2015

Humans no Longer Center of Society

What is the best way to stop smoking?  Catholic Times' column on human rights answers: stop.  It sounds non-sensical  but the more you think about it the more sense it makes. There is no other way.

One is not able to control himself and drinks too much liquor. Next day, he suffers a hangover, and  vows not  to drink. However, relating with  people in society, he again grabs the glass.  One enters the confessional deciding not to sin, leaves the  confessional with a new resolve but because of that person or situation, it couldn't be helped, and sins again. 

Problems in society are the same. We are moved to fix the barn after we lose the horse. We  vote  and find that  nothing changes and  are sorry for voting the way we did but next time we vote the same way. The  leaders of society promote  competition  in society  and put the academics in positions to continue more of the same, and  we become a cog of a wheel in an unfeeling society looking only for efficiency.

We find ourselves on a treadmill-- a vicious circle, and there is only one way out-- to stop going around in circles. When no action follows and we just  complain and  get upset there will be no change. In a standardized  society, where competition is stressed  and  we look only for efficiency and humans are no longer at the center we have a disordered society; we have to refuse to be a cog. This choice will  alienate us from the majority, be pointed out by society and even suffer  financial difficulties.

More than my desire the common good, not an easy choice to make but it's the example that  Jesus gave us. Without that choice nothing changes. We have to free ourselves from the treadmill we are on.

Pope  Paul VI in  Evangelii Nuntiandi   reminds us: "It is often said nowadays that the present century thirsts for authenticity. Especially in regard to young people it is said that they have a horror of the artificial or false and that they are searching above all for truth and honesty.

"These 'signs of the times' should find us vigilant. Either tacitly or aloud- but always forcefully- we are being asked: Do you really believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you really preach what you live? The witness of life has become more than ever an essential condition for real effectiveness in preaching. Precisely because of this we are, to a certain extent, responsible for the progress of the Gospel that we proclaim" (#77).

In conclusion, the columnist wants us to realize that we are on this earth to change the world. That is our mission and where we will find joy, and as Christians  that means freeing ourselves from the  treadmill we are on. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Life in God

Vacare Deo ( to be free for God) a Latin expression,  is the title of the column: View from the Ark, in the Catholic Times. A monk of the Benedictine Order wants us to reflect on what is meant by this injunction form the past. We need  holy leisure and we have less of it with our  busy life.

The monastery at this time of the year gets many visitors for retreats both individual and group retreats. The word retreat in both Korean and English means to leave the busy life and retreat to a place of quiet to spend time with God.  Adults and children both are busy  with TV, smart phones, they have  little time to think.

Why is everybody so  busy? Is it not that one feels uncomfortable in doing nothing?  Fear that we will fall behind others in our money orientated society is one of the reasons for the busyness. We are caught in the trap of competition.  What are the results?  We see it in the indexes for  the present and future: in the present suicides, and in the future the birth rate. The first is our present reality, and the second a sign for the future.

Life is becoming difficult.  We have a word for the three things to avoid: no romance, no marriage and no children.The feeling of pain from frustration and loss is great. We do not know where we are going but we are running to get there.

We need to stop and look around and begin again. We need to find the meaning for rest--a long breath-- a breathing in and out and realizing the simplicity of life. Our breathing will move us on to see the simplicity of our lives. Stopping means to rest,  moving from the complicated to the simple, from the non-essential to the essential  from the external to the internal,

Where is the Christian to find this rest?  It is not only the wealthy that can enjoy rest: often they are the busiest.  We do not find rest only in nature or in a monastery. Rest is not an external place but in ourselves, where we give God the chance to work within us. God is always working within us but we are too busy to reflect about  his presence or interested.

The founder of  L'Arch Jean Vanier  has these words of wisdom: "We don't realize the spring  we have in us. We know the intelligence in us and what we can  make-- emotions, craving and impulses  but the warm spring that gives us life, and the  God who  gives us his love we don't know." 

Prayer is what makes this presence felt, when we say we are too busy to pray what we mean is we don't want to  pray. Our whole existence is  present in God. When we are living a troublesome life and  are fatigued  God enters and gives us relief and leads us to rest, and the result is that our whole existence is in God.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

'Sweat Does Not Lie'

Hard work beats talent when the talented doesn't work-- seems to be the majority opinion. We see this expressed in a multitude of ways; put simply, without sweat little is achieved, talent or not. Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.

A comedian writing in his column in the Peace Weekly uses the Korean phrase: 'sweat does not lie', and tells us what he has learned about effort and results. He has always liked the meaning of the phrase 'sweat does not lie'. As a child it meant little but when he began playing sports, it began to make sense. As a child after playing and sweating he would come into the house and take a refreshing shower. However, with sports you always have the win and lose divide, and one's goal is to win.

When in high school, he became interested in Hapgido (Korean self-defense martial art) and spent all his time outside of school, working out in the gym. He did achieve the silver medal in the National Hapgido tournament for his efforts.

His spirits were high. He began to have goals which he tried to reach, which developed into a habit. To reach the target he had to sweat, and this became his ironclad rule of life.

In college, his major was computer science, and  he wanted to master the use of the computer but where  did the sweat come into play with the computer? You sat down and used the fingers on a keyboard, there was no sweat involved. However, when he struck the keys, they were struck to  sweat. He gave his best to the study and did feel drops of sweat on his back.

There are many kinds of sweat: the kind one experiences in sports, the sweat from eating hot foods, and the kind of sweat when you need to go to the toilet and none are in sight.

After military service, he began working as a gag-man--a stand-up comedian. During this period, there were many times he experienced cold sweat. Going on the stage he trembled and was overcome with fear. When given lines to memorize before going on the stage by his elders, he was petrified. 

Gradually, these feeling began to disappear. Often he would come down from the stage and forget what he said during the performance. He is thankful for the experience; the cold sweat disappeared, and with the communication with his  audience during his performances he now sweats.

With acquaintances, he reminds them to sweat. He tells them not to lean on family or college classmates but give themselves to the work at hand, and learn to sweat and not look for recognition but learn to satisfy oneself.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Who are the Present Day Pharisees and Scribes?

A survey made by a research institute discovered that most of the elderly over 65, spend their leisure time watching TV. A column in the Catholic Times gives us some facts that the writer wants us to  ponder. The elderly are limited to the channels  that are of interest and fun to watch. Sadly, because  of economic difficulties, many are not able to take advantage of the cultural events in society. 

Many viewers,  even though vaguely, put  trust in what they see and hear on TV. When a restaurant is introduced by the media, it becomes the restaurant of choice, and viewpoints become the majority opinion.

Those who are producing TV  programs know they have to  grab the attention of the viewers when they  surf for channels, the time is less than 3 minutes, so they have to fill their offering with sensational and stimulating fare. Those who think that TV is offering the viewers something objective and impartial are not sufficiently discerning.   

TV is  often called the Fools Box, but the writer quotes the French intellectual Pierre Bourdieu,  who felt TV was  hindering democracy with its vulgar industrialism-- not only distorting our culture but  hurting a healthy democracy. 

Precisely for this reason the Church is concerned in the way the mass media and the news are conveyed.  "Information is among the principal instruments of democratic participation. Participation without an understanding of the situation of the political community, the facts and the proposed solutions to problems is unthinkable. It is necessary to guarantee a real pluralism in this delicate area of social life, ensuring that there are many forms and instruments of information and communications... Among the obstacles that hinder the full exercise of the right to objectivity in information, special attention must be given to the phenomenon of the news media being controlled by just a few people or groups. This has dangerous effects for the entire democratic system when this phenomenon is accompanied by ever closer ties between governmental activity and the financial and information establishment"(Social Doctrine of the Church #414). 

Consequently it is up to the viewer to be wise and discriminating when dealing with the mass media.  Especially in viewing TV we need to be discerning and critical of what we see. It is not the wise thing to view programs to fill up our time. There are many other things that can be done: reading magazines, papers and the Scriptures. 

The writer even gives the readers the possibility of not watching TV. He mentions his own experience in not watching TV, and has  found many  other profitable things to do. Time for prayer, and being more interested in those around him; his world  has become  larger. What is important is to be the master and not the slave. When that happens we are free.

A good question to ask ourselves is who takes the place of the Pharisees and Scribes in our society. They were the  influential leaders in society the makers of the culture and the reason that Jesus was exceptionally severe in his criticism of their words and deeds. They were influencing  society and not for the good-- distorting the values that were the message of creation.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Women in North Korea

We  hear a great deal about the conflict between the North and South Korea these days: another reminder that we don't have a peace agreement but only a  ceasefire. 

Hopefully, the two parties will realize that 70 years  with a ceasefire, and the continual threatening words and skirmishes on both sides of the demilitarized zone are not good for either side.

South Koreans are curious about the North and their way of life. South Korea has some 30 thousand defectors from the North living in the South, so knowledge of the North is  easily available. A drop in the numbers coming to the South seems to be the situation at present, and we do have an increase in the numbers who return to the North.  Reasons would be many, but the difficulty of adapting to a  very competitive society would be one, but also the efforts of the North inviting them back with financial rewards.

In the column devoted to news about the North in the Catholic Times this week, the writer addresses the place of women in the society of North Korea. North Korea is very proud of their laws and policies in regard to the equality of the sexes-- "no place in the world is  more welcoming to women than North Korea." The columnist does not disagree with this evaluation for in laws and  policy this seems to be the reality.

North Korea had the laws in place  even before the country was  a political reality. Women's  role in society was equal to the men, and their work in the house was recognized by society. On the books, women are  equal to the men but the  Confucian society, and  the understanding of patriarchy is sill strong and operative. 

During the famine years of the 1990s, the work of the women increased greatly. Although the treatment of women as inferior to men and the traditional patriarchal  Confucian society were a hand down from previous generations, the sexual assault of women was not a problem, however, this has changed in the present society.  The columnist finds that a  lower status of women in society, despite the laws, has been accepted  by the women  and  endured. 

The open sexuality of the men and the expectation of  purity on the part of women is making for a society contrary to  the one intended. The lack of education in the schools and society is a reason for the change. The economic difficulties of society and the need for women to work to raise their families have increased the problem, and given birth to the trafficking of women and forced prostitution.

This has also increased the  violence in the homes. No matter how  serious the problem there is no recourse to the law. This abuse of women in the home, concludes the columnist, is a  basic human right not respected: a problem in the North not perceived by society.                                                                      

Sunday, August 23, 2015

What is our Solidarity Index?

“If it should happen one day — and it could be today — that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. I ask them to accept that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering? I ask them to be able to associate such a death with the many other deaths that were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and anonymity.

My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to know that I share in the evil which seems, alas, to prevail in the world, even in that which would strike me blindly. I should like, when the time comes, to have a clear space which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of all my fellow human beings, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down."

These two paragraphs are from the last written testament of Dom Christian de Cherge, the prior of the Cistercian -Trappist Monastery In Algeria. He was one of the seven monks who died at the hands of terrorist on May 21, 1996 in Algeria.

Writing in  the View from the Ark of the Catholic Times, a religious sister reminds the readers of the many incidents in Korea in which people have suffered and their rights trampled, and we forget and move on. She writes about our lack of solidarity with those who are hurting.

She mentions a group of citizens who have decided to have citizens mourning for the victims of the Sewol tragedy. Every month on the 16th, they join  in each village for a mourning ceremony that will continue until 2017, August 11: a thousand  days with those who have suffered because of our apathy and  concern for self.

Sister mentions  three types of solidarity that was expressed in the testament by Dom Christian: solidarity in death, in life, and in responsibility. This last solidarity is not just having a guilty conscience but acknowledging our responsibly  for the evil in the world, and the need  to do something about it.

In the Sewol tragedy we have the pursuit of profit at all cost which is pathological-- overlooking truth and justice for money and power followed by  all kinds of vices. She wants more than sorrow for the harm and injustices we have in society but solidarity with those hurting."Not you are you, and I am me" thinking but understanding that we are connected, and I should be moved by empathy and compassion for those who are hurting and do what I can to improved the situation.

Mentioned is the web site SKY & SEWOL. Jesus came to be one with us- in solidarity with  all humanity.  This solidarity does not need theology to understand but  a disposition of the heart.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Trauma Focus Therapy

Both Catholic papers reported  on the seminar on 'Trauma Focus Therapy' which will continue  at St. Mary's Hospital in Seoul.  Korea has had more than its share of trauma causing experiences: Japanese colonial rule, the Korean War,  the fight for Democracy, continues to  influence society. The recent Sewol  tragedy will also, if not addressed  produce  for years to come, trauma for the families of the victims and society.

One article begins with the statement that with the external mental trauma  a person has to deal with, we often  have a mental and a  psychological breakdown. Dr. Mary Kwan who arrived in Korea from the States is a member of the team conducting a seminar for those dealing with trauma in society. Efforts are necessary to train those who work with persons who have experienced trauma: not treated the experience will be  handed down to other generations. She mentions you can't treat all trauma in the same way.

She mentions that in Europe and the States instead of  dealing directly with the mental and psychological difficulties in the beginning they work with the body. Concern is for the way a person is feeling in the body:
What are the physical sensations in the body? This is not what we do in Korea, she laments.

We often confuse psychological  treatment with trauma treatment. Dr. Kwan  makes clear they are two different approaches to the problems. In psychological problems treatment is  usually to bring up the events that have caused the difficulties, and speak about them and face the emotions that arise. She maintains this is not what you want to do with trauma for it often makes matters worse. Efforts need to be made to  approach the emotions aroused in a gradual way.

In Korea we talk a lot about a nervous disorder they attribute to pent up resentment: anger disease--"Han". The problems that come with trauma, the scars are often deepened, and develop into unhealthy side effects. The mass media has a great deal to do in the way they treat the news--whether it will increase or decrease the trauma in society.

Those  in pastoral work should be conscious  of  the difference between psychological problems and trauma producing experiences. People with problems do not only go to the specialists with their problems but to the religious people in their lives, which makes it necessary for pastoral workers  to be familiar with what is necessary to help those in need.

In the seminar she hopes to use many clinical examples that will make clear some of problems that are faced dealing with trauma, without speaking only abstractly. There are many who go to their pastoral worker when facing trauma and often are disappointed, feel betrayed and in anger leave their faith life. 

Korea does not have a healthy social safety net which makes it more difficult for the citizens. She concludes with the reminder that people are the best help in reducing the incidents of trauma. When we have mental and psychological problems, and those in our lives are not at our side; we have to deal with the problems alone, which increases the danger of trauma.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Learning from the Fishbowl

In View from the Ark of the Catholic Times, a priest columnist gives us his thoughts on what he learned from the tropical fish left him by the previous pastor. They were fish from Malawi--an unknown world for the new pastor. He searched the Internet for knowledge of what to do. He bought the filters and did all that was necessary. 

For him, it was trial and error. He decided to raise 20 of them. In the beginning, everything went well but gradually each day one would die. He had no idea why they died. The water quality and temperature were correct, and no external signs to warrant death. Those who remained alive were very active, finally only 5 remained. Before he bought any more fish, he wanted to find the reason for the problem.

When fed, one species of  fish  would attack the food, and the other species would go to the bottom of the bowl with their bellies touching the bottom. Even when he put more feed in the bowl after the  others had eaten, the other fish weren't interested. In the human world, you would say they were depressed, and being bullied gave up, dying of starvation. He had heard that one breed of fish would not live with another breed, but he didn't believe it would be in this way. 

He went to the Internet to find out what to do. In a small area, you were to give the fish little food. He put the five fish in another large fish bowl and bought a small bowl for another 40 fish that he was going to raise. Since the space was  small, there was no fighting. He gave feed sparingly and  not as much as they wanted; they were not governed by the territory.

He was gone for a few days and told the priest to give the fish each day some food, but he didn't tell him  how much, so when he returned the shape of the fish changed. Fish were dying, and he was told to put  medication in the bowl.

He got rid of most of the water in the bowl and the fish were crowded together in a small area of the fishbowl, they were like the roaches in a paddy field,  had little water, and squirming around. He gave them no food for two days and then he added water to the bowl. There was no more bullying of other fish and no fish were estranged from the others, no dying fish and all went well. 

 It was an interesting experiment. When the fish had plenty of space and food, we had fighting, alienation and dying fish. Isn't this what is happening in the world? With quick economic development,  we overlook  the mental and spiritual growth of the person.

The Israelites were told to gather just enough manna for the day. The fish when they had the problem with little space and no food it prepared them for the open space and their daily food. The columnist would like this to be the case in our own world.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Joy and Hope

Prudence is one of the Cardinal Virtues, and Wisdom is the first of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Both of these virtues are necessary for a life well lived, and they help our  minds to  look on  reality correctly. Wisdom is the first and highest gift of the Holy Spirit, because it is the perfection of  faith. And might we not say that prudence is the way we apply wisdom to our daily life?

In a pastoral bulletin, the writer reflects on his work as a pastor and the desire for wisdom and prudence in his work and what he has learned in relating with his parishioners.  One of the most important words he uses is joy and hope. However, in his work with the problems many have, he meets many who are not happy and have lost hope. When he meets those with joy and hope he is glad and thankful.

He confesses  that he finds it difficult to relate with persons who lack joy and hope and is fearful of meeting them and wants to avoid them. In prison work he meets many who are ex-convicts and who are overcome with sadness and lack hope, and often do not receive help from their families, and many of these are young people. 

In his sermons and in his teaching, he stresses that one can find joy in sadness, and hope in despair: when one is in a hole one is able to obtain much, light when it is dark has more meaning for us, when we lose something  we have more to gain-- similar flowery language has something to tell us.

When he meets people who are not happy and have little hope he is very thankful for the gift that he has of joy and hope. However, when he is feeling low he is not in anyway consoled to know that there are other people who are less happy than he is. We compare ourselves with others, and determine our satisfaction and non-satisfaction. We know that we are different from others but this is not what is important, we need to respect the other; we know this with our heads but it is not actualized in our daily lives.

Instead of accepting and respecting others, selfishly he considers himself different from them. When I consider that I am with the poor and do not live the poor life I am not one with them.  Joy and hope, sadness and despair when we look deeply into these feelings and are able to enter into the feelings of those without joy and hope are we not in a position to understand joy and hope, sadness and despair?

Monday, August 17, 2015

What Was Success for Jesus and Buddha?

In a pastoral bulletin for priests, the writer mentions that Buddha was seen by all as a failure living like a beggar. Do we have people becoming successful as beggars? He had the talent, intellect, and noble disposition to be a great leader, but remained a beggar.

If he attempted to be a great leader, he would have been a failure. He would not have been himself. What he learned under the Bodhi tree was genuine what he lost was  fake.

One is not able to foretell success.  There are  many conditions necessary for worldly success. Happiness, however is mainly concerned with the person. Success is something quite different:  competition is stiff, no matter how hard you try there is always someone more cunning, wiser, more violent, careful, diligent than you. Since so many conditions are necessary to become successful it is a societal phenomenon.

Real happiness is success. Buddha and Jesus talked about happiness as success. However, we strive for success. The object of many is to satisfy the ego which means success.

When people say that you have succeeded then really you have lost everything. You have lost your soul, the simplicity that would have enabled happiness to embrace one was lost, and the quiet and silence that one needed to approach God was possibly lost, and all will call you successful.... Finally you have achieved all you wanted but lost yourself in the process.

Therefore, don't aim for success. If you do you will be a failure in life. Think of the road to happiness. Every moment, think of the road to happiness. It may be that the world will call you a failure,  but you will be one who has achieved much.

Jesus said: what use is it that a person gains the whole war and loses his soul?  Who was successful Alexander the Great or Jesus, who died on a cross? Jesus died with  no one looking  upon him as being successful. He selected some followers who were country bumpkins who knew little, who abandoned  him at the end.  Jesus had no status in society, no wealth, no worldly power nothing that we would want.

He was happy, even in carrying the cross, he was happy. Those who nailed him to the cross lived longer but were not happy. Who was really nailed to the cross? Who was really nailed to the cross was it Jesus or rather was it those who nailed Jesus to the cross? That  is the question he wants to ask.

This talk was given by the Indian mystic Osho, who died in 1990 and still has a following. His talk was used in this article.  A non-Christian Indian mystic gives us a different way of looking at the life of Jesus and what success means for this Indian mystic. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ecology-- And Single Use 'Disposable' Items

Pope Francis has designated Sept. 1, as the  World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, joining the  Orthodox Church, which has had a concern for creation in their calendar, from the 80s. The Peace Weekly editorial introduces the readers to some of our ecological problems. 

In the  encyclical on the environment the pope said: "living our vocation to be protectors of God's handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience."

In inaugurating the day, the Pope said it will be a time to: "reaffirm our personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live."

We are not the top boss of creation-- God is. We  have been created to take care of God's creation and to do this with responsibility. We need a healthy moral code and ecological spirituality. The pope calls this ecological repentance, and working for the common good.

The young people in Seoul are giving us a good example of what it means to have ecological repentance. It is to change our habits  of consumption to environmentally friendly, and with an orientation to the  common good. They are cutting out single use disposable items,  and promoting the use of handkerchiefs to cut down on the use of paper towels. We should be leaders in this movement.

Seoul has a campaign to use handkerchiefs instead of paper towels or dryers, when using public toilets to conserve energy. Seoul Metropolitan Government has unplugged all hand-dryers. Using handkerchiefs instead of hand dryers or paper towels will save electricity and our forests. The editorial concludes by asking the readers to join the campaign.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Celebrating With a Sad Heart

Today is the Feast of the Assumption and National Liberation Day. Korea gained its independence from Japanese rule on August 15, 1945, and the establishment of the Republic of Korea that came three years later. Korean Catholics have a special reason for thanksgiving for liberation, but also  sadness for division that came with liberation.

Society has many reasons to celebrate on this national holiday. Many events remember their years as a colony of Japan and lack of freedom. Cardinal Yeom in his message to the church:

"For our country, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation and the division of North and South Korea. It is a painful reality that a people that speaks the same language should turn against itself for 70, long years. There have been many complications, but we never stopped our effort for reconciliation and peace. The conflict and enmity between North and South Korea still remains.

Conflict, division, hatred are rampant throughout our society. That is why we should put in more effort into the peaceful unification between North and South Korea; we should continue to work on the communication and social integration in the Korean society. As the example of Mary, we should believe strongly in the Lord and never lose our hope even in the darkest of times – for nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1:37).

Last year at this time Pope Francis was in Korea and in his sermon on the Feast spoke words that continue to reverberate within the church.

"Today, in venerating Mary, Queen of Heaven, we also turn to her as Mother of the Church in Korea. We ask her to help us to be faithful to the royal freedom we received on the day of our Baptism, to guide our efforts to transform the world in accordance with God’s plan, and to enable the Church in this country to be ever more fully a leaven of his Kingdom in the midst of Korean society. May the Christians of this nation be a generous force for spiritual renewal at every level of society. May they combat the allure of a materialism that stifles authentic spiritual and cultural values and the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife. May they also reject inhumane economic models which create new forms of poverty and marginalize workers, and the culture of death which devalues the image of God, the God of life, and violates the dignity of every man, woman and child.

As Korean Catholics, heirs to a noble tradition, you are called to cherish this legacy and transmit it to future generations. This will demand of everyone a renewed conversion to the word of God and a passionate concern for the poor, the needy and the vulnerable in our midst." 

Jesus came to begin a reversal of the way we lived. Mary in the Magnificat shows us the blue print that Jesus  inaugurated, a new Jubilee, a new beginning a new way of being human.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Catholic Spirituality

The ordinary Christian in our modern world is not interested in ascetical and mystical theology, it all sounds strange: a pre-enlightened era of our history. We are more interested in love of God and neighbor, and this is the standard.

However, Catholicism has a tradition that goes back to many of the theologians of the past who have done much to introduce us to spirituality. We are familiar with the purgative, illuminative and unitive paths-- the  ascetical would be the purgative, and the mystical the illuminative way. Another way of saying this: ascetical theology treats the ordinary way to growth in perfection while mystical theology treats  the extraordinary way.

A seminary spirituality professor in the Peace Weekly gives the readers an idea of what is involved in teaching about spirituality, its development, and in its importance.

In the early church, we had persons with a desire to be faithful to the teachings they had received,  zealously living the spiritual life, praying and meditating but a little change in their thinking in the beginning led gradually to big problems, and separation from the community of faith to which they belonged, and falling into what we called heresy. 

In the 17th century, many mystical movements in society moved the church in the following centuries in two directions. One way was to emphasize the ascetical over those who were trying to catch the clouds. The other approach was to write books  about the correct methods of spirituality in an academic manner.

One of the well-known  books on spirituality  was written by Scaramelli, (1687-1752) on systems of spirituality. He wrote many books on spirituality, which were academically written and expressed the danger of the emotions in the striving for spirituality. 

A.Poulain, (1836-1919), one of his well-known  books was:  The Graces of Interior Prayer--A treatise on mystical theology. In the introduction, he stressed he wrote the book for those who were interested in mystical theology and those who were teachers in spirituality. He tried to stay away from the subjective and to establish the theory and analyze what was happening, and contributed a great deal to the study of mystical theology. 

The authorities in the church seeing what was going on entered the picture. In 1919, Pope  Benedict 15th, and in 1931 Pope Pio 11th, both wanted the distinction between ascetical and mystical to me made, and to teach it in the colleges of the church.

In conclusion, he says this way of thinking with the ascetical and mystical spirituality gave rise to many problems not easily resolved, and gave birth to movements away from the church. Efforts were made to systematize the teaching on spirituality, which is the movement that is presently going on in the church. It is an intellectual understanding of the systems of spirituality within theology that is being developed.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Church Where the Poor Feel At Home

On the first anniversary of Pope Francis' visit to Korea, articles were written on what the church has to learn. One article in the Catholic Times refers to the Bishops' Meeting after the visit, in which the bishops published their message: "embarrassed not to have a church in which the poor feel comfortable. We have become a middle class church in which the poor are not at home."

Pope's visit was a great gift and brought much joy but his message made us bow our heads and reflect.  We as bishops, clerics, religious and  laypeople are called to evangelize and renew ourselves.

Our response has been lukewarm, hesitant and indecisive. The article was strong in its wording in calling pitiable the lay person's passiveness and stubbornness, and the dogmatism of the clergy. We think secular achievements are spreading the Gospel, we prevent the poor from finding a place within the church, formalistic and legalistic in the way we treat laypeople. We justify ourselves, and do not think it necessary to renew and change. We are not responding to the pope's message.

However, the seeds of his message have been spread and they will for sure begin to sprout. The ground work is being laid, and we are seeing signs of change. Priests are beginning to leave their individualism, and see their role within the community, and materialism and worldliness in a new light.

A group of priests in the Seoul Diocese are getting together periodically to discuss the words of the pope. In another diocese the priests have determined to listen to the wishes of the parishioners and in their general meeting to begin renewal of themselves. In another diocese the priests have decided to live a simpler life style, and help the poor.We are seeing this movement in many dioceses. This is a good sign for the church. The whole church needs to change but the efforts of the  priests will have a great influence on the rest of the church. 

Change is always difficult. The past year has not seen many results but we are beginning to see signs of change, and the hope is for the continuing renewal of all facets of life within the church.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Church Help for North Korea

The Korean Catholic Church has been helping North Korea for the last twenty years. An article in  the Peace weekly gives a summary of the help.

Father Gerald Hammond, a Maryknoll priest, secretary of the Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for National Reconciliation, has been going to North Korea with the Eugene Bell Foundation to help those with drug resistant TB. He is the local superior of the Maryknollers, 83 years old, and makes this three week trip twice a year in the spring and fall. He has made over 50 trips to the North, four priests went on this recent trip.

The article mentions 50 of the ones who were receiving help, five were cured and returned to their families, two died, and one patient had adverse effects from the medicine and had to stop. The treatment lasts for 18 months and the cost is 5,000 dollars for each patient.

Help to the North has decreased because of the sinking of the Cheonan on the 26th of March in 2010. A South Korean investigation concluded that the ship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo. Consequently, shortly after, the Korean government enacted the measure that halted all trade to the North as a penalty.

The Church has been one of big supporters of the North, sending up food and other financial aid. In 1995  because of floods and hunger, 'One Heart and One Body Movement' of the Seoul Archdiocese began  sending up financial aid, followed the year after with noodles, winter clothing, medical equipment, medicines, seeds etc..

The situation in North Korea is getting worse after each disaster. Because of drought they have had a 26 percent drop in the wheat and barley harvest, and a 24 percent drop in the  potato harvest. The United Nations (FAO) has determined North Korea is one of the 34 countries without a sufficient supply of food, and is considering support for the North.

The article concludes with mention that the measure  that stopped all government aid to the North has put a damper even in aid from non-governmental sources. It has affected the support given by the Church; after 20 years the writer admits there is fatigue that can't be overlooked. This will be a concern of the Church in the months ahead.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Proposal for Unification of the South and North

August 2015 is the 70th year of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, as well as the 70th year of division. Many are the events remembering the joy and sorrow of independence and division of the country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Korea Railroad Corporation launched the Eurasia Friendship Express railway project, which traveled close to 9,000 miles to Germany. Writing in the Peace Weekly a columnist, professor in social sciences, mentions how empty he felt when what was central was missing: because of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) the Express started from China, and the Korea travelers had to go by plane to Beijing to start the trip, and not from Seoul, Korea.

His sadness comes from this reality. Before we talk of prosperity from unification,  we have to remember we still remain with the cease fire negotiations of July 27, 1953. 'The land of the morning calm' is not calm with the North and South facing each other with armaments: after the Near East an area where we have the danger of war.Over a hundred years ago with the Sino-Japanese - the Russian-Japanese wars the Korean peninsula was far from peace, and  patriot  An Jung-keun (Thomas) was willing to give his life for peace in East Asia. His idea for peace was not a balance of powers and dependence on the powerful, but rather wanted it based on the spiritual, for even if history changes you have the vital forces of life present. He was not a nationalist but a peacemaker, working for reconciliation and collaboration between the three countries of the far East.

An's dream was to have a Pan-Asian union of the three countries of China, Japan and Korea like the European Union, long before its time. One of his unusual proposals was to have the representatives of the three countries meet the pope and to vow peace. The countries would get the trust of the world with such a gesture. It was obviously not accepted by Hirashi the chief justice of the court.

This suggestion has been proven to be effective in recent history. John Lewis Gaddis an authority on  the Cold War gives Pope John Paul some credit for the end of this history. Pope Francis also gets credit for the reconciliation of Cuba and the United States. 

North Korea is not very sympathetic to the United Nations, and it goes back to the time of the Korean War. The professor proposes a plan that is open to ridicule he knows, but the descendants of Patriot An are scattered throughout the world and are both in the South and North Korea; he is respected by both divisions of Korea. He would like them to all meet under the sponsorship of the Church and have the pope serve as the arbitrator. There is no chance of such a proposal being accepted,  but it would be the dream that  An Jung-keun had over 100 years ago.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dabbling in Communism?

Among the conservative commentators in Korea, like in the States, we have those who feel  Pope Francis is dabbling in Communism with his criticism of capitalism and what it is doing to the poor. In an article in the Now Here Catholic News Website, the issue was visited and explained to the readers by a priest sociologist.

What is being said is what the Church teaches, and it goes back to the time of the apostles. The early church was very much on the side of the poor. In the Old Testament, Sabbath day thinking, and the Jubilee were  the windows through which the  Israelites looked upon society. Jesus criticized the formalistic way in which the Sabbath was accepted and the way the poor were oppressed. Sabbath was for the people and not people for the Sabbath.
Not only did the Jews have the Sabbath but also every 7th year all the land would be given a chance to rest--not only persons but animals and all of creation. And every 7th Sabbath you had the Jubilee year in which all would return to the default situation  when the land was first distributed among the twelve tribes. Slaves were freed, debts were absolved and they returned to a condition they experienced 50 years previous -- Israelites were given a new start.

Wealthy people  were able to determine the culture of the times but the Jubilee Year was the way injustices of one generation would not be passed on to the next.  Jesus at the beginning of his public life proclaimed this Jubilee Year as the blue print for his teaching. No longer something you had to wait for every 50 years, but the way he wanted to function in society and desired his Church to continue-- one of the reasons established society hated Jesus, and wanted to get rid of him.

Sabbath, Sabbatical year and the Jubilee were the ways God wanted to return to the time of creation, a new recovery from the corruptions of the day to a just society. This was Jesus' mission and  his message. Pope Francis' message is also the same. Poverty and inequality in society are not coming from economics in itself, but from the system and laws made by the elite of society. Law of the Sabbath turns this upside down. Regulations of the Sabbath, and the Jubilee Year shows us how God gives freely of the gifts for our good in making for a just, harmonious and a society of mutual support.

"The precepts of the sabbatical and jubilee years constitute a kind of social doctrine in miniature. They show how the principles of justice and social solidarity are inspired by the gratuitousness of the salvific event wrought by God, and that they do not have a merely corrective value for practices dominated by selfish interests and objectives, but must rather become, as a prophecy of the future, the normative points of reference to which every generation in Israel must conform if it wishes to be faithful to its God (#25, Compendium of the  Social Doctrine of the Church).