Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dilemma Faced by the Church

Money gives power; it can give life and take it away:  dangerous, but there are few who dislike its possession; we give our full attention to its search. In a capitalistic society, this is easy to understand. 

These are the introductory remarks in an article in the Peace Weekly about money. Without money, life can be shabby and uncomfortable. In a capitalistic society, poverty is looked upon as a sin but money can end up being the master and we its slave.

In the church, money is also important. There are all kinds of reasons  we give money to the church. Many are the names we use for the different offerings: asking for blessings, in thanksgiving for blessings received. Since the Christian community is composed of  human beings, there is a need for money. Not only the need for running and maintenance of facilities but also planning for the future. Money is needed for many reasons, a natural outcome of a community's need to help others. How it is raised is  important.

Many dioceses, religious orders, and groups need money to  continue  their apostolic works. Many of their programs also bring in money. They are a means of income: schools, hospitals, and welfare works. Many others do  the same work as the church in society, but the  church has a different value system, and has to be careful not to imitate what we have in society.  

To prevent this from  happening the church has to be alert to the dangers we have in following the methods of the capitalistic system. We need to  follow our principles, and our traditional attitudes  must be clear. In hospital work the need is to help the sick. We do have simple hospital facilities that are only concerned for the sick and poor, but they are few.

Many of our hospitals are large, and the numbers continue to grow. They are getting larger, and the columnist wonders whether they are mirroring the Catholic method of what care for the sick should mean. There are many reasons for the problem, and one of them is the need for money to exist. The competition among the hospitals is intense, and the fear of  falling  behind is present, but here the columnist has a problem: why the fear?

Since the way of the world is to make money  the  church should especially be conscious of this reality and operate differently. People have to come first before  the money, and to keep  in mind the gospel message. This is not always an easy task but one  that is required by the calling we have received.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"Wonderful, Happy, Thankful"

In a column in the Peace Weekly, the writer introduces us to a study that was made in 1932 of 180 nuns who wrote about their spiritual life. 70 years later, psychologists went through the written autobiographies and examined them to see how many times the words: wonderful, happy, moving, joyous, thankful, and the  like were used.

Those who were in the top 20 percent  in the use of these words, 90% of them lived over the age of 85. The lower 20% who had the least use of these  words only 34% lived over 85. There are other issues that are involved  in such a study but for those who made the study, it was indicative that  positive thinking  has an influence on longevity.

Positive thinking is a healthy way of living, needs little help from science, for most have an intuitive feeling of its wisdom. She mentions very few are able to keep a strong disposition in a long illness, but words can help someone bear up under the difficulties.

The columnist mentions that we are called Homo Narrans. Over and beyond our thinking, we have the ability to store in our heads and express in story form narratives that are welcomed by others and that  fosters communication, a quality society esteems highly. We feel that if we do our best and even keep silent we will have a meeting of hearts, which is not the case. If we don't express ourselves, sincerity will not be conveyed.

No matter, what the past was we should pick out some positive words and express them. However, she mentions that if we are too excessively attached to that positive mind, we will fall into the trap of having a  people pleaser complex. When not authentic our attempts to be charitable backfire, for words that do not come from the heart are often empty.

She goes on to show that  this is noticed in her radio work where you hear only words; insincerity is quickly noticed and you lose listeners.

We often hear about the glass-is-half-full person and the half-empty person. There is something that  is being expressed by these words, and it may be the wise person who sees the entire glass but is not elated or depressed by either half, and accepts it as reality and gives thanks. This is also being positive when we choose to see reality as is and make the most of it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Internet Games and Children

Parents over 40, in raising children what did they fear the most? Is it the years of puberty or the times children  refused to talk and locked themselves in their rooms? Also, few are the parents who don't worry about the use of games.

The number of children overcome with lethargy, and are lost in their own world and refuse to grow are larger than we think. With these questions an educator, in the Kyeongyang magazine, writes about the place of internet games in our society.

There are many children who listen to lectures on the internet, but she asks parents, do they ever look at the monitor? Very often they will be playing some game. To prevent this from happening parents will do many things such as removing the bolt on the door.

Movements within society are trying to stop the use of games from midnight to early morning and the children are not happy. Some  mothers when they see the child using the computer, their blood pressure increases. Even when the child has done all the homework,  some parents are not happy and want them to return to the books.

Many things have changed, but for most  parents of children, one thing that has not changed is when the children are playing computer games they are considered addicted. 

We are all attracted to games. Recently the Dragon Flight game  was spreading like wildfire. Have you heard about it? She reminds us that about 25 % of the world population enjoys playing  games. She asks the parents how long will they be tied to an obsolete way of thinking? She gives us the Korean proverb that you don't give up making some food because of the fear you may find a worm.

We have programs for game literacy for parents by the education ministry.The fact is that most children are attracted to games. Rather than say they are addicted and seeing it all negatively, try to  make good use of the games for educational purposes.

In fact, excessive use of games does foster obesity, depression, digital dementia (overuse of digital technology is resulting in the breakdown of cognitive abilities) and games that use violence do promote violent actions. However, she maintains, using the games properly can help a person to succeed in life.

One of the best results is when persons are absorbed in some pursuit which they enjoy, dopamine is released in the brain, and you feel elated, and memory is enhanced. They also present a challenge to the  person on how to accomplish the task at hand.

However the question remains that we don't  want the children to just play games. She agrees, but she wants the parents to know why a child gets addicted to games. A child with a low estimation of self can  find satisfaction in getting recognized by the results of his gaming. Children who have difficulty in relating with others also can identify with the characters of the virtual world they have entered. Children with stress find the release of stress life giving.

She tells the parents to get to know the strong points of their children and help them to find release in other ways. We should be more concerned  for the place gaming has in our culture than the danger of addiction to games.  Today without  knowledge of gaming one will not be at home in our culture. She concludes, one can not be just opposed to gaming for it has become a skill of our times.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Marriage and the Family on Chuseok

According to the lunar calendar,  today is the Mid-Autumn Festival Day, celebrated in many of the Asian Countries. In Korea, it is called the Harvest Festival (Chuseok),  and Great Middle of Autumn Festival (Hangawi). Celebrated on the 15th day of the lunar calendar. We have three red-letter  days, which gives many families a chance to spend time with their extended  family. Both Korean Catholic Weeklies gave space to the holiday.
Today families remember the past. In the morning, they will have the rites in the home, in which they remember the dead ancestors. The Catholic Church at one time  opposed the rites because of the mixture of superstitious elements within the rites, but with the passage of time and the education level  of the people changing, the rites were recognized as a civil practice, and encouraged by the Church. 

Most citizens  continue this practice, but most  Protestants do not. The remembrance of the dead is a beautiful practice which Catholicism has incorporated into the liturgy on Chuseok with a short version of the office of the dead during the Mass. Koreans would also go to the graves to cut the grass and beautify the burial sites, during the days preceding or shortly after.

During this time of the year cities will be empty for families will return to their hometowns for family reunions, enjoy their time together, and perform the family rites. Thanksgiving for the new harvest and the bonds of family make it the Asian Thanksgiving Day. 

For many in Korea, they are facing an economic slump which will bring a chillness to the festivities of the holidays. This Sunday is also the last one for the month of the martyrs.

Shortly after the holidays we will have the bishops'  synod on the family, and the examination of the  problems families face. The extreme individualism and materialism continue to inundate society with deleterious results on the family: not something new but a challenge to the Church.  

Korea has one of the highest divorce rates of the member countries in OECD. From an agrarian society where the family bonds were important, we have moved to a society in which the  young people have accepted the individualism from the West. The  editorial wonders what the Autumn festival will look like in the future when the young become the corner stone of society. 

No matter how much society changes family needs to remain at the center. At this time of the year, we need to remind ourselves of this reality. God is with us, and we have to do what is necessary to make the bonds of family stronger in the years ahead.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Democracy and the Common Good

We hear many words about democracy, begins the column in the Catholic Times, by a priest working in the labor apostolate. For some democracy is too much talk, and only brings division, some see it as a return to a dictatorship, and some find it as no big deal. All living in the same county and with the same system of government, and yet we have this difference of opinion on the same subject.
There are few  words that have such a difference of opinion. The way we understand democracy is going to determine very clearly  the degree of maturity and level of implementation. Our standard of democracy is going to be different in Germany than in Korea. Generally speaking, we  say a democracy is one vote per person, at regular times, for parties that discuss and debate among  themselves and the opposition looking for the best way to govern a country, and citizens  voting for the party and candidates they prefer. With  this understanding of democracy than Korea is a democracy, but this is why we hear the citizens' lives are not improved by this system of government.

Tocqueville the French political thinker, and philosopher  said it was not the voting  procedure that was important but the conditions in society. The means of voting is not central to a democracy but rather the intelligence, virtue, and culture in which the voting is done. For this reason, the democracy of Germany and the European countries would be different from Korea. 

Catholic teaching as found in the compendium of the Social Gospel would say the same. "An authentic democracy is not merely the result of a formal observation of a set of rules but is the fruit of a convinced acceptance of the values that inspire democratic procedures: the dignity of every human person, the respect of human rights, commitment to the common good as the purpose and guiding criterion for political life. If there is no consensus  on these values, the deepest meaning of democracy is lost and its stability is compromised" (#407). 

Democracy goes beyond the system and procedures and considers the dignity of the person, human rights, and efforts made for the common good. The Second Vatican Council stressed the reason for the existence of a country was for the common good, and we can evaluate  the  degree in which this is accomplished by the concern for the common people.

Looking at the 10 biggest conglomerates for the last ten years we see that the money in their possession has increased over twofold, and yet the number of the poor that are able to leave their poverty continues to decrease. No matter how hard they work they find it difficult to make ends meet. Korea in the polarization between the 'haves' and 'have nots' is comparable to Mexico, and the number in poverty would be similar to Turkey.

These statistics show  that the common good has not always been considered in  governing  the country. A sign, the columnist concludes, that democracy has not been effective. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

We Freely Become Slaves

Temptations are a part of life. A seminary professor in the Kyeongyang magazine introduces us to fetishism: excessive attention or attachment to some object, and for him this makes you a slave of that object. He very astutely uses the word slave in Korean which is made up of two syllables 'No' and 'Yeh' (noyeh). A slave, according to the professor,  is one who when he should say no says yes.

In this case, you are acknowledging the control over oneself of something outside, external to oneself,  which makes you a slave. He mentions three reasons for the slavery: attachment to material goods, sexuality and greed and the antidotes are the evangelical counsels: poverty, chastity and obedience. God is the ultimate  meaning of the counsels.  According to the columnist, the strongest of these is our attraction to the material, and when this is the object of our worship, it becomes our fetish.

When Israel left Egypt and were in the desert, they were fed up with the manna they were receiving daily, and wanted to return to slavery and a decent meal. They also wanted something that was more material to express their worship, and made the image of a calf: another throwback to what they possessed when slaves in Egypt.

We have evolved in our day.  We camouflage our thinking:  living well is another way of saying we have money. Excessive  accumulation of material goods is something that we envy and consuming becomes a virtue. Instead of paying attention to the words of Jesus and the apostles we go to the early years of the Scripture where we see the blessings of material goods and possessions, and forget that  "Jesus had  no place to lay his head."

Even tithing is often considered a way of getting more blessings instead of a way of sharing and becomes an investment in future blessings. We see this method of thinking in the story of St. Nicholas in his sharing, and  St.Nicholas (Santa Claus) becomes an idol to promote consumption.

"One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols" #55 of Pope Francis in Joy of the Gospel.

From the beginning of Christianity, there has been no time where wealth has been exalted like the present. We have become slaves of money. We forget persons are what are important, and that politics, economy, society and culture all exist in our environment. Doing harm to the environment is not benefiting us in the long run and will come back to harm us in the future. Creation is God's gift to us, and we need to care for it. When material goods do harm to our environment we  need to learn how to say "No"  when  a "No" is our only answer if we want to be free and caretakers of creation.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hope and Potential of Our Youth

Many are the signs of a society that is far from healthy. One of the columnists on the education page of the Peace Weekly paints a bleak picture of the kind of persons we find in society. From an early age, we see young people with abnormal mental traits with which they have to struggle. In many, feelings of lethargy in an uneasy society, confusion about identity, extreme lack of self-worth, social awkwardness, selfishness,  greed, no concern for the virtues, frequent violence against the body, lack of communication, addicted to the material, and a paralysis in the emotional life. 

Some of these traits we see in the adult society in which we live, among our leaders and the famous: maintaining one's image, searching for power, wealth and fame.  Many are addicted to drugs, liquor,  eating disorders, killing the person they are, with cosmetic surgery, to resemble the stars. We have the government, federations,  education and leaders in religion who don't see how our environment makes our life possible, and we remain as children.

Men dream of success, and women for the ideal male hero with whom they can spend the rest of their lives. Women also dream of the woman hero, corresponding to men's ambition. We are like people lost in the wilderness not knowing where to go. We wait for God or some magic being to save us.

Westernization of our society has introduced us to sexual maturity, independence, individual fulfillment. We have no inkling on how to discover the spirit and the larger world of nature beyond the self. A few centuries ago, we got rid of the vitality in our lives by our traditional rites of passage, and considered our inner life like so many skins that we could throw off. Today we see what this has done to our young people in the culture we have given birth.

A healthy childhood requires roots in nature and family and  in much of our culture, we find this missing. The young have become sexual objects.  We are failing in the formation of queenly like women,  and instead  from an early age, we celebrate beauty pageants. 

However, if the youth with an understanding of   mental and spiritual  adventure: remember why they were  born, what gifts they have to give to the world, and the sanctity that rests within, they will know the road that is laid out before them. Characteristics of hope and potentiality will do much to integrate the culture with our natural environment and be a beacon to all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

All Are VIPs

There are many events in which no invitations are received but people attend. Writing in the Peace Weekly a columnist  mentions a recent event in which lay people were outside the church in the hot sun, and remained there during a sudden down pour in which they were soaked, but  remained silent and in place, thankful for the relief. Most of them were elderly.

There should be no discrimination for those attending the table of the Lord but at these big events those who are invited are the 'somebodies' in society. Those who have nothing but their faith find it difficult to enter the door.

Last year after the visit of the pope to Korea everybody in the Church were using the words: 'solidarity with the poor'. These words signify our  concern for the poor. We are concerned with the weak outside the church but we forget the weak, the 'nobodies' within the church.

For many Christians the threshold of the church is still too high. When  a parishioner comes to the parish office often they are asked: Where are they from? what parish area, have they talked to the district leader, have they made an appointment with the priest, are some of the  questions by which they are greeted. Those who would like to have some time in the confessional to speak find it difficult, and those who are handicapped have to size up the situation every time they attend Mass.

Why is this the case? The columnist feels the  customs have hardened, centered around the clergy and religious. " We have always done it this way."  Group lay leaders accepted this kind of thinking, which  makes it difficult for the  ordinary person to be comfortable within the community.

We have in Luke 6:32, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them." Could it be that those who are no longer coming out to church found a parish atmosphere which did not  permit them to ask priests, religious and lay leaders to share a little bit of their love?

Pope Francis makes it a point to accept warmly all those he meets which is the reason for his popularity. He welcomes all the weak to center stage, and this sincerity is seen which comes from mercy based on humility, and the  reason for his  concern for others. With a little bit of warmth from the priest, a word of greeting, a handshake, can bring about great change.   

At the last Mass in Korea, Pope Francis was in a sense inviting all those who were the weak of the country as special guests to the front rows, and our columnist would like that to be the case in all our Masses. Clergy need to have this understanding of their pastoral role and have this pastoral discernment when relating  with the community.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

God's Love Changed Us

The story of a baseball player, Tim Burke, who retired from baseball to be with his family, made the Korean Internet and was used as an article in the bulletin for priests. He retired from baseball at the age of 34,  well before the need to retire, giving up a salary of over 2 million dollars to be with his wife, and adopted children who were all in some way handicapped.
He played for the New York Mets as pitcher, and left baseball very quietly to be with his wife and five handicapped children. His eldest daughter, Stephanie, was born prematurely in Korea with a hole in her heart and was rejected by her parents. He took care of the operation that was necessary and adopted the child.

The second child was from Guatemala, Ryan, who had a thyroid problem and mental illness. The third child, Nicole, also was  born in Korea  without a left hand, had a heart problem, and epilepsy with repeated seizures each day, and was abandoned by the parents. They heard about the child and adopted her. The fourth child, Wayne, had an impaired leg, a Vietnamese child, who was abandoned by the parents. The fifth child is a girl born in Guatemala like Ryan. She had a cleft lip and after adopting the child had the necessary operation. In order to adopt more children, they have built a house with nine rooms. 

The reason for leaving base ball was the child Nicole. She was in the hospital at that time for treatment of  her  heart condition. Tim  received notice of his trade to the New York Mets from the Montreal Expos while in the hospital. It was this incident when he had to walk away from his daughter before undergoing open-heart surgery that decided his future.He realized that his place was not in the ball park but to be with his wife and children. The family was more important to him than the  cheers of the fans, popularity, money and baseball itself.

He told the journalists who came to interview him: "baseball will continue very well without me but my children need a father. I am the only one that can do that." His wife who was beside him also spoke to the journalists.

"Our children were not wanted. Someone has to care for them. We are able to do that with a warm heart. We helped  change the future of these children. Without help, these children would have died. We also have been changed by our children. These children have learned from us gratitude and happiness and we all by overcoming our difficulties realize what it means to be a Christian."

Monday, September 21, 2015

Women,Church and Jesus

A religious sister writing in the diocesan bulletin recalls the great strides Korea has made in the last 50 years, and  the growth of the Church in Korea with over 10 percent of the population Catholic. This reality is envied by the  Church of the West for the dynamism and progressiveness of the Korean church--the number of women, according to recent statistics, numbers 58.2 percent within the Church.

However, with the economic growth of the country after 1990, interest in religion and the zeal of the Christians has decreased. With the economic improvements, the democratization of the country  and the entrance of women into the work force we are experiencing  the problems the Church in the West experienced after the Second Vatican Council.

The church is concerned with the poor, the weak, the abuses of nature and the oppression under patriarchal thinking that women have endured. We need to return to the original beginnings of creation when all was in the correct order. For the Church to respond to this call we have to change the structures of injustices, and distance ourselves from them with counter proposals.

" Each one of you is a son of God because of your faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with him.  There does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or freeman, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal.3: 26-28).

Equality was a hallmark of the first communities, all worked for the building up of God's kingdom according to their ability. We are all members of the body of Christ, this  is our mission  and we listen to  Jesus on how to do it.

There are many in the Church, especially women who see the discrimination within the Church and are dissatisfied  but they don't want to speak about it for fear they will be a headache to others. This fear of bringing up the subject is one of the customs we face. The reason we don't see any change is that we are afraid of conflict, but without it how can we  change?

Women have  to get involved. In decision making in  parishes and meetings, women's voices need to be heard. In parish events we can have the women and the men take turns preparing. We have to start in small things in breaking down the stereotyped thinking that we have. This will make for a more vibrant and active community.

The society in which we live has many problems. We  are  God's children; men and women need to pool  resources, share and cooperate  to make one living community. Together as equals we can do much to heal the problems we have in creation. This common vision of equality, sister concludes, is necessary for  a correct order in all of creation.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Misunderstaning Our Mission As Christians

A recent survey of 1000 citizens from high school up to those in their 50s on the degree of heat in their hearts, was publicized in the Korean press-- understood as psychological warmth or hope in the future. The average response was 14 degrees below zero. Fourth-year college student response was the lowest at 24.2 degrees below zero. Difficulty in finding work, and the competitive society in which they live was the reason.

Today in Korea, we celebrate the feast day of 103 martyrs: Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon,  Paul Chong Hasan and Companions. In Korea, we no longer have the fear of the knife and torture in practicing our faith life, but the coldness of our hearts does prevent many of us from finding joy in life and wanting to extend this joy to others. Not only in Korea but in many parts of the world,  the numbers  leaving the community of faith continue to increase, and without any external force, no knives and no torture;  subtly and not so subtly,  the influence of society continues to work very gradually on the thinking and feelings of many of this generation.

The readings for the Feast present us with a number of issues we may tend to forget: reasons we are followers of Jesus. We are reminded often that to become a Christian for what we will receive is not the way it is presented to us by Jesus. We are told in today's Gospel, Luke 9:23, the first step is to forget our-self, second, to carry the cross daily, and thirdly to follow Jesus: clear and precise explanation of the mission we have been given. Looking over the examples of those who followed Jesus to the cross we are given the other very necessary requirement.

At the cross those who were looking for some material recompense for their devotion to Jesus were no longer with him when he needed them most. Those who were present were the women who were not following Jesus for any earthly rewards, expecting a place in his cabinet in the earthly kingdom,  as did the apostles. They accepted his love and that was sufficient, and helped him with their funds. The only other one present, of his inner circle,  was the one who accepted Jesus's love. All of us who feel the love of God in our lives are present there at the cross with the beloved disciple.

Those who do not experience this Love  are at a great disadvantage  and why that should be the case certainly has something to do with our environment  and those with whom we associate. God's love is a given, and we are programmed to receive.  According to the survey  at the beginning of this article when one is cold one looks for heat and when it is the psychic and the spirit that is cold it is a different type of warmth  needed. The recompense is there, but we  have to remember it is a by-product and not the direct results of our actions: a distinction with great meaning.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Can North and South Korea Live in Harmony?

We all wonder what the chances are for unification of the country. 70 years have passed, and we are no closer to a meeting of minds or seeking opportunities to talk. In the Catholic Times, a columnist who writes about  reconciliation of the country asks is it possible.

She introduces us to one of her relatives who she admires a great deal and with whom she can  speak without reservations on any topic. The person is very sensitive to abuses in society, and doesn't hesitate to talk about the injustices that abound. This quality in her relationship has always attracted her. However, recently, the person said something to her that was very much unlike what she  understood the person to be. "I am not looking forward to unification" she remarked. The columnist hearing these words were like getting punched in the stomach. She has never talked about unification with the person which was a reason for surprise and disappointment. 
Her relative  was in the early forties and the reason given for the  opinion: no knowledge of those in the North. "I don't know people in the North and consequently, to live in harmony with them will not be  easy.  It will double and triple the conflicts  we have in society and divide the country more than it is at present." Contact with the refugees in the South from the North is well known; many are not interested in getting to know them. Her relative confessed (?) that she understands  with her head the refugees from the North, but she is not inclined in her heart to get close to them.

The columnist respected the honesty and courage with which her relative  approached the subject of  North and South; it did not in any way diminish the respect she had for the relative. This way of thinking is well-known in the South. "Unification must be realized" all subscribe to this but when they reflect on the reality many express serious concerns: economic difficulties and culturally the country will be in chaos and unstable.

In the beginning, we saw the  open hand and warm greeting, compassion, curiosity, words of encouragement  but with the increase of numbers and hearing about some of the shameful things done, many began to  distance themselves from the refugees. Those from the North also do not know the ways of the South, and  wonder whether they will be able to live in harmony together.

Both sides have the same worry. With unification will we have harmony? Will it not be wise then to get rid of all our worries anticipating reunion? Is it not necessary to understand that with 70 years of separation the North will  be different from the South?  We need to accept these differences of the North and see them in a positive way. We have to change our thinking and not see what is different as wrong.  We need to rid ourselves of our feelings of superiority, and  see the North  as our brothers and sisters and start making efforts to know them.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Living with the Martyrs' Mentality

Korea is a country considered to be in the top ten of unbelieving countries. Irreligious, atheistic, unbelieving are all ways surveys describe the situation. Citizens have different understanding of these words, and you see the contradiction when you have a Buddhist or Christian say they are non-religious or even atheists.

Korea, according to the census of 2005: Buddhist number 22.8%, Protestant 18.3% and Roman Catholic 10.9 percent. Korea has no majority religious group but the figure of the unbelieving usually is put at over 50 percent. Our president considers herself an atheist with connections to Buddhism and Catholicism.

Korea is very respectful of religious beliefs even more so than the United States. A Pew Report on the recent visit of Pope Francis to Korea had over 86 percent of the citizens with a favorable opinion of the pope higher than the States, and even higher than the opinion of U.S Catholics towards the pope.

An article in the Peace Weekly reminds us of the influence that Korea has received from the different insights present in distinct  times in her history. In ancient times, we had shamanistic practices, totemism, animism and similar nature worship.  During the Goryeo years (918-1392), Buddhism, the  State Religion, influenced society. Confucianism  was the pillar of society during the Joseon Dynasty which began in 1392 and ended with the  Japanese occupation of Korean in 1910, and continues to shape society. Today Korea is a show case for almost all the religions of the world.

It is not difficult to  understand why unbelievers, atheists and agnostics continue to increase. Religion's values continue to be attacked, and with the multiplicity of religious views, often in opposition to one another, one can easily doubt the value of religion. We have the appearance of new religions, and anti-Christian values continue to spread. The columnist sees the need for a martyr's mentality to overcome the difficulties.

We no longer in Korea  have to face death to remain a Christian, and in reality it takes a great deal less for members of the community to abandon what they thought at one time was important. Over 80 percent  freely choose after baptism to  abandon the community they once accepted as precious.

The columnist tells us that this is true in his diocese as it is in the country as a whole. The reasons are many and  he wants the Christians to see it as  harassment to their faith life: lack of trust in community, bad examples, clericalism, the duties of a busy life, temptations that militate against a life of faith, and the search for pleasures. These and many other reasons  move us to jettison what we don't see for what we do, and in the process fail to live in the way programmed by the Creator, which is to live with joy. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Going from the Industrial Age to the Ecological Age

We, who are living in the industrial age of the 21st century, can look back on the infant, child and adolescent stages and in this last stage, we see an  interest in our natural environment, and its attraction, but it was minimized or ignored by many. This is the way the columnist in the Peace Weekly begins his column on  ecological spirituality. 

Balance was lost and we had various pathological aspects of growth: materialism, greed, hostility, extreme competition, spotted with violence: followed with racial, gender and elderly prejudice giving birth to many aberrations.
The development of this industrialism throughout the world gave growth to morbid symptoms of self- aggrandizement.  Even though we have many millions living in dire poverty, we still elect those with these aspirations to run our government. Any alternative proposals are shot down. Programs for growth in maturity are difficult to implement. Many promoting interest on the environment  have discontinued their efforts. Industrialization restrains the ecological dimension and extends consumerism and puts controls over the spirit, which gives rise to more immature citizens.

When our social attitude is such that we disregard a person's true nature this is an obstacle to our human growth. We have to realize what living with nature will do  for us in comparison to what industrialization has given us.  

Two authors and authorities in this field have given us three steps to follow to  achieve this change within our society. Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown have listed three steps as follows: first, actions that will slow down the damage that is being done to the earth and humans. Participating in blockades, boycotts, civil legal suits, and refusal to go along with proposals that are harmful to nature and work to change laws, work politically, and work in campaigns.

Secondly, analyze the structural causes and create alternatives. We have to make a change and free ourselves from the damage being inflicted on us by the industrial society in which we live. We have to see what the industrial society is doing to us and the way it tempts us and prevents us to grow spiritually. We have to prepare alternatives to the way things are being done.

Thirdly, we need a shift in the way we see society and their values. We have to understand what we want and how to get it. It is not demanding we become supermen, but people with a vision.

We have to  become citizens of the world. Our identity and values have to gradually correspond to this new reality. This will require, the columnist concludes, preparing for the future now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Change in Perspective for Ecological Maturity

We are living in an industrial age, says the priest columnist in the Peace Weekly, and can look back on the infant, child and adolescent stages of growth. In this last stage, many show an interest in our natural environment and are attracted, but the opposing voices  minimize and ignore the issue. Balance was lost, and we have regression in the adolescent state  and the appearance of pathological aspects of growth:  materialism,  greed, hostility, extreme competition, spotted with violence: followed with racial, gender and elderly prejudice, giving  birth to many aberrations. 

We see the development of this industrialism  throughout the world and the growth of morbid symptoms of self-aggrandizement. And yet with  millions living in dire poverty, we  still put those with these aspirations in places to run our government.  Any alternative proposals are shot down; programs for growth in maturity are difficult to implement.  Many who have been promoting the interest in ecology have stopped their efforts. Industrialization restrains the ecological dimension, and extends consumerism, and  puts controls on the spirit; which gives rise to more immature citizens. 

When our social attitude is such that we disregard a person's true nature this is an obstacle to our human growth, and we approach tragedy. We need to realize what living with nature will do  for us in comparison to  what industrialization has given us.

Two authors and authorities in this field have given us  three steps to follow to  achieve this change within our society. Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown have listed the three steps as follows: First, actions that will slow down the damage being done to the earth and humans. Participating in blockades, boycotts, civil legal suits, and refusal to go along with proposals that are harmful to nature and our environment, and work to change laws, work politically, and work in campaigns.

Secondly: analyze the structural causes and create alternatives. We have to make a change and free ourselves from the damage being inflicted on us by the industrial society in which we live. We have to see what the industrial society is doing to us and society; see the way it tempts us and prevents us from progressing. We have to prepare alternatives to the way things are done.

Thirdly: we need a shift on the way we see society and values. We have to understand what we want and how to get it. It is not demanding that we become supermen, but people with vision.

We have to see ourselves as mature citizens of the world. Our identity, the columnist concludes, and our central values have to correspond to this reality. If we are to be  persons of the future we need to  start now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

When the Whole World is a Foreign Land

The recent squabble between the North and  South Korea has  disappeared  from the news, and we are waiting for the full moon that will usher in the  Harvest Moon Festival (Chuseok)  a cherished holiday in which Koreans  give thanks for their crops, pay homage to their ancestors, and celebrate family ties. The three day holiday, for family members who have moved away, means for many a visit to the homestead.

A columnist in the Peace Weekly wants us to  reflect on the holiday, and our life as travelers. In a recent survey made by one of the papers, they reported  that of 1000 citizens over 19 years old:  36.9% had plans to visit with family, 18.1 % would be working, 7.2% would be traveling,  37.8 had  no plans or had other choices. More would not be going to the  homestead than would, and many of these would not be going for reasons out of their control.

Separated families in the South because of the war or refugees from the North will be grieving for the conditions that prevent contact with family. Also we have the 'losers' in society, those without a job who find going back to the homestead difficult.  On this holiday they feel very small and seek to hide.

Hugh of Saint Victor (c. 1096-1141) a monk who left us some memorable words on one's home town."The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land." Those who consider every place they find themselves as home is a  victor according to the monk.

These words can be applied to a person or society. Love for  family and friends is very natural, those who extend that love to the unknown are strong and admirable, making  for a mature, firm  society. We go beyond the relational family and friend connection with solidarity with all, and overcome the win/lose of the market thinking with the making of friends:  "whenever you did this to one of the least you did it to me." The words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40.

If we think deeply we realize that no one returns to his hometown. Everything is always changing. What we thought was our homestead is no longer what it was but something foreign, the whole world becomes  a foreign land it is then we become a mature world citizen. We are on pilgrimage and when we make others feel  comfortable we are true pilgrims.

Chuseok whether we go to our homesteads or not,  when I look  up at the full moon I realize that we are all pilgrim wanderers,  and when we go out to those without a home we are going back to our place of birth. Isn't  this a good way to spend our Chuseok?

Monday, September 14, 2015

'A Pep Talk for Young People'

A Korean celebrity  at a Talk Concert  for about  400 young people in the Seoul Diocese, spent over two hours in a witty dialog with them on their religious beliefs and studies. He  took questions asked by the group in handwritten messages to the speaker. Both Catholic papers wrote  an article on the gathering.

The celebrity in his presentation was greeted with interest, seriousness, laughter, hope and consolation. He treated  many kind's of questions: becoming Catholic, difficulties they meet, problems when their religious beliefs clash with the values of society,  meaning of a faith life, dealing with Protestant friends who look down on their religious beliefs etc..

One young man baptized last year was asked why he became a Catholic. He gave three reasons for entering the Church: greatly impressed by Pope Francis in his trip to Korea,  felt the motherliness  of the Blessed Mother and wanted to imitate,  even in a little way, the spirit of Jesus.

To the question what is a Christian faith life: believing in Jesus, daily present to us, and  continually asking him questions was his answer. In the way that God's creation gives witness to God we are to give witness to our Creator.

He told the young people our 60-70 year old citizens feel great pride in giving the country the economic growth. The 40-50 age group are proud of the work for Korean democratization but the 10-30 group have nothing in which they can take credit. He wants them to be the generation who helped bring about the unification of the country. Not having any overall blueprint for life is a reason for some of the young people's unrest, he reminds them.

Many questions we have in life, said the entertainer,  are the ones that leave us breathless, frustrated. He has no answers, but wants his listeners to keep on asking Jesus until he comes down from his cross. 

'Young people enjoy life and remember your Creator' was the theme of the gathering. "Rejoice, young man, in your youth and may your heart give you joy when you are young, follow your desires and achieve your ambitions but recall that God will take account of all you do. Drive sorrow from your heart and pain from your flesh, for youth and dark hair will not last.  Be mindful of your Creator...." (Ecclesiastes 11: 9-)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What the Korean Martyrs Teach the Church

We hear a lot about religious and clerics and their love for others but last year in August, we had the beatification of 124,  and only one was a  priest; the rest were lay people--Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 companions.  A  Catholic Times' column recounts the lessons we learn from those early martyrs.

Our times are different; these martyrs practiced their faith in their society and gave witness to Jesus' love. We have many examples of how they lived the social Gospel. Hwang Il kwang  (1757-1802) was one of those martyrs from the lowest class within the Joseon society who was moved greatly by the social equality and freedom in the new community he joined. He could sit in the same group of Christians and talk about Jesus at a time in which this was not cultural habit. Simon was moved by the noble class's treatment of him and is quoted as saying: "There is not only a heaven after this earthly life but we have heaven here and now."

Blessed Son Kyung-yeun, Gervasio, Korean martyr, in order to help the Christians bought a large house; in the front of the house, he made it into a tavern; inside was a gathering place for the Christians. Gervasio knew the reason for the use of money. The inside and outside were different; our exterior and interior are not as altruistic.

Blessed Chon Suk and Kwan Chon-rye knew the preciousness of life, and in the world of today where the meaning of sex has disappeared, they as a virgin married couple showed the Christians the deep meaning of love. People of faith know that without our giving of ourselves, all our actions  become lifeless, self-centered. 

September is  the month of the martyrs. A month in which we realize there is something more important than life. They fought against what they found in society that was not just, with their lives. They fought against a way of thinking with another, armed only with the teachings of Jesus. 

"The example of the martyrs also teaches us the importance of charity in the life of faith.  It was the purity of their witness to Christ, expressed in an acceptance of the equal dignity of all the baptized, which led them to a form of fraternal life that challenged the rigid social structures of their day.  It was their refusal to separate the twin commandment of love of God and love of neighbor, which impelled them to such great solicitude for the needs of the brethren.  Their example has much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing; where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded; and where Christ continues to call out to us, asking us to love and serve him by tending to our brothers and sisters in need." These words are from the sermon of Pope Francis at the Beatification on August 16, 2014.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

'Eucharist Has Zero Calories'

On the spiritual page of the Catholic Times, the columnist tells us about a professor, he and many others admired. He  was a respected teacher within the church who was fighting a number of diseases;  one of the them was diabetes and was doing it for thirty years and joyfully.

Exercise, and control over his eating, was always done carefully; on a work trip, he would check his blood sugar. On trips with the columnist, he would come to his room and ask to check the columnist's  blood sugar.

He would  habitually  check  the amount of food he ate: the  calories in each meal. If you were beside him, you would hear him give each food the number of calories.  On one occasion the columnist hearing the counting  of the calories and the number given to one particular food, said to the professor: "Hey, that couldn't have that many calories!" He was right on;  out of curiosity, the columnist did his checking, and his count was accurate.

On  one occasion at a meeting with the professor, there was a table set up for snacks. As in the past each plate was given the amount of calories, and he  ate accordingly. One of the dishes was cups of noodles. This would have exceeded his caloric intake on that day, and he passed it up. After the snack and a period of rest, they  headed for the area for the liturgy of the Mass. One of the study group members asked the professor how many calories in the Eucharist.
The question came from one who hadn't been baptized very long and  left the columnist  with a strange feeling. He must have heard all the talk of bread from heaven, and  the bread of life and wanted to satisfy his curiosity.

The professor answered: "Eucharist has zero calories." These words were greeted with a period of silence and the nodding of heads in agreement. The columnist found the answer ripe for meditative reflection. A young scholar asking a vivid, graphic question, the professor without thought: zero calories, and the columnist tongue tied but with many thoughts running through his head.

That night the professor and the study team at the Mass each would have different responses to the 'o' calories of the professor. The columnist was at the back of the church and at the elevation of the Eucharist, the meaning of 'flesh and  bread'  came to him with more force than in the past.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Do we Enjoy our Driving?

View from the Ark in the Catholic Times has a meditation on driving, by a pastor who was assigned to a busy area in his rural diocese and one with  many accidents. According to OECD statistics, Korea continues to be in the number one or two spot. Speed of life may be one of the hidden reasons for the  large number.

The columnist  says that  although in the country, he feels  there are  more accidents than in Seoul and believes the  few cars on the road, speed, and a relaxed  understanding of traffic regulations may be the problem. 
In front of the church, he mentions the large number of illegal left turns that are made. He has  reported the problem to the authorities on many occasions, but they seem to be more interested in aesthetics than preventing accidents. Pedestrians with their jaywalking are at fault, but he puts  more of the responsibility on the drivers who are in the possession of a very heavy machine, with speed. They are very efficient, and we find it difficult to resist the dangers that are present.

On long trips he finds himself asking:  Am I driving safely?  What does it mean to drive well? What does it mean to drive? Seeing the other cars he asks himself why are they driving so dangerously?  Why don't they  use the signal light?  Why is the driver going so slow in the first lane? 

One day suddenly, this thought came to him:  we are all traveling on the same road shouldn't we be cooperating? Others also have a destination, and we should be helping each other. Like in life, we should have trust and love, and concern for those who are using the roads with us. We should be looking on them as cooperators,  neighbors,  associates, but often we see them as competitors, obstacles and even enemies. He  wants to see them as the Samaritan saw the poor man on the side of the road.

Driving, we can be concerned only with  our situation: we are in a hurry, tired; the traffic is backed up for miles; other drivers are breaking the rules. However, when I am in the driver's seat and my hands are on the steering wheel I am in a position to practice graceful living: concern for the other, trust and love, for we are  traveling together to our respective destination. If we saw the other driver as an associate, cooperator and brother/sister traveler, wouldn't this kind of attitude  make life more enjoyable?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Suicide Prevention in Korea

 Korea has for the last ten years, as a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, placed first in the number of suicides: recorded was 29.1  persons for every hundred thousand, which was twice the average. Peace Weekly News gives the readers an understanding of the situation within the church.

From 1985, most of the countries which are members of the OECD have decreased in the number of suicides but Korea continues to increase, which makes for a gloomy future. Efforts are made to throw off the stigma by programs and seeking to understand those who are contemplating suicide. They have hope to decrease the numbers. Finland and Japan did succeed, and are good examples for Korea to follow.

The international Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) with the World Health Organization (WHO) has established the World Suicide Prevention Day  which we remember today. The day alerts us to the ways we can prevent suicidal behavior, lessen the effects and educate those working to prevent suicides.
Preparing for the day were many events, educational programs and campaigns in society and churches. The Catholic Church also has programs for the prevention and to spread the culture of  life movement.

One Heart One Body Center of Seoul in preparation for September 10,  conducted a survey and published their results. This is the first survey made  dealing only with suicide. They wanted to determine the attitude and understanding of suicide  within the church in order to establish programs in the future. 

81% of those that responded felt that the  problem was more with society than with the individual. With a change in society 84 % thought we would see a change in the number of suicides. 86,38 % had never had contact with those who were contemplating suicide. The majority have never attended any programs in the prevention of suicides. 78 % thought there was a need for such programs. 

Respondents to the survey 88.54 % never had any suicidal thoughts-- reasons given: religious convictions 19.18 %, children 16.2 %,  spouse/sweetheart 13.2%, parents 12.4%.  The longer they lived and deeper the  religious life, less  thoughts of suicide. This coming December there will be a symposium with a Japanese counterpart in which the Center wants to conclude with a strategy for the future in suicide prevention.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Korea's Chaebol Culture

Korean  conglomerates helped by the government have done much to bring about the economic growth in Korea, but at the same time we have many negative results.

The Catholic Times has an article on Korean economics and the 'chaebols' ( business conglomerates). Both government  parties have  promised to make the 'chaebols'  more transparent and democratic.

Is this not a  sign that all see the abuses that we have and the need  to remedy the situation? They have done much to develop Korea no one denies, but there is something else besides material development and  economic growth. Many of the problems in Korean society stem from this close arrangement with the government.

The article sees two aspects of the problems with the chaebols. One problem is that a small number of businesses are influencing how industry, and the market are going. One easy example  to illustrate the point is the way the big super markets have stopped the flow of money in the small stores and our traditional markets. Few people know, says the columnist, that it is not only the super markets, but the chaebols are the main share holders in many other businesses. A reason why the independent operations, and the ordinary folk have difficulties in the market.

The second problem is the chaebol families have control over many affiliates and subsidiaries. Consequently, their influence on economic matters is great  even when their share of the financial holdings is small.  Easing the control of  a few of these chaebols on the market will make for a more democratic competitive playing field, and a brighter  future for the  independent entrepreneurs  and the labor force,

In the encyclical Quartragesimo Anno (1931), Pius XI stressed how financial monopolies hurt the economy and also that it is the death of  capitalism's central tenet of freedom for competition, Pope Pius also saw    spreading to the political area as it did in Germany.

In our society, this monopolistic tendency continues and is hurting the free and healthy movement of our economy. Without efforts made to remedy the situation the condition of the citizens  will be difficult. What we need is not the reformation of the labor force, but the reformation of the chaebols; necessary is to work for the democratization of the economy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Synod of Bishops on the Family

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation." This quote from Thoreau's Walden we hear often, and sadly it may be truer to our reality than  we would like to believe, not only individually but in families, and for his reasons.

In the Kyeongyang magazine, we have an article on the scars inflicted on the family and the church's concern. On October 4-25 we will have the  Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, the topic:  “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.” 

The family in modern society  is in extreme difficulty. The Church tried to surround the family with all kinds of protection in its laws and other safe-guards, but they have been seriously damaged. We need efforts and wisdom to work for a new culture and understanding of the Gospel to protect the family.

Pastoral care  has a variety of environments  in which we find families:  immigrants, foreign workers,  separated,  prison, refugees, exiled,  alienated/marginalized in the city,  homeless, single parent, living with grandparents, handicapped,  families with drug addicts, and alcoholic related problems. Families for cultural or societal reasons feel alienated, families who experience discrimination for one reason or another, elderly living alone. Families because of church laws have left the community,  have divorced, remarried and living separated from their mate are all a concern for the church.The nation and society need to help these families with  structures and systems. Those who are in the community of faith and facing these many problems are the concern of  the church.

Church needs  to help the nation assist  families with their rights, with laws and structures, and help families gain these rights. Furthermore, we have families that because of church laws are having difficulties; their rights as believers have been taken away, concern has to be shown to them and the bishops in the synod will search for ways according to God's will to help these families. 

Each diocese has a marriage tribunal to help with  the process for annulments and concern for those with marriage problems. In many of the dioceses, the number of clergy whose concern is to help those with family problems continues to increase, which is encouraging.

The synod will have as its goal to help families live  with less difficulty, and we need to pray  for the success of the gathering of bishops in finding the will of God in these matters. The future of the world depends on family life and the reason our prayers need to be heart-felt.