Saturday, October 31, 2015

Alternative Education for the Whole Person

The education ministry and other interested groups in society acknowledge that with alternative methods of education, fewer would drop out of school. With this in mind, the Daegu Diocese had a seminar on alternative methods of education.

“The time in school should be happy; for many it is a time of unhappiness, we need to listen to the children." These were the words of one of the participants in the seminar, reported by the Catholic Times. The money spent on those in school and those not in school is vastly different. We need to show interest in those who do not  find a  place in our public school system. The seminar was working on the curriculum that an alternative system would find appropriate for the dropouts.
One of the participants compared the educational systems of Finland and Korea: rated first and second for achievement by the OECD. Both developed countries have methods at the two extremes. Finland does not distinguish between the first and the last, with a non-competitive approach to education, while Korea asks for answers to ordinary problems for competitive entrance exams.

One has to determine whether the school is making  students unable to adapt or are the students the ones not adapting. Students who are not able  to adapt to a strict regime, and want freedom need an  alternative type of education to keep them in school. In Korea in one year, over 50 thousand young people were not in school who should have been in school; many of them will end up as problem teenagers.

Conscious are educators that Korea is different from the past, large numbers of citizens and inhabitants have different cultural backgrounds. Often their facial features and color are different from the Korean students and consequently, meet up with  discrimination, and often ignored, a reason they give up on their studies. We know what it should be but facts show discrimination and drop outs. All students  have to be made to feel they are Korean.

We need an opening to these alternative forms of education, which do not see  students as losers and delinquents. The first full time alternative school was the Gandhi School  authorized by the Ministry of Education in 1997, but it never developed into a system of similar schools.

Alternative schools are not to complement the public schools but to keep the learner at the center with experience, and the student's humanity in mind: understanding the gifts each student has and to work to develop them, customized to the individual. We should be having happier students and persons who understand that education is not  only of the mind.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Year of Consecrated Life

2015 is the year of the consecrated life. A religious sister writing in View from the Ark in the Catholic Times, reminds us of  the subjects of the consecrated life. In Korea, the word consecrated life has become a  synonym for the religious life, secular institutes and those living a celibate single religious life. After the  Second Vatican Council, we are told the consecrated life is a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, and the religious life is one of the many varieties of this consecrated life. Heartbreaking, says sister, is the fact that it is associated only with the religious life.

More lamentable is that many others who have been given this gift do not realize it,  a reason there is little interest in this year of the consecrated life. Moreover, the married couples and those baptized don't reflect on the gift and mission they have been given with baptism and marriage.

She mentions the three kinds of consecrated life: priestly, religious and the married life. All three have baptism as their foundation. All three have their own particular characteristics, and calling to love in their different particular ways. 

This year we put a light on those who have consecrated themselves by the three vows and with great meaning, we just finished the synod on marriage. They are both, said Pope Francis, a calling from God one in the forming of life and the other in evangelizing, both working together. Families have many problems; she quotes Pope Francis: children, quarreling, in-laws and the like, there is the cross but also the resurrection.

She was especially surprised in the words Pope Francis used when speaking about creation when he said God created the family which he called the most beautiful part of creation: he made man and woman and entrusted all to them. He gave the world  into their hands. He didn't just create two people but a family. All that he created in love was handed over to them.

In conclusion she mentions the short prayers, Pope Francis introduced to the couples when saying the Our Father: "give us today our daily love"... To those engaged or married: "teach us how to like  to love each other." Both religious and families are on a journey to the God of love, should we not ask for our daily portion of love?

Monday, October 26, 2015

We Grow in a Family

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” An article in the diocesan bulletin by a seminary professor, begins with these words from the play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. The female heroine mentions how those who were family,  were the ones who made life difficult.  She had great trust  in those close to her, but they gave her the  biggest sorrow. The family should have been helpful but instead caused pain. 

In the beginning of Hinayana Buddhism, it was understood that you had to leave family to enter Nirvana. Confucianism was against this way of thinking, and declared  that  persons grew in the family.  

Confucianism considered the desire to achieve enlightenment by leaving the family and working to  free  oneself from every attachment,  only attaches you more. The professor mentions the way society is influencing  families in the  direction of individualism that makes the family an obstacle to personal growth: similar to the thinking of the early Buddhist adherents of Hinayana Buddhism. 

A Confucian scholar Huang, who was attracted to both Taoism and Buddhism became a serious believer and began his period of training in efforts to transcend this world in which he lived. One day after many years of study and discipline, he came out of his cave and sitting in meditation saw a relative  coming towards him, and told his servant to prepare something. He realized that after  many years of discipline, he was no way nearer to transcending this world and stopped his efforts to do so. The bond of affection he had with family members could not be broken with artificial means. 

He returned to Seoul, and meeting a monk who was meditating complained:  What are you doing all day in that position?  What are your eyes glaring at?"  The monk stopped meditating, and began talking. The Confucian scholar  asked about the monk's family, and was told he had a mother living alone.  "Are you able to forget your mother? "Huang asked. "No, I can't  forget my mother," and started to cry. "Love for our parents is from our nature as humans," replied Huang. And he tried to convince the priest to go home and take care of his mother. 

In the conversation with the monk, Huang  realized what he  said was  our earthly reality. We may work to transcend this world, but we will never succeed in overcoming the affection that is there between  parents and children. This is not a fetter that we need to break but a means of maturing, and the basis for our humanity. The meeting of a man and women to start a family is the plan of God in forming society. 

Many of the groups in society can be changed, and even when they break down one can start again, but the family is different; this is a natural grouping that has come from the hands of God. A  person's individual freedom and happiness are not the first things that should come to mind. In developing the family community we grow in maturity, and freedom and happiness will be a by-product of our efforts, and help to build the human family.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Reading Makes A Whole Person

Many are the sounds we hear: rustling of leaves, birds, insects, music, sound of people playing Baduk (Go), and many other sounds but nothing compares "to the sound of a person reading a book". Quoting a poem from the past and the different sounds heard, and at times only seen, a Benedictine  priest writing in With Bible wants us to follow him in this meditation.

People know the joy of walking, and it is not always  to arrive at some point. The walking in itself has meaning and its own end. A wise man once said that  'Road' and 'Way' doesn't have the same meaning; reading is not always used as a tool for knowledge and information, and  'interest' has no limit. 

One of the greatest pleasures in life, for the writer, and for which he is  grateful, is to run across some worthwhile  reading material. "Is it not  a pleasure to study, and to practice what you have learned?" (Confucius)

He brings us back to the days when reading was not done in  silence as we do today but it was voicing each word, and listening with the ear and the whole body. The reading material would often be a sheepskin, a codex, and the scent would enter the nose. The finger would follow the words in the sentence, and the upper part of the body would sway slightly while reading. All the senses were used it was  an action of the whole person and not only of the eyes and the mind. It was work.

This was the way the monks of the past did the Lectio Divina. The East was not  different;  he remembers his grandfather who when writing a letter or reading the newspapers would be voicing very quietly all the words. They were remembering with the muscles of the body and making what they read a part of themselves.

They were also forming a community: relating with  one another in the process. The ability to read and understand was increasing. The monasteries were schools where people were learning to read well. They were making books, and the books were making the person.  Happily we find this  in many places of our present society. 

We have moved from the oral, to the written to the digital culture: from reading  to the seeing where the screen becomes the book. We think that we are in control but the images are working on our feelings, desires and judgments. They produce or transform our desires. Financial cliques and  the mass media make public opinion and  often fabricate it. Where God was thought to be we have the financial logic, politics, education and morality, where the false and true are often interchanged.

We need a reading and thinking citizenry. Not thinking like we live but living like we think. Readers will be counter cultural. In the past with the reading of Scripture, we had the making of prophets; he hopes that we will feel the responsibility of this calling and not leave it to the false prophets of our society.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Church Preparation for the Third Millennium

A recent symposium commemorating the 50th  anniversary of the end of the II Vatican Council was on the  direction the church of Korea should go during this third millennium. Both Catholic papers reported on the event. The keywords were solidarity, scripture and evangelization.

During the introductory speech, a bishop of Seoul mentioned the Church's mission to work for peaceful unification of the North and South. This effort has to be with the young people and the need for concern with the evangelization of China and Asia. 

Our work, said one of the three participants, is to bring life to others: evangelization that is both integral and collaborative and using words different than those used in the past. He also stressed  we have to customize our teaching to a one and one basis both in the confessional and in counseling. We have to study the way the Spirit has been leading us as a Church.

Another participant mentioned how after the Council, there was a new interest in scripture, with  translations  and a growing interest in the  reading of scripture. We saw the fostering of scripture groups, organizations for its study, use of the scriptures in parish teaching. We have a course in the seminaries as a master's degree course approved by Rome, which is preparing teachers of scripture. 

Another  made clear that evangelization is not just increasing the numbers of our Christians but to evangelize the culture, values, and the way we live,  in harmony with Gospel values. 

Korean Catholics have been very passive in their vision for evangelization. In a recent Gallup poll, Catholics  showed a lack of conviction of the four truths  of faith: Existence of God, Incarnation, Trinity and Good and Evil. The  priest feels a lack of knowledge is the  reason  there is so much dissatisfaction with established religion, and people are looking in other directions: new age and 'kispirit training movements' and the like. 

What is necessary is a correct understanding of God and Man, reconciliation with nature, a mature value system,  extending  the community of love, strengthening the image of Catholicism, service to society, and fostering a mission spirit.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Farmers: Saints of Our Society

A priest who is working in the country with a small farming community writes about a recent experience in With Bible. He had just returned  from the city after taking care of a problem with his neck.  Some of the members of the community had returned  from picking wild blue berries in the mountains behind their village. They were attacked by a swarm of ground digger wasps  once they are on the person it is almost  impossible to chase them off even with a towel. The catechist was bitten 50 to 70 times  and the manager about 50 times.

After the attack, the catechist tried to run away and lost his glasses. They were taken to the public health center; the catechist's blood pressure  dropped and was in shock and as white as a sheet. They called the ambulance to take him to the emergency room of a nearby hospital.

The priest went looking for the glasses in the area in which they were picking wild blue berries with his dog but no sign of the glasses, and he was even bitten by one of the wasps on the back of his hand. He received a call from the manager that the catechist's blood pressure had returned to normal, and the body coldness disappeared. If the catechist had died, it would have been the end of his experiment in community living. 

He quickly drove his truck to the hospital, and on the way was  bitten on the ankle by another wasp he had brought along with him in his shoe. He showed the catechist the bite on the hand and easily commiserated with the catechist who had 50 of these bites.

The next day they went to a nearby Catholic church to hear the talk of a Buddhist monk who had graduated from the college seminary. The models he praised were Mother Theresa, Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, and Charles de Foucauld. The theme of the monk's talk was understanding  comes from experience. 

"... My greatest interest is in the spiritual world. Without experience of pain, we will not have  understanding. I did all the Buddhist meditations, but I felt a dryness that did not leave me.

I decided to go to a country that was poor and undergo some of their trials at which time I met the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa. What kind of life is necessary to experience an opening to the spiritual?  It is not speaking well but giving happiness to others. Mother Theresa is a good example of this life... Another example is the Dalai Lama with whom I spent time. The emptier a person's interior life is the more embellishment in the talk and exterior. We are  in a period, sadly, in which we package up the exterior gorgeously.

I remember talking to Thomas Merton while with the Dalai Lama: one holy man meeting another. Dalai Lama canceled all his appointments for four days. He was fighting for the independence of Tibet, and  Merton was against the Vietnam War. They were both pacifists. Merton was electrocuted in a hotel in Bangkok and there was talk it was an assassination by the American CIA.

Often I get telephone calls from Korea asking me why is life so dry? They all have to do with the loss of meaning. I answered: they should fast for three days. In India, they only have one side dish. In Korea were not happy because we eat too well. Who are the Saints today? It's the farmers."

Both the farmers and the doctors give life to people, but doctors make thousands of dollars and the farmers hundreds. The farmers give life to the doctors and are not understood by our upside-down society. Farmers are saints because they give life to others with their sacrifice.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Catholic Mass And Monotony

How to be motivated by the repetitive in our lives is the subject of an article in Bible & Life. A priest writing in the magazine recounts a senior priest telling him that he enjoys dramas but not watching  a number of different dramas but the same drama over and over-again. This surprised him for once he has seen a movie he has no desire to see it again.

The older priest explained that it was not the story line that interested him but the performers' facial expressions, voice tones, and bodily movements in their role. Whether their words and the way they express them fit the atmosphere in which they were in. This, the older priest said, is what  separates  performers into levels of excellence. He finds this an extremely enjoyable past time. The same word uttered with a person's total energy makes a big difference. 

Yes, that's true! Even though the same words are used, the way they are said can make a great difference; he had no trouble understanding this. With this mind cast, listening and watching, you will not be bored was his own conclusion. 

He quickly  thought  of his saying Mass with only the readings and prayers that change: the ordinary of the Mass stays the same. And for many, this is a reason the Mass becomes tedious. Was this not the reason they have guitar Masses and the like for the young people?

He thought about  his own way of saying Mass and whether his words  are said with the appropriate ardor and sincerity. Does he feel the way Jesus felt on the night that he uttered those word: "This is my body this is my blood?"

Each Mass is a repetition of Jesus' death and resurrection: a rebroadcast. One way of looking at the Mass is to see the monotony which is natural. However, when we remember what it is renewing for us: the love that Jesus is confessing with these words than no matter how many times we hear those words of love we never  tire. "I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you" (John 13:15).

However, the priest is not a performer with a phony expression and emotion but is called to live in the way Jesus has shown us and when this is the case,  the  Mass will be real. When the priest is living like  Jesus, the Mass will have the authentic feelings and expressions.

He concludes the article with the thought of St.Therese of Lisieux whose spirituality was to even in  the smallest of acts to do it with the greatest of love. He wants to leave us with her spiritually to do all with great love. This is the way the priest should approach every Mass, and every act and word during the Mass, and should also be the mind of each person who attends Mass.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Social Gospel and Evangelization

October is World Mission Month. Mission Sunday was last Sunday, reminding  us of the mission we all received. All  are missioners. At  each Mass, we are sent out into the world by Jesus: Go forth the Mass is ended ( Ite missa est). 

A column in the  Catholic Times wants us to remember what we are meant to do when sent into the world. Without an understanding of the social gospel, we will not be armed with the tools for our mission. We are called to carry out the teachings of Jesus, which comes with our mission call and what we call the social gospel.
The columnist  gives us an example of a person who prepares for the future by saving  two thousand dollars every month:  24 thousand dollars in one year,  two hundred 40 thousand in 10 years.  A house in the metropolitan area of Seoul with that money would be difficult to find, and few who could save 2,000 dollars a month. 

Difficulty in buying a house and educating  a family continues to increase. Many  find it difficult to get out of debt. Young people in their twenties and thirties  on average are not making two thousand a month, and when they look at the future, there is little hope, and  give up working for the future, and instead 'let us enjoy ourselves' is the results. Those in the business world are figuring out ways of captivating these young people to buy and search for pleasure, all helping to produce the culture of death.

Family debt increases and we have a  breakdown  of communication giving rise to  conflicts in the family. The ones who should be sharing are not, and they want the ordinary folk to do the sharing with the' wage peak system' where retirement-age workers continue to work with a smaller salary to allow the young to enter the labor force. The columnist does not see this as the answer. He wants a more substantial  approach to the problem.

We have little knowledge of the structural evil in society that influences us daily without our knowledge: "Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. 'Structures of sin' are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a "social sin" (From the Catechism of the Church).

"But evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man's concrete life, both personal and social. This is why evangelization involves an explicit message, adapted to the different situations constantly being realized, about the rights and duties of every human being, about family life without which personal growth and development are hardly possible, about life in society, about international life, peace, justice and development- a message, especially energetic today about liberation" Evangelii Nuntiandi #29.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

German Unification and Korean Unification

Twenty-five years ago on Oct. 3rd,  East and West Germany were united  as the one nation of Germany. Ceremonies were held even in Korea to commemorate the reuniting of the division. After one-quarter of a century has passed, the celebrations have been instrumental in bringing  enthusiastic interest to our own efforts at unification.

A professor whose specialty is working for Korean unification  writes in his column in the Catholic Times of his expectations. On August 25th, the North and South  agreed to stop acts of hostility, and begin ways of cooperating with one another. President Park on the plane back from China said that she would begin immediately to discuss  peaceful unification of the country.

For the past seven and eight years, we have almost completely stopped contact with North Korea except for the Kaesong Industrial Park, which is a  collaborative effort between the North and South. It is only a one-hour  ride from Seoul, and the South Korean companies employ North Korean cheap labor, which  helps the North with foreign currency. Now that they have agreed to open the road to cooperation, and the president wants to begin immediately to discuss unification the columnist calls this a paradox of paradoxes.

Contact between the East and West Germany existed for a long period of time, in many different ways: social, financial, cultural, so that when the time came to vote, it made the unification possible. The professor calls the making of the one Germany not an absorption but a joining. He asks what made the East join the West? He finds this very easy to answer. It was Billy Brandt, who with his 'change through rapprochement'  paved the way for eventual  unification.
West Germany stationed a resident correspondent in East Germany. They could  exchange letters,    notifying each other on  what was going on in each other's Germany. Chancellor Helmet Kohl  made the official exchange rate between the East and West as a one to one, and a reason the East voted for unification. His efforts for unification can't be overlooked.  

Germany's road to unification was long, and the professor closes with his observation on Korea's unification. Without  Brandt  putting in the railroad tracks, and Kohl putting the train on the tracks, nothing would have happened. When are we going to start laying the tracks down for future unification?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Childlike Makes Us Authentic

Father, how do you cut your fingernails?  An elementary school altar boy asked this question of the pastor after Mass. In the View from the Ark in the  Catholic Times, the writer uses this incident to mull over an important attitude, often forgotten.

The priest writer was taken aback by the question, trying to figure out what was behind the question. Was there a method of cutting fingernails? "My mother cuts my fingernails, I can see you cutting your left hand fingernails but how do you do the right hand? Our school teacher drew blood when he cut his fingernails." He wanted to  know who was cutting the priest's fingernails.

A fingernail clipper makes the cutting a very precise and easy job. Some clippers when they cut, make no noise. He noticed with age the cutting of the finger nails was not like it was. At the beginning he thought it was the dull blade but one day the thought came that like all of nature, age brings a toughness and brittleness to his body and fingernails.

As children we remember that  scars and broken bones healed quickly. Our bodies were soft and pliable, our spirit was supple, we didn't have any preconceptions, we accepted freely and easily what was given. We were open to bold adventure. With age we saw much of this disappear because we  needed the toughness of the body to withstand threats from outside, and to protect others.

Softness is necessary but we can't make a flexible branch into a pole. Hardness is necessary if we want to stand up to the stormy world in which we live. However, softness is a distinguishing mark of life; death is stiffness. Life is open to change and growth, and why we need to be pliable and soft. He acknowledges the possibility that hardness of the body may be for future ages and for the good of other parts of our body.

However, there is no need for our hearts to become hard. Often the way we live not only does the body become hardened but our souls take on this quality.   Experience, knowledge, wisdom and courage, that comes with age doesn't make us stronger, but the flattery, self-righteousness, judging of others, our greed, and fear are hardening the muscles and tying our hands and feet.

The world we live in is making us hard. Christians know that God's love is always being poured into us  which should make us soft and allow us to recover the suppleness of youth. Isn't this why Jesus wants us to become like children. He concludes with the wish that we all become like the child who wanted to know who cut the priest's fingernails.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mission Sunday 2015

World population can be divided into three groups: Atheists, Agnostics and Theists.  Each word has many different definitions and understandings, but it does serve a purpose for it gives  a simple breakdown of beliefs. Atheists prefer to deny God, Agnostics are doubtful, and Theists affirm in some fashion. 

One subdivision of the Theists would be Christian, which again are divided among themselves, for they understand the words of Jesus differently.
Today is Mission Sunday, celebrated every year on the third Sunday of October that reminds us of the last words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew to the Church:  "Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples...."

Catholics are  the largest Christian division but  again, we have different understandings of what Jesus said and did even among Catholics. We call many among them cafeteria Catholic, superstitious, traditional, cradle, convert, liberal, untratraditional, charismatic, evangelical, tepid, folk, cultural and  many more.

What should be clear, however, is that Jesus wanted to make disciples and the Church that he formed is a body of disciples. The word disciple means one who submits, conforms  themselves to the discipline  of the teacher in this case Jesus. There are Christians who do not want to be disciples but if one considers themselves a disciple and Jesus wanted the Church to make disciples, then we have to ask ourselves if Jesus would accept me as a disciple? Certainly no teacher in academia would  accept a student saying he was a disciple if he did not accept what was taught. They may have been a student but  the word disciple would not be used.

Many of the articles, and sermons today remind us that we are the first that need to be evangelized. Pope Francis in his message reminds us: "All her members are called to proclaim the Gospel by their witness of life." This requires that we first evangelize ourselves. Christians should be simply followers of Christ.

"Whoever bids other folks to do right, but gives an evil example by acting the opposite way, is like a foolish weaver who weaves quickly with one hand and unravels the cloth just as quickly with the other." These words of St,Thomas More make clear what we  know only too well. People do not listen to the words as much as the example of the person we are. Evangelization has to begin with ourselves and it is not a one time event but a work of a lifetime.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Meditation on the Beginnings of Christianity In Korea

In 1777, King Jeongjo was beginning his reign as a reformer in the Joseon Dynasty. His rule of 24 years was too short to make any great improvement, but his efforts have been praised; he also had a premonition of some dark times in Korea's future. In the Pastoral Bulletin for priests, we have this introduction to history and the writer's thoughts on the beginnings of Christianity in Korea.

These  years in history were filled with turmoil. In China the rule of Emperor Qianlong and expansion, but also saw the beginning of decline. In England, we had the industrial revolution;  France  was ripe for the cultural revolution, and the new country of the States was proclaiming independence. We were surrounded by war. 

It was the year of 1777 in winter that young  scholars met together at a Buddhist Temple in Yeoju Province to  study about Catholicism from books they received from China. They came from a distance,  ragged, but with a gleam in their eyes. 

In a time of upheaval, the learned are looking for answers. Confucianism influenced them to study  ways to make sense of what was going on in the world. The books they possessed  were from the West and translated into Chinese, and some of  them had to do with Catholicism. With the meetings, we have the beginning of the spread of Christianity without the help of  clergy: a story with which we are familiar..

These scholars found in Catholicism a new light. They did not see Catholicism as something to change society but a frightful new teaching. An example is Paul, Yun Ji-chung. When his mother died he  performed the funeral ceremony according to the Catholic rite which was the wish of his mother, instead of the Confucian rite, and he burned the ancestral tablets. Not to follow the Confucian customs on the occasion of coming of age, marriage, funeral, and ancestor worship was asking for trouble.

Refusal to go along with what society was asking was tantamount to attempting to overthrow the society, a way of acting that was seen as revolutionary. You were putting your life on the line. This was no exaggeration, and for 100 years we had  the persecution that gave us about 10 thousand  martyrs.

What is the face of Catholicism now in Korea?  Are we showing society a new road to follow? Or is it rather the church itself doesn't know what to do? Jesus said that he was the way the truth and life, and only through him can we go to the father.

Do we think we can be Christians by going in search of money and power? Do we think that more knowledge will get us to our goal as Christians? He concludes that  we are intoxicated with our power. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Conservative And Liberal Divide

Two people, side by side, were using the escalator and bickering. The  man on the right,  "Let those who are busy go on their way, move aside a little,"  addressing the woman who was blocking the left lane of the escalator." "Because of the fear of accidents we are not to make a commotion,"  she responded.  The man, "Heavens,  do you know how busy the young people are these days, and you  are blocking the way. Do You think that if we all moved to the right the machinery would  breakdown?" The woman did not give answer, and when they arrived at the floor level she went off quickly.

These are the kinds of scenes that we often witness. We have the conservative and the  progressive.The one that is busy with the present and the one who  is thinking of the future, A columnist in the Catholic Times reminds us of this fact of life. In this example we would be on the side of the man but this is not always so easy to decide. 

For seventy years we had the forces who were pushing: "let us live better" and those who screamed: "let's get rid of the dictator". However, both have been realized: we have a better life and we have a working democracy, and yet we have the infighting. We should be able to give praise and understanding for what has been accomplished but no, we continue to discount and disparage the other.

 Within the  church the situation is the same: each group is bringing in arguments that support their position, and only look for points that will bolster their position. Both positions have some truth and deficiency.

Jesus when he selected his first group of intimate followers, wanted a varied group with different backgrounds and temperaments. He had the conservatives and the progressives among the  apostles, both united in their allegiance to Jesus.

Truth should always be the goal. However, truth has different meanings for different people. Conservative/liberal dichotomy is popular but when we reduce it to 'black-and-white' and 'either-or' thinking and forget all the other possibilities we are doing a disservice to truth and ourselves.  As Christians these dichotomies make little sense. The transcendentals for us are not just the True, Good and Beautiful but also Oneness.

What is important is the person we are, for that will determine what we see and how we judge. If we are not happy, not at peace, have a troubled conscience, and afflicted spirit we need the humility to  acknowledge this reality, and admit to ourselves that it may influence our thinking. When we don't have complete spiritual and psychological health, and this is the reality for most of us, with humility we   pursue  the  truth and refuse to be boxed into thinking that what we say and believe is all there is on the subject, and  allow ourselves to listen deeply to the other.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Viewpoints Determine What We See

On the spiritual page of the Catholic Times, a priest in his column writes about his trip on the subway to a meeting. Empty seats were few, and he was happy to find one,  and enjoy the trip.

At one of the stations two mentally handicapped persons, a down syndrome and a mentally challenged person entered the car and sat opposite him. They were tightly holding their guardian's hand and looking around with a frown on their faces. 

Right beside the columnist  a woman in her fifties, and a man in his early twenties, were whispering how blessed and thankful it is to have good health. No comparison, but it was easy to surmise the reason for the topic. 

Shortly after a woman with her daughter entered and sat beside him and began talking in a very low voice. "Ordinarily, when you meet a person who is handicapped you know what to do, don't you?"  asked the mother.

"What is that all about?" answered the daughter.

"When we relate with those who are handicapped, we treat them just like everybody else?"

"That is what they say!" answered the daughter. "Since they have a handicap, however, they need our help. When we have concern for each other than we will find joy, that I know."

They both continued talking to each other like friends. When they were leaving they both with a little nod of the head towards the handicapped, went towards the door. The two handicapped persons without a word, laughing waved their hands in a good-bye salute.

The columnist found what he had just experienced was something rare. Here were two persons seeing the same two handicapped persons and relating in two different ways. Their viewpoints were different and consequently, what they saw was different.

When he got up to leave he winked at the two and they responded with a laugh and the down syndrome individual gave an eye response as coming from an angel.

When he rides the subways he often looks at faces of those riding with him, and reminds himself that the way he judges the person determines what he sees.  A healthy viewpoint will determine a healthy vision.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Education for the Whole Person

Education is an important work of the Church, and she continually goes in search of ways of doing the job as thoroughly as possible. Workshops and symposiums are an ongoing reality in each diocese and in the country, Catholic papers and magazines treat the subject often because of its importance and recently in the Seoul Diocese was a symposium on character education and the means to achieve it.

In today's world, we are overcome with information but information is not knowledge nor is knowledge wisdom. Catholic schools want to reach the whole person and inspire him to be a self-learner for a life time. 

Character education-- education for the whole person-- is composed of autonomy,  community, and dignity. All three working together to form the personality of the individual. These words came out of a symposium sponsored by the Korean bishops. 

In the keynote address, a priest professor stressed  a Christian education has as its goal the formation of a full person, a value system that comes from the gospels, cultivation of the virtues and a spirituality  internalized and integrated into the personality. 

Another participant mentioned the integration of these values in the life of the teachers. Care has to be taken that they are not overworked so this becomes an unrealistic expectation. Programs for the formation of the teachers to instill these values are necessary.

Another professor explained how this education for the whole person was done in the States, France and Germany. He mentioned the two starting points are the textbook and creative experience. Both  need to go together: creativity with others should develop into service. Concern is for the development of each student's temperament, potentiality, interests and sharing with others. Standardization needs to be avoided, and each student needs to find meaning  and motivation in their studies. Parents should be involved, and the student's autonomy and  responsibility fostered.  

The ideal is  concern for each student in the educational process. In English, the Latin roots of the word  education have great meaning: educare which means to train and mold while educere means to  lead out,  the combination of both should be the aim of education from kindergarten to university. The worry in Korea is that  education  will have the market as the goal and directed to qualifications and a means of making money.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

'Religion Opium of the People'

In private discussion religion is often considered of little value. What is the need to pray? Nothing is achieved, and a persons' thinking powers are exhausted; a reason Karl Marx said religion was the opium of the people. One of the columnists who writes in the Peace Weekly on questions received from the readers, responds using the question: What is the spiritual psychological answer to religion is the opium of the people?

Pseudo religious' cults do great harm to a person's family and life. That is a fact. But to say this about all religions is like the blind man touching the elephant's legs and saying he knows what an elephant is--not very wise.

Even when prayer is not answered it has an  importance in itself. In the evolution of man we developed from the reptile, to mammal to primate. When our hearts are not on the spiritual and magnanimous, we regress to an earlier stage of our development. When we can't control our thinking we are opening ourselves up to sickness of the spirit.

Our ancestors when a person did not act like a human they would say they were no better than an animal. They were alluding unknowingly to something that was true. We can regress to an earlier stage of our evolution that is less than human.

Prayer is something only humans can do and a sign of our humanity. When we pray we are lifting up our eyes to the heavens and are aware that God  is looking at us because we are receptive, disciplining and cultivating ourselves. We can deceive others and end up not living like humans.

The columnist gives the second rebut to the opiate of the people. Sick people in  great pain are given relief by the drug. Prayer, not like opium, has no side-effects, and many find it helpful. In prayer we express our faith, hope, and the hardships of life,  the despondency, anxiety and conflict  in our hearts are lightened and often healing comes.

Myanmar is a country that has suffered much at the hands of its leaders and with great poverty. Citizens have little of this world's goods but because of their Buddhist understanding of life they have one of the highest happiness indexes in the world. Unable to change what causes them suffering  they do not fall apart or get mentally sick; their Buddhist devotion is a gift they have received and enables them to overcome their difficulties. This witnessing to the  results of religion, just can't be shrugged off by condemning it as an opiate.

With their Buddhist faith the citizens are living the gospel life. They share, have concern for one another, they are poor and yet rich in what is important. On a trip when a person has an accident they stay with  the person until what was intended is accomplished.  We should reflect on what it is that makes us a developed country and it should fill us with shame.

We can't emphasize too much the importance that religion has in our lives. The Bible is not a book we use only within the temple but should be our directory for our daily lives. At present we determine  development by income; a better standard for a truly developed country would be one judged with a happiness index. Christians would understand this as followers of the gospel index for development.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Achieving Intimacy in Marriage

Catholic bishops are meeting this month to find ways of helping families and  couples  to overcome the many problems they face. Much in our society is not helpful in making the  marriage commitment strong. Intimacy makes for strong bonds between husband and wife, and sexuality is important but there are  many other forms of intimacy that help to make for a strong union that  will help overcome the obstacles in the way of a happy and fulfilling life. Divorce is a fact of present day marriages, and we are far from understanding the harm to society in the aftermath of this sad reality.

Bride and groom on their wedding day promise  to be faithful to one another: " I promise to be true to you in good time and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life." The problems that are present in many cases are varied and many: finances, disillusionment, domestic violence, infidelity, personality differences and hundreds of other difficulties.

The church has with many of its programs helped couples and families:  Marriage Encounter, programs for the engaged,  Retrouvailles weekends, and many other programs are  available; outside the church, we also have help. However, as with all programs, education, examples: Whatever is received is received in the manner of the receiver.

Maturity of the couple is a requisite for marriage. In our society, how many are mature, and have enough natural virtue to live intimately with another person in a healthy matrimonial bond is a question that needs to be answered, and ways to prepare programs for our young people to achieve this basic maturity. Our educational system is of little help.

In one of our diocesan bulletins, the question of intimacy was presented to the readers. When the understanding of intimacy is different for each of the couples, we will have problems in marriage. This is an area where hopefully they will dialog long and deep to reach a common understanding of what they expect from each other.  
Intimacy requires: deep emotional involvement, respect and understanding of each other, meeting of mind and heart, sexual intimacy.  One definition is not sufficient to include all that is meant by intimacy. Many are the facets of intimacy, and to have a black-and-white  understanding of what is happening limits the possibilities.

The bulletin mentions many of the ways this intimacy is seen: raising a family, working together spiritually, using leisure time together to develop their common interests, talents and artistic pursuits, overcoming crises together, emotional intimacy and sexuality.

In conclusion, the writer hopes that his married readers will discuss these topics deeply and come to a common clear understanding of what intimacy means for them, and enable both to work together to achieve this intimacy.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Refugees from outside Korea

Last month, a picture of three-year-old  Aylan Kurdi was seen by the whole world lying on the shore  of a beach in Turkey as if sleeping. He was one of the many who fleeing their home country by boat, drowned, when the boat sank, and the boy's body washed ashore.
A number of articles in the Peace Weekly treat this issue, and  mention the difficulties of receiving refugee status in Korea.  A family who has lived  in Korea for the last 3, and half years has been asking for refugee status but was refused, and the chances are slight of a change in the future.

The refugee center has reported that  those  who have asked for refugee status less than 5 % have been granted, which is one of the lowest in the OECD. According to the UN Refugee Agency in 2010, the rate of refugee acceptance is 38% worldwide.  

Over 4 million refugees have left Syria. One article  mentions the three groups fighting each other: Government forces, Islamic State, and other opposition groups. All fighting each other and the people suffer and seek ways to  leave. Pope Francis has mentioned  the number of refugees are as at the time of the Second  World War. 

After July 1st  2013 with the Refugee Law, Korea has increased  the number of refugees coming into the country. For political and religious reasons, they are leaving  Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Nigeria, Uganda,  China,  Myanmar,  Ethiopia, Bangladesh. From 1994 when Korea accepted the agreement on refugees, 12,208 have applied and  up until July 31 of this year, only 522 have been accepted. Because of the strictness used in determining their status,  the numbers are low.  There are those that are asking the government to be an example to other nations in the number they accept. 

Pope Francis after becoming pope made his  first visit outside the mainland, to the island of Lampadusa (a small island closer to Africa than Italy, where the refugees go before arriving in Europe)  showing concern for those leaving their countries. "We have lost a sense of brotherly responsibility," he said, and "have forgotten how to cry" for the suffering and those dying in leaving their countries. 

The National Council of Churches of Korea a Protestant group has asked all the members to pray for the Syrian refugees and raised money to help them. There are only two citizen groups that are non-profit groups, which are helping the refugees. One article concludes with the hope the government and the different groups in society will take an interest in the plight of these refugees.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Medium is the Message In Our Evangelizing

Progress is made in many fields by working together, cooperating: in medicine, science, politics, etc.. We can't say we don't have cooperation in the church, but it is not evident and central in our apostolate. However, is it not precisely the movement of the Spirit towards unity that  should make us  the preeminent example of this way of operating? We pray, play, celebrate  and talk about our work, and many are the communities that live, pray and discuss together but rarely does this extend to working together.
We call this type of working together with many different names: team ministry, cooperative ministry, partnership in ministry. Working together is a form of catechetics: we become  the message, by the way we live and work. Overcoming the obstacles faced, and the  effort  made to work together is a powerful message.

This is the way Jesus set up his church. We have many examples of this approach to ministry, and  many  failures, which is a reason for the negative feelings many have about the whole idea.  We do have success stories and in Korea, we continue to hear of parishes and dioceses who are experimenting with the idea. 

Recently, both Catholic Weeklies had articles on the cooperative ministry in Pusan but there are other parishes that have been working with this cooperative approach to ministry for many years. Hopefully, they will continue to increase and include more of the laity in the ministry.

The auxiliary bishop has mentioned that in this experiment, they will have two priests  who want to work together in a cooperative parish. Concern is expressed that this will divide the parish into different allegiances to one or other of the associate pastors;  he doesn't see this as a problem. The possibility of this happening is present, but with the desire of the two to work together as partners, and  this seen by the parishioners, the response, he says, will be appropriate. 

Many are the reasons for the attempts in cooperative ministry. Both Old and New Testaments give us words that show the wisdom of the attempt. " Two are better than one: they get a good wage for their labor, If  the one falls, the other will lift up his companion" (Eccl. 4:9 ), and  in Proverbs: "As iron sharpens iron so man sharpens his follow man." The very nature of  Church, seen throughout the New Testament, should be a sufficient reason to work towards this ideal by our actions. Synergy, a principle with which we are familiar also provides us with a motive.

We have many studies and surveys that show that Catholics who have been catechized, show little difference from others. This has to make us think long and hard on what went wrong. We have succeeded in imparting knowledge but not done well in moving hearts. In most cases the fire is missing. The means of presenting the message may need to change, and the often heard expression that the 'medium is the message' may help to explain why we have not done a very good job in evangelizing.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Synod On Marriage Oct. 4-26

Both Catholic papers have given the synod of bishops, from Oct 4-26, a great deal of space. The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world is the theme. In writing about the synod, as with any writing, we have to be sensitive to the words used, for each word chosen means the writer made a judgement, which may betray his own blindness and prejudice on the topic addressed. The phrase, he who translates betrays, may be true in many cases both deliberately and unintentionally. This is also true in Korea.

The reporting has been good in most cases. In preparation, the bishops' committee on the family and canonical affairs sponsored a seminar on the divorced and remarried. A report on the seminar on the bishops' web site mentions that  one participant said we had no official statistics for the number of the divorced and remarried persons among Catholics. The number is calculated by the statistics in Korea. People suppose that the life of non-Catholics and Catholics cannot be much different. Hopefully, this will be remedied in the future.

One editorial mentions how the world press is interested in seeing whether communion will be allowed for the divorced and remarried, acceptance of abortion and homosexuality.  However, the interest of the synod is how to bring families the mercy of the Church giving them hope in the difficulties they face. We have the heightened appreciation of a person's dignity, decrease in marriages, the increase of separation and divorce, the separation of sex and procreation, and the impact that finances have on the family.

In society, we have the separation of life, and the teachings of religion. Words used do not find a receptive audience. The mission and vocation of Christian families are not easily understood. Families have been scarred and to recover will require on the part of the members, trust, mercy and hope.

Church proclaims  truth that is unchangeable but also at the same time speaks of mercy and love. Families are confronted with confused realities, influencing them mentally and materially, sometimes  sympathetically and negatively. The synod was called to accompany those who are having difficulties and to find ways to help.

The Church is like a field hospital and wants to heal the wounds inflicted. She wants to offer a variety of pastoral  remedies. Both papers asked the readers for prayers.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Feeling Like a Catholic Only on Sunday

Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life is a spiritual classic from the past. He explains that we are living a devout life when God's love moves us to do the good easily, frequently, carefully and promptly. Without faith, few would see this life as one of joy, but this is the life we are called to live. For St. Francis de Sales, devotion is the perfection of charity: doing everything with joy in our heart.

An article in With Bible by a seminary professor, in a leadership role working with the bishops, wants us to reflect on why our hearts are not burning inside us? Society does have problems, and we are members of society and will be influenced by what we hear, and see. He uses the words of St. Paul, who tells the Christians those who are living with the Spirit will live with: "love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity" (Gal. 5:22).

He  mentions a few things that bring about the paralysis of the soul: feeling like a Catholic only on Sundays attending Mass, and forgetting about it until the next Sunday; a  fear and burden with  Confession. No  other religion has this way of experiencing God's grace. We experience the grace of forgiveness and healing in a way that is different. However, many are those who make this a duty that they have to endure without the great joy of an encounter with Jesus, a formality. A sign that we are dealing with a paralysis of spirit.

Another paralysis is the awkward relationship with the priest and sisters in a parish and the dislike to hear what the church teaches. The faults  of the clergy and religious become a stumbling block in getting closer to Jesus. The teaching on abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, artificial contraception all considered out of step with the times, is another sign of a paralysis of the spirit. In these cases, is it not that we are sacrificing the value of life and its beauty to our greed, and self-righteousness? We recall the words of Jesus to Peter: "You are not judging by God's standards but by man's" (Matt 16:23). 

To give life to the spirit he recommends picking out some favorite passage from Scripture, and posting it where you can easily see it. Memorize the words and repeat them often. Make the sign of the cross and use ejaculations frequently during the day. He continues with other suggestions  and concludes with the words of St. Augustine. 

“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within, and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state, I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Young Seniors: Storehouse of Talent

Korean Catholicism  hears often the word 'young senior'. We are a rapidly aging society, and the church is aging even faster. Young seniors are those between 55 and 69, and number 21% of the Catholics. Those over 65 in the general population are 12.7 % while those in the church are 16.4 %, and this will continue to increase in the future.

We are not far from a super-aged church. At present, one out of five is a young senior but our pastoral practices have changed little. Many parishes continue with the one day a week school for the elderly, with recreation, trips, developing hobbies, and some parishes would have Scripture study.

Those in their early seventies have shown an interest in the school for the elderly but not the young seniors. There is a need for the church to become  interested in this large segment of parish life. There have been efforts in different dioceses with programs for this age group but many feel there is a need for more interest and efforts to determine what this group of seniors wants and needs.

The Peace Weekly had an article on this age group and the efforts being made to answer their needs. At present, we have  11.3 %  under 19 years of age,  20-40, 46.2 %,  50-64, 26.1 % and those over 65, 16.4%.  When the percentage of those over 65 exceed 7 %,  it is called an aging society. When over 14 % it is an aged society and when over 20 %, it is a super aged society.  The church will shortly reach the super aged level. 

Young seniors are independent, looking for ways to grow, and ways to use their free time in a constructive way. They are different from the traditional older generations of the past for they want to live separate from the children and live as a couple. In 1985, there were 188,615 couples living alone, and in 2015 this has increased to 3,010,000  couples. 

The Seoul Diocese from 2007 has  had an academy  for the young seniors, a two-year course with courses in social issues, culture, religion, church history,  religious art, and the like, with specialist in their field giving the lectures. There were also group activities in literature, art, photography, drama and music. 

During an eight-year period,  over 500  have finished the courses. Those who have taken the programs have all finished high school. There are many who would like to see more creativity in finding ways for the young seniors to use their time. Many of the elderly have talents and experience they can use to  help others. This is an area in which much can be done; programs  that will give vitality to the elderly can use the elderly as resource persons  to make the programs varied and profitable for the recipients and the teachers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

War Makes us all Less Human


"Woman, what's your name?" "I don't know."
"How old are you? Where are you from?" "I don't know."
"Why did you dig that burrow?" "I don't know."
"How long have you been hiding?" "I don't know."
"Why did you bite my finger?" "I don't know."
"Don't you know that we won't hurt you?" "I don't know."
"Whose side are you on?" "I don't know."
"This is war, you've got to choose." "I don't know."
"Does your village still exist?" "I don't know."
"Are those your children?" "Yes."

This poem by Wislawa  Szymborska, (1923-2012) a Polish poet who was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, was the topic for an article in the Kyeongyang magazine by a professor of English. She helps us to interpret the poem.

The woman was found by some soldiers, in a burrow she dug in the ground. Forgetting one's name is not a common occurrence, except for those with some form of dementia; seeing the situation it is not hard to understand the fear of the woman when asked her name, she  was not lying, she was scared. 

The following questions were all easy for her and the readers to understand, and they all received the same answer: " I don't know."  The woman was being questioned at gun point;  the war  was raging, and  she didn't know what was  in store for her and her children. When we are overcome with fear, all our thoughts disappear. 

Whose side  are you on? A dangerous question especially since she bit the finger of the soldier which could have been seen as defiance, and yet she continued to answer: "I don't know." Fear was everything.

Her response could easily be seen as contempt and resistance which it was not. For this to have been the case, you would expect a few more words in her response and more of a game plan in her answer.  She was 100 percent paralyzed with fear.  The miserable results of war are not who, where and how many have died, but the end of dialogue, and as in the poem the answer: "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know." The fear that enters the soul: is no more and no less than 'horrible'. 

The last question: "Are those your children?"  You would expect the same answer as in the previous questions but no, this time it was a resounding yes. I don't know was her response in the face of death but this time it was her children she couldn't forget. She was a mother. War makes us forget everything, but she couldn't forget her children.

We are all someone's son or daughter, someone's mother or father. In this world, there is no one who is alone. Even after we leave this earth all of creation sends the message of love. This is the prayer we have in our hearts: peace  instead of war,  overcoming injustice with justice, evil with  generosity, selfishness with concern for others and making this central in our lives.