Friday, December 30, 2016

Living alone

Recently we hear besides 'Well-Being' the phrase 'Well Dying' but the fear expressed by an article in the Catholic Times is that these phrases may be used actually in opposition to what we hold as Catholics especially the phrase 'Well Dying'. One can easily understand this as a euphemism for assisted suicide.

Words can be made to say whatever the speaker wants them to say. When life becomes cumbersome and the person's quality of life is no longer seen as of value many feel it's common sense to end it. We are not obligated to take extraordinary means to prolong life unless one chooses to do so but life always has value and ordinary means to sustain life are necessary.

Gravely ill patients without hope of recovery will be allowed to die by choice or with the consent of a family member is a law in Korea that will take effect in 2018. This, of course, will easily be used in ways that were not intended and we will have the acceptance of assisted suicide. The well dying law does not legalize assisted suicide but only the rejection of life-sustaining treatments when there is no hope of recovery. 

However, sadly, there are many who for one reason or another are living alone and die alone only to have their bodies discovered many days after death. Here we have a failure on the part of society to concern itself on the dignity of life for all its members.

According to Ministry of Health and Welfare in 2015 those who died alone numbered 1,245. This number is gradually increasing. Half of them had no family. Nuclear families and one person families is a reason for this situation and a problem that society needs to face. One person families continue to increase which means the problem will remain.This problem is not the same as the 'well dying' issue except in that we have a devaluation of life and this is shown when we have persons dying alone and the bodies discovered later.

Since society is getting older we will have more people living alone. Not that it is limited to the old but we do have an increase of those living alone and the possibility of dying alone. In one of the centers concerned with the elderly, their studies show that over 1/4 of the old people living alone have no contact with society.

The words 'death alone' and 'death from unconcern' will continue to increase. This was the topic of an article wishing to get the church and society involved in searching out those living alone and find time to share feelings with them. The breakdown of solidarity and rampant individualism in society needs to be addressed by those with faith.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Survey Results Difficult to Believe

In a  survey of high school students, 56 out of 100 said: if they could make a million dollars they would be prepared to do something they shouldn't and spend a year in jail.The HungSaDan Transparency Movement published these results in 2015.

A diocesan priest writes about the survey in a bulletin for priests and says he didn't want to believe what was reported but after studying the issue he determined that the procedure and organization were worthy of credence.

56% of high school students were willing to go to prison for a year for a million dollars, 39% of middle school students and 17% of elementary school. The older the student the more attractive was the money. 

In 2013 they asked the same question. At that time 47% of high school students, 33% of middle and 16% of elementary students saw no problem. In 2012 the same questions: high school 44%, middle school 28% and elementary 12%. The older the student and more recent the survey-- the attraction for money increased.

What would be the results if adults were asked the same question?  Would the results be better than those shown by the students? Another question was included: regardless of the difficulties of my neighbor I need to take care of myself. 45% of high school,30 % of middle school and 19 % of elementary school agreed.

The director of the survey said  the results show we  have a distortion of the capitalist system: the coldness of materialism and individualism, the movement towards competition and success  all at the expense of honesty. 

Can we blame the children for this situation? Children are the mirror of the adult world and this is what they have experienced. Money is needed if we want to be treated as human beings. Without moneywe will be treated like dogs and pigs.

With the candle processions in the big cities, we see a clearing of the skies. The crowds want to see a new beginning. Respect for all no matter where they are in society and not to center all our hope on money and power. We have made a world in which young children enter and become infected with our ways of doing things. We need more candles burning for a  better world.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Art and Skill of Communication

Communication is both an art and a skill. Our life is made difficult because of failure to communicate. We don't always have the results we want but without conversation we have estrangement.

Communication means we say what we mean and the hearer understand what we say, with the meaning we give the words, which is not always the case. We have different experiences, our words have different nuances and at times who we are speaks louder than what we say.

Writing in the Catholic Times the chairperson of the Saeurinuri Peace Corp introduces the readers to the importance of dialogue to overcome conflict. She calls it the foundation for change.

Korea has been divided for over 70 years. Both the North and South have lost much because of the division. The difference in ideology and systems has given birth to hostility and misunderstanding and has built a high wall against reconciliation and unity. However, this is not only between the North and South but also among ourselves here in the South. This appears in politics and among the citizens: lack of trust and the chaos within society.

When we have the same ideals there is little difficulty in accepting the other, however, when the point of view is different we often quickly decide it's wrong and from our years of living with this understanding, we are quick to see an enemy. The effort and desire to understand and communicate are missing.

A Korean proverb often heard: "with the right kind of words we can repay a large debt." Meaning that with dialogue we are able to bring about a new relationship. With communication we can cause problems but also solve them.

We need to have an open mind and heart.  Conversation is the foundation of relationships. Communication with those we are close and those with whom we are alienated requires conversation. Whether it's a subject we agree on or have a difference of opinion-- talking is required.

However, when we don't have the necessary skills communities suffer. Some don't know how to begin a conversation and maintain the conversation. This is a reality we often see. We know the usefulness of communication. It's a precious treasure that allows us to avoid conflict and maintain peace. Something greatly needed in society.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

We are at the beginning of the liturgical year with the season of advent. On Christmas Day all of history for a Christian, unites in the crib at Bethlehem.The liturgical year is a visual aid that focuses our attention on the events of history that have great meaning for us.

In a monthly bulletin for a mission station the writer draws our attention to the central theme of the Christmas season which is simply the love of God for us, for me. We have heard this countless times, sounds trite and meaningless but is it not that it has never passed from the head to the heart? For one reason or another we are not receptive of this love  for we are busy with many other interests and preferences. God and his love is forgotten.

Love that we acknowledge and accept makes us lovable. This in turn requires a response from the loved one. This is the Christmas message. The whole world seems to be having a nervous breakdown and Korea with our recent history is a good example of how upsetting the situation can be.

Material goods and power for their own sake is a priority;  it contaminates so much of our society. Millions have gone to the streets of the country to show solidarity and wanting to see a new beginning. Candles held in the hand, wanting to overcome the darkness-another visual aid.  Many citizens are  willing to take time out of their daily lives to show the importance of this united act of solidarity.

As Christians we know that Jesus comes to us in disguise. He speaks to our hearts to our heads to our consciences comes to us in the person of others in the Scriptures and in the Church but it is not always easy to see, but the central message of love is loud and clear.

The message is always the same to love as he did. but we are often deaf.  Often we understand Christmas as a time of gift giving, and sharing, all good, and forget that God's love was to give himself. To give of what we possess is not that difficult, to give of ourselves is an entirely different state of affairs. And yet this is central and far from ambiguous. However, it does require faith. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

An Indian Calendar

An elementary school teacher writing in the recent Kyeongyang magazine introduces the readers to an American Indian calendar. Indians lived very close to nature and she offers the calendar as a way to experience surroundings instead of just a series of numbers. 

January- a month in which we remain deep in thought/ difficult to accept the cold/ a month in which branches break from the weight of the snow/  the sun lacks the strength to melt snow/ where the wind scatters the snow hither and thither.

February-a month to walk alone/ return of the wild geese/ blowing of the wind: harbinger of future flowers/ lack of food makes the bones tingle/ purification of both body and spirit/ frost shines with the light of the sun/ we grow older/ a slow month.

March- a month that energizes the heart/ a month,  always the same/ water flows into the reservoirs/ strong winds sweep away the dead branches and we have new buds/ the whispering wind is present/ baby spring is here.

April- the month we feel the joy of life/ sleeping with seeds by the bed/ nature again receives life/ weather becomes warmer/ leaves begins to give their greeting.

May- waiting month/ remembering the dead/ laziness creeps in/ big leaf month.

June- the month that brings change/ weather becomes warmer/ without a word we gaze on the spider webs/ a month of talk.

July-The month we can't just stay in the tent doing nothing/ gaze at the shine of the fruit/ branches begin to break because of fruit.

August- the month in which we forget all/ filled with joy / we see the silver waves of corn before us/ all is ripening/ leaves are beginning to lose their luster.

September- gathering month/ the spirit is high/ grass is dry/ end of the fruit/ leaves begin to fall. 

October- wait for me until I come back in a month/  changes are made/ big wind/ poverty begins to appear/ mountains appear on fire.

November- a good time for walks/ not everything is disappearing/ water becomes dark within the leaves/ time of gathering.

December- another month in a new world/ silence/  non-possessing month/ everything begins to freeze/  branches begin to break/ first snow/ the sun leaves its spot in the South to move on its journey to the North. 

We have in this survey according to the author both poetry and philosophy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Present Situation in Korea

In a question and answer column for the Catholic Peace Weekly, a reader from overseas asks how to understand what is going on in Korea.  Some say the followers of North Korea are instigating the demonstrations and others say it is the aches and pains to become a developed country. Which is it? 

Korea is going through a difficult period, answers the columnist. It's a transition period and the social body is aching in its attempt to become a healthy country.  You have the movement to move from the past and change the structures that were harmful and those who don't want the change. We are experiencing the aches and pains that are necessary to move from the dark and dampness of the past to a new way of being Korea. No need to worry.

The citizen street demonstrations that you have heard about are not instigated by the leftist followers of the North, or a special political party or extremists. The majority of the demonstrators are quick to prevent any violence that is contemplated and we are seeing a mature citizenry.

We also see growth in what is being said. No special political party's platform, but common sense that is promulgated and resistance to what is not common sense. Many of the parents bring their children to the demonstration for they do not want their children to be victims and want them to live with hope.

There have been many things in society that have been hidden and one big incident is the Sewol Ferry Tragedy. There are many other absurdities that remain hidden. The prayers of the children who lost their lives the columnist wants to believe helped bring the problems to the attention of the citizens.

Citizens for some time, at the hands of clever politicians, have been cajoled. They've used prejudicial feelings present towards different areas of the country, fostered conflict with the North, and ideology to keep the citizens' criticism at bay and keep them quiet. They know that it's not true but are too busy in living to do anything.

The citizens don't want their children to suffer what many of them had to experience: a reason they have turned to the streets to make their wills known. 

The citizens have behaved maturely in these demonstrations and common sense was mostly followed. Respect was shown to others giving hope for the future. The citizens are to be praised, he tells his overseas reader, and he concludes the article with no reason to worry about the future.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

What We Need To Fear

Everyone at times is fearful. Without the emotion of fear, we would have difficulty taking care of ourselves. Not able to distinguish between what we should do and not do would be our downfall. A problem is we are fearful of what there is no need to fear.

A professor emeritus in the With Bible magazine shares his ideas on the subject with his readers. He quotes from a couple of philosophers on their understanding of fear-a basic phenomenon to manage anxiety. We find ways to avoid what gives us fear: the object of fear, fear itself and the reasons for fear all are involved. Fear is not always bad. Another said that fear is the beginning of wisdom, the opportunity for service, work, and way to enjoy freedom. We all have objects and reasons for fear.

Many in Korea see the country ignoring the needs of the farmers in spite of pledges. Because of this situation, farmers leave the country to demonstrate in Seoul. One farmer, Baek Nam-gi, was struck by a police water cannon last November and remained in a coma for almost a year before he died recently. He was a symbol of what many see as the erosion of freedom of assembly in the country. He was a Catholic who acted according to his beliefs.

Many priests and a few bishops expressed their sorrow for the death and complained about the public power that brought about his death, and criticized the lack of responsibility and the abuse of power. The writer does not understand why church leaders were not more critical of what happened when a farmer was killed. The incident was distorted and the public opinion was manipulated. There is a time when speech is necessary. The time must not be missed. Why the fear?

The middle class is no longer present and to speak of a middle-class church is anachronistic. The Church is not a worldly enterprise but a community that feels with those who are hurting and serves as their mouthpiece. This is the Gospel message."Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and yet don't do what I tell you?" (Lk. 6;46).

When justice is trampled, democracy mocked, and personality not honored we have hell. God's kingdom begins here on earth: 'they will be done on earth as it is in heaven'  we are to build his kingdom here and now. This is the task that we have as Christians.

The Christian name of farmer Baek was Emmauel: God is with us. When criticism and debate are stymied in the Church we cease to be light and salt. We need to reflect and repent, this is our work as children of God-and to determine what we really have to fear.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Catholic Lay Movement of Korea

After the Second Vatican Council, in 1968 the Catholic Lay Apostolate Council was formed to inspire and give life to the work of the laity in Korea: evangelization works of charity, and work for the peace of the world and internal growth of the Church. The need of the laity to get involved in works of society and to encourage their participation. The Catholic Times had an article examining a half-century of growth.

In 1988 Pope John Paul II wrote an exhortation: Christifideles Laici ( Lay members of Christ's Faithful People)  which strengthened the position of the laity in the Church. This became a  concern on how to live according to the manner outlined in the exhortation. Consequently, they saw the need to come together as a group.

They started with the sticker: 'through my fault'  which is from the introductory confession at the beginning of Mass. They distributed 300,000 stickers, an attempt as individuals, members of families, in the workplace and in society to personally check the Christian's faith life and examine where to grow. 

The movement grew and received encouragement from society.  A song was composed and we had literary works produced with the theme. It spread to other countries. One of the reasons was the lack of morals and virtue experienced in society made the movement attractive to many. We were both the problem and solution. This was an impetus to work for the return of virtue in our social life.

In 1994  an appeal went all to all the Catholics and society at large: "Let us return morality and virtue to its rightful place and begin living according to God's order for humanity." At that time we had widespread corruption, lack of respect for life and trust only in material things. In 1993 we had the return of democratic leadership and the end of the military dictatorship.

Three years later in order to have the laity take their rightful place in the life of the Church the Lay Apostolate Council submitted some bold proposals to the bishops. They asked  that the parish pastoral councils be more than a consultative group but have deliberative possibilities in the management of the parish. Also to have a department for the laity in the diocesan makeup  and have their opinion heard in the decisions of the diocese. 

The following year,1998, with the IMF bailout situation, the Lay Council recommended that all the parishes become involved in the 'Anabada' movement: A (saving), Na (sharing) Ba (exchanging), Da (reusing). This was an effort to overcome the difficulties of that time and to be concerned with those out of work and to help them financially, 

In 2001 to overcome our greed and mammonism in society they inaugurated: 'Let us live properly' movement. The Council again wanted to inspire the Christians to work to make a just society for without efforts to overcome the evils in society the future will not be bright.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Waiting Is A Part Of Life

Two men are waiting for a person named Godot. They are on a stage with a shriveled tree trunk waiting.  He never arrives. Who is Godot?  Or is it what is Godot? These words begin the column Word and Silence in the Catholic Peace Weekly. 

The play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Becket  is a parable of the never ending waiting in life. The two main characters with blank expressions  are waiting for Godot and  don't know why. They are not even sure of the time and place. Moreover, they don't even know if there is an agreement to meet. Like an old habit, they are just waiting. What in the world is Godot? Is it God, bread, liberty, hope? The author does not give an answer.

Suddenly, the new year approaches in our thoughts and we wait. The trees lose their leaves and wait for spring. On the streets, volunteers are waiting for contributions to help the needy. In the church the advent candles are lit, crib and carols are sung waiting for the one who is to come. We also have many who take to the streets with candles in their hands hopefully waiting.

What are we waiting for? Wanting the president to retire?  Getting rid of useless and harmful systems and practices? Are we waiting for Christmas?  The kingdom which Jesus proclaimed? For a light to overcome the darkness? For liberty and salvation?

Even with the change of the ruling power, the cozy relations between big business and government and corruption continues. "He will make justice dawn for you like the light" (Ps.37:6). Is this only a dream? 

We have waited for a new way of doing politics,  a new nation, a new era but it always ends in frustration. When the weeds are removed they return to the same spot. For a moment we see light, which quickly returns to darkness. Darkness will not easily disappear. It's not only our failure to pick a good leader. Something  more than changing persons and structures is needed.

When the light comes does the darkness recede? Light has already come and will come again. Darkness is there because of the darkness we have in ourselves. We are submissive to power we are attracted to money and its desire.

Society will change to the degree that I pray. The light that I have in myself will be that which will shine and decrease the darkness. The  work and effort that I expend to get rid of immorality and corruption will determine the results.

At the end of the play a youth appears and tells the two men that Godot will not come today, he will come tomorrow. The waiting  was useless but  one can not forget the  promise that was given. We will wait again tomorrow. " In all this chaos there is one certainty we are waiting for Godot."

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Church of the Poor

A priest responsible for evangelization in his diocese writes a column in the Catholic Times reminding the readers how important it is to look around and see those who are hurting for many different reasons. 

Some have problems with income, some with an incurable sickness, some with family problems....  Each day they are faced with pain and a daily struggle. No matter the efforts that are made they find it difficult to go beyond the walls that enclose them: too high,firm, and cold.

He remembers seeing a public advertisement on TV some years ago which still remains with him today. It was a reminder of how a few seconds of concern for others adds to the beauty of the world in which we live. 

An elementary school paper boy was delivering the  morning papers and came to a house where the wall in front of the house was so high that no matter how much he tried to get the newspaper over the wall the paper fell back to his feet. Right at this time a middle-aged man came by and saw the predicament facing the lad. He took the newspaper and without difficulty threw it over the wall. The child looked at the man with a blank look on his face which quickly turned into a big smile. The whole scene did not take more than 6 seconds.

The writer reflects on the few moments that were taken from the  adult to help the boy and the impression it left with the boy. Life is worth the efforts to do well. Things may be difficult but there are ways they can be overcome. People are around that are willing to help. Over and over in the boy's head, these thoughts were repeated, there are many ways out of difficulties giving him courage.

Jesus gave us the example of a mustard seed the smallest of seeds that in time becomes the nesting place for all kinds of birds. Likewise, our smallest act  can be a way of giving joy, and strength to those who are the  recipient of these kindnesses.

Back in 2014 when the pope came to Korea we experienced this kindness in every place he went. He was only here for four nights and 5 days but planted seeds of kindness everywhere he went. He visited with the families of those who died in the Sewol Ferry tragedy and listened to their complaints. He blessed individually all the handicapped that he met and shook the hands of all the 'comfort grandmothers' {those who suffered forced prostitution during the second world war} that he met. Everybody was an important encounter and gave many strength  and courage to go on.

He was not a representative of a Church of prosperity, well-being and comfortableness but of a poor, scared and hurting Church, united in solidarity with those who were vulnerable and weak. Isn't this the way we need to walk as the  community that Jesus founded?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Living The Life Of Love

"Are you sick? I am also sick." Writing in the With Bible magazine a teacher, author, and student of life meditates on the words above, words of a drama he remembers. The words expressed the  love between two people, its depth, and breadth, words we do not often hear.

When he first heard the phrase Shakespeare came to mind and the tragedy of King Lear. The king was deceived by the sweet words of his two eldest daughters and he gave them the kingdom and all his possession only to be betrayed. When he lost all his power, angry, alone and without help-- was when he understood his situation. He was left only with two faithful subjects but began to understand the suffering of others.

To his faithful court jester, he says: "Come close, friend, you must be cold, I am also cold." Now that his situation has changed what he didn't see in the past he now sees and his heart is moved. Poverty has a great power for it allows one to see the humble things in life with different eyes.

At present one of the big problems with the upper one  percent of the population is they don't see the suffering of the other members of society. They do not sympathize with those hurting but only think of ways to fill their own pockets.

Scriptures are filled with the mercy that Jesus showed  those who were hurting. His first miracle showed concern for a married couple and their guests when they ran out of wine. The writer feels this was not unrelated to the coldness he felt from the authorities in society.

Ten percent of the population possess half of the wealth of the nation. With time this will increase and yet no thought of fixing the situation. Moreover, the top one percent are making the laws and monopolizing the benefits. 

The middle class has for decades lost its place in society and we have no clear understanding of the crisis. And the Church is under the illusion that we are becoming middle class.

This ability to empathize comes not with connections with the top levels of society but with the lowest. The one who loves feels oneness with the other. Love feels pain, understands the hurt, consoles and gives strength.

He asks the readers if that is the way they love. Is this the way the Church loves? We attend Mass, pray and serve  others, and it is not to receive compensation but to receive joy in loving and serving. This is the message of the Gospel. And yet at times our faith life borders on shamanism were we become sponsors to authority and money. 

We know what Jesus wants from us (Luke 4, 18-19).  He wants us to be free and yet we are bound by attachment, exploitation, neglect, oppression, distortion, and ideology. When  a minister or priest is sent to an area where the people are well off the message is softened, not to  upset the hearers. The fear of alienating the wealthy and losing them is always present.This is not the Church but a shrine worshiping a fetishistic religion.

When we are showing mercy  and are empathetic to others we are already practicing half of the Gospel message. "Are you sick? I am also sick."  To live this  life we have to continually check to see if others are sick or well. This is love this is the Gospel. When we see others liberated from their pain this is happiness that comes from love.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Difficult Questions to Face

A priest contemplating retirement in future years introduces his readers to his reflection on the future in an article in Bible & Life magazine.

One day while giving a retreat, he received a telephone call from a religious sister asking if he would say Mass for them. He looked at his schedule and since he was busy at that time, told them he had another commitment and was sorry, he would have to refuse. A few hours later he was giving a talk that made him recall the refusal.

Jesus on the mount of Gethsemane said to his disciples: "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." That temptation, he says, was to be concerned only for oneself and not to see the problems of others.  Jesus was sweating drops of blood and they were tired and wanted to sleep and didn't perceive the anguish that Jesus was dealing with.

If he was a little bit more concerned with the needs of others who were asking  for help with a  little change in his schedule he could have accommodated the sister who called. He was concerned only about himself and fell into temptation.

A few days before in a retreat for priests, one of the priests expressed his concern for the years of retirement that were approaching. He found no good examples to imitate. Choosing a retirement home for priests is difficult for a person who has lived his whole life alone. Going to a country area and living near a mission station and helping with the pastoral work for the community makes it difficult for the pastor of the area. To farm a small area of land in the countryside is another possibility but they are all big steps to make.

After retirement, there is a possibility of 20 to 30 years of life. One needs health if not to be a burden on others. So, hold back and take care of yourself so that you will be prepared for retirement. Using all your energy to live a long life is not what is important  and not to worry about life after retirement but to give yourself completely to the work that you are now doing. Isn't this  the best preparation for retirement?

The writer mentioned his own present problem with health. He has a growth in his throat that  will take a long time for healing and has been told by his doctor to cut back on its use. His work requires that he give talks leaving him with a serious conundrum.

One of his classmates mentioned to him: "Present society has for its icon, preserving health. One's health is of primary importance." Health and living a long time  becomes one's greatest interest.  Resurrection and God's kingdom disappears. This world and ourselves become all important. The desire to do what is difficult  and need for sacrifice is forgotten.

Each day at Mass Jesus says through the lips of the priest: "Take this, all of you and eat of it for this is my body which will be given up for you." He hears from the inside the voice of Jesus:  "What are you going to do???"

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Concern for Human Rights Within Religion-- Peripheral or Essential?

Dec. 4th was Human Rights Sunday in the Korean Catholic Church and begins the Social Doctrine Week. The bishop's message for the day  reminds the Christians of tension experienced by the military build up, approval of the terror law, the death of a farmer in a peaceful demonstration, the plight of workers and the unemployed, voice of the 'comfort women' and the unsettled problems with the Sewol Ferry tragedy. These and many other issues need to be solved.

Both the Catholic Times and Catholic Peace Weekly have editorials and articles for Human Rights Sunday.  The Church realizes that it may not have done a good job in catechizing the parishioners on the horizontal dimension of our faith life, concentrating for  many years on the vertical: God and ourselves.

Many Christians want the Church to keep quiet on politics, security, science, economics, in these areas, they say, the Church has no authority. "The Holy Spirit is not involved and each one is free to follow their own conscience: a matter of choice." Christians need to keep their eyes closed, ears blocked and remain satisfied with personal salvation. Sad, but also a reminder that a poor job was done in the teaching of Christians.

Human Rights are concerned with the dignity of the human person who was made in the image of God. Consequently, unreasonably to restrain a person's inalienable rights and freedom is wrong. Government concern for family needs to be highlighted. Labor should always be considered more important than capital and skill.

The world of finance also has to be governed by virtue. The increase in wealth needs to be related to the human family community: selecting the poor as a concern for society and industry. The common good has to be always present in our thinking. Peace between nations is always the goal  of our government  taking all the necessary means. We  need to stop the competition with armaments and gradually to reduce  what we have.

We as Christians need to respect the personal rights of others. To make a just and a peaceful society we need to be willing to give up part of what we possess for the good of the greater community. What we have we need to possess wisely and share what we can with those who are in need. We need to be conscious of the solidarity with all our brothers and sisters.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Lessons From Choi Soon-sil Gate

In Korea, the names of the president and her friend from the past continue to monopolize the news with the  escapades of Choi Soon-sil Gate. Like any drama or movie, it fascinates the populace and those involved continue to add to the story. With false belief and a strong ego, without  a speck of personal guilt we continue the tug of war within the country.

A religious sister in the View from the Ark column  of the Catholic Times  gives the readers her understanding of what is happening. Very much like a screenplay that is performed before the eyes of the citizens, different from what we are accustomed. We have always had the struggle between good and evil. The good have mostly accepted very naively and passively the evil. However, here we have the pack of wolves and  citizens wise as snakes and gentle as doves.

A citizens movement against distorted beliefs. Truth, logical thinking, instead of restlessness; peace, instead of egotistical attachment and stubbornness, politeness and constancy. These two states of affairs confronting each other are moving to a climax. Before the end, we will have many variables entering the picture. However the values of  truth and love  will be the results.

Those looking on from the sidelines are waiting for the truth to become manifested and this has not yet been the case. With the candlelight demonstrations, the citizens have come to a critical point. Here we have the anger of the populace coming to a head and the sign of their maturity. Tears in the eyes and a solemn demeanor is evident.

She quotes from the Book of Changes: "When our situation is difficult  we change, we find understanding, and we will continue to live well. Heaven will come to our aid and  it will not be harmful." She prays that the ringleaders of the mess the country is in will understand what is happening. And wonders how the citizens have been involved in accepting the false values of the times.

Citizens, because of what has happened have upgraded their concern for the county. They have made known what the citizens want from those running the government. They want to salvage the truth and want it carried out. This is the teaching of Jesus and a preparation to participate in the 'Paschal Mystery' a new way of living in Korea.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hospice Movement in Korea

We are born into the world to live and one day die. So, what is the meaning of life and death? With these words, a doctor emeritus at the hospice center at a Catholic hospital begins a column in the Catholic Peace Weekly.

The hospice movement, he says, does a great deal to open us to the meaning of life and death. One of the ways of showing us what the completion of life is.

With the discoveries made in medicine especially antibiotics in the last century, we have had an extension of the average lifespan. In 1955 the ordinary lifespan of Koreans was 55.4 years it is now over 80.

Medicine's saving lives and extending the lifespan enabled society to  avoid issues of death and care for the dying.  Results are that many terminally ill cancer patients have serious pain problems in meeting death. In the intensive care unit of hospitals the patients are in unfamiliar surroundings with all kinds of mechanical gadgets and apparatuses that they have to deal with. Separated from their families, in many cases, alone to face death.

Precisely because of these problems  the hospice movement began. An English physician Dame Cicely Saunders began work with the terminally ill in 1948, which eventually became the first hospice. Society,  volunteers, clergy, family and many others worked together holistically  to alleviate the suffering  of those seriously sick who were  facing death. The Little Company of Mary, religious sisters, were the group that began hospice work here in Korea in 1965. From there it spread to other parts of the country. 

Our columnist has been working in hospice for the last thirty years. He has worked with those terminally ill from cancer and  working with anti-cancer medicine. They cured a few and extended the lives of many. With the cure of some of the patients, he has found great satisfaction from his work. However, the majority, treatment extended their lives but the pain was there and this has bothered the doctor much and wonders why he ever got into the work with the dying sick, but this soon disappears.

He was a frequent visitor to the chapel  where he expressed his frustration in not being able to do more. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament were often to complain but he always found consolation and found strength to continue his work in the hospice movement.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Growing in Married Love

Living together in marriage becomes more difficult with the passage of time. Few were the problems at the start of married life but they developed over the years. They were present but didn't appear until later. A college professor  mentions his growth in married life in a Catholic Times article.

He gives us the example of putting socks in the washing basket and putting  clothes in the clothes' closet. They are very insignificant tasks. However, they can be reasons for friction between the couple.

In time they began to mention the issues that irritated them. Why do you do it that way? After hearing the words of scolding and no noticeable change the words cease but the irritation remains. Usually, habits  carried from childhood difficult to change.

On his part, he has a habit of opening cabinet doors and the rice cooker lid and not closing them. His wife: "Good heavens once you open a door you need to close it. Why do you continually forget to close the doors?"  

On the other hand, his wife has a habit of putting her clothes on door knobs and on the back of chairs. He likes a neat room and this bothers him. "How come, aren't we to put clothes in the closet why do you continue to hang your clothes here and there?"

These are some of the areas in which they both had problems with the other. It's a failure to put oneself in the other person's shoes. We understand that we are different with the head but it doesn't register with the heart.

As the years pass they no longer are a problem, no words are exchanged and each of them will make up for what the other lacks. If he leaves the door of the cabinets ajar she without any comment will close the doors and he will without words take the clothes he finds on the door knobs or chairs and puts them in the closets.

With this way of thinking, they both are concerned with the others life and schedule and help each other to remember what is to be done. They become  managers for each other. It is not only celebrities and the famous that have managers but they have found this way of working together with profit for each of them.

Korean culture is influenced by Confucianism. In   this article, we see that it is not all pervasive in society. We have other influences which also spread within society. Christianity has  changed many of the old cultural ways. Patriarchy is no longer what it was. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Learning About Learning

Korea gives education a high priority and has  great respect for what education is able to do for the country and the individual. It ranks high in the results that it achieves in primary and secondary school programs. A religious sister writing for Catholic Digest reminds us of the price that many pay for the emphasis on achievement in studies.

While in high school she heard over and over again that her studies, no matter how difficult and time consuming,  would propel her to the middle class. You only have to overcome the trials of the present  and your future is assured. Do you know what life is ahead of you if you don't graduate from college? These words made her feel miserable but made her pay attention to what was being said.

At the same time she had all kinds of questions  about her education. What is the reason for school? What is learning and study all about? One of her teachers made her feel lousy. He pointed to the janitor working outside sweeping and told her if she doesn't study she will be doing that kind of work. One of the students asked if the janitor was her father and all the students began to laugh making her feel nausea and wanting to leave.

Did she have to go along with what was being demanded? Competition-- winning, was that what it was all about? She felt alone, despondent, was there any  way out of the maze? Feeling lost while at home she saw a small book on St. Francis on the book shelf and began to read  and  peace and freedom came.  A person without possessions was free... Without freedom we will not be happy. She realized there was another road that could be traveled.

After that she read all the books that she found in her  house on the lives of the Saints. She wanted the freedom that these Saints experienced. It didn't make any difference what college she would attend.
No longer was this of primary importance and she entered a college run by an order of  religious nuns. 

For her it was the  first  time  she  was to meet sisters who wore  every day dress. At first seeing the nuns dressed without the  habits they seemed to be inelegant. They were not like the sisters she knew from the parish and kindergarten she attended.

After graduation she worked as a teacher for over two years with the community and  ended up as a member of that community of sisters. After finishing her course of studies her first assignment was precisely to be a teacher at the high school level. She was going back to the place where she felt so shackled and despondent.

However, the school she taught was much different from her own high school years. The teaching based on Christian principles was based on dignity and respect for the students. They were able to temper the hell of college entrance examinations and with the families make the search for learning and humanity the spirit of the school.

She taught at the school for 15 years and was regarded as a good teacher by the talk in the school community. But was that the reality? Were the thoughts that she had during her own years of schooling still the reality?

Two years ago she was faced with a great challenge. Her job was not to cram into the minds of the children what she deemed necessary but to foster  students' thinking. They were to  define what was necessary and she was to help them achieve their goal and to keep students as the subject of the learning.

This was an import from Europe and required a big change in the way she approached her students. What she considered the proper educational method  was a lie and a barrier in  helping students to grow as human beings.  She learned  something  new about learning. She was learning something that answered the questions she had as a student. She liberated herself and the students.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent Message

Today is the first day of our new liturgical year, the first Sunday of Advent. A new color for the vestments and a new beginning. Both Catholic papers have editorials and articles to prepare our Christians for the new year. Catholics begin the new year with Advent, as world citizens, they will greet the new year on Jan 1st and again as Asians on Jan. 28th.Which one is of greatest importance is without doubt Jan. 28th. This year it will be a long holiday.

Each Diocesan Ordinary has a pastoral letter for the parishioners reminding them of what is necessary during this period of preparation. The love of God is the message and we are to respond. We need a new answer to the old message of evangelization: a more faithful response to the  sacramental life of the Church.

The temptations of the world are many and great. Materialism and pleasure are always beckoning and the need to be vigilant. The Cardinal invites his diocese to remember the centrality of the Eucharist in our lives. Once we have deepened our faith life we go out to spread this love.

One of the editorials mentions a  book  by Cardinal Walter Kasper recently translated into Korean. The cardinal stresses we need to be the signs of hope and joy to the world. We have to remember what God has deemed important and participate in that work: for the good, justice, and truth.

Our society is thirsting for hope.The corruption and deceit  have demoralized many and they are looking for hope. This way of life was shown to us by Jesus and his followers. We are to show the way to truth, justice, goodness, mercy, and hope.

In John's Gospel 13:35 we hear: love one another. He gave us the new commandment. By keeping that commandment people will know that we are disciples of Jesus. Pope Francis has asked us to be people of hope and be witnesses to the truth--prophets.

We need to be careful to not separate our religious life and our daily life. Our life is one, lived according to the Gospel. A norm that comes to us from the time of Jesus. We are Christians, honest citizens of the country. Let us be born anew during this Advent to be more merciful and hopeful messengers of the Gospel.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Difference between Conviction and Timidity

Korea in recent years has worked hard to become a more transparent society, corrupt free. Efforts made thru the social media complaining about the direction of society, the Board of Audit and Inspection have investigated and censured many in society. Illegal collusion in society has been uncovered and the recent law against corruption and the movement for an honest society has given birth to paparazzi and other irregularities. With these words in 'View from the Ark' column, of the Catholic Times, a college professor introduces us to a problem in society.

However, this movement for an upright society requires continual disclosures and punishment and yet according to Transparency International, Korea continues to be at the bottom end of the list of OECcountries for transparency. This is the  reality for the last 7 years. We are not attacking the core reason for the problems and may be missing what is important.

According to sociologists special interests and universal interests are in conflict. Interests of the nation are important but the interests of individuals and the groups to which they belong prevail. 

In this society with the spread of the idea that punishment will solve all our problems we are getting into dangerous waters. Many are retreating into their shells for self-protection and peace at any price thinking. Civil servants will be concerned only for themselves and this thinking spills over to the larger society.

A business enterprise some years ago was sold at a very low price and those in prominent positions let it happen because of the headaches that would develop if they took another path. They were fearful of the audits, investigations, possible future reprimands and avoided the responsibility. More serious is lack of conviction.

Some of the surveys made among civil servants found the majority feel a need for pride in their work: to bolster morale and foster conviction in pursuit of their goals.

Often in society, for a person to aspire to a greater good is difficult for the fear of repercussions that come with failure. Timidity and a lack of conviction is common. If one does nothing there is no failure, but also no resiliency. 

Consequently, we have a large ship sinking and no one takes responsibility. Isn't this something that we have to guard against? We need to get rid of timidity and embrace conviction we need persons who are willing to be heroes.