Saturday, July 30, 2016

Suggestions for the Catechetical Programs in Parishes

Problems we have in the pastoral work with the young are not something that just recently appeared but has a long history. Many solutions have been tried and much discussion has transpired over the years but matters have gotten worse. Students who are coming out to the Sunday school programs continue to decrease. Middle and high school students only one in ten are attending Sunday school, and of the teenagers, we have only six or seven out of one hundred who are coming to church.

Many dioceses are gathering interested persons together to find solutions to the problems and all agreed the whole program has to be overhauled. We can't continue conducting our programs for the young in this way.

In one of the diocesan open discussions on the topic, one priest mentioned it is no longer a crisis but a question of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. If we continue in this way in a few years only half of those now coming out will be in our programs. The class system that was used for the past fifty years is not working and only ten percent of our students in middle and high school are coming out.

One priest mentioned we should forget about teaching doctrine and concentrate on how to hand down the faith. We have to change the whole framework of what we are doing. We need to forget the Sunday school program and envision a pastoral plan for the young.

One diocese agreed that the whole framework used up until now has to change. One participant feared that by working with the problems of the young people and working for a solution we may consider that all the problems are being handled which is not the case.

One priest considered one of the big stumbling blocks was the priests themselves with their control of the program and autocratic ways. The bishop of the diocese said they can be a problem but they are also the ones that give life to the programs and asked for their continued concern. 

In one of the diocesan discussions one student leader mentioned the changing of the assistant priests every year is a big problem and detrimental to the spirit of the teaching staff. We need a committee to be responsible and more of a hands on policy by the diocese.

Teachers suggested in one of the open meetings: education for the parents, common use of good programs, texts that consider the situation of our students in our present reality, and priests who are educated in youth work that will visit the parishes and work with the teachers. Catholic Schools should also work harder at developing a Catholic Spirit among the students.

One person who has taught for over thirty years in the catechetical program for the youth thinks that more time should be spent in teaching about marriage and Christian family life. That will solve many of the problems that will we have in the future.

A person with a background in cultural studies with a doctorate in the field stresses that the church community has to be different from the world, and when the young people feel this, they will come. With the values of the world: they will receive what they give and give of what they receive, has to be changed to a foundation based on love where you give without condition and receive of blessings. Once they feel this in community the thirst of the young will be satisfied and they will find joy.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Losing the Capacity to Dream

"When you lose the capacity to dream, then you lose the capacity to love." These words are a quote from Pope Francis during a talk he gave on the family. In an article in the Peace Weekly, the columnist laments the loss of dreaming among the young.

When you want something and the possibility is there to achieve what one desires but no dream, we have an unhealthy society. Meeting a young person with dreams is not easy. The columnist has asked many young people about their dreams and the response is: "I don't know."  "I don't have one."

Our education system is set up as a preparation for the next step in education: middle school preparation for high school and high school for college. He mentions asking a class what their dream was for the future and the same answer came back but one student answered with a low voice: "teacher". The student sitting behind him patted him on the back and said:  "Hey you bloke, have you forgotten that you are not  good in studies?"

From the last years  of the 1990s, teachers, and civil servants are considered good occupations. Only a little raise in the salaries but a guaranteed lifestyle has made them popular.

We are persons who exist to dream. When we feel a  lack of something and have a strong desire to attain it, we have a dream. It makes us want to live and enjoy life. Living in a society with grownups we are helped to have dreams. In our society, unless a student has outstanding marks the  possibility of being a teacher is impossible and the competition is great.

Without dreams life becomes hell. Is this not the reason for suicides and the desire not to have children? What is the Church to do in this kind of society? What needs to be done if we are to be a light and the salt of the earth? Even though the solution may be beyond our control, we need to work to change the environment in which we live. What can be done?

In one of the diocese, they have decided to build a lighthouse and center for migrants living in Korea. It will be set aside for the migrants in Korea as a gift. They have come to Korea for economic reasons and  the church wants to give them a sense of worth by this splendid building for their use.

The Seoul Diocese also wanting workers to dream,  has a goal to examine the working conditions of workers and their needs, and work to realize this in their advocacy for concrete  programs in the diocese to bring this about.

It is important to work to overcome the ways of the world  but more important is to live our lives correctly. We need to work for a society in which  all the members can dream.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Busyness or a Chaotic Life Style

These days many find  themselves busy. One of the first words uttered in a telephone conversation: "You must be very busy" as they begin talking.  A university professor dares to show us the difference between busyness and chaotic living in his Catholic Times' column.

What does it mean to be  busy? The numbers of those who think they are busy aren't as large as one would think,  but rather  many are living a chaotic lifestyle. They say they are busy but examining the life one comes away with a different understanding.

With a  chaotic way of living making a promise to meet someone is not difficult but when the time arrives the conversation is disordered, and difficult to stay concentrated. During the conversation when the smartphone rings, quickly receiving consent with a facial expression, one begins talking. After finishing talking they  return to the  partner in conversation and ask: "Where were we in our discussion?" In conclusion, they met to talk about an issue but now put it off to another time in the future when they will be less busy.

On the other hand, those who are really busy, selecting a date is not easy,  but once a date is agreed upon, the allotted time is used to accomplish all that was envisioned peacefully, with no rushing as if the person involved had nothing else to do, and not disturbed by the ringing of the smartphone (very likely on silent). Busy people respect the preciousness of time of those with whom they are talking as important as their own time.

Where is the difference in the busy person's time and the other? It  will depend on what a person considers the center of his life. Whether it is his own needs which determine  the priority  or whether it is the needs of the situation in which  persons find themselves. This will determine  whether the person is busy or living a disordered life. 

What are the results of a chaotic life? There are many signs but our columnist sees the lack of focus on what is present as the most important sign. An example would be  when the need to be attentive to what is being done the person is playing around with the smartphone, or during Mass  receiving or sending text messages or not listening to the person with whom one is speaking and the like.

We are under the compulsive obsession that we need to be busy. It's a good impression society wants us to convey for it makes us feel we are accomplishing something. But if the life we  lead is not busy but chaotic,  we are not only tiring ourselves but fatiguing those with whom we are relating.

He concludes his article by asking himself is he truly busy or living a chaotic life? And ends with a prayer: "May this be not a chaotic day, but may the time that is given to me today be used wisely so that it will be truly a busy day."

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Peace on the Korean Peninsular

Both Catholic Weeklies had first-page articles and editorials on the anti-missile system decided for South Korea in cooperation with the United States. Not only are many of the citizens opposed but the neighboring countries also.

Presidents of the Commissions for Reconciliation and for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church reject the military escalation and stress that peace comes through dialogue and economic development in North and South Korea. They fear it will make the Korean peninsula, “the center of a new cold war” and increase the situation that Pope Francis has described as “ a Third World war being fought in pieces.”

According to the government, this is for the security of the citizens but why from the very beginning do we have such an uproar from the people? When we have an issue dealing with the citizens' security and issues that concern them directly, there is a need to gather with the citizens wisdom and to come to a consensus. What the editorial sees as a possibility is a return to the cold war days and the escalation of armaments.

The Church is opposed to all acts that break the possibility of peace. Self-protection is understood but when this is surpassed and we have the amassing of munitions this militates against security and peace. "There is a common belief that under modern conditions peace cannot be assured except on the basis of an equal balance of armaments and that this factor is the probable cause of this stockpiling of armaments" (Peace on earth #110).

“Peace is not merely the absence of war; nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies” (Gaudium et Spes #78). The Church is opposed because peace is not achieved with the might of arms but established on a foundation of justice and works of love.

One editorial mentions that it is not the increase of armaments on the peninsula that will overcome the nuclear threat and we need to rid ourselves of this illusion. Buildup of armaments will only bring more stress and be of no help in bringing peace to North East Asia. What we need now is not a missile defense system but communication and cooperation between the North and South. We Christians need to pray for this reality to come quickly.

The bishops also cite Pope Francis’s speech at the Blue House (South Korea’s presidential palace), during his visit to South Korea in 2014. On that occasion, the pope  said that “diplomacy, as the art of the possible, is based on the firm and persevering conviction that peace can be won through quiet listening and dialogue, rather than by mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms and displays of force. ”For this reason, the Catholic Church wants South Korean authorities to stop THAAD and Pyongyang to halt its nuclear enrichment projects. In fact, competition and military escalation carry "dangers for humanity” and cause “economic suffering among the poor."

What the bishops want is a way to make Korea a nation of reconciliation and life in cooperation instead of a place of clashing states.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mission of Korean Church Towards China

Catholic Times of Korea recently, with a Catholic publishing company in China, had a symposium in which they discussed the role of Korea in the evangelization of Asia. Pope Francis in his trip to Korea in 2014 asked the Korea Church to take a lead in this project and again in the gathering of the young people he made the same request.

Catholicism in Korea has grown rapidly and it is now  time to share this gift with the rest of Asia.The two publishing companies in the symposium discussed the methods, problems, and the reality of the situation. The recent edition of the Times wrote up the results of  the symposium for the readers.

63 percent of the world's population lives in Asia. China and India have over one billion population each, and seven other countries with over 100 million are in Asia. The Catholic population of Asia is 140 million which is 3% of the total and if we subtract the Philippines we have only 1% of the population Catholic. If we look at East Asia we have 20% of the gross domestic product of the world and 25% of the population.

However, looking at the area from another angle we have over 900 million who live in dire poverty. For these people, the Gospel is to eat. In Asia, we have many areas where the freedom of religion is not respected and in certain areas the inability even to ascertain the human rights' condition of the citizens. The task for the Church involves many difficulties and the carrying of the cross and yet it is a vineyard that can't be ignored. Pope Francis has expressed his wish to visit China, in his trip to Korea, flying over Chinese air space.

The presentation by the Chinese representative showed the many difficult implications of the task. Use is made of the Internet with conscience and in a public way to transfer information. Using the press, books, magazines the usual mass media is nearly impossible, but the internet does allow the opportunity to meet Christians and unbelievers.

Since the social revolution of 1949, religion is controlled by the 'three self-policies': self-governing,  self-propagating and recruiting, in a word, no outside control of the church. With this proviso, they understand  freedom of religion. This includes the appointment of bishops with no outside interference, even though there has been approval of some of the appointments by Rome.

The conclusion of the article makes clear that one of the ways of evangelization and spreading of religious  knowledge in China  is by means of the Internet. This is the way the light of the Gospel can be circulated in China. The  Korean Church has to endure this cross  in spreading the teaching of Christ in the present reality.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Priming Water And Faith

A desert is a desert because of lack of water. In a bulletin for pastoral workers the writer speaks about a traveler in the desert who was suffering from thirst and comes upon an oasis. 

On the spot was a pump with a bucket full of  priming water and a sign: "If you drink this priming water you will forever fail to drink the water of the well. [Priming  water was the water that was needed in the old pumps to create a vacuum and draw the water up for use] Take the water and pour it into the pump, you will have drinking water, water to wash yourself and your clothes, and before you leave fill the priming bucket with water for the next person."

The traveler was faced with the dilemma since he was dying of thirst. If he drank the water he would save himself. However, if he used the water as primer and it did not draw up water from the well he would die of thirst. If the priming did bring up the water he would be able to use water to his heart content.

Filled with worry he poured the water into the pump. At first no water and he kept  on pumping furiously, and after a feeling of despair the water began to flow and he was at peace, He filled the bucket with water and went on his way.

We are told in the Gospels that we can do wonderful things with the gift of faith even if it is no bigger than a small mustard seed. Too often the culture influences us more than the gift of faith and tarnishes all that we do.

The gift of faith for the writer, is like the  priming water of the old fashion pumps of days gone by. We need to trust that when we pour the water into the  pump and begin to pump furiously we will be rewarded. [Living the faith life]

Each day we wake up to a new reality. Different from the day before. We sing a new song, born again to a new day. Having these thoughts is what our faith life gives us. The new day will brings new possibilities, new deterrents, old problems remain, but we believe and hope that doing what we are missioned to do, all things will work together for the good.

Life of a Christian  is to trust in what we have been given, the gift of faith. Like priming water it will bring us an over abundance of what God wants to give, but are required to want and do what will enable us to receive what God always gives. "I am the servant of the Lord" is our daily confession. Daily we become the priming water and trust in God's abundance.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Inculturation in Korea

In both Catholic papers we have book reviews of Monsignor Sim Sang-tae's Theology of Inculturation of the Korean Church. [Inculturation is the term used in Catholicism to denote an encounter between the Christian Gospel and a particular culture] Monsignor is the Director of the Research Institute for Korean Christian Thought, and a seminary professor.

While preparing for the diaconate in Munster Germany in 1970, and on a retreat at a monastery in the outskirts of the city where the abbot of the monastery happened to be Asian: he asked about issues facing the church  in Asia, and was quickly answered: What is 禪? This is the Chinese Character for Seon the Korean variant for Zen.

He, the priest, was a Korean who knew little of his own history and spirituality. Knew little of his ancestors, and had little interest in their way of life but knew the thinking in the Middle Ages of Europe.  No knowledge of the Buddhist ascetic practices, and decided from that moment on to make inculturation his life study.

Christians need not only believe, pray together but to live what we believe. And to remember we are influenced by Confucianism, Buddhism Taoism and other cultures. Book contains: Church's teaching, and the  concept of inculturation;  direction of inculturation; road taken and the present reality of inculturation;  study of different areas of inculturation.

He mentions when persons are interested in becoming Catholic it is important to show from where they are coming, and the relationship to Catholicism.  Similarities and differences will make a person's faith life more comprehensive and active. 

Monsignor sees the Korean Church as narrow minded and exclusive as the pre-Vatican II Church of the West. He thinks the Church is more Roman than the Roman Church which he hears as a criticism of the present church, and warns of the results. We still depend on books of theology translated from the West and are not open to discussing the Korean way of thinking, the structures and concepts and  influence of the main religions of Korea on the thinking of Koreans. With this understanding we can come to a greater knowledge and depth of Jesus'  teachings and behavior.

If we don't leave this thinking of the West in its world view, manner of life, and ways of evangelization we will never get far in our task of evangelizing Asia. We need a new ardor, new methods, new expressions from the ways of the West.  
If we are not to follow in the footsteps of the West we have to find ways to experience what we believe,and to change to a spirituality proper to out mental make up, and this is what inculturation wants to do.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Living a Simple and Plain Life

Let's live the simple lifestyle.  "If you have anything to throw away bring it to the country, and we will find a use." An article in the Catholic Times is captioned: "Revolt against the fanning of consumption--'Throwaway Culture' needs to go."

The sale of books on how to live the simple life, continues to increase and this year in the first three month, we have 13 times more books sold than the previous year. A Japanese book on ten minimalists: "I want to live in room without anything"  translated into Korean, is a good example of the trend.

We can see this expanding on SNS with  information passed on and received by those who want to simplify their lives. The article goes on to mention  this is not  a recent phenomenon but goes back to the sixties in Japan and the United States. After the Second World War, many saw the barbarity of our civilization, and began to shun the unnatural and artificial. People have always followed the natural and a life of non possession, and it appears again. In 2011 with the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, many precious items suddenly disappeared. Water was transformed into a murderous weapon, changing the thinking of many on the value of goods and their possession.

This attachment to material goods is also seen in Korea. With its quick economic growth, Korea was engulfed within the whirlpool of extreme competition, materialism and consumerism, accompanied  with ostentation, bringing  fatigue in its wake. A person's personal improvement, healing and mentoring, etc. did not permit the pursuit of a splendid lifestyle, and  price required. Problems with continual progress, and the stagnant economy had something  to do with the change of thinking. Problems with environment and new ecological understanding also played a part.

Opposition to spending was in the current context  of  resistance to the consumerism of capitalism. In the West, it was not only their ideology but a result of practice. France has the 'Vide Grenier', (cleaning out the attic) which in  English would be a flea market sale. For the last ten years, the number of sales and  people attending continue to increase. The press calls this a fight against waste. Economic crisis is involved  but more so the lack of virtue and the superficiality of capitalism;  minimalists are determined to not thoughtlessly be taken in by words. In France the key words, according to the writer, are organic, just trade, togetherness, and second hand. 

'Planned obsolescence' is a phrase, an open secret, where products are made to wear out. This is the phrase used to  criticize the way many businesses operate.

He finishes the article with quotes from Laudatio Si.  "This task [social and ecological awareness] will make such tremendous demands that (we) could never achieve it by individual initiative or even by the united effort of men bred in an individualistic way... The ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion." 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Death of a Christian

Death makes us, reflect with respect, on a serious happening in life. We don't dwell on the failings of the deceased. Is there anyone  without fault? We pray for the repose of the person's soul. 

Words we use at the death of someone, are not used randomly. We think, and are discrete in what we say and do. An article in the Peace Weekly discusses our feelings when faced with death of someone. Many  words are used, and each one has a slightly different feel: died, deceased, a person left us, went to another world, left this world, passed away, breathed her last, returned home, passed into Nirvana and  many others. 

With these expressions, we extend our condolences and respect for the deceased to family and friends. According to the way a person lived and died, there are differences in the expressions used. He shows us this with the accounts of the way the deaths of some well-known  persons in Korea were written up in the press. Some died,  some left this world, others passed on, etc..

Those who believe in an after-life usually have a different expression. Buddhism will often express having attained Buddhahood or entered nirvana. Protestants often say they have heard the call of God and returned to him: a meaningful way to express the meaning of death for a Christian. Catholics use an abbreviated expression meaning:  "lived a good life and finished it well."  Our writer feels what is missing is no allusion to the after-life. 

These expressions, says the writer, do show a graded way of dealing with death. A bishop who recently died, in one of the papers  was reported to have expired. He has no problem with people using whatever they feel comfortable with, but to avoid discrimination using the Catholic expression for all, would be proper, would-it-not?

Reporting on deaths that are accidental or have come about with circumstances far from proper makes it  difficult for the press, at all times, to use words of respect and consolation. Even the Catholic paper in which the writer represents, does not find the same words used. At times, we have the Catholic expression of 'lived a good life and finished it well' but also 'left this world'  which has little religious meaning.

He concludes the article  with  a reflection that death  for a Christian is in God's realm. A person returns to God and on our part, we pray for them, use words of kindness and don't judge.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Lessons From the Desert

We can learn a lot from games and the Seoul Diocesan family bureau gives us such a game. The premise is a family flying, and emergency lands in a desert. No one is hurt but they are 62 miles from the nearest inhabited area. The temperature was 116 Fahrenheit and before the plane went up in flames they removed 14 items:

Flashlight, knife, map of the area, compass, emergency medicines, a pistol with ammunition, parachute, a bag of salt, 2 quarts of water for each, a book on how to live in the desert, sun glasses, a bottle of whisky, overcoat for each one, and a cosmetic hand  mirror. These were the items that they want the readers to list in the order of importance. The answer comes from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from their studies on disasters and rescues.

The list begins with the least important of the 14 items which is salt (14). Whisky (13), book on life in the desert (12), is of no use since you don't have time to read and expend energy.  Map of the area (11), they should stop any one who wants to go in search of help. No need for a compass (10), for they know from the rising of the sun and the North Star  the directions on the compass.  No need for the emergency medical supplies (9), no one was injured.  From the 8th  on we have what is necessary to stay alive in the desert.

A pistol which will show their location (8), sunglasses needed (7), pocket knife to make juice from the cactus and aloe (6), parachute (5) can be used as a tent and to gather dew in the morning for drink. Flash light to give the location to the rescue team (4),  water (3)  no need to explain its importance. Overcoats (2), to protect from the hot sun and in the morning from the cold temperatures of the desert.  A cosmetic hand mirror (1) which is used to reflect the sun to show location to the rescue party.

The object of the game explains the writer can be summarized by the passage from proverbs: "The way of the fool seems right in his own eyes, but he who listens to advice is wise" (Proverbs 12:15). Talking this over with a group will usually give better results, but always the danger that those with the loudest voice, rank, the oldest, men rather than women, adults more than children will be heard.

In this exercise what may be considered the most important is not in reality important, and that which is thought least important becomes the most important. Is this not true in our own lives? What we think is important drives out what should be important but we don't realize this truth until too late.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

In the Peace Column of the Peace Weekly, we have a summary of a discussion the writer had with some close friends some 10 years ago. He doesn't remember all the discussion but what still remains with him was the worldliness within the church.

Authoritarianism and self-importance  of the clergy were an issue that must be remedied but more than that was the secularization of the church. After the Second Vatican Council, the laity had the task of bringing about the kingdom of God in society. This is the particular task of the laity. They are to help spread the fragrance of Christ and help to improve the society in which we live but here, he says, it was just the opposite: society's values entered the church.

Lay people  are related to the clergy like those in the workplace are related with their superiors: laity try  to please the clergy. Works of service are considered like a government position, and this spreads to all the areas within the community. This evil pushes out the good.

A priest was the person that brought this to the attention of the group. For the writer more than what was said was the reason behind the change in thinking. In the later years of the 1970s and 80s, we had an increase in the numbers entering the church. Many were not able to filter out the behaviors in society that were not proper for a Christian, and these ideas entered  the  church community. They became the current within the church. What is important, said the priest, is not just to increase the numbers but to form Christians who think like Christ. 
Pope Francis has often repeated we are a community of sinners. Consequently, we will have both large and small problems to face. The vast majority of the Christians are immersed in our culture, and the temptations that come from making ourselves the center of everything.

However, we have to be careful for there is much the church  can learn from the society in which we live:  knowledge gathered from the sciences and the humanities which can greatly help the community of faith. At the same time, we keep out the wrong  behavior, and work to change it to Gospel values.

This requires that all the Christians together work to examine and discern what is happening in society. Accept the good and work to change the wrong. However, we have to begin with ourselves. When we see what is not in harmony with the Gospel, we resolutely work to overcome it. When we have the correct order of things in ourselves we will be able to work wisely to correct the problems in society.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Korean Martyrs of the North

Martyrs who have died for their faith are many in the history of Korea. In recent years we heard about the  martyrs that died during the years of the communist take over of North Korea.

The Korean bishops have asked the Vatican to open the beatification process for the bishop of Pyongyang Hong Young-ho and his 80 companions after the division of Korea in 1948. Rome has approved the request and the study of the information has begun.

On the list, we have a number of foreign priests of the Paris Foreign Mission Society, the Columban Fathers, foreign missionary nuns, Korean priests, religious sisters, seminarians and lay people and on the list are two Maryknollers: Bishop Patrick Byrne and Maryknoll Korean Sister, Chang Chong-on Agneta the sister of John M Chang (Chong Myon) who was ambassador, vice president, and prime minister of the Republic of Korea from 1960-1961.

Bishop Patrick James Byrne  a member of the Maryknoll Fathers was the first missioner chosen in 1923 to begin the work in Korea and is listed as one who has died for the faith in North Korea. He was named Prefect Apostolic of Pyongyang but in 1929 had to return to the States after being elected Vicar General  during the first society chapter. He returned in 1935 to a new mission in Kyoto, Japan where he helped to calm the people during the American occupation. In 1947  he was appointed as the first Apostolic visitor for Korea and in 1949 the first Apostolic Delegate to Korea.

In 1949 he was consecrated bishop in Myong Dong Cathedral,Seoul, and the following year the Korea War began. Knowing the imminent fall of Seoul to the invading army the Americans were advised to flee to Japan but he didn't want to leave his responsibility to the Church of Korea. He complained about the   persecution of the Church in the North and the imprisonment of Bishop Hong and the priests and Christians.

He was arrested in July and before a people's court with many other foreigners was imprisoned and was sentenced to die. He was transferred to Pyongyang and imprisoned again on July 19th. On Oct. 8th he was moved to Manpo and shortly after began the four-month death march.

Bishop Byrne became ill and finally died of pneumonia. Before he died he told those who were with him: "After the privilege of my priesthood. I regard this privilege of having suffered for Christ with all of you as the greatest of my life." He received the absolution the night before from Father William Booth a Maryknoll priest who was his secretary. Bishop Quinlan, A Columban priest and Prefect Apostolic of Chunchon recited the prayers at the gravesite. He died on November 25, 1950, at the age of 62 and was buried in an unmarked grave.

The great sadness is the fact that the age of the martyrs has not ended as we know from the daily news. In North Korea, we have no way of knowing the suffering of the Christians that remain.

For those who may be interested in more information about the Maryknoll Society and its  work in Asia you are invited to go these sites: