The place of the layperson in the life of the Catholic community of Korea has and continues to be strong. Korea is unique in that it was not missioners who brought the Faith but they evangelized themselves. Some 18th-century scholars brought back some books from China and began spreading the knowledge of Jesus and his church.
They expended great effort in getting priests to enter the country and even when they succeeded they were indispensable in carrying on the work as catechists and teachers in the mission stations. They have been and are the strong cross beam of the community. However writing in a Catholic Times column a seminary president expresses some sadness at what a small segment of the lay-community is doing.
In comparison to other countries the Catholicism in Korea has been mainly united and harmonious not like many other countries which make the discord harder to accept.
Our columnist describes this aberration as a personal piety and a secular spirituality: separating their daily life from their religious beliefs. The light from the Gospel should be shining on our daily lives but in many cases, one's personal viewpoint of life in the world colours the way they see the Gospel.
This situation is not only a Korean problem but is seen in other cultures and nations, When the teachings of religion lose their influence in society many religious social scientists call this secularization. When these teachings lose their distinctive character religion becomes a commodity in the market. We have the marketization of religion. Religion is just one of the many products on the market and you select the brand that appeals to you.
There is a big divide between this reality and what Jesus came to give us. Jesus came to overcome the divisions and discords in society and unite us. Not only fellow citizens but includes even our enemies, the poor, hungry, thirsty, sick, naked, and prisoners; he identified them with himself (Matt.25). If we want to be his followers we have to keep this in mind.
Lay people are the ones who have been called to go into the world. They are given the task to keep this mission in their varied callings. Even willing to accept a loss to themselves in being spokespersons for the poor and weak of society. They are to be heralds of God's love. They are the salt of the earth and the carriers of the Gospel.