Friday, September 30, 2016

Lessons Learned from Animal Courtship

In present society, the female does at times take the initiative in courtship but still  the male in the majority of cases continues to be the active one. Biologically the sperm of the male is unlimited in comparison to the ovum of the female.  So begins an article in the Kyeongyang magazine on the courtship ways of animals by a father of three children who works in a diocesan family ministry.

The male more than the female  is  concerned with competition and interested in his own world. Consequently, he  doesn't like to be compared with others. 

In the animal kingdom it is similar but examining the ways is of great interest.

The female hedgehog protects herself with her quills. The male is not deterred by the quills and when it mounts the female he is speared with the  quills and with the front paws caresses the female. The female desists from its guard-like stance and refrains from using her quills and they become a pair.

The Peacock shows off its beauty of its tail feathers and without them, the chances of finding a mate are greatly reduced. Prairie dogs win their mates by frequent jumping.  Scorpions dance before their mate. Crocodiles serenade their mate, barely audible, and in the spot you see bubbles rising. Male penguins prepare their nest and present a pebble to the female as their courtship present. The Red female  spider is much larger than the male and often is under the illusion that the male is her food. The male knowing this is willing to court the female. And he bravely undergoes death knowing that he is preparing  food for the new baby spiders.

The animal kingdom has given our writer much to think about as he continues his article and shows us what he has learned. Like the hedgehog has he  overcome the quills of his wife with understanding  and concern or instead  returned  his own quills. Like the Peacock has he been concerned with his appearance and been understanding for his wife's desire to look well.  Like the crocodile has he spent time serenading his  wife and going on a date. Like the penguin does he remember his wife with presents? 

He wants to be the first to approach, the first to console, the first to show love and to continue being a novice in his relationship with his wife. 

"Now, I will show you the way which surpasses all the others. If I speak with the human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love. I am a noisy gong,a clanging cymbal" (Cor.13:1).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Silence of the Press

Mass media's power in society is often underestimated.  In the medieval period, we had the three estates, in our society the fourth estate, when the words are used, refer to the mass media. The power of the mass media, both the positive and the negative are extensive: affecting our physical, emotional, psychological and the spiritual life.

The negative influence comes not only by slanting the news, emphasizing certain aspects of life out of proportion to reality, failing to report the news honestly, not taking into account the way news is reported, but also in failing to report news and ignoring what goes against the editorial policies of the news outlet.

Writing in the Catholic Times the head of a diocesan justice and peace committee mentions in his column on the Sewol Ferry tragedy this last point: failure to report on the demonstrations going on by the families of the victims is a form of censorship of the news by those who should be reporting the news.

Families of the  Sewol Ferry Tragedy  continue in the center of Seoul with their  fasting. (The Sewol Ferry sank on April 16, 2014, on route to Jeju Island with school children on their class trip. The ferry capsized  carrying 476 people mostly high school students). Families of the victims want to know the truth behind the sinking of the  ship and the reasons and feel this is not what is happening, consequently, the peaceful demonstrations~ shaving of their heads and fasting.

The families of the victims in the center of Seoul are trying to get the attention of the citizens but the mass media is keeping the citizens in the dark which makes the families feel like they are on an island in the middle of Seoul.

Two years and a half have passed since the sinking; serious gestures have been made to uncover the truth, punish the responsible, and work for a  more secure society but at the same time, the truth of what was involved has sunk to the bottom of the ocean with the silence of the mass media. 

The writer wants to see an openness of the press. "The information provided by the media is at the service of the common good. Society has a right to information based on truth, freedom, justice, and solidarity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2494).

"Among the obstacles that hinder the full exercise of the right to objectivity in information, special attention must be given to the phenomenon of the news media being controlled by just a few people or groups. This has dangerous effects on the entire democratic system when this phenomenon is accompanied by ever closer ties between governmental activity and the financial and information establishments"  (Social  Gospel Compendium 414).

"In the world of the media, the intrinsic difficulties of communications are often exacerbated by ideology, the desire for profit and political control, rivalry and conflicts between groups, and other social evils" (Social Gospel Compendium 416).

He concludes the article by asking: Is the Church  free of blame from the way it reports the news and as Christians are we free in the way we receive  and accept the news?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Who is the Good Samaritan?

Recently in a Peace Weekly column, a university professor mentions the news item in which passengers in a taxi going to the airport for an overseas  golf trip, left the taxi when the driver on the trip lost consciousness and died. The passengers intent on making their flight took their golf bags and  left the taxi and the driver to  continue on to the  airport and their flight.

When this news was spread by the mass media the parliament proposed that the Good Samaritan  Law on the books be amended. When a person can be helped and help is not offered you are liable to punishment of one year in prison and a fine of about 3,000 dollars.  The intent of the law was to help form a more desirable society. An internet  survey showed  the majority of the citizens were in favor of the law.

The professor sees some problems with the law. First of all, it is against the principle of  proportionality. Quoting some lawyers he says it is excessive punishment. If there is not an immediate connection with a crime then there is not to be a penalty. This is contrary to  the principle of liability with fault. Many also see the tendency to legislate a  person's religious beliefs into law.

However, the professor's biggest problem is none of the above but sees it as a misunderstanding of the meaning of the parable in Luke's Gospel 10: 25-27. Jesus tells the teacher of the law that the main point of the law is to love your neighbor as yourself. The  teacher of the law questions: "Who is my neighbor?" Here  Jesus gives us the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus is telling the teacher of the law not to ask who is the neighbor but you be the neighbor. The Good Samaritan teaching does not fit the case of those  going to the airport. The way the law can be understood is that you can penalize those who are not your neighbor. Those that treat you well become  your neighbor and the others are not. This is not the understanding of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

With this understanding of the parable are we   bettering society? In the parable of the Good Samaritan are the Levite and the priest, not our neighbor? And those going to the airport who weren't concerned with the taxi driver: are they not also our neighbor? We know how Jesus would answer.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Place of Workers in Society

"From the beginning, therefore, he is called to work. Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creatures, whose activity for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Only man is capable of work, and only man works, at the same time by work occupying his existence on earth. Thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons. And this mark decides its interior characteristics; in a sense, it constitutes its very nature." These words begin the encyclical  'On Human Work' by  Pope John Paul II (1981) and introduce an article in Bible & Life on Labor by a Seoul priest.

If these words are true it is only right that all labor and laborers should in every place and time enjoy glory and respect. Is this the reality of what we see in society?  There has been a change but labor still is looked upon negatively. In Korea, it is not difficult to find persons who look upon labor as the punishment for losers. Hearing 'labor movement' and 'labor union' many tense up or are on their guard.

Why should this be the case? From childhood, that is the education received and as adults, this is what they have seen and heard. Labor is looked down upon and working  to better the situation is seen as a leftist interest. This should not be the case within the Nation or the Church.

In the Korean Constitution, we have the three rights spelled out: the right to organize, collective bargaining and collective action. Laborers have a right to organize a labor union, participate, the right to collectively bargain and the right to strike. This is a right the Nation has given to the worker-- an enormous right.

He lists some of the many encyclicals on labor: Rerum Novarum 1891 (On the condition of Labor), Quadragesimo Anno 1931 (After Forty Years), Laborem Exercens 1981 (On Human Work), and Centesimus Annus 1991 (The Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum). The Church has not only stressed the respect and rights due to the workers but listed the obstacles to this respect and rights.

What is the Church's record on following its own teaching? The writer wants us to ask those working in Church related facilities and he responds that not a small number are disappointed in what they see. For the most part transparent but no different in the pursuit of profits, giving the lowest wages, and in labor disputes similar to what we see in the world.

He concludes that the members of the Church have not yet digested the teaching and this we need to confess. "Where we stand is the way we see the landscape." He hopes this proverb doesn't describe the way we react to the Church's teaching. He feels that if the Church is not going to follow its teaching it should not get involved in work hiring others.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Concience the Voice of God

Often in surveys and questionnaires, Catholic responses are no different from the other segments of society. Since Catholics  live in society, it is not surprising  there  is  little difference in the way they think or act. This is not true of all but many Catholics, on family, marriage, and social problems are not influenced by their Catholicism.

Since we are all living in the same society the spirit of the times is always influencing us in many different ways. Expressing this strongly, the spirit of the  world confines us both in thought and action. 

Structures of society, systems, and laws have influenced us from the time we were children. We know many of our actions and thoughts are not  correct but are not able to overcome the structures and we become accustomed to going along. However, to be human we must continue to work against the structures that are not healthy.

A seminary professor in an article in the Catholic Times, wants us to think of the way society continues to influence us, not always correctly. We need to question societies' structures and direction. We are not dealing with something that is natural and absolute. Christians live in the world but we dream and work for the establishment of God's kind of world. We  work for the world that is more in harmony to the one that Christ showed us.

We are told in Mark 14:38: "Keep watch, and pray that you will not fall into temptation.The spirit is willing  but the flesh is weak." One who prays in the proper fashion can't help but be concerned with those who are hurting and the problems in society. 

The prophets of the Old Testament were sensitive to God's word and the wounds in society. Being sensitive to what was happening was a sign  that the prophets were listening to their consciences. Conscience is what God has put into our hearts and is where God speaks to us.

Whether a person believes or not, whether a Christian or not,  all have a conscience. However, if we hide the  conscience deep within ourselves and follow the flow in society we will not  hear God's voice.

There is always a need to form and examine our consciences:  having a sensitive conscience needs effort on our part. To be alert and awake is a way of having a sensitive conscience. The teaching of the Social Gospel helps us to form our consciences correctly, making us truly free persons.

The world is this way and I can't help it, is becoming a slave  and losing our freedom. Jesus  came to make us free. "It was for liberty that Christ freed us. So stand firm, and do not take on yourselves the yoke of slavery a second  time" (Gal. 5:1).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

'Appropriate Technology' a New Way of Behaving

In the BibleLife magazine, there is a series of articles on 'Appropriate Technology' also called "Intermediate Technology"  which can be defined as a movement that wants to simplify life with the use of our hands in energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and locally controlled technology that is people-centered.

One of the world's best 'Go' (Chinese traditional board game) players lost to artificial intelligence is a reason for the feeling of heaviness of heart the writer feels about society. He introduces us to the German economist Dr.Ernst Schumacher whose book: Small is Beautiful. The book was a best seller and Schumacher  became a leader in the  'appropriate technology' movement.

A movement from the late 19th century based on the principles of Catholic social teaching was known as Distributism and even Schumacher was attracted to this understanding enough to become Catholic in his later years.

The articles want us to bring sweat to our brow and appreciate the sanctity of labor. We are told that we need to use our bodies and our minds. Our society is always dreaming of the more and bigger understanding of progress but we are introduced to working with created things with our hands continuing the work of creation in small ways.

The poverty that is chosen is not like the poverty  imposed by factors in society. One of the articles mentions that the writer's  understanding of poverty that Jesus speaks about is voluntary poverty.  It is freely detaching and lowering  oneself but also being filled. The example of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples is a good example of what he teaches.

Globalization as a standardization of what we do is not  the aim of 'Appropriate Technology'. We adapt what we do to the finances we have and the means at our disposal. The principle of subsidiarity carried out in our daily life-- (Subsidiarity:  problems  should be dealt with on the local level with the means available if possible before asking for help).

It is a simplification of life: conserving, sharing, exchanging and reusing. Inventing  new ways of doing something which is environmentally  and  people friendly.  Organic farming is just  one of the ways that more effort is demanded but also greater satisfaction and a healthier environment. 

Labor allows us to continue God's creation. Mass production structures have degraded the value of labor, mechanization and standardization have not appreciated the value of labor and subordinated it to capital. This return to the use of our hands and heads is acknowledging "God found it very good." There is some discomfort but joy comes from participating in creation.

The writer concludes that we can't continue living the way we have  without harm to our environment and  posterity. For temporary gain, we should not destroy  the definitive plan of creation God has given us. Working for the common good in everything that we do should be a primary value of life. This new way of thinking and acting demands more effort and is more uncomfortable but thinking of the future it brings joy.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Relationships And Happiness

A teacher with a  lot of experience in education shows the readers how difficult the life of a teacher is in primary and secondary school. In the article in the Kyeongyang Magazine she explains that many have the idea  that teachers have long vacations and  short school days: an easy life, but  this  is not the reality.

Teachers expend a lot of emotional energy besides the physical energy in their teaching. Standing up for six hours a day in front of a class is just one of the minor difficulties. Concern for the students extends to checking their Facebook pages and dealing with parents along with the daily class load. 

The last section of her article is on a talk given by Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED)  a nonprofit group that spreads  worthwhile ideas throughout the world and the writer brings to the attention of her readers: What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness. This is what teachers are wanting to do and she shows her readers what a teacher's task should be.

The study that is  being used began in 1938 and for this report went to 2015 and continues. The millennials were asked what were their goals in life: 80% said it was to get rich and 50% wanted to be famous.

The study followed two groups of men. One were students at Harvard when the study began and a group was from one of the poorest areas of Boston Mass, where many lived without cold and hot  running water. 

These individuals entered many different walks of life. They became factory workers, lawyers, bricklayers, doctors, some developed alcoholism, a few schizophrenia, some came from the bottom to the very top, and some went the other way. 

What did they learn during the study? It was very simple: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.

Those who were in good relationships within the family, friends and community were happier and healthier than those who did not have that relationship. Social connection is good for us and loneliness kills. Secondly, the quality and not the number of the relationships is important. The third lesson was that these relationships don't only protect the body and spirit but also the brain.

She concludes the article hoping that the parents will be conscious of the importance of relationship in maturity and see 'after service' as an important part of the formation of their children. Relationships once broken are very difficult to renew. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Teaching of Hwang Tae-ra

In the Chinese State of Lu lived Hwang Tae-ra, who as a punishment had a foot cut off.  He was not famous, a cripple and a public sinner and yet many followed him. In a bulletin for priests, the writer gives us some thoughts on which to meditate.

One of the disciples of Confucius asked his master how was it that Hwang had so many following him.  The numbers following Hwang were similar to those following Confucius and Hwang  didn't teach, or in anyway interact with his followers and yet they left with their heads filled with his teachings. The disciples asked: Is there a kind of teaching that comes without words?  Who is the Hwang fellow?

The disciple couldn't figure out why the crippled  Hwang had as many disciples as his own master Confucius without teaching, crippled and a public sinner. The disciple was using his eyes and ears to judge.

Confucius replied:  "He is a saint. I am lazy and  have not yet met him... one of these days I will make him my master. Not only the citizens of Lu but all the members of the human race I will lead them to Hwang."

His disciple surprised at the reply, asked: "Is he a greater teacher than You? What is it that makes him such?"

Confucius replied: He understands truth and lives a moral life. He knows the importance of life and death. Even if the heavens should fall and the earth caved in he would remain calm. He knows what you hear and see is not all that there is... He is a virtuous  person  from which comes freedom and peace. The loss of his foot is no more that having a lump of dirt  wiped away from his pants." This was Confucius estimation of Hwang.

This reply did not satisfy the disciple  and with continued puzzlement:  "Teacher Hwang  doesn't  give any talks or discuss with his followers...  how can one who is absorbed in his own improvement have such a great following?"

"When water is flowing you can't see your image. It is only water that is at rest that you are able to see your reflection is it not?  People are attracted to this quietness." Confucius explained the attraction of Hwang. Spending  time looking quietly at oneself,  in silence and gazing into tranquility they see themselves more clearly and this is Hwang's way of teaching.

In conclusion, we are told that Hwang Tae-ra was a fictitious character that was used by a scholar some 2400 years ago in China to help those handicapped and show that they had within themselves  the God-given light to live beautiful, profitable lives and  help others.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Facing a Death by Suicide

Korea  continues to lead the world in the number of suicides. A priest-professor at a Catholic University gives us his own experience in a WithBible article dealing with the problem. 

At the very beginning  as a new priest, he had an experience where a woman member of the parish came to him crying, for shortly before, after a fight with her husband, he left and hanged himself. She didn't know how she could go on living.

He didn't know how to react to the news. He had no idea what to say or do. He knew that it was a serious sin and the Church did not allow a formal funeral service. He was not able to console the woman. An older priest who was a friend of the husband went to the hospital, had the funeral rites and was a help to the family. Shortly after the women came to the rectory to thank him, she was moving out of the parish. He remembers he was not able to look the woman in the face.

Korea, he says, is not yet able to understand the seriousness of the problem or provide sufficient countermeasures. In 1995 we had 4,930 who killed themselves but from 2003 the numbers are well over 10,000 and lead the world. 

Those that commit suicide usually are suffering from depression. During this period we had the foreign exchange and financial crisis which increased failures in business, difficulty finding work and family squabbles, giving rise to stress, depression and suicides.

Elders also have a higher rate of suicide than other countries: poverty, sickness, loneliness, can't be discounted. The breakdown of the extended family, the community network of the past disappeared with individualization, citification and industrialization all helping the alienation felt by many of the older generation. Many attempted to free themselves from their feeling of helplessness, uneasiness, and loneliness with liquor and pleasure but this was only temporary and the stress just increased and many took the extreme way out.

Suicide is a scar that is not  easily healed. To take one's  life is an offense against the creator of life, against the invitation and mission that was received and refused, and the love  for God, others and oneself. However, because of the many extenuating circumstances, the Church recognizes that grave psychological problems, anguish, fear, suffering, emotional state can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

With this understanding, it is not only the person that we blame but more so  ourselves for lack of interest and compassion on the pain suffered by many of those who take their own lives and our failure to be of help.

He concludes the article with an incident that happened to him a few years earlier. A woman whom he knew telephoned him, crying, to tell him that her daughter after giving birth, suffering from depression took her life. Because of his experience as a young priest and his immaturity at that time, familiar with the  Church's  teaching he went immediately to the hospital to  console the family. He knew the hesitation they would have in notifying the faith community so he offered the funeral Mass at the hospital. He considered the efforts that he expended in showing concern for the family as a penance for his immaturity as a young priest.                                                                   

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fidei Donum Priests

Fidei Donum is the name of the encyclical of Pius XII published in 1957 which called on the bishops to share their priests with the countries in need, give financial assistance and offer prayers for the missions. Many dioceses have sent priests to areas of the world where vocations were scarce, these priests and religious remain attached to their dioceses.

Both Catholic papers continue to mention the work of  these priests, religious and laypeople working overseas. In a recent editorial, the Church is proud they still are doing well with vocations to the priesthood. Korea has over 5,000 priests and they have over 100 being ordained yearly. This can change in the future but in 2016 the situation still looks bright.

This is not true in many parts of the Catholic World. Reflecting on itself the Church in Korea knows that it has  been blessed. In the editorial, they mentioned the Catholic country of Chile and the diocese of Santiago where the Catholic population would be similar to Korea but have only about 500 priests and Korea has 5,000. They have only about 50 seminarians and this year no one was ordained. This is the ordinary situation in many countries.

When someone is hurting it is our duty to help. For a Christian, this is all the more an obligation. Up until the end of 2015 Korea has sent 99 priests to  countries in need as Fidei Donum priests. 

The Seoul Diocese has added a course in the seminary schedule to prepare priests who are interested in overseas work as missioners. This is now spreading to other dioceses: a very encouraging response for the future.

To leave one's country where one was hoping to serve, and volunteer for a foreign country where they will have to learn a new language and customs is difficult to do. The hope is that we will have more priests who will be willing to do this in the years ahead.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Glory And Frustration

A basketball player needs to be tall, one who is short is just not going to make it. Height is going to determine failure or success. When it comes to studying, one  has to have a good head to do well. A low IQ will determine the  place in school standing  and the school attended. With a low IQ, the chances of becoming a Nobel Prize winner are close to zero. 

Those that achieve uncommon results in sports, arts or in literature are talented: Michael Jordan or an Albert Einstein. With this introduction, a columnist in the Peace Weekly gives us a meditation on glory and frustration.

However, those with extraordinary talents are not always successful. Those who are tall are not always good basketball players. Persons with high IQs  are not always in the running for a Nobel prize. When the talent is there, the effort has to be put in the mix. All worldly success will require a lot of sweat and sacrifice. We often see that sweat and sacrifice make up for a lack of talent. On the  other hand, those with talent  without the effort and sacrifice will rarely go to the top. This has been proven in many studies.

Those who want to make it to the top of their field the columnist sees them spending over 10,000 hours of effort. These are the words of a neuroscientist. This kind of effort will require at least 3 hours daily of effort for 10 years. This was the case for those of our medal winners in this year's Olympics.

Effort and talent don't always bring success. Talent and effort bring medals to some but others have to drink the bitter cup of elimination.  All that is provided is the possibility of success. There is no theory or way of measuring what will bring worldly success. There are too many variables that come into play at the place and time.

However, medals no matter from where they come are no guarantee of success in life. There is no way to predict what life will offer: a mystery which we face. Life is not composed of series of  steps in merit to the desired goal. Correct answers are not easily found. Glory can come and go. The mystery in life is what gives it charm and savor.

In frustration, there is hidden hope and in glory, trials wait. The wise person faces the uncertainty of the ups and downs which come in life with humility and as a Christian with prayer.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Population Problems in Korea

Writing in the Peace Weekly Peace Column  the columnist reviews his life briefly and recalls while in elementary school there were so many students they had to have a morning and afternoon session.

In middle school, he remembers hearing the phrase, family planning repeatedly. During this period the slogan was two children no preference between boy or girl. Looking back on the internet we heard: 'birth planning now and stability in the future.' 'Let's be praiseworthy parents with contraception now.' It was at this time that we had the Mother and Child Health Law enacted. This was opposed by the Church for  justifying abortion. Korea has the lowest birthrate of the developed countries.

When he married and began  working in the middle 80s, generally the social climate was for one child. This was followed with many slogans:  'One child and a thrifty life.' 'One child is all we need to have everything.' Speaking  frankly: 'two is too many.'

Vasectomies were pushed at the military reserve training areas. The surgery was free and you would be excused from training. Many young fathers fell easily into temptation.  For those who wanted a boy child after having a girl we heard the slogan:  'a daughter well raised doesn't envy ten boys.'

These slogans continued into the 90s. The columnist mentions that at this time he had  two daughters and a son and was looked upon strangely. At this time, those with a third child were not given the benefits of insurance except in some Catholic Hospitals.

20 to 30 years have passed and the situation has completely changed. This didn't happen overnight. The government is working to strengthen the family, to help those who have no children and want children, and other policies to overcome the low birth rate. However, the columnist feels that prescribing medicine for a patient without determining the reason for the problem is not wise.

Prescriptions have  to fit the problem  and in Korea, it is necessary to prepare the citizens to accept and use the prescriptions that are being offered. The big problem is life and the way we see it. If we see the problems of society  only as economic we will be blind to the more important value of life. Economics are important in living a decent, dignified life. This  can't be overlooked but when money becomes more important than life something is wrong. He feels that it is precisely here that Korean society has a problem.

For the last sixty year economics was the all important element and we have not changed in this evaluation: consequently, the value of life has to come from the rear to the front.

The editorial anfront page of this issue were devoted  to family. A large color picture of a family from Spain in which 18 children were born, 3 died of sickness, appears prominently on the front page.  Hopefully, these efforts being made to  see family in a new way will  bring  change. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Young People Out of Work

In nature, green vegetation appears weak; when it becomes impoverished those who like to eat are faced with problems. Keeping this in mind when all the parts of the ecosystem work together harmoniously all benefit. Industry also benefits when the ecosystem is healthy. In the 'View from the Ark' of the Catholic Times, a  Catholic Medical School professor begins his article with the above words.

Society in this competitive system in which we live is continually searching for profits. Victors become blind to the groans  of those they don't see on the peripheries.

One of biggest problems that confront the ecosystem is our large number of young people out of work which doesn't predict a bright  future. They spend precious years of their youth looking for work. Depending on the workplace the ratio for work can be as high as 100:1 or 10:1. Many spend their time preparing for exams or getting the necessary specialty training they feel they need for their job: not a healthy situation.

What is of interest says the professor is the companies are in need of workers to fill spots. More than money lack of workers is a problem. He mentions a survey made in which the  majority of the CEOs  mentioned the lack of workers is the biggest problem. Why then do we have the problem with unemployment?

Most of the companies have  the full complement of workers but they are not all that they want. Industry has looked for workers with the specifications they need it is time now to train and educate those they need.

In Korea, temporary workers number two-fold in comparison to other developed countries; full-time workers are half of the other OECD countries. It's not  they don't need workers but they seek to fill the slots with cheap labor and this is the practice we have become habituated to in recent years.

During the years of economic development, the government helped  the industrial sector with wealth. The accumulation of this wealth was to help the citizens to a better living. Consequently, it is now the time for industry to take an interest and not only be concerned with increasing profits but how to help the social ecosystem.

Companies have to start to see  workers as persons with dignity and not to be used as instruments to increase efficiency and the margin of profit by making them temporary workers and all the  other ways they keep them from become full-time workers. They have to begin training the workers for the jobs they need.

He concludes the article with the desire of pope Francis to see the start of a new ecosystem where he writes in Joy of the Gospel: "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Beginning of the Pyongyang Diocese

A Korean  layman, Kim Gu-jong, 1898-1984, was written up in the  Peace Weekly in its series of  outstanding Christians. Kim Gu-jong was from the Taegu Diocese and went to the newly established diocese of Pyongyang as a missionary catechist. Seoul was not able to send priests so the work lagged behind the Protestants.

The article mentions how the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers were given the Pyongyang area as their first mission in Korea. Maryknoll was  established in 1910 as the Catholic Missionary Society of the United States to work in Asia. China was the first mission and Korea the second. Bishop Walsh, Maryknoll's superior on a visit to  Bishop Mutel in Korea showed an interest in beginning work in the country. Taegu had been making  plans to give one-third of their resources to begin a new diocese in the Pyongan Province but Bishop Mutel gave the area to Maryknoll and this was finalized by Propaganda Fide in 1922;   Maryknollers came the following year.

At the start of the new diocese, workers were necessary. When Maryknoll accepted the work there were 7 parishes, three major seminarians, and eight minor seminarians and a priest from the Seoul Diocese. Consequently, Maryknollers were  attentive  to recruiting salaried catechists for the work. Catechists taught in the parishes and mission stations, spread news within the diocese, determined the situation of the parishioners and related with the citizens.

They were the hope for evangelization and the advanced guard to prepare the field. Fr. Kim Song-hak was a priest who was working in Pyongyang when it was part of the Seoul Diocese and when the priests returned to Seoul he remained to advise the Maryknollers. He had worked in Taegu before it became an independent diocese and recruited Kim Ignatius for Pyongyang as a catechist.

One of the parishes was selected and this became the place where the Maryknollers would study the language and customs of the country. Kim Ignatius was a leader among the catechists and helped to form many of the other catechists. They began one of the first monthly magazines in the Church. Ignatius was present in most of the new works.  Pyongyang compared to the other dioceses led in the number of  catechists, at least one and up to 15 in a parish: women outnumbered the men.

On 1935 Oct.10th  for three days they celebrated the 150th anniversary of the beginning of Christianity in Korea. Pyongyang the youngest diocese was  selected to host the event. Five bishops and the Apostolic Delegate were present. 6000 Catholics attended. When this group arrived at the train station many thought that the  Apostolic Delegate was the emperor of Rome. Many of the Catholics of the mission stations would see a priest twice a year and this event brought the 5 bishops  with many priests to the diocese making it a noteworthy event.

In a period of ten years, the Catholic population of Pyongyang had a three-fold increase.The Catholics grew in confidence with the experience gained from the celebration. Two of the daily papers in their editorials expressed how the Church was breaking down walls between the classes and inaugurating   a new culture. The other mentioned the social work and with their beliefs, Catholics were able to overcome the difficulties and the history of persecution of the past: a good example to the citizens.

Demange, Florian(1875~1938), the first bishop of the Taegu Diocese while riding in the same car as the ordinary of Pyongyang John Morris, praised a one-time parishioner of the Taegu diocese, Kim Ignatius for a job well done.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Need for Resilience and a Positive Attitude

The Catholic Times on  the world today, mentions the anxiety experienced as a reason for many mental problems. Jobs are hard to find, salaries are low, retirement worries, the deepening of the polarization between levels of society, the generation gap, all make for an increase in the number who find it difficult to cope.

Last April the Korean Institute for Health and Social Affairs reported that 34.4 % of the citizens see society as unstable and 60 % of the young feel insecure. This is one of the reasons we have the large number of suicides, depression, and mental difficulties.

According to the National Health Insurance Corporation in 2015 there was an increase of 16% from 2010 in the number of those seeking help for depression at hospitals. From 2008 there has been an increase of those asking for counseling because of depression and other mental problems.

Korea for 12 straight years has led the developed nations in the number of suicides: about 30 to 40 daily. The head of one of the counseling services explains that for many no matter how hard they work there is no way to exit the tunnel they are in. This causes the senses to be on edge and sharp and is often followed by depression and occasionally suicide.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you." These words of Jesus have always been consoling to many Christians and helped many with despondency and mental difficulties to regain health. However, says the article, to  trust only in prayers and religious activities can be poison. Those who have studied the situation make it clear what is needed is the working together of professional help and the spiritual life.

A professor of spirituality is quoted as saying: "prayer can be an escape and a distortion of religion and a distancing one from healing: there is the need for counseling along with the religious practices."

The article goes on to mention the need for centers and parishes to become concerned in helping those who are in need of counseling. We have a movement within the Church that is encouraging this tendency but also the Church needs to nurture resilience among the Christians: the ability to recover from failures, adversity, trials and the like. Those that have this resiliency will after the difficulties bounce back even to greater growth.

In conclusion, the article shows how important a positive outlook on life is in overcoming difficulties. The Church needs to remember this in its teachings, sermons, retreats and dealings with the Christians. It has been shown that the positive outlook enables resiliency and the strength to overcome the trials in life. 

Studies made outside Korea have shown that  Catholics don't do well in comparison to other religious groups in communicating and empathy. The Church in Korea  needs to be aware of this and work to change. One priest mentions if one goes to a Protestant church there is always a warm welcome but at a Catholic Church,you find a coldness. He attributes this to the large numbers and forgetting the healing properties we should have as a community.

As a community of faith, we need to study how we can be more resilient, more positive, live and  transmit this attitude to those in our communities.