Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Voting Wisely

Korea and the United States are both preparing for  elections, and one of the columnists in the Peace Weekly introduces us to the words of  the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church at the beginning of his article. 

"Political parties have the task of fostering widespread participation and making public responsibilities accessible to all. Political parties are called to interpret the aspirations of civil society, orienting them towards the common good, offering citizens the effective possibility of contributing to the formulation of political choices. They must be democratic in their internal structure, and capable of political synthesis and planning" (# 413).

The columnist after careful reading of the document sighs, lamenting that our political parties are far from what is envisioned in the above paragraph.  We are just a few weeks away from election, still don't have all the candidates, and continual discord within both parties.

Where is the effort to "interpret the aspirations of civil society and working for the common good?" Where do we have "offering citizens the effective possibility of contributing to the formation of political choices, democratic in their internal structures and capable of political synthesis and planning?"

On second thought, the columnist brings to mind the possibility of the discord coming from efforts to pick the best candidate for the National Assembly and the good of the country.

Here we can't turn our back on what is going on but need to work for a better future, and that requires that we participate in the voting process, and it should not stop with the vote.

The candidate should be the ones who will  work with all their abilities for the common good. When it comes to voting, and in our opinion, we don't have the best candidate we have to vote for the one that is least harmful for the country. It is then that we are  truly participating.  

Plato pointed our clearly: "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule." This comes from 2300 years ago  but as valid today as it was in Plato's time. This is true not only in politics, but for all those we select to work in service to others. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Thoughts on Hope

At the end of Lent and the beginning of the Easter Season, we bring with us the joy and hope that belong to our lives as Christians. Both hope and despair are strong realities of life. In the Vigil Mass of Easter, we come away with a live hope: words introducing an article in View from the Ark of the Catholic Times.

The columnist tells us about a Japanese TV serial drama that he saw a  number of years ago at the recommendation of a friend. The drama was later adapted to a Korean audience and also proved popular. 'Midnight Restaurant' was the name of the drama. He wants us to see what the restaurant can tell us about our life as Christians and religious people.

Open from midnight to morning in the middle of Tokyo in a secluded alley and named Rice House, which in itself brings a smile to our lips. One can't help but see it all as laziness: the place, the time, the name are all contrary to what we know about  market strategy.

Customers are many and the reasons are not for the tasty food, nor mainly because they are hungry. They congregate at the Rice House like birds to their nests, proving the words of Jesus that we are not hungry only for bread.

The owner of the restaurant offers only two things to his customers. Gives them their rice and listens to them. A person of few words, and does not come across as the owner. If you look carefully, the writer says, he is always taking a step backwards. Moreover, each episode you have another person in his place, which would make you think it wasn't good for business; however, they keep on coming to share their lives and stories.  

This reminds the columnist of an oasis in a desert, and the many different groups within a Church. God's house is humanity's house, and like the Midnight Restaurant, an Eucharistic Table where people come to speak what is in their heart and receive food.

Pope Francis' certainty is that all pastoral work begins by listening. The columnist recalls a line from a poem that keeps ringing in his ears: " I am in the Church but keep on longing for the Church."  And he hears the words of the Lord said with a smile: "Are you not the Church?"

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

In a parish monthly bulletin we have the greetings and meditation for Easter,  and its meaning for us in the here and now.

One of the famous quotes from Thoreau: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." If this was true in Thoreau's time it's probably truer today for many. Certainly, it should not be so for Christians.

We are alleluia people who should be singing these words at least in our heart. This gift of faith and joy that comes is not for us to keep to ourselves but to  give to the  world. Our problem is without this feeling of joy in our hearts we are not able to pass it on to others: a great tragedy.

Christians know that God works in the present moment but when we  can't get out of the past or when future worries keep us from the present moment we miss opportunities:"Enough, then, of worrying about about tomorrow. Let tomorrow take care of itself. Today has troubles enough of its own"  
(Matt. 6:34).

Creation's natural rhythm of life should teach us much. Each new day comes with a beginning and end. We go to sleep for the body is tired only to wake up again to a new reality and new day. We are a different  person we were the day before, for God has worked through us with his graces and the works of the Spirit. We should be singing a new song, we are a new creation: born again. 

This same rhythm can be seen in spring  symbol of the Resurrection. Farmers are digging the earth; seeds are planted; flowers are blooming all nature is coming alive.

We  have liturgically lived the paschal mystery. We are not able like Jesus to raise the dead, but we can help to give life to those who have lost hope, and fallen into despondency. This is a mission that we have received as Christians. When we are working to give life to others and help them enjoy the gift of life, we have the joy of the Resurrection. Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sermons Are Difficult

At Mass, both parishioners and clergy find sermons difficult. In the Peace Column, a journalist gives us his opinion on why this is so often the case. 

Pope Francis in Joy of the Gospel: "We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and both, they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them! It is sad this is the case"(#135). 

Without need of hearing these words of the pope, we know sermons are a problem for priests and people. Not rarely do we have the congregation unhappy with sermons. Infrequently, but we do have parishioners standing up during the sermon and objecting, and those who walk out. On the other hand, we have priests who have a difficult time preparing and delivering sermons.

There are two reasons that a sermon is difficult. Dissatisfaction comes when they are more or less subjective: without any central point being made, but this is not the kind that prompts a parishioner to stand up doing the sermon. Invariably when a sermon enters politics or treats some sensitive pending social issue we have differences of opinion. 

Another reason is when the sermons are extremely long. Even when the sermon is good, the parishioners find it difficult. When it doesn't have a main point, and overly long this magnifies the problem and makes it difficult to endure. They don't leave but they will in the future not go to that Mass.

He admits that priests know what is required in a good sermon. However, to give a sermon that helps the parishioner to grow spiritually is not easy. Working as a reporter for the last 25 years, he has not met any priests who found  sermons easy. Sermons are more important than the administration of the parish, and they know it is an important duty.

What is required to give a good sermon he asks? He wants the believer to pray for their priests, help them be better preachers. He would like to see them get feed back from the people, not hurting their feelings and done diplomatically. He would like  priests to read carefully the section on sermons in Joy of the Gospel and concludes the article with #137. 

"The homily has special importance due to its Eucharistic context: it surpasses all forms of catechesis as the supreme moment in the dialogue between God and his people, which leads up to sacramental communion. The homily takes up once more the dialogue which the Lord has already established with his people. The preacher must know the heart of his community, in order to realize where its desire for God is alive and ardent, as well as where that dialogue, once loving, has been thwarted and is now barren."

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Unwed Mothers and Korean Society

In many of our TV dramas, unwed mothers are often portrayed, no longer a hushed-up social  situation. We even  have those in their teens, little moms: they show the women not accepted in society. Rare is what we consider the career woman who chooses to have a baby.

Many have difficulty with poverty, overcome their mother's love, find the right man and happiness. Often unmarried mothers are the scapegoat and the place of immorality, which excites and increases the number of viewers. Some dramas give a good portrayal of the thinking of unwed mothers and the way society looks upon them.

An unwed mother who is fired by a company will have little help from the law which maintains that children are born after marriage, and this order needs not be broken. Mothers are often left the task to raise the child.

Hesitatingly she speaks: "I am pregnant."

"Let's go to the hospital. What will it cost? It's my child, right?" These are the words the man often blurts out.
With difficulty, an unplanned pregnancy is overcome without an abortion, and a choice to raise the child is made. After this choice, however, there are other problems that have to be faced. How  is she going to live, raise her child and do the household chores?

The chaotic moral situation in society, difficulty to find work, bias of society for the women and not for the man, is a great obstacle.
Women's biggest problem is the irresponsible behavior of the man. If they want to keep the child, they have to avoid the  forced abortion the man and family desire. Occasions are common, where the connection with the man's family is broken, or where the girl will have the child, and the family will give some money. It is estimated that there are over 5,000 unwed mothers recorded yearly, but the article believes it is over 6,000 when you include the mothers who don't report the birth.

In many of the developed countries the man once it is proven he is father has to pay child support. In Canada when the  man is derelict in his duty, his car license and passport are taken away.  

In and outside  the church,  we hear about the need to prevent the unmarried mother's problem with education. When it is not prevented there is a need to understand the situation and help in the care of the child and avoid the abortion. Many other groups and society are working together to increase the help, but it is still too little.

The number of unwed mothers continues to increase, and they are getting younger, which means efforts have to be made to strengthen the family bond and the need for society to be concerned.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Film 'Spotlight' and the Church

A professor at the Catholic University of Taegu, writes in an opinion column of the  Catholic Times about the American film Spotlight. The film was acclaimed as one of the best pictures of 2015 and received many awards. Portrayal of the investigation by the spotlight team of the Boston Globe on widespread child sex abuse in the Boston area by Catholic priests was the story. At the presentation of the awards the director said: "This Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican."

The investigation began with the new managing editor of the paper in 2001. Mass media needs to help the readers with information that will instruct, was his conviction. Independence of the paper has to be maintained in the face of power and personal connections, and this became the background for their efforts.

Two things are suggested by the film: the role of religion and the press. Boston is an area with many white Catholics. The spotlight team was uncovering attempts to hide the truth with habits from the past and policies among a readership that was largely Catholic. Of course the Church, lawyers, doctors, competitive newspapers, Boston Catholics, friends of the victims were part of the systematic disregard and coldness concerning the issue and consequently the number of victims and suspects continued to increase. All were in some way responsible.

Even the Boston Globe paid no attention to what it knew, and helped to ignore the issue. It was not a scandal only of the priests but of the of policies of the church that systematically ignored the pathological situation. It was an issue that the Vatican needed to be acquainted with. 

Hope was that the church with this sincere effort of advice would recover its rightful place in society. A choice had to be made on what the press needs to do and what it is doing.This incident shows what was necessary. 'Reporting of garbage' should give way to the reporting of truth was a message of the film.

Another issue was the church's role and the way the hierarchical system works. The system is to help Christians live a Christ-like life, and grow spiritually. When some of the clergy are behaving otherwise the movie shows what needed to be done. Church is there to help the Christians and not to cover over the faults of the clergy. If we are afraid of light on our faults we need to become more transparent.

The writer was happy to see the response from the Vatican; it was  a consolation. The movie is not Anti-Catholic. A Vatican Radio commentator  said the  film helped the Church in the United States “to accept fully the sin, to admit it publicly, and to pay all the consequences.”

In conclusion, she says, we Catholics should not be afraid of criticism but need to look carefully at our wounds.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Experiencing Truth in Our Lives

In a booklet from Bible Life, the writer introduces us to a Korean maxim: "my heart tells me one thing but there is no evidence."  Sadly, this is the reason for many problems and hurts that we encounter in life. Following your gut feeling or your hunches may be a wise move at times, but far from reliable.

We are hurt, and others may be hurt with this approach to behavior. We make judgments on fragments of speech we heard, make guesses, follow vague memories, deceive ourselves, and go in search of illusions. 

The writer introduces us to Francis Bacon (1561-1626) a devout Anglican who gave us the ways we can be deceived by what we hear and believe. He called them idols, and the four of them: he described as idols of  the Tribe, Cave, Marketplace and Theater. 

Idols of the Tribe come from our human nature; idols of the Cave are the problems that come from our faults and failings; idols of the Marketplace are the problems with understanding words; and the Idols of the Theater come from philosophy, theology and tradition. These are all ways that prevent us from attaining truth and are hindrances that come from  falseness and unreasonableness.

The writer concludes his article wanting us to beware of these idols that are all pervasive, and wants us to experience truth that is open to experience.  We can be familiar with the Scriptures and the teachings but without the experience of God in our lives, we will always be going on impressions. Knowledge that comes only from these impressions does it make us Christians?

Paradoxes in Christianity are many; where the culture conflicts with Christian values, we can easily see what makes a Christian. Society wants us to be winners; Christianity sees strength in losing. Weakness is not always bad, to be empty is the means of being filled, what we see is not as important as what is not seen, and dying to ourselves is the way we begin to live. It is only when we are able to experience these truths and similar ones in our lives can we consider ourselves disciples.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How Do We Achieve Peace In Korea?

In recent months, we have heard a lot about peace on the Korean Peninsular. Recently, the relationship has become frozen with the nuclear experiments and the long-range  rocket firing. South Korea in retaliation has closed the Kaesong factory complex managed together with the North. International sanctions against the North will be tightened and expanded. In the Peace Weekly column, the display of military  power on both sides is a return to the cold war days.

What is the reason for the sudden drop in the temperature of the cold war? The columnist sees it in a lack of trust. In many areas, the North has brought about the situation with the nuclear experiments and the launching of the rocket but here, he says,  we have two issues we need to remember.

Can we say that South Korea has shown trust towards the North in its policies? If we say we have   steadfastly trusted the North in our policies we are....    
For well over a half a century our relations with the North have not been one of trust. We have been weary in our relationships; if we were somewhat more flexible, we would not have closed down the Kaesong project: a symbol of our desire for unification.

Have we acted to receive trust from the North in our policies?  Our humanitarian aid often has been politically motivated. We have considered unification as hitting the jackpot. This motto has not been a reason to nurture trust. During the cold war the iron fence was in place, the South envisaged unification by the collapse of the North, while the North considered communization of the South. The North would not  countenance the former nor the South the latter, which makes the unification dream unrealistic.

If we want reconciliation and peace we need the two sides to meet and begin talking: more often the better. The closing of the Kaesong factory complex is a great sadness.  It doesn't mean that we want to use  some magic words to reopen the factory, but we do not want to slacken our consciousness and we need to continue looking for openings to begin talks. Christians have  prayer always available.

We need to think hard and in depth on what is necessary for the two Koreas to put aside their estrangement and sit and talk.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Words Of Cardinal Stephen Kim

A bulletin for priests this month, recalled some of the words of the late Cardinal Stephen Kim found in his writings.

Let us live without fretting by sharing.

By discarding and emptying there is the filling: sharing is the way to go.

No hating or holding a grudge against someone.

No anger, the one who gets angry hurts oneself.

The angry kill themselves and others, no one will approach them, and they will be lonely and friendless.

Prayer removes rust, and is like a streak of light that enters an age-old  cave. Rather than clenching one's fist those that fold their hands in prayer are stronger.

One who has much and the one with little can both be happy in the world in which we live.

A wealthy person with material goods has the burden of worries. One with a wealthy internal life is loaded with happiness.

When we die, we only bring our virtues and the bliss we have spread.

The days we have to love are limited and so also the days to give thanks.

Let us not grieve over the amount of time we have in life.

When we discard and are empty, we are filled.

Let us live with hearts full of love and thanksgiving.

Let us make a practice of learning to laugh. Laughter is  a preventive and cure for many diseases. It makes the older joyful, and we become children again.

Real love understands, welcomes, embraces, assimilates, is intimate and humble in conversation.

It took me 60 years to have love move from the  head to the heart.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Materialism Distracts From What Is Essential

The Old Testament shows us the fight between idols of death and the God of life. Exodus from Egypt is the victory over idols of death. An article in the Catholic Times reminds us of this religious truth and goes to explain its meaning.

With the help of God, Moses and the Israelites overcame oppression and exploitation of the Egyptians to reach freedom: only to complain endlessly in the desert. Finally making an idol of a calf they knew from their stay in Egypt as their God that delivered them. They escaped from Egypt, got rid of their external chains but not the internal ones. They were still under the control of greed and the material attractions they left behind, symbolized by the golden calf they made in the desert.

Even when they arrived in the promised land, they began worshiping the Canaanite God Baal. We have the incident explained in the  Book of Kings 10:18-27. Baal worship was so wide spread they even called Yahweh, Baal, the God of abundance. This fight against the idols in society was a recurring theme in the Old Testament, and not merely a local religious cult;  the root of this idol worshiping goes much deeper. The golden calf and Baal promised wealth and abundance: material prosperity was their craving.

Not so conspicuously as our ancestors in the faith but with other illusions, we  seek abundance and in the process make chains for ourselves with oppressive  and exploitative structures.
We people of faith continue to make idols which continue to challenge us. Words of Pope Francis in Joy of the Gospel #55  express this well: "One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption."

This kind of thinking is expressed well by the words: efficiency, competitive strength, economic development and the like. Our  industrial complexes have to do well if the citizens are to live well are the unverified words, we often hear. Economic development and profits from industry do not return to the welfare of the majority of the citizens. The article concludes with the observation that when
'bread' is plentiful it does not mean we are all living well. It is not a sign that we are living as humans.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Word Chastity has Lost all Meaning

Chastity, is a  word which calls forth ridicule. A sign of where we are as a culture. Procreative sex necessary, but technological advances have made recreational sex "safe and healthy". Sex outside of marriage no longer a problem. Catholic Times visits the topic showing that Korea is no different than most of the West.

We are given some examples of the ways we are being desensitized in the area of sex by the mass media:  advertising, movies, sitcoms, drama. Subtle and not so subtle dialogue and pictures that work on our mental faculties, move the heart and can easily influence our actions.

One example from an advertisement we have a woman being compared to food which the man finds attractive and wants to eat. These and similar examples show how often we objectify the opposite sex. In this case the objectifying of the woman degrades her to less than human, to satiate the need of the man.

Dramas, movies and the like when romance begins we have physical contact and intercourse as the natural course that will follow. Dating without a sex mate is 'no fun', romance requires the 'honey and fun'. These words have become common among the young on the Internet.

The popular media has accepted the premarital sexual encounters of the young and chastity before marriage is understood as a quaint 'left over' from the past. Those who want to live chastely are odd balls, stuffy people out of touch with reality: considered by some as not respecting the freedom of women. In a word you are made to feel guilty for your antiquated understanding of sexuality: a sign of the desensitization that has occurred in culture.

In a recent survey made among unmarried 2113 young people: 47% have had a one night experience. 71% see no need to worry about premarital sex. Only 9% found it necessary to be chaste before marriage. A survey made among those in their twenties, about half feel no need to be chaste before marriage. The head of a research institute is quoted as saying that to objectify a person gives pain; when sex loses its meaning life also loses its meaning.

Premarital sex, by many, is seen as a good preparation for marriage but the article mentions the studies made in the States show the number of divorces of those who have had premarital sex are two times the number of  the chaste.

Recently on TV we had young celebrities who have made known their desire to remain chaste before marriage. You have those who feel that in our society this kind of talk is playing to deaf ears, and not necessary;  the other side thinks giving  oneself to another in the loving embrace of unity is done too easily and without preparation. The article concludes with a wish for more discussion on the meaning of sexuality in our lives and society.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Catholic Religious Women's Role in Church and Society

In a recent symposium on Korean Religious Women's life, participants went directly to the secularization of their lives. They examined their present life and look forward to the future by analyzing the results of a questionnaire. Both, Catholic papers had articles on the symposium.
The first presentation was the present reality and future vision. They divided the topic into three parts: community life and friendship, ecclesial dimension of the consecrated life, and the social dimension.

As a community, they want more mature relationships with others (44 %). As individuals, they want growth in the spiritual life (53%). Discern the works of religious sisters, and reorganize to make the works fit their identity and aptitudes as religious (61%). Reorganize the community so that it will be a sign of togetherness (37%).

One of the presentations mentioned the atmosphere of religious life as comfortable, conservative and worldly: middle class living. Because of rank and vertical order of religious life, dialogue is difficult: the environment  does not facilitate an easy exchange.

70% of the religious have a negative view of the Korean Church. 39% found it stagnant; 30% see it both internally and externally in crisis; and 16% see it on the decline. About one fourth saw the environment of the parishes as one in which the clerics are ruling over the people.

Conflict with the clergy comes from authoritarian and unilateral decision making (50%). They would like to be considered as partners in the work. Sisters would like to see a little more understanding of religious life (32%); they want  the clergy to be a role model, and show a correct pastoral approach to the work (25%).
48% felt women religious were adding a great deal to the pastoral life of the Church.  Over 50% felt that the religious in their work in schools, hospitals and welfare have contributed much to society.

The burden of overwork and responsibility was the biggest difficulty for many. Lack of necessary knowledge and ability was a problem, and conflict with fellow religious was listed; lack of meaning and fruitfulness and problems with the clergy was mentioned.

Sisters would like to be catalysts to help move society away from materialism and hedonism and in search of Gospel values and true happiness. Over half of the sisters agreed with this. They see their future in being on the side of the poor and marginalized.   

One article concludes with the observation from a religious sister that the times are different. We need to go beyond the boundaries we have in place with a new model that will maintain our religious life and see it grow. This will require resolve on the part of religious sisters. There is a need for religious to be formed maturely: psychologically, intellectually, spiritually, and have concern for evangelization;  desire a change in our relationship with the diocese, and women's role within the Church.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Difference Between Silence and Speech


In the beginning, there was silence: from a formless wasteland God gave us light and the beginning of earth and speech.


 Silence preceded speech, a gift and attribute of God. Speech is not able to imitate silence, essential, while speech is extrinsic. Words can't convey the meaning of silence. These words begin an article on the editorial page of the Peace Weekly: a tribute to silence. 


Where silence ends we have the beginning of truth. Words are not able to express a full truth. Those who search for the first mysteries go beyond words. In silent contemplation, they go in search of God. Only in complete love and openness, does silence approach God. 


Words enable understanding  and also hamper it. True communication goes beyond words. Buddha for many years preached but gave up on words, and grasped a flower. Where words are useless silence takes over. 


In the womb before words, we learned silence, born with love. Pain came with the opening to the world of  words we first heard. 


"One man is silent and is thought wise, another is talkative and is disliked. One man is silent because he has nothing to say; another is silent, biding his time. A wise man is silent until the right time comes,  but a boasting fool ignores the proper time. He who talks too much is detested; he who pretends to authority is hated" (Sirach 20:4-7).

Election time is here. Politicians are busy with spreading  their words on  banquet tables. They extol personal merits and cut down their opponents with their stinging words. Silence gives rise to love and humility; toxic words scatter and build up pride and self-righteousness.  Words that carry poison often  return to the breasts of those uttering them.

It is time for us to reduce the number of our words remembering the ashes on the first day of Lent and our death. Silence will lead us on to a deep appreciation of the Easter Mystery.  

Friday, March 4, 2016

Our Mission As Christians

A religious sister recently, after 30 years in the religious life, was given her first assignment to a parish. As a parish sister, she began working with  parishioners making Jesus known, and forming disciples.
As a religious she had many different positions;  worked with many different groups, but in a corner of her heart was always a feeling of dissatisfaction. Many of the Catholics have an understanding of a faith life that only has to do with the individual's spirituality: attending Mass, belonging to a group in the parish, faithfully attending meetings, and living a good life, but in society and in the workplace, they don't see the need to judge and act appropriately as Christians. Daily life, and their religious life are two different worlds.

What is worse, you have not infrequently, distortion of the teachings of the Church by trumpeters giving their personal ideas as Church teaching.  At baptism  they promised to be disciples of Jesus and to live accordingly, but have forgotten their mission.

She has for many years been responsible for the education of volunteers working in society and the church and has seen the way the catechumens have been formed over the years. The last section of the catechism on our duties in society are passed over quickly.

The period of the catechumenate is short and the priests, religious and lay people  who were educated before the Second Vatican Councils were those who have been responsible for the formation of teachers of catechumens, and the emphasis on JPIC: Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation are overlooked. This she feels is the  reason for our lack of understanding of our mission to society and the world.

Present society requires a grounding in this teaching if the Christians are to be the light and salt of the earth. The problems with justice in society are many. Pope Francis wants us to get involved in this world  for justice. We pray in the 'Our Father' that God's Will, be done on this earth as it is in heaven. She concludes by hoping  we will live with this understanding of our mission.