Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Negativity Effect (Bias)

In the Kyeongyang magazine a member of the Committee for Families of a diocese, writes on couples fighting. He  tells the readers  the only way not to fight is not to get married. 

Two people living together will naturally have differences of opinion, actions, and values because of the many different temperaments.  Fortunately, this is the case because when the bond is irreparably  broken, friction disappears, you are living by yourself.

"We have never fought" often this kind of expression comes from a couple where one is not comfortable in expressing their feelings. Outside the home, they are seen as a devoted couple but in the home treat each other coldly and may be seen as  a show-window couple: often known my the mass media.

In these marriages, on the surface, all seems well but the hidden conflict is like a time bomb that is set to blow. Suddenly we have one leaving the home, divorcing and even suicide. Often this is part of the living condition and fighting is a help in finding solutions. Not the lack of fighting but the wise resolving of the problems by confronting them. " A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse one crushes the spirit" (Proverbs 15:4).

He mentions a couple going to a marriage counselor for help and asked to give an example of how they fight for 3 minutes. The counselor  seeing the way they fight predicts pretty accurately whether the marriage will last or not if they continue. The article introduces us to John Gottman who is able to predict with 97% accuracy the outcome of a marriage if they continue as in the past.

He is not interested in what they are fighting about but in the way they fight. Are they aiming at the others weak points, scars from the past and humiliating the others very being? A sign that they are running towards complete collapse.

On the other hand when the emotions are under control, and they don't work on the others scars and weak points and have not lost their sense of humor, no matter how passionate they are the results will be good. Like children after fighting they can become closer than they were.

He gives us a ratio of relating positively 20 times more than negatively with your spouse. In simple language, if it is: praise--blame--praise--blame in a one and one ratio the relationship will not last. The reason is that negativity is much more powerful. [people remember longer and give more weight to negative information than positive--the negativity effect].  John Gottman  advises  in small things:  "I am sorry,  thanks,  I love you" and other similar words  of encouragement.  One can believe this is not necessary since these feelings are present, but that is a mistake for there is a need to  express  one's feelings.

In most  cases, it is not  hating the other but  misunderstandings because of the inability to communicate our thoughts and feelings. As St. Don Bosco is quoted saying: "Loving is not enough love must be felt."

Monday, August 29, 2016

Separating Life and Religion

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. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Unity Is Difficult

In theology we allow for criticism; our faith life is choosing correctly and living accordingly. We need to ask ourselves who is Jesus repeatedly. He was murdered and we have to ask ourselves the reason. A priest writing for a bulletin for priests begins his article with these thoughts. 

When he was a parish priest many years ago he was asked by a woman named Martha, in her forties, if he would baptize her granddaughter, and then hesitatingly said she gets a headache every time she hears his sermons and can't concentrate on what he says. The priest asked her what does she think when she sees the cross on the back wall. Why did Jesus die on the cross?

Many of the Catholics give him fruits, meat and liquor and he is very happy to receive them but he did not become a priest to sit in his easy chair and enjoy presents, but to be his disciple.  It would be wonderful to stay in the rectory and not be concerned with what is going on in the world but that is not the reason he is a priest.

He asked Martha if she ever read any of the books  of the Bible or any of the documents from the Second Vatican Council. "Father, I am in my forties when am I going to have time to read those books?" "Pope John XXIII when he  called the Second Vatican Council to bring change to the Church was in his eighties." Martha  with a sad expression on her face left.

Some years later the priest mentions that he was pastor of a parish in which Martha's niece was assigned as a religious sister. Both Martha and her husband had since died. The niece told him that 
Martha came from a wealthy family and her husband was a president of a bank which made her world very small and difficult to see beyond the walls she had built.

Martha was a good and devout Catholic he told the niece. However, in the Church today we have many Catholics who are disparaging priests for what they teach.  Korean Catholicism  has been basically a very unified and harmonious community of faith but the priest laments that we have laypeople who are breaking  this harmony and sadder still is that we have a few clerics who are joining them. He finishes the article with the words from Matthew 10:36. "A person's enemies will include members of his own family."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Are Humility and Sincerity Considered Trite?

Writing in the View from the Ark of the Catholic Times, the columnist, a university professor, wants us to examine why Google the technology company would put humility and sincerity high on their list of qualifications for employment. 

This has always been considered  important in the history of thought but why would a modern-day very successful advanced company put it as a qualification for employment over so many other important qualities? He laments that in the past in Korea, humility and sincerity  were important qualities to inculcate in our students but in recent years has disappeared.

For Google, this talk is not about virtue for virtue's sake but a necessary quality for their employees to succeed. In interviews, they take for granted the qualifications they need for the job, but if a humble attitude is not perceived they will not be employed is what the columnist understands from what he has heard.

Humility in this perspective comes with knowledge and the faculty of being able to work with those who are less able than oneself, and to have the ability and capacity to learn from them. Without this capacity, they will not be able to communicate and work with others from the different parts of the world.

This is not brought up because Google is a giant in the competitive market but to show how important they consider the ability to work together with others and the need for us in our education programs and formation in the family and school to bring it back as important.

Are we  cultivating humble talent for the future? We are not. The quality of our  education is not bad we are doing what is considered correct and what needs to be done but forgetting the qualities of humility and sincerity.

This was always considered in the Church's teaching and we have been exposed to it over and over again, in the example of Christ. Difficult, however, to internalize the message. We tend to forget the place right under the light is darkest.

Trite as this sounds to our ears we have to reconsider our understanding of the matter. Since we have an international company such as Google who are looking for these qualities should we not evaluate our search for specifications for employment that we have stressed? We have ignored humility and sincerity.

These qualities are not merely  a grace of character but enable one to learn and grow with another. We have forgotten this truth, he concludes and allowed  competition be the vantage point from which we judge. Let us change the competitive viewpoint to one in excelling in humility and sincerity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Words Can Both Heal and Wound

Throw a stone unwittingly and you may kill a frog. A proverb that reminds us that words, like stones, uttered carelessly can cause harm. A columnist in the Catholic Times gives us some thoughts on Korean unification. 

In Korean, he mentions the often repeated words in meetings with others: "Let us have a meal together some day." Refugees from North Korea in the South take these words literally. They are not merely polite  words of greeting but really mean what they say. Consequently, they ask themselves: "When will they notify me?  Why haven't they mentioned it yet? Are they making fun of me?"  In their imaginations, these kinds of thoughts keep returning. For a South Korean, it is merely a habit from courtesy, while for a North Korean a reason for anger and shame.

Another Korean proverb: With the right words we can pay back a debt of a thousand 'nyang'. With the right words, we are able to solve many problems and even the ones that seem impossible.

When drinking with friends we often propose a toast but the words we use in Korean, he mentions, are considered coming from a decadent society and makes the North Korean refugees feel uncomfortable. On one occasion sitting with a refugee from the North hearing the words it brought tears to his eyes. When asked why the tears: he answered he realizes he is a free person. The negativity of the words of the toast that the refugee was familiar with and the brainwashing that accompanied it, all disappeared like magic, because of the situation and the friend that was beside him.

Different is not another word for wrong. When the cultures are different one-way efforts are not going to bring results. Both parties with sincerity need to approach each other in their daily lives with actions that understand the differences, and the misunderstandings and work to change. 

Unification is not a topic we find easy to talk about and it becomes something we push off to the future but we have 30 thousand refugees from North Korea who are not to be pushed off to the future; the discord and divisions of our brothers and sisters and family should be acknowledged.  

Because we use the same language does not mean we are the same. We need to accept that they have a different culture and when we speak, to be careful  of their sensibilities.  He concludes with a need for prayer for the refugees and small efforts in bringing about a feeling of oneness among us which will be a work for the eventual unification of the country.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Crazy Talk--Stupidity

Is there anything that makes less sense than finding something  positive in weakness? In the WithBible magazine an article by a priest examines the issue and gives the readers some thoughts to reflect on and make their own.

In the New Testament. the word weakness (astheneia) as a verb and adjective appears 83 times and 44 are in the letters of St. Paul. Usually, the word is used to signify some bodily ailment but in Paul's writing it has a special theological meaning that becomes a theme in his writing. This understanding of the word weakness is seen  clearly in First Corinthians chapters one and two and Second Corinthians ten to thirteen; the reason  St. Paul is called the apostle of weakness.

The Cross either makes this clear for some or hides it from others. Words, he says, are of little use: “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know” (Lao-tzu). And yet no matter how difficult and crazy it sounds the need is there to speak. We are strong when weak for God's power is active in us.

In our worldly common sense: knowledge is power. He gives us the example of the Oriental and Asian Studies Research Center where this was on the wall at the entrance of their building in London, England. Back in 1916, England felt they were not keeping abreast on the knowledge of the Orient (Asia) which they needed to administer their colonies and began the study of Asia-- (Orientalism). Knowledge was power and a help in managing their colonies.The Irony is that even at present, those from Asia often go to Europe to learn more about Asia.

The reality is that knowledge of another enables one to control the other and to efficiently get results. Information is needed on those we want to control. We call these places Intelligence Agencies. In our daily use of words: 'wisdom', knowledge, information all go to make for power: control, management, and rule. In a word, it is to increase the power of the those possessing it, and they become the center from which all goes out.

There is, however, another wisdom and power which we call God's foolishness and powerlessness. This is concern for the other, going out to the other, being for the other. It is not to gain power for it is seen as an obstacle: not to become strong but weak, to be vulnerable. In the eyes of the world this is crazy talk and stupidity.

Paul found the cross: the foolishness of God was wiser and God's weakness  stronger than our own wisdom and power. He concludes the article with two questions: When there is love between two persons,  there is going to be one loving more than the other,  who is the weaker? We say that God is love, in God's love for us who is the weaker?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Bigger Is Not Always Better

A seminary professor, during the rainy season, found some snails on campus. Happy he was to see them and marveled for they carry around their shells on their backs. Gives one much to think about, he writes: slow, small, and weak but always carrying around their house and place of refuge.

What would happen he wonders if the whirlpool like shell kept growing, it would no longer be a home and refuge but a burden and would restrict movement. The snail would have to learn to overcome the problems that came with the oversized shell.

In the Catholic Times, the professor compares the wisdom of the snail to the not so wise situation of society which keeps increasing our shell. Growth, development, prosperity, progress and the like  are the mottoes under which we labor and as with the snail, the bigger the shell becomes the less comfort and more of a burden. Economic development and a flourishing  market are not always benefiting the majority of the citizens. Not infrequently the burden of the so-called prosperity rests with poor citizens.

The situation with energy is similar to  that of the economy. In comparison to other countries, our use and production of electricity are not small. We continue to supply the needs of the country and even if we grant that we need more there is no need to build nuclear power plants but we have other alternate ways of producing what is necessary. Nuclear power plants will be more for the use in the metropolitan areas of the country and the burden again falls on the small people. Do we need to be burdened with the dangers and concerns that come with nuclear power?

Similarly, we are dealing with THAAD: Terminal High Altitude Area Defense- anti-ballistic missile system. [At present there is much talk pro and con on the placement of this system in Korea]  The government feels that this is a deterrent for the nuclear missiles of the North. We have lived without it, and doubtful we will have peace with it. At the present, we have enough firepower to reduce the whole country to ashes.  

There  is no guarantee that the money spent will bring peace and security. The money spent is taken away from the poor of the country. We are making the life of the poor poorer. We have to start looking at the shell that we are making and ask is it helping us or becoming more of a burden?  Is it making us freer or confining us? Is it an obstacle? To solve these problems we have to become more involved and a better democracy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

And God Abides in Him

On the opinion page of the Peace Weekly a research professor on women's issues reminds us of the differences between pride and self-esteem. [pride and self-esteem-- depending on how used, in the article, pride is considered as negative and self-esteem as positive.] 

According to a psychologist that she quotes: pride is when you desire to show your superiority and self-esteem is to  respect  oneself. We have a real difference in meaning. Self-regard is to be aware and accepting of oneself.

One psychotherapist  is quoted on self-esteem: when a person accomplishes what he wants and has a feeling of satisfaction to which is added joy this is a natural result of self-esteem. Secondly, a person with this attitude is not concerned about the evaluation of another and is comfortable in expressing one's own opinion. When faced with difficult situations she is able to endure it and changes to overcome problems efficiently. Thirdly, when doing something wrong  he or she is quickly able to acknowledge the wrong, correct it and continue on a good relationship with others."

Those with a low self-esteem show  behavior opposite to the above. One is not able to determine what must be done, and not able to efficiently perform what is required and consequently is followed by excuses. When it is accomplished he feels good and when not it is other people's fault or the situation. If one has power: he will use it with those he is working and strong hand them to hide his weakness.

In all areas of life we see this lack of self-esteem appear and see how it is hidden by unreasonable behavior. Often it is abetted by the educated and those who fear for their own position in society and without hesitation get rid of their consciences.

Self-esteem is not a Catholic way of looking at the situation which is here described but a secular approach to the subject. As people of faith, a feeling of self-worth is necessary but it comes from the love God has for us. He made us, loves us and wants us to live in him now and for all eternity.

To believe this is more than sufficient to see our worth and the worth of all others. In Catholic thought: God is love and embraces all of us with love, but we have the freedom to refuse love, which prevents us from growing in love and hurts ourselves. God's love makes us lovable.

In Pope Benedict's encyclical letter: 'God is Love' his first words tell us what to expect. “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 Jn 4:16). The Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny...We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us."

"In these words, the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life." Is this not the primary reason for the dignity and self worth that we should have as human beings and Christians?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Gossip an Obstacle to Sanctity

Speaking behind a person's back is an expression easily understood. Korean has a number of these phrases--some considered slang. 

On the opinion page of the Peace Weekly, a columnist gives us his understanding of backbiting, gossip. Usually saying unsavory things about others. As people of faith, it is  confessional matter, an enemy of the virtuous life.

The columnist quotes the words of Pope Francis at a morning Mass:  "If you are capable of not speaking badly of someone, you are on the path to becoming a saint," These words startled the columnist and considers it a ban on gossiping. In his own life, few are the days that he has not participated in gossiping and feels embarrassed.

He feels this kind of talk arises from a feeling of inferiority or jealousy. More readily seen with the weak rather than the strong. There is a strange kind of pleasure that comes when we attempt to take down another, who appears better than oneself; it makes us feel superior. It's an attempt to hide our  frustration and shame. When truth and justice are at stake we should honestly be open and say what we think when our logic and moral position is not clear we lean towards gossiping. A sign of failure, those who don't shrink before authority will not resort to gossip.

Gossip is a sign of helplessness. We sacrifice those at a distance to gain a feeling of intimacy with those close to us.  A  pleading for comfort and a pathetic way to try to cover over the hurt to our spirit. Often, he says, it is a way of allaying our problems  by blaming others for our own involvement.

Gossip is our enemy, it hurts us and  others in the community; it's like a fog that spreads and destroys  harmony and peace. Rare is the positive talk in gossip. Pope Francis returns often to the topic of gossip in his talks: "Gossiping is like terrorism...who throws a bomb and runs away, destroying: with their tongue and not making peace...Every day I get the urge to say something that sows discord and division... Bite your tongue!"

He concludes the column with the experience of many of the politicians using blunt and unreasonable language and finding fault. However, one day he was faced with the fact that this blunt language was not gossip, but saying what they felt in their heart.  He felt he was not in the right to criticize them. Gossip and blunt talk both lack virtue but if we are to choose--gossip is worse.

In the English Parliament, they address each other by the title 'Honourable Member'  he would like us to address each other with this same attitude and if we tend to hesitate it may mean the words we utter may not be as honest as we believe. He wants us to dream of being saints, which will allow us to retire at night with a clean conscience.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Communication Begins by Listening

Internet access and the value of the smartphone is a great blessing and beyond dispute but as with all technological advances, even with the good, there are stumbling blocks and negative results needing the discernment of the user.

In the Kyeongyang Magazine, three articles written by a psychologist, priest and a specialist in computer science, consider the effect on communication of the smartphone. It does facilitate communication but at the same time can be an obstacle to communication at a deeper level."Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarization and division between individuals and groups. The digital world is a public square, a meeting-place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks." (Pope Francis' Communication Sunday Message)

Smartphone's benefits as a tool of communication are many. What may be difficult in face to face conversation is easy with the smartphone. In the work place and in social activities it becomes invaluable. The handicapped feel strengthened by its use. However, communication is not only about convenience in conveying information. We want to express our feelings and our life and to feel with others. This is not  easily done with the smartphone.

We can downplay the part of voice, facial expressions, and gestures in communication. One article mentions the work of two scholars who have studied the results of our bodily movements on communication. When we agree with another it is not a simply saying: "I agree"  but a nodding of the head, sounds emitted by the mouth: 'ah', 'yeah', 'indeed', with these brief expressions we become fellow travelers.  With the smartphone this is missing, we are not  conveying our live emotions and are left with sterile words.

Often we can be under the illusion that we are conveying our deep feelings; gratitude, sorrow, repentance with the smartphone but we  lack sincerity. A more serious problem is that we can lose touch with our feelings and think that what is happening in the digital is real communication of ourselves which can be a deception. We are faced with the paradox: the more we communicate the less we succeed in communicating.The easier it becomes the less we communicate.

The digital world allows us to communicate with the like-minded and form homogeneous groupings but at the same time becoming isolated from others. We imagine what is at a distance as present and ignore those nearest to us.  In the home, we see family members with their smartphones and less human contact. The abbreviated  kind of communication militates against the heart to heart communication that humans need, and forgotten is the importance of listening.

Real communication wants the gap between the old and young to decrease. Communication wants a sense of stability and solidarity to exist between ourselves and others.  Even though we disagree in the way we see reality, we are ready to listen, working to breach the gap. Communication begins by listening.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fr. Wilhelm and Ahn Jung-geun

Ahn Jung-geun and his relationship with Father Wilhelm, a Paris Foreign Missioner, who baptized him has received much study and interest. An article in Theological Perspective Quarterly by a seminary professor who has studied the issue in depth gives us his understanding of what was involved.

The issues highlighted in this brief article are those that continue to bother us both as citizens and as people of faith. Our attitudes depend a great deal on the perspective that we have  and duties that we have in society and in our different communities.

In 1909, Ahn killed the Japanese Ito Hirobumi, resident general of Korea, in the  Harbin Railway station. Ahn shot Ito three times on the railway platform. He was arrested by Russian guards and turned over to the Japanese colonial authorities. He didn't consider himself a criminal but wanted to be treated as a prisoner of war. When he heard the news that Ito had died he made the sign of the cross in gratitude.

When Ahn was in the Lushun Prison his mother asked Fr. Wilhelm to visit her son. He hesitated for he knew Bishop Mutel and many of the priests considered such a visit political while he saw it as religious.The Japanese authority  gave permission for the visit but the bishop required that Ahn repent for his act: it was wrong to kill Ito Hirobumi and he wanted this expressed publicly.

Bishop Mutel since he was responsible for the church's mission in all of Korea, felt there would be difficulties for the priests since Japan was the de facto ruler of Korea. However, the priest looked upon his visit only in a religious way without any political overtones.

Fr. Wilhelm after much thought made the visit to the Lushun Prison. From the perspective of the personnel involved in the Lushun Prison, it was difficult to understand the visit only as religious. Since the priest asked for the full text of the proceedings against Ahn.

After his return to Korea Wilhelm  was relieved of his priestly duties by the bishop. Fr. Wilhelm found this difficult to understand for going to a person that was on death row was the work of a priest and he appealed to the Catholic Mission Headquarters and the Congregation of Propaganda Fide.

Bishop Mutel found it hard to  accept the resistance of the priest because the visit to the prison left plenty of room to interpret  the visit politically. The bishop thought his visit would be harmful to the work of the church in Korea and have an impact on the Korean priesthood and the ministry of the church. The matter was concluded by Wilhelm leaving Korea.

Father Wilhelm accepted the fact that he couldn't  return to Korea but justified his actions. He was vindicated by the church; Ahn is now considered by most as a patriot who carried out an 'uprising', for the cause of independence of the Republic of Korea and peace of East Asia.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Breaking Smartphone Shackles

South Korea is the world's largest user of smartphones and no surprise in having the  most internet addicts. The cell network is so good that even elementary school children carry smartphones and use them which poses many problems for parents and teachers.

The government seeing the need has established internet dream camps for the addicted, to help them overcome their addiction. This is not only a gaming addiction but addiction to the whole digital world. 

The Peace Weekly gives us some understanding of the problems in an article. This is not the first article, and Korea is not alone with internet user problems.  She is trying to do something to solve the problem with rehabilitation camps and programs for the young.

91% of the population has a smartphone: the highest in the world. With these numbers, they have seen the fallout from the use and it is mostly with the young. 10% of  the total number of students in high school are in danger of becoming addicted.

There are many different harmful results from this addiction: information overload, captivation in messaging,  estrangement from their living reality, extreme use of SNS sites,  continuing downloading of Apps, overuse of games,  and addiction to using  adult content sites with pornography.

Health problems: lack of sleep, social inability to relate with others, turtleneck and dry eye problems. Children under 6 are given the smartphone to quiet them which is not good for mental health.

Recently in a discussion group, religious leaders considered the problems of smartphone addiction. The bishops' committee on  the media  has recommended that all the programs for the young  explain the dangers  of internet addiction.

With the increase of problems in society, programs need to be established: certain fix times with no use of digital equipment, education on the different facets of mass media, and camps for the addicted.

One article concludes with the signs of addiction. Without the smartphone, you see restlessness and agitation. When using the smartphone they want to put it down but continue using it. They can't plan on how to use the smartphone. They are always fingering the  smartphone  and hearing this from family and friends. There are many sites on addiction but ( is also in English.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Desiring Peace and Joy in Korean Society

Everybody, no matter the nation, culture, race, religion, all ultimately are seeking happiness and peace. Even if presently it is not attained, persons do not give up their hope and courage. With these words, a religious sister gives us her opinion in the Catholic Times on some problems society faces.

Is the search that Christianity has for happiness and peace only to do with the individual? No, God has created all, she says, and his spirit is not only in our hearts but in all of creation. Consequently, all of creation should be filled with joy and peace. The worries of the world should be the worries of the Church, and she quotes pope St. John XXIII. Pope Francis is of the same opinion, and she wants to search for the hope that we have.

At present many see the condition for happiness in money, family, and health. They are the foundational desires for life, love and material goods. Young people have coined a new word to express their sadness in what they see: 'Hell Joseon'( the period of the Joseon dynasty where the feudal system determined who got ahead). They see how many things they have to give up and their use of sarcasm shows this with the new words they coin. An individual before this mammoth power of money feels like a candle flame before the big wind that is blowing.

Recently when hearing the speeches of the party leaders,  at the 20th National Assembly,  the sister felt a sense of  peace in that all was going in the right direction but the scandals of corruption of our public servants that continued to hit the press, took away her peace.

One public servant, while drunk, compared citizens to dogs and pigs, satisfied by eating, which was picked up by the press. The sister uses the words of Martin Buber to express the relationship that should exist   with the citizens. It should be an 'I-Thou', but instead, it is 'I-It',  meaning they  don't feel connected with the citizens but seen as a third person reality. She feels the whole of society has a touch of 'Hell Joseon' syndrome to deal with and it also appears within the Church.

What  is going on in society is affecting the church community and our spirituality is being deformed. This was true in the time of Jesus and in the present. Privilege and acting autocratically, satisfied with the status quo, is making us more Roman than the Church of Rome. We are afraid to leave our middle-class understanding of church. We have to understand the equality of old and young, men and women, rich and poor and be able to communicate with all. We need to feel for the suffering of others and work with our hearts and minds with nonviolent means looking for solutions. 

This is the way of holiness shown to us by Jesus and the way of showing mercy. The way of the Gospel and the citizens way of working for the good of the whole earth. Walking along this road we will experience the mystery of  'death and resurrection'  and in the process be a light to those who are looking for peace and joy.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Whole World as Our Home

In a column of the Catholic Times, the writer wonders whether economics isn't the greatest strength of our society. All the other values: moral, human, and of life,  lose their meaning in its presence: law and logic have no place.

Values from life and the environment take a second place to the comfortable and abundant life offered to society by the nuclear power stations and other scientific advances. Solidarity with community, concern for the poor, all surrender to efficiency and competition. Economics is of the  greatest value and its logic surpasses all else.

For many, the difficulties  surrounding eating and just living trumps all the other values. Easy to understand, but at the same time materialism, and our need to adapt to the present reality is bitter to the taste.

It's a fact that when humans work for their own ends and competitively they accomplish great results. However, this is looking at the situation narrowly and superficially. For humanity working for the good of others, cooperating has also seen great economic results.

Economics the word itself comes from the work of housekeeping. 'Oikos', the ancient Greek word, means  house, (family) and it can be equated to the work of family to support and achieve all that is necessary to live.

"Economy, as the very word indicates, should be the art of achieving a fitting management of our common home, which is the world as a whole. Each meaningful economic decision made in one part of the world has repercussions everywhere else; consequently, no government can act without regard for shared responsibility. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find local solutions for enormous global problems which overwhelm local politics with difficulties to resolve. If we really want to achieve a healthy world economy, what is needed at this juncture of history is a more efficient way of interacting which, with due regard for the  sovereignty of each nation, ensures the economic well-being of all countries, not just of a few." (Joy of the Gospel #206).

St. Irenaeus used the phrase 'economy of salvation' to describe the workings of God. Even the word ecology wants to include all of our natural environment.

Our society sees competition and efficiency as all important. They appear to bring us all the wealth and development made. This advancement has not benefited all of humanity. Difficult to call this an abundance when so many are shut out from attaining or participating.

More important are cooperation, community, solidarity, compassion. Values of life and concern for the environment will bring even greater abundance. This is the way of reconciliation, and living in peace with all of creation. We have examples of this in cooperatives, community possession, and  community responsibility.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Dirty Money

Two of the best known Christians in the present society are Pope Francis and Mother Theresa of India. They have received respect even outside the church. However, both of them had a different understanding of donations that came from what is called black or dirty money, (money made from illegal or nefarious means). 

In an article in a bulletin for priests, the writer mentions that both of them received praise and blame for the way they looked upon dirty money.

Mother Theresa used the money for the poor and sick which makes understanding her actions easier. However, there are those that did not look benignly on the money she took from dictators and from those who seemed  to lack any moral sense in the way they made their money.

Pope Francis was reported to have returned a million dollars given to  his charity Scholas  which was an initiative he began while Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  The government of Argentina gave  the money to the  charity and the pope was not happy when he heard the charity asked the government for help because of its situation. The government  has raised the prices of the public utilities of the country and he rejected the public money because they should focus on the needs of the people. 

Pope Francis told benefactors to forget about donating money to the church if their earnings came from mistreating others. "Please, take your check back and burn it," he said in one of the general audiences. "The people of God -- that is, the church -- doesn't need dirty money. They need hearts that are open to God's mercy."

Scholas Occurrentes,  connects technology with arts and sports in order to promote social integration and the culture of encounter for peace. It is present in 190 countries through its web made up of over 430.000 schools and educational networks in five continents. Pope Francis did not appreciate the  help for he wanted the charity to be financed by personal monies and not public money.

The charity has no right to ask the government for help in developing their programs and was a good lesson to those who heard his talk. The government was quick to give a response  to the request for their own reasons and the pope returned it for the reasons given.

Dirty money is not cleaned by use in the church. To prevent any misunderstanding money received should  be vetted to see from whom and where the money is coming. The pope's message was heard loud and clear and our writer would like this to be understood by all those who are receiving donations of money.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Blood of Martyrs Seed of Faith

Martyrs who have died for their faith are many in the history of Korea. In recent years we hear often 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 (Chang 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  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 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 July19th. 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. 

A great sadness is the age of the martyrs has not ended. 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 to these sites: