Monday, May 29, 2017

Spending Time in a Dark Room


When we meet a blind person we naturally feel empathy for the person but rarely consider what that would mean to us if we were blind. How are they able to live without sight is even difficult to imagine.

A professor emeritus in the science department, who still is active in many different positions writes in the Kyeongyang magazine about an experiment he had with six teachers of science. He wondered how difficult it must be to teach the blind students a course in science. He wanted the teachers to experience the blindness of the students even for a short period of time.

He made a dark room and selected 6 volunteer teachers in science who were willing to participate. In the dark room, he had the numbers on the wall in relief that would direct the teachers to their seats. The instructor would give directions once they entered the room and they would go to the table with the experimental equipment laid out before them.

They were not given any help in what to expect in the darkroom. They were allowed to talk with one another and by trial and error method to arrive at results. The first experiment was with a model of an eye. They thought at first it may be a terrestrial globe but one of the participants suggested it may be a model of an eye. They agreed and succeeded in dismantling the model. Since most of them had worked with such a model and had taught it in class,  he asks, would that have been possible if they hadn't experienced the model of the eye previously?

The second was a model of the molecular structure of ice. In our textbooks rarely would one see the molecular structure of ice and little is studied on the subject, consequently no one was able to make heads or tails of the model before them.

The lights were turned on and they were asked what did they learn from the experience. First of all, it was the first time they had such an experience. It was the first time in the lives of many of the group that they had such a feeling of helplessness and were humbled. They felt for the first time how grateful they were for the sense of sight to see the beautiful world in which we live. As teachers for the blind, they thought they knew what the students faced in their learning environment but they agreed they did not understand.

They felt closer to the students they were teaching and understood their difficulties. All the teachers learned a great deal from the darkroom time. He feels this kind of time in a dark room would be a great learning experience for many.

Why did God put us on the earth to die? The professor wonders if this is not to experience what the teachers did in the dark room. God wanted us to experience helplessness and see our faults, dwell on his mercy and come to an appreciation of the meaning of life. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Man Made Pollution

Dust has always been present in our world and very likely preceded the appearance of humanity. A Korean proverb reminds us when shaken we give off dust. Meaning we all have dirty laundry. We have always lived with dust.

A college professor writes in one of the diocesan bulletins of a very serious situation in Korea where the citizens are obsessed with the dangers of fine dust particles in the air. Korea is considered one of the most polluted countries of the world. Air pollution continues to increase. Citizens wear masks when they go outside, they check the news for the condition of the atmosphere, a topic on the lips of all.

Dust is the first to react to the presence of the wind and be moved. Everything that moves necessarily gives off some dust. Like snow, dust, however, does not just disappear but keeps on increasing.

Presently the fine dust is a reason for despondency for many. May, the queen of the months, is losing its status when we look at the ashen skies. The fragrant odors from the green vegetation are blocked by the masks worn.

On second thought the problem is not dust from   nature, but the dust human's make. We have not been bothered with these thoughts in the past. We were not reluctant to open our windows and go outside without masks. This is our present reality.

When we were children we played in the dust, our clothes were dirtied and filled with dust. Our mothers weren't pleased and let us know about it but it was personal. It was not the dust that came from nature that was a problem, but the dust we have manufactured. He is embarrassed in mentioning it. We  always want speed, comfort, more of what we have, which brings us to our present condition. 

When we cut down trees we are not concerned. When our water is polluted with impurities we don't see it. We don't want to see the by-products of our comfortable lifestyle. 

The reality is that because of our egotism we are always looking for benefits at any price that brings us to our present condition.



Thursday, May 25, 2017

Worshiping Our Palates

In the first scene of the movie The Last of the Mohicans, three American Indians are climbing a  mountain in a hunt. They pass a waterfall and small stream and spot an elk. One of the Indians takes aim. The music stops and we hear a loud sound as one of the Indians shoots the elk and we see the elk fall to the ground. They rush to the side of the elk. The oldest of the three speaks: We're sorry for killing you, brother."  A religious-like ceremony follows with these words uttered. "We respect your courage, speed, and strength." They all kneel at the side of the elk and in an expression of sorrow caress the elk.

He changes channels and is presented with more of our societies concern with eating. We see all kinds of animal and plant life but it is only food for us to eat. We see only its freshness and forget its wonder and mystery. A seminary rector with these words begins his article in With Bible magazine on the phrase of the Our Father: "Give us this day our daily bread."

In the Old Testament eating of meat was only allowed after the flood in Noah's time. At creation, we were not given permission. "I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are upon the whole earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food." (Gen. 1:29). We were given permission after the flood to eat the flesh of animals but with one condition:  "You must not eat flesh with life, that is to say; blood, in it" (Gen. 9:3).

This changed for Christians after Jesus. It is not difficult to understand how shocking were the words of Jesus to the Jews when they heard:  "Eat my flesh and drink my blood" (John 6: 58).

We understand the words give us our daily bread as referring to the Eucharist but primarily it is the food we need daily for sustenance. It's not 'my' but 'our', not what we have stored but my daily sustenance. In our society food is left over and thrown away and others go to bed hungry. 

According to World Food Programme (WFP), one person out of nine live with hunger. Another statistic tells us that under the age of 5 over two and half million die of malnutrition. We know the large number who are overweight. 

35 percent of the grain is fed to animals. Over the past 50 years, the consummation of meat has increased twofold. The large amounts of meat consumed in the developed countries have accelerated the climate change. ( Many do not see the relationship between meat consumption and climate change)

We have developed a very delicate palate. Our mass media has helped to make gourmets of us all. A word that was not in the dictionary of the past we magnify to a degree that  closes ourselves off from what is important. When did our 'taste buds' become so important? We need to stop worshiping our palates  and our gourmet sensibilities and hear the cries of the suffering and hungry.

Saying no to Superstition and the Prosperity Gospel

No Korean is unfamiliar with the shaman and shamanism. However, the rector of a seminary writing in the Catholic Times wonders if they really know the shamanistic world. There are those that think they know but really don't, according to our writer.

Ordinarily, we think that those with no religion look to the heavens for blessings and that many other religious people are superstitious. In Korea, we have had no serious study of the non-believers (religious 'nones'). They have their own 'gods' and followers and in their own way, many have found liberation and a zest for life. Before we criticize them we have to ask ourselves have we found happiness in our religious life?

In all religions, we find superstitious elements, when we don't live according to of our beliefs. We have those Christians who go to fortune tellers and believe in the four pillars (year, month, day and hour of birth) as a reason for their destiny. He blames himself for not being kinder to those who have been influenced by these superstitions.

A life of faith is not like playing the National Lottery. There is a place for looking for blessings but it is not the essence of our faith life. Passion, purity of intention, and wisdom are needed. Without passion, spineless, without purity of intention, vacillation, and a calculating faith will not last long. We saw this in the recent scandals in government, looking for blessings and superstition.

We see this with some religious people, their religious articles are no more than charms and amulets to ward off evil. The Bible is in the bookcase as an ornament. Prayer is often the rattling of words when it should be the movement of our hearts to God.

We are living in a pluralistic world. With all kinds of religions, ideologies, and theories. Each with their own dreams and visions, and he introduces us to the Chinese classic: The Art of War (孫子兵法) an ancient Chinese military treatise.

Using the words from the treatise: In this pluralistic world in which we live we need to know ourselves and others if we are to live wisely. If we don't know ourselves and others it may be comfortable but it is a life of ignorance. If we know only ourselves it is a life of egoism. However, if I know only the other and don't know myself what kind of life will that be?

We have to be slow in criticizing another's vision of life and make sure to avoid parasitical superstitions and the gospel of success, wealth, and health. We don't want to be an ornamental Christian.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Catholic Mass Media in Korea

The Catholic Church in Korea has a comprehensive presence in newspapers, radio, television, the Internet and social networking. You will find it difficult to find any diocese that operates three communication media: newspaper, radio, and television.

They are a medium for the whole Korean Church but the responsibility of the Seoul Diocese. This year they celebrated their 29th anniversary. A staff member of the Broadcasting System introduces the readers to the aims of the diocese in social communication.

In the pastoral instruction on the means of social communication, Communio Et Progressio # 125 we have these words: "The means of social communication help Catholics in three ways. They help the Church reveal herself to the modern world.They foster dialogue within the Church. They make clear to the Church contemporary opinions and attitudes. For the Church has been ordered by God to give men the message of salvation in a language they can understand and concern herself with the concerns of man."

The Vatican Council for Social and Public Relations presented five tasks for the social communication media. First, the media serving people and culture. Second, media serving the world. Third, serving the development of the human community. Fourth, media serving church unity and lastly serving the new evangelization.

The communication medium needs to respect and maximize their unique functions. The means must be selected appropriately.There are a variety of means but the most effective means need to be used. You use a hammer to put a nail in a wall and not a screwdriver. Also, the nail has to be a proper nail.When the proper tools are not used we will not have the results expected.

In conclusion, he looks over his own relationship with the work in communication for almost the same length of time as the newspaper and broadcasting system itself and admits that he is embarrassed in not having always used the proper tools to convey the message over the past nearly thirty years.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Inculturation A Catholic Goal

A seminary rector writes in Window from the Ark in the Catholic Times about his impressions with the change of government. He sees it very natural to replace the leader of the country for lack of responsibility. Those who were involved have already been scattered. It's not easy to live like the Korean poet Yun Dong-ju: ("Wishing not to have so much as a speck of shame toward heaven until the day I die, I suffered even when the wind stirred the leaves"). If there was just a shred of conscience the great shame of impeachment would have been avoided.

Now thanks to the impeachment a gentle light of hope encompasses the land. Will we see a beautiful rainbow? After three years we have the raising of the Sewol ferry. He sees hope, a return to transparency, justice, experience living and seeing dreams come true.

Now the Taegukgi (Korean Flag) should stand as our emblem, not as a powerless flag. A flag that is waved at any time and place and during demonstrations seems cheap. If the sacredness of the flag was known it would not be waved at every occasion.

The writer wants politics, economy, culture to be in the Korean style.This he hopes will lead to a proper  Korean democracy, a sharing economy, and culture. He is not recommending a form of Nationalism. We have lost what was ours and taken much from other countries and lived well but now he says is time to regain what is ours and live fully.

Instead of buying from other countries and making it our own and envying other countries we need to cultivate what is ours: "(身土不二)  Body earth you are what you eat, slogan encouraging consumption of local seasonal foods for one's health, indivisibility of the body and the land because the body is made from food and food is made from the land."

He finishes the article with a wish that the Church quickly begin to work to indigenize our architecture, instead of mimicking the west with their Gothic churches and many nondescript buildings. He envies the Buddhist Temples which he sees being traditionally Korean. Nowadays it is difficult to differentiate a chapel from a cathedral.

Much of what is Korean can only be found in museums. He wants us to regain again the preciousness of what is Korean and the beauty of our culture and wants the Church to take seriously the movement within our tradition to inculturate.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sex and Responsibility

'Being alone is wonderful' TV ad for birth control pills. 'If you stay for 5 days you get one extra night' ad for sleeping accommodations. Ads of this type no longer cause amazement for they are merely reflecting our social reality.

We are living in a sexually free society. One entertainer who promised to be chaste before marriage was a big news item since it was so out of the ordinary. An article in the Kyeongyang magazine on education for responsibility in sex, interviews a college professor who started his own research center on love and responsibility. He decided to leave the classroom after noticing that many of his girl students were missing classes because of problems after abortion.

He mentions an incident where some feminists wanted to use the classroom of one of the Catholic colleges for an education program on sex. When the college realized they would be talking about free sex, contraception and abortion rights they were refused. The group had difficulty understanding the refusal for they were trying to decrease the number of abortions.

Where does this thinking come from? Our culture and economics are partially the reason but the mass media's influence is great. According to our authority, the media is a great user of pornography. 90% of our students use smartphones, which spreads a distorted picture of sex.

For the most part, sex education is mainly concerned with preventing birth. This has to move to the making of life and responsibility. When male and female meet sexually, life enters the picture, consequently, the first steps in sex education should be life and responsibility and for this to happen we need a partnership relationship between the sexes.

Movies, drama, musical videos, advertising, our popular culture and the media combine to show the romantic, pleasure-seeking happiness of sex. All have their place but often with the distortion of the true meaning of the sexual embrace, consequently, the need for media literacy. Sex education needs concern for life, responsibility, character building, and discernment.

Why is this a problem? He mentions an example of when the male knows the woman is using birth control pills and doesn't use a condom the woman feels used.  No method is 100 percent. When we have a failure we need responsibility which is not often the case. The younger generation understands that romancing requires the sexual embrace. Our authority would like to see in law, the reality in many countries, that the male be responsible for the child even if he is a minor. He wants this to be the law of the land.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Peace Talks in Korea

Jesus' greeting to the disciples after the Resurrection was simple: a daily greeting wanting peace for the disciples. The disciples who witnessed the death of their Master on the Cross knew that peace was not theirs. Jesus' wish for peace was not heard as in the past.

For these disciples, experiencing all kinds of confusion and fear, peace did not come easily. They were hiding in the Cenacle filled with fear of persecution and death, peace came only after the suffering, death, and Resurrection.

A priest writing for the Catholic Times introduces his meditation on the situation in Korea with the above words.  He gives us the government budget, the cost for energy, acquisition of weapons and their development and the defense budget. We are told this has increased 7% each year for a period of five years from 2010 to 2015.  

The North-South confrontation is used to justify the constant increase. Even though we have the opposition to the US Missile Defense System THAAD (high-altitude missile defense system) the pretext is to build peace on the Korean peninsula against the  North's nuclear weapons development.

The thinking on both sides is to maintain peace by increasing armaments, peace is obtained through force. The Catholic Church teaches that the arms race does not guarantee peace, but rather raises the chance for war. Human life is given little value and killing to satisfy one's own greed and interests are seen as justified. The thinking that peace can be achieved through war, violence, and force is never justified.

The countries that do not have an army do not maintain peace with arms. South and North Korea under international law face each other with a ceasefire. We do not have a genuine effort to promote peace. There is always a possibility of war which justifies the military buildup and people live in fear.

The peace from the resurrection that came to those behind locked doors was a gift of forgiveness, reconciliation, coexistence and solidarity. This is the peace that we should all desire and work to achieve.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Hope in a New President



Korea after a hectic political campaign selected their new president. Many words were uttered. Each house received the campaign promises of each candidate. Catholic Times' columnist in View from the Ark tells his readers he didn't bother to read any of them for him they lack sincerity as did the TV debates.

Citizens see them as incompetent preachers, little tipsy drinking elders, school children. It's a feast of words, like a banquet where much is eaten and the stomach full. In the TV debates, all that the writer remembers are a lot of grave words but lack of policies.

He remembers hearing a news bulletin on the radio which mentioned that President Trump had within his first 100 days made 488 false or misleading statements, the only days without them were the days on the golf course. He will end his term as a Pinocchio-like president says many of his detractors, the standard for others in elections.

Those that feel that politics needs a strong man will accept the bluster and the acts of a man like Trump. They will tolerate irregularities, vices, and corruption because of the desires they place in the strong person. This we have seen in the drive for material prosperity in recent governments.

Those who show off their strength are considered capable populists. Although the word derives from the word people, in fact, they have little concern for the feelings of the people but only on strength.

During the campaign they kowtow to the voters but once elected they have little concern for the vision of the citizens but only their own.

Politicians who incite the public and show an interest in what the citizens' think is limited to the election season. There is no consideration or vision for others. They do not have the empathy of the Samaritan when they see the sick person lying on the roadside. The uncomfortable body sensation that I feel when I see someone who is hurt is a gift. On Easter Sunday Christians gathered to remember Jesus' death but were also reminded of the Sewol Ferry tragedy. But for self-centered populists, that uncomfortable gift was not received.
 
"Small people" in the Christian tradition are God's poor. When the world is morally blind and unjust,  people can not look elsewhere except to God. They are the ones who can not protect themselves and help themselves, the only thing left is the cry to God.

Jesus lived a thoroughly popular life. Jesus was a thorough populist who saw God's kingdom among the people and proclaimed the kingdom of God. The hope of Christianity was always on people from the beginning.

A new president was elected in Korea. He expects the new president to be sympathetic and uncomfortable with the pain of the citizens. Because of the inconvenience of the president, all public action for justice and freedom can begin.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Leisure: A Time to Recharge

Korea's work days are the longest compared to other countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). An article in the Catholic Times visits the topic of leisure as a time to be renewed. It mentions a woman, working in a department store, who has only one Monday off a month.

With the economic development of the country, the importance of leisure has come to the fore. The nation has also taken an interest in rest and leisure for the citizens. In May of 2015, a law was promulgated to find a balance between work and leisure and show the importance of leisure in the life of the citizens, guaranteed by law.

In a word, the nation is telling the citizens to rest. Citizens have a right to leisure and they have made this the policy of the country. With a proper balance between work and rest, we have better working situations. Without rest work suffers.

Rest and its place in Catholic teaching begins with God's rest on the seventh day of Creation. It is part of our makeup as human beings needing to alternate between periods of work and rest. Jesus finds time to rest with his apostles in the Scriptures.

"Rest is something 'sacred' because it is man's way of withdrawing from the sometimes excessively demanding cycle of earthly tasks in order to renew his awareness that everything is the work of God. There is a risk that the prodigious power over creation which God gives to man can lead him to forget that God is the Creator upon whom everything depends" Encyclical, Dies Domini (St. John Paul II #65).

A spokesperson for the Bishops of Korea has mentioned that a precondition for leisure is not receiving leisure for the sake of leisure. Often leisure is a reason for more stress, another occasion to do more work. 

Leisure is a time to grow as a person and discover who they are and this requires harmony in oneself. It's a time to look over our way of living not only to recharge ourselves but to examine the way we have lived our lives.

"Those Christians who have leisure should be mindful of their brethren who have the same needs and the same rights, yet cannot rest from work because of poverty and misery. Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life", Catholic Catechism (# 2186).

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Creatively Eradicating Corruption

Among the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Korea ranked 27th, unchanged in its perception of corruption. A  college professor writing in a diocesan bulletin gives the readers an example of a country with a higher corruption index and what the private sector is doing to help overcome the problem.

Low levels of happiness and satisfaction invites corruption.Transparency International is an organization that tracks the victims and witnesses of corruption and makes their results known to the world. They work to stop the abuse of power, bribery and business irregularities. They want a world free from corruption. This organization compares a country with the rest of the world and not only with the 34 members as does the OECD. In this ranking Mexico ranks 123 out of 176 countries. Korea is 52 out of 176.

Each country in its own way attempts to overcome the corruption within the country with a variety of results. Our professor gives us an example of a private entrepreneur who has tried a rather novel way of conscientizing the citizens.

There are many sightseeing tours but Mexico has a corruption tour and for the present, according to the professor it may be unique. Usually, tours go to beautiful spots or historical landmarks where the sightseers admire with open mouth amazement what is before them. However, in Mexico, these tours are to 10 places of irregularities and corruption. During the trip, they discuss and make plans to bring about change.

One of the favorite spots is the gorgeous house of the president which is said to be built with the bribes received. When something is done repeatedly over time it becomes the ordinary way of acting. Mexicans are not surprised at the corruption and don't get angry. They have become accustomed to the evil.


Obviously, this is not going to change what has been done and is being done but it's an effort on the part of citizens to bring change. It is a beginning to change the way corruption is seen.

Korea is somewhat better than Mexico in the perception of corruption and the professor hopes the election results will see a  change in the way government is done.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Work And Pray


Ora et Labora is the motto of the Benedictine Order. To pray is the first work of the order, Opus Dei--God's work. Nothing is more important in the Rule of St. Benedict.

Why is prayer called work? A Benedictine priest in his article in the Kyeongyang magazine tells the readers when you are called seven times during the day to pray, you can call it work. Sometimes you go without emotion as you go to the workplace, often in a trance.

Life of a monk according to the rule of St. Benedict is prayer, work, and study. Those who enter the monastery at times find work difficult and find ways to avoid it. When they are not the subject of the work they do it as slaves and without joy. The Benedictine Monastery to which the writer belongs has a large tract of land set aside as a pear orchard and the work is difficult.

Work always gives way to prayer. When the work is difficult and takes too much time prayer is given the place of honor even if it means less income, the expenditures are decreased. In #48 of the rule: "Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for prayerful reading" (1).  "When they live by the labor of their hands, as our fathers and the apostles did, then they are really monks" (8).

"If anyone is so remiss and indolent that he is unwilling or unable to study or to read, he is to be given some work in order that he may not be idle" (23). Brothers who are sick or weak should be given a type of work or craft that will keep them busy without overwhelming them or drive them away" (24). All this is to help in the search for God, (Quaerere Deum).

Prayer and work are a cause of grumbling at times. Too little is as bad as too much. The monks last year attended the demonstrations in Seoul, monks who only knew prayer and work. The monastery life did suffer but they were all united in wanting the president impeached. Why are the monks joining the demonstration? Isn't that going a little bit too far? The writer does see the reason for the surprise but thinks it was a good thing to have the monks leave the monastery for the occasion.

Since the monks have only been concerned with the prophetic calling in a conceptual way they have now experienced it on the front lines. The results were that the bond to the community became stronger, work and prayer also improved. They have also attended a festival where they were involved in fishing which was thoroughly enjoyed. They cooked and ate the raw fish with a glass of Korean vodka. The era of prayer and work has passed and we have prayer and play.

When the monks joined the demonstrations there were those who saw them as followers of the North, leftist and now the writer says those in the future will come and say monks are to work and pray why are they playing? We are a family who in God do not know the world and enjoy play and living happily as a family.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Education of the Whole Person



Korea in education is seen as a leader in comparison studies with other countries. The educational program in the Korean system is intense. They have high achievement goals, are leaders in the educational results achieved,  students, however, do not have the time to live as children.

In the Catholic Times, an article and editorial addressed the need for education in personality traits of sociability and cooperation. A meeting of the presidents of Catholic-affiliated universities has agreed to work together to implement this in their course of studies.

Looking over the situation in society today the movement of the college presidents to expend effort in making the human qualities a part of the program of educating the whole person is deeply felt by many in society.

Korean students in their mastering of the textbook have few peers. The participation of parents in the educational role is high. Parents even before elementary school prepare the children in private educational programs in English, math and other subjects. The time and money spent on private education are enormous and the results are easily seen, what is forgotten is the price the children pay.

Student's goal of a good academic record during their pre-college years continues in the college years. The interest in character building will not be easy, faced with unemployment and the search for specifications in finding a job. Personal achievements and individual concerns will be difficult to dislodge.
 
The editorial gave examples of students from the best universities verbally harassing fellow female students in SNS chatting rooms and medical students accused of sexual abuse. These are signs that something beyond the intellect has to be brought into focus.

These are signs that something is missing in our programs of education. Once a person makes the universities all is permissible is a result of concern
only for grades.

Teachers and students in Catholic universities will work together in a coordinated effort to incorporate character along with the search for knowledge. The editorial hopes these efforts bear fruit and be a leaven spreading to other universities.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Easter Congratulations on the Election

Easter is the beginning of a new creation. Both East and West have the same names for the days of the week. In the Christian tradition, the first day of the week was the first day of creation with the separation of light and darkness. The last day of creation was the sixth and the seventh was the day of rest-- Saturday the sabbath. Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week the beginning of the new second creation.

A time to sing a new song. On May 9th Korea will choose a new president after the impeachment of the former president over a corruption scandal. The hope is to have a new beginning but presently the threat of nuclear war is very much in the thinking of the Korean people because of the actions of the North and the way it has been played up in the mass media.

A medical school professor sings, in the View from the Ark in the Catholic Times, an ode to the Easter Season and the new life. We are all invited to a new beginning and new life with Jesus in a new creation, who accepted death to bring us new life.

God's love allows us to see all the disharmony, pain, conflict and death itself in the light of the Resurrection. How do we live this Resurrection Life? We are freed from sin, abandon skepticism and the feeling of loss and frustration. With love, we overcome hate, conflict, and disharmony in the manner of the prodigal son.

The Empty tomb suggests to us that we have a job to do in building up Christ's kingdom. All our relationships take on new meaning and life itself takes on a different value. Not possessing but sharing, not ruling but serving, not imposing but listening. Heading for the lower place and remaining in a place of poverty. Christians enjoy the freedom that comes thru the Resurrection. No matter the difficulty or crisis, we have the strength to live the new life.

Our society is now waiting for the resurrected life,  the extended hand of trust to overcome the lack of trust and the crevices that exist because of disharmony. The moratorium we experience needs to be filled with a responsible leader. We are praying for a wise choice of a new leader.

It doesn't all rest on our human efforts. With God, in humility and wisdom, we will be led on the right path. It will be a journey to the light together. We will be healing one another and returning to better times for we are all part of the tree of life, filled with new growth.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Waiting for the New Messiah


Looking for a messiah who will solve our problems and lead us into the land of milk and honey is a long-held desire of many. We see it in politics, science, literature, and religion where the true Messiah is not seen as a sufficient. 

Humanity has and will continue to have false prophets and messiahs. Even when the trust that was placed on these so-called prophets is proved misplaced many find it difficult to give up the hope they once had.

A Catholic Peace Weekly article gives us the example of the impeachment of the Korean president and her group of followers who lament the decision: "Our poor President" and "Even if we have to die our President must live" and similar laments to the point of exhaustion for many were taken to hospitals.

More than 10 years ago a  professor of veterinary medicine wrote a dissertation on research on human stem cell cloning that was a fraud. After it was known to be false there were many who continued to be his followers and even a movement to make him president. Bizarre was the way his followers tried to show support even after it was determined that it was a lie.

Religion becomes a part of our political reality our literary world, people are looking for a savior. We search for those to worship. Followers are willing to sacrifice for their hero. They see their savior suffering and oppressed, and the faith of the followers becomes more intense. They compare the suffering of their hero at the hands of the ignorant mob to the suffering of Jesus.

They are hoping for a messiah here and now. Facing reality is always painful, truth is not important, what is wanted is something to kill the pain. They grasp for any hope they can find, salvation here and now.

When Moses went to the mountain and didn't return for some time, the people were restless and weren't relieved until they made the golden calf and worshiped their new idol.

Korea is preparing for the presidential elections and looking for a new leader. One who will lead us into the new land flowing with milk and honey. Will the one chosen be that leader? We need to be slow with our 'Hosannas' for our earthly leaders and be wise in our efforts in selecting them in our democracy.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Unification Spirituality of the Irish

 All of us have three persons that we can consider our fathers: our birth father, those who have helped us in our mental development and God our heavenly father. The Catholic Times Weekly columnist in his column on unification of the country gives his readers what he has learned from an Irish priest on the unification of Korea.

He knew the priest from an early age and learned many difficult teachings from him."Ireland was a country that suffered like Korea, went through division and civil war. Live to reconcile and unify the country with the one life that you have been given. See all of life with conservative and progressive eyes. Looking at the past with a conservative heart and the future with a progressive heart. You will be living with a better future with these wings of wisdom."

At the time he heard these words they made little impression on him. Only later did he  began to understand. The priest broke it down to a few steps. Work hard for its realization, pay all your taxes, but live poorly. These are the words of the medieval St. Francis of Assisi. In this way we will have reconciliation and peace. When we have many who live in opposition to this we will have enmity and conflict. Few are those who will walk this path.

The Irish have  a proverb: the 'apple tree grows even during the winter months. We have to undergo trials to find freedom. We need to overcome defeatism if we are to bring about a different history. This is the Catholic spirituality of Ireland. Some see the difficulties on the road and avoid it while the Irish see the problem and make light of it and go ahead and dream and work to actualize the dream.

For a thousand years they were under England's oppression and contempt. With the break from Catholicism at the time of Henry VIII  and the  beginning of Anglicanism the Irish had another hardship to deal with which deepened their faith. After civil war and the attaining of freedom Eamon de Valera  as president , according to our columnist, devoted his efforts not primarily to unreasonable economic development but to traditional Catholic and human values unifying the country.

If he worked primarily for economic development instead there would have been divisions and conflict. Religion and art helped to unify the country. If Korea had taken this path we would not have the class and regional divisions we experience but rather a country  unified and living in harmony.

Ireland grew slowly economically and is one of the  healthiest and harmonious countries in the world. Korea grew economically too quickly, and suffers from the aftereffects of this growth. Before we work for the unification of the North and South we need to work for the unification of the South. We need to remember the advice of St.Francis, peace does not come automatically but with efforts, personal sacrifice and slowly.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Being versus Doing



In our present culture, we are considered valuable by what we do. We search for what will make us more employable which makes for a stressful growing up period. Korea is a showcase for this thinking. Our worth in our society is what we do. As Catholics, we know that a Saint is not considered one because of what he or she did but in the way they did it.

We are valuable because of who we are and not by what we do. When we are what we are supposed to be we will do what is needed. St. Catherine of Siena said it beautifully: "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire." 

Function is all important in much of the world culture and sadly has infected all of our thinking and doing. In the Scriptures, the story of Martha and Mary is a good example of a Christian's understanding of the dilemma that is faced in the lives of many. 

A College professor writing in a diocesan bulletin gives us a meditation on the conflict that parents face in educating children. There are two kinds of parents. One teaches the children what they should do and the other the way they should do it.There is wisdom in both approaches.

Both are important the what and the how. The professor stresses the order is the most important. The one you put first will decide the way the child will live.

When you grow up what do you want to be? This is asking the child to look only at one area and we have the push from behind. When you grow up what kind of person do you want to be? With this kind of question, you are showing the child that he is not alone in the world.

When you ask what do you want to be the child will continue to compare with others, be in competition, and be stressed. Whether he achieves it or not will be the sign of his or her success or failure.

What kind of person do you want to be has a different result. The child will examine his life and find joy and satisfaction in the search towards the milestone he has set. God is more interested in how we do something rather than the what we do.

Also, the child who understands this will find satisfaction in whatever they do. When the what is put in second place and the how in first place, they will be more interested in being all that God wants them to be.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sexuality And Korean Culture


A priest writes an article in With Bible magazine, on seeing the body and sex in a new way. He begins the article with insights he gained from watching a popular TV show on the romantic life of the young. For many of the young romance means the sexual embrace, a very natural expression of love.


Talking about sex was taboo, consequently little was said about the meaning and value of sexuality. However, the change to openness has not been all positive but often cheapened and made light of sexuality. As one of the entertainers said it is a game. The increase of abortions and unmarried mothers is a result.

With the economic improvement of society, we had the movement towards birth control:  " Boy or girl, two only and raise them well" or "A daughter well raised is worth 10 sons." These and similar slogans have weakened the understanding of sex: the unity of the spouses and raising of children. Another influence was the mass media.

In Hollywood movies and foreign dramas, the meeting of male and female in short order are in bed together. This message was seen with disapproval by the elders but with the repetition of this type of meeting of the sexes, it was taken for granted. This is the way people live and without criticism, was accepted as a cultural norm, spreading quickly in society. "In this area, society and the mass media most of the time provide depersonalized, recreational and often pessimistic information." This was the opinion of the Pontifical Council for the Family (1995).

Twenty years later we see this situation in Korea. We have been overcome with the popular culture and now we are exporters to the rest of the world. 

Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae #22: 

 "We take this opportunity to address those who are engaged in education and all those whose right and duty it is to provide for the common good of human society. We would call their attention to the need to create an atmosphere favorable to the growth of chastity so that true liberty may prevail over license and the norms of the moral law may be fully safeguarded.
 Everything therefore in the modern means of social communication which arouses men's baser passions and encourages low moral standards, as well as every obscenity in the written word and every form of indecency on the stage and screen, should be condemned publicly and unanimously by all those who have at heart the advance of civilization and the safeguarding of the outstanding values of the human spirit. It is quite absurd to defend this kind of depravity in the name of art or culture or by pleading the liberty which may be allowed in this field by the public authorities."

What do parents need to do to block this influence from the mass media? First of all, it requires an interest on the part of parents. Society does not make this easy because of the need for both parents to work to educate the children. Nowadays with the smartphone, the children are accustomed to enjoying the new way of being part of the world. The structure of society needs to be changed.

Parents have not been educated as children in the area of sexuality which makes it difficult for parents to know what to do. They need to know what the children have been exposed to and spend time with them explaining the meaning of sexuality if not the mass media will be their teachers. The church also needs to been involved and continue speaking about the Christian meaning of sex and its value in our life.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Thomas the Doubter



A priest writing for a pastoral bulletin recalls a question he received from a schoolmate in the 5th year of elementary school: "I go to church every Sunday... how do we believe in a God we can't see?"

He was perplexed on how to answer but did respond: "We don't believe with our eyes but with our hearts."
The question was concerned with the physical his answer was spiritual.

After the Resurrection hearing the news Thomas said: "Until I have seen in his hands the print of the nails...and my hand in his side, I will not believe" (Jn.  20:25). These are the words of a man who wanted to die with Jesus when Jesus decided to go to Jerusalem. He showed great courage and faith. A desire to want to resolve one's doubts is a good thing. Doubt is often a way to a strong faith and maturity. A society filled with lies makes this necessary. 

In a scientific society, doubt is not allowed, everything needs to be tested and proved. 2+2=4 type of truth is desired: clarity and preciseness. Objective truth, is what we want, when not accepted makes you a fool. This is what is demanded in the society in which we live, religious faith is difficult to accept.

We can always choose not to believe. We can see the same thing and choose to believe or not believe. Truth is not always objective but depends on the subjective attitude of the one seeing. Love, justice, truth, conscience and the like are related to the transcendent which depends less on our understanding than the way one has lived and one's experiences in life.

In the Gospel of Luke, we have the journey to Emmaus where two disciples met Jesus on the road and didn't recognize him. He explained the words of the Scripture and when they arrived at their house they invited him in for the meal. During the meal Jesus at the table took the bread, said a blessing, broke it and gave each a piece, their eyes were opened and they recognized him and he vanished. Faith comes from hearing but is deepened by experience.

Life is made up not only of different views, and knowledge but experiences.  A person from the tropics can hear what we have to say about snow but it is not like experiencing snow. We can meet a person thru a friend but it is not like having the two meet and talk together.

The words of a novelist ring true:  "No one has seen God. However, those who love much are able to accept God." Since God is love, without love we are unable to receive him. Those who imitate this love will see God.

"Happy are those with a pure heart for they shall see God" (Matt 5:8).

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Marriage Premium

Since the number of divorces continue to climb, and the demands of family are life long  and getting more complicated we have the glorification of  the single life and cohabitation. Living alone, the money  and time can be spent as one pleases, sounds good does it not? Cohabitation brings no legal responsibility and easy to leave when one wants  freedom. Seems like a suitable alternative to marriage, right?

However, 99% of the world marry. Why do they choose such a difficult path? There was a time in the west when skepticism was in vogue about the structure of marriage but for the last 25 years many studies have shown that the benefits of marriage are much greater  than the burdens. The head of a Happiness Research Center writes his response in an article in Bible & Life magazine.

He mentions how in studies that have been made with those with same age, education and work place those who are married are from 10 to 40 percent better off in the money they make in comparison to those who are single, cohabiting or divorced, This is true in 14 countries of the OECD.

They are also healthier and live longer than those who remain single, cohabit or are divorced.They live about 10 years longer and look younger. One of the scholars who have studied the question attributes the living longer of the men to the scolding of the wife on smoking, drinking, computer use and concern over the health of the husband.  This is a reason for the longevity of the married men  compared to the single according to the researcher.

The benefits for the women is also great. In Japan and the Netherlands the longevity of the married is greater. In the developed countries the single, cohabiting and divorced are the victims of robbery, rape, fraud, sexual harassment at a far higher rate than the married.

Another researcher in the study of sexuality found that those who were married had a greater level of sexual satisfaction than the single and those cohabiting.  This came as a surprise to the researchers. The common understanding was that the married who had only one mate would get bored with the same person but the study showed something else.

The reason was that in reality one feels more at ease and knows what to expect and has greater trust with deeper bodily and mental interaction. Confidence, security, responsibility, maturity and in all the qualities that can be measured, the married have a higher rating then the unmarried and those cohabiting. They also rate lower in depression, and suicides: the  divorced are the highest, followed by the single and those cohabiting.

Since these are the benefits of married life couples need to overcome all the obstacles that arise to strengthen the marriage bond by getting help and using all the means available to overcome the conflicts that will arise in marriages. Marriage is a premium and needs the same amount of care as health and economics, and the happiness will increase.

Friday, April 21, 2017

You Only Live Once

New words continue to be coined and used. Korea imports a lot of new words from the west and a columnist  in the Peace Weekly introduces us to the word YOLO, an acronym  used by the young: "You Only Live Once."

The situation being what it is in Korea these days,very similar to other parts of the world, worrying about the future is considered counter productive and the need to find happiness here and now. It can be used as motivation for reckless behavior but also for personal development.

'We only live once so makes the most of it ' vs  "Many little  pickles makes a mickle" (many little things add up to a lot)-- The light even shines in a mouse hole-- The writer asks her readers were do they stand? Do they limit themselves to the happiness of  each day or prepare for the future by accepting the difficulties of the present?

YOLO is popular in Korea and has become the life style of many young people. Last year in September YOLO was added to the Oxford Dictionary as a new word.  Rarely used by the older generation it has great appeal to the young. The way the price of commodities are increasing, young people don't have the dreams of their elders and  easily accept YOLO  thinking. Living for the day with their interests, personal development and present happiness.   

In the Seoul diocese  on April 7th, 500 young people with the Cardinal took time to make the Stations of the Cross for over two hours. The cardinal invited the young people to prepare to walk the pilgrimage road that lays ahead. "You will be facing many unimaginable situations in life but you never should doubt the mercy of God that is always there." And added: "Our Blessed Mother will always be accompanying you on the journey."

YOLO is the word that was in the background and is always there to tempt the young people in a life style not suited for a follower of Jesus. The situation in which they live has taken their dreams away.

No matter the situation one should not give in to anger, frustration and helplessness but a need to have hope and love. When one believes someone is accompanying them on the road that they are taking, they will gain strength.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Third Anniversay of the Sewol Disaster

Easter 2017 was the third anniversary of the sinking of the Sewol Ferry and the connection brought many thoughts to mind. The raising of the ship has alleviated some pain associated with the tragedy. Efforts continue in finding the meaning to society from the sinking.

Editorials in the Catholic Weeklies and magazine articles return to the sinking and the meaning it has for Korean society. Sections of society, however, find the continuing talk about the tragedy repulsive and want it to stop: enough is enough. Contemplating the same event we have differences of opinion and yet it is necessary to determine for Catholics how much is based on who we are as Christians.

One editorial mentions the words of Pope Francis that the Church needs to speak out when we have injustices in society.We are moving from one way of living to another; labor pains accompany us as Christians and we need to decide what our responses will be. 

Countless rumors are associated with the sinking and many questions remain which the families of the victims  and many in society want answered. Lack of transparency and suspicion that a coverup has been at work has angered many in society.

The families of the victims and those who have not yet recovered the bodies of their loved ones are only searching for the truth and do not want revenge. Those who want to see vengeance are asked to turn it over to God.

The Ferry  sank in the muddy waters filled with greed and corruption. The weak are still the food for the strong and the strong have their way in society. No need to ask who are at fault for we are all in some way involved in the disaster. Material goods and their acquisition at any price is this not the reason for the catastrophe? This is not the way society should go.
Have we changed the direction of our lives after the tragedy?

A member of the bereaved families asked:  "Why has God given us this agony in losing our loved ones?"  Silence is not always an answer to agony. We are caught in the trap of our own greed and are distant from God, and fail to understand how we are all involved.

That is why those who have died should continue to remain in our thinking. Remembrance is Resurrection.
Resurrection is a new experience a new meeting with the one who died and rose again from the dead and who remains with us.

During this Easter Season we pray for the victims of the tragedy the families and those who are still looking for the bodies of their loved ones and we pray that the anger and questions that followed from the tragedy will in the near future be laid to rest.