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.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Gift of Time: Its Master and not Slave



A college professor in a diocesan bulletin writes about a eureka moment. His digital watch stopped and was in a watch repair shop thinking it was the battery that was a problem and wanted it replaced. The store was filled with customers so while waiting, paged thru a magazine on the counter with examples of watches.

One of the watches that caught his attention had no second or minute hand. A  strange type of watch with only an hour hand. At first, he thought it was a stop watch, but no it was clearly a wrist watch.

Now he was open to creativity in the making of watches but what good was a watch with only an hour hand? It didn't make much sense to him. How does one measure time with only the hour hand?

Beside the picture of the watch, he saw an explanation of the watch and began to nod his head in approval of what he read. The reason for the watch was to get a general idea of time: seeing the position of the hour hand you would guess about the minutes.The watch was a movement against becoming a slave to time instead of its master.

Those who live needing to know the exact minute and second of their day should possess this watch. Those obsessed with exactitude need this kind of watch. They will be blessed with an abundance of leisure time. The watch does not measure time but imagines time. The habit we have grown to accept is to measure how much time we have before the end of some work, at what hour and minute we have to meet someone, often shackles us.

With this watch, we use the imagination to have a rough idea of when a certain person will come. We can meet at sunset or when the western sky is in color. This is not wasting time but a way of finding time that we have lost because of the way we have planned our days.

We have become the slaves of time, fear to lose it, and spend time wasting it. We have just so much time on this earth and spend too much of it with technological gimmicks and forget what is important.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Resurrected Life

Spring is always the endurance of winter and the flowering of the Resurrection. Life is the overcoming of adversity, reminding us of the Resurrection. Winter quickly disappeared and we have the fragrance of the spring flowers, preparing for the feast of the Resurrection.

Spring is heaven on earth. Flowers blending with all the other flowers give us great beauty and so it is with life that harmonizes with all of nature. No one is without problems yet in the spring regardless of age or sex we are bathed in the warmth of the sun and ready to bloom like the flowers.

These are the words of a poet writing in his column for the Catholic Peace Weekly. Life is in reality, a daily living of the Resurrection. Time quickly passes for all, each new day is a new beginning. Jesus is the key to the joy in our hearts. What blessedness it would be if our whole life would be like a day filled with Resurrection. Grace makes all life springlike. Grace  makes all the adversity bearable, and gives joy and motivates us to a life of obedience.

If Resurrection is life after death then facing death and overcoming it is a resurrection. Those with this experience know what resurrection means to them. He mentions in his own life when young he worked as a construction worker and fell four floors onto a tile foundation, nearly dying. He could have died but lived. He could have been paralyzed but he walked out of the hospital without difficulty.

He was baptized while in the hospital on Easter Sunday. There is no need, he says, to relate all the problems he had, only that he escaped death and was born again. He experienced great joy in the return to life.

From that moment forward he looked at life differently. It was no longer only one world but two worlds: no longer fearful of death. He saw everything thru the lens of a resurrected life. He was thankful for life and poetry began to gush out of him. Living the resurrected life he was filled with hope, courage, and joy, he was experiencing the joy of the resurrection.

"Joy of heaven comes from the heart of a child/ The true meaning of life/ Deeper are the words that come from the poet's pen/ Certain expression were impossible to make/ The heart of a child is a poet's heart/ // Exaggerated metaphors give light/  Words of God hidden in the heart of a poet// I see the mystery of the heavens meeting the earth/ The combining of a child's and a poet's heart/ With the fragrance of heart and soul/ The presence of the gracious God/"

It is a great grace to experience the resurrection while living. He has trust in God's grace that no matter what adversity will come, it will be a poem. God's love has been made clear in the Resurrection and has made this poet's journey one of love.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

God's Providence

God's will is a phrase that we often hear on the lips of Christians. At times not knowing what to say we utter these words. However, when we think everything is God's will without many qualifiers, we are in danger of making God a monster.

The third anniversary of the Sewol tragedy will be remembered on April 16th: the Feast of Easter. We pray that the families of those that lost members in the tragedy will find some consolation in our belief of the Resurrection. We hear that the tragedy was the will of God, that the division of Korea into North and South, that the colonization of Korea by the Japanese was the will of God. Is this true?

A seminary rector spends time in an article in With Bible magazine explaining to the readers that everything that happens is not the will of God. If it were why would we daily in prayer say: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." No, not everything we see is the will of God.

Can we say the two World Wars we experienced was God's will? Cain killing Abel and Adam and Eve disobeying God were all God's will! We are in these cases horribly misunderstanding the Providence of God.

When we sin this is not the will of God. The will of God is that all be saved, that we all understand the truth, love one another, search for the good, justice, freedom and peace.

The Story of Joseph in the Bible is a good example of how God works to bring God out of evil in his Providence. His brothers sold him to the merchants instead of killing him with the help of Reuben and Judas. His life in Egypt was far from easy but after many trials, he did rise to a high position in government and was able to help his brothers during the famine in their homeland. God drew good from the evil. Even the sin of Adam and Eve were seen as a happy fault. For those who love God, all things work together for the good.

God's goodness is always in his providence ruling over the world: drawing good out of evil without taking away our free wills.The will of God was not to have the tragedy of the Sewol, it was to have all the passengers rescued. However, the tragedy happened because of the failures of the humans involved. 

We now need to discover the reasons for the tragedy, humbly admit the failings and work for a  society where these types of human errors and sins, no longer bring about such evil.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Economy of Communion

We are all dreamers. Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare Movement, had a dream where humanity would share like the first Christians. "All the believers continued together in close fellowship, sharing their belongings with one another" (Acts 2: 44). In WithBible magazine a principal of a Catholic Middle and High School writes about the EoC, Economy of Communion.

In 1991 in Brazil Chiara began the movement, an alternative to the present economic system: free competition which often doesn't distinguish between methods and means to achieve capital. Profit is the goal which generates more competition. In the process, we have the gap between the poor and the rich. This extends to areas of a country, between countries and between members of society.

Chiara Lubich took the ideas of St. Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Centesimus Annus and gave them life with the Economy of Communion. "The obligation to earn one's bread by the sweat of one's brow also presumes the right to do so. A society in which this right is systematically denied, in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, cannot be justified from an ethical point of view, nor can that society attain social peace. Just as the person fully realizes himself in the free gift of self, so too ownership morally justifies itself in the creation, at the proper time and in the proper way, of opportunities for work and human growth for all"  (#43).

Neoliberalism is the financial system by which most of the world has produced much wealth and benefited the lives of many but in the process a dehumanization of those who are not prepared for the cutthroat competition required.

With this kind of talk, many only see Communism as the alternative and consequently the opposition to social movements of this type. There are other alternatives and Economy of Communion is one of them. A very Christian alternative which the Church has promoted with its teaching.

811 such communities exist in the world today. Europe has the most with South America, Africa, North America and Asia in that order. We have a number of these places of work in Korea.

This year in Feb. they celebrated the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the EoC at the Vatican with 800 members from all over the world, 33 from Korea. The pope in addressing those present said three things that were listed in the article.

Money must not become an icon but must be shared with the poor. Secondly, those who become victims of capitalism are not only to be helped but the structural evil that continues to hurt them needs to be changed. With the profit, good can be done in helping society.

The Social Gospel of the Church becomes alive in movements like EoC and the problems that arise from neoliberalism are overcome. The Church in its work of evangelization is not only interested in the soul but also the body, consequently, concern for the financial and social areas of life. God made us in his image and this image needs to be protected.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Discovering A New Pastoral Paradigm

South Korea is a small country with an excellent transportation system with easy access to all parts of the country. Internet communication network is one of the fastest and connects with most of the homes: ideal to spread information. Obviously, this is both a plus and a minus for not all the information is for the good.

Moreover, Korea is still a very culturally homogeneous country which makes the evangelization work of the bishops' easier than in other countries. An editorial in the Catholic Times is asking the bishops to look for a new approach to the pastoral work of the Church. The reason mentioned is that we have opposite realities facing the church.

In the many studies and questionnaires of the pastoral research institutes made over the years, they have determined that the biggest problem is the secularization and privatization of a person's religious beliefs. Much of the teaching of the Church is not accepted by the faithful. What follows is that we have a distancing from the community of faith with the majority living on the peripheries.

The editorial goes on to say in contrast we do have a small group that is living a deeper spirituality with a greater understanding of the Christian tradition and a maturer faith life. They are freed from the secularization of society and not following the crowd.

Those who are secularized and those who are not, are the two opposing groups within the church. The minority are those with the essential teaching of the church and the other group which is the larger are on the peripheries with a pluralistic understanding of their religious belief not in harmony with the traditional teaching which polarizes the community of faith. This group will increase.

We have three possibilities opened to the Korean community of faith. Satisfaction with the loyalty of the minority, accepting the situation and continue as in the past. Secondly, concern for the majority on the periphery with programs addressed for them, helping them to enter the community of faith from the peripheries. Or thirdly, uncover the reasons for the division within the Church and work to present the teaching in a way that we don't have the division we have presently.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Conditions for Reconciliation and Unity

With the impeachment and incarceration of the president, we have a division among the citizens on the righteousness of what has transpired in Korea. The religious segment of society wants to see the issue resolved amicably. Politicians are looking forward to the elections and want to see the uniting of citizens.This is a serious issue in the country.

Persons involved in the scandal do not accept any blame for the situation and those who sympathize with them do not accept the results of the court.The majority of the citizens have shown approval for the court decision.

The road to reconciliation and unity is not easy. Politicians are concerned on how to gain control of power. Leaders in society are unconscious of the structural evil in society. Choi-gate which brought about the impeachment of the president was self-interest, collusion with big business and lack of concern for the rights and welfare of the citizens.

In View from the Ark column of the Catholic Times a Catholic Medical School professor gives us his ways to work towards unity and reconciliation.

First of all, we have to acknowledge our own involvement little as it may be. He quotes a philosopher who says that when we live without thinking, evil will always be close by. We often surrender to authority and look for security. In our busy life, the easiest thing is to follow the flow. When everything falls apart it's too late to do anything. We have to acknowledge our involvement.

The second step is how am I to accept the other person's understanding of the situation. Our political behavior, is formed for the  most part by our experiences in society, habits, and consequently not done alone. The way we act follows a  person's convictions, values and patterns of thought. Even at times we hear a cry asking for understanding.

We need  to not only return to understanding and  dialogue but to understand the place of emotions.  When my position is not pushed as absolute we have the possibility of welcoming the other's idea.There is no complete theoretical system or methodology. We are just making the best choice now. We have to make clear that we are both looking forward to what is best for society and we need to do this together.

Our third step is to forgive each other. We need to be able to forgive ourselves if we are to forgive others. Even if the other is not able to receive the forgiveness we should be ready to give it, and wait for the time it will be received. Forgiveness doesn't  need a condition. It is a sign of our love. This becomes the motivation for all we do.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Distinquishing the Pseudo from the Real

Pseudo is a word we attach to anything that is not true, not genuine a sham. Often used in respect to adherents of some teaching, politics, religion in a pejorative way. We are dealing with the phony the bogus and the tragedy is most of the followers are sincere.

Catholicism has always been a little skeptical about experiences that were distant from the reality in which we live. In the encyclical of Pius X on the Doctrines of the Modernists, the following are the words we read. 

"This is their manner of putting the question: In the religious sentiment one must recognize a kind of intuition of the heart which puts man in immediate contact with the very reality of God, and infuses such a persuasion of God's existence and His action both within and without man as to excel greatly any scientific conviction. They assert, therefore, the existence of a real experience, and one of a kind that surpasses all rational experience. If this experience is denied by some, like the rationalists, it arises from the fact that such persons are unwilling to put themselves in the moral state which is necessary to produce it. It is this experience which, when a person acquires it, makes him properly and truly a believer."

This is not the understanding of religion or the way we are to come to the truth that a Catholic would accept. We see how this understanding permits the unlimited possibility of beliefs and tragedies that result from jettisoning our mental faculties. Sincerity is an admirable quality but it does not take the place of truth.

In the Catholic Times, a member of a pastoral research team gives us his ideas on the pseudo ideas that are prevalent in our society. He recalls seeing on a wall the words: "Make the abnormal, normal." A wry smile came to his face for he remembers the past and the ways we tried to justify many of the actions of the government.

He recalls the words of Confucius who was greatly opposed to the pseudo for it distorted the meaning of justice and truth. The writer considers the Sewol tragedy a case where we see distortion, fabrication, and concealment-- no transparency. However, the time has come where the darkness will give way to the light and lies to the truth.

In the time of Jesus, we also had pseudo teachings and teachers. They worked against the welcoming and solidarity of the community and brought in idols that restricted freedom.

Jesus came to remove the chaos and replace it with the cosmos. In these times of upheaval, we drink new wine from new wine skins and pray for the eyes to see what is phony. We need to ask for the gift of wisdom to distinguish the pseudo from the real.

Monday, April 3, 2017

A Child Grows Up

An article in the Catholic Digest by a seminarian gives the readers a brief overview of his growth as a human being.

In the 3rd grade elementary school, the writer with his father, visited a nearby monastery for Mass on Sunday. The priest he met left a lasting impression on him for his kindness and peaceful demeanor.This remained with him for years after and a reason he entered the seminary.

He was considered naive and gullible. He always tried to do what was right and say the right things to receive approval. More than happy to be a good servant of Jesus he was acting under pressure. No joy, only duty, it was an obsession. What he did had to be done.

He finally did enter the seminary and this way of behaving followed him. No big fights with others but he was strong in his opinions. His dignity was important, in comparison to others he always considered himself right and in his own eyes number one. Everything needed to be seen thru his own eyes and his values needed to be satisfied. "I am right others need to follow."

This gradually came to an end and the faults of others were seen as his own magnified. This brought discouragement. The priestly life and his own life was seen negatively. He saw himself as a monster. Like a person in flight, he entered the military and thought after two years things would get better but it was not so. The Seminary became a trial. All was habit. Attending Mass and communion he felt like a hypocrite. He tried to change but nothing worked.

He continued being conscious of others and felt he should leave but couldn't and time passed. He began to feel more alienated from the spiritual life and began to become involved in other distractions. On vacation, he would contact his high school buddies and go drinking. He behaved other than like a seminarian and didn't want to be considered one.

One day on vacation a grandmother saw him at Mass and put something in his pocket. She was a street vendor with her small articles for sale in the village market. She told him that she prayed for him and was touched to see him at daily Mass and kept him in her prayers, praying that he would be a good priest.The crumbled piece of paper had a Korean bill valued about 10 dollars. He was moved by the encounter and the knowledge that he was loved by the grandmother left him embarrassed but also a warm feeling.

He was struck with the knowledge that he was not called because of his goodness or ability. Knowing this did not change his way of life but knowing the love of God and of others made him conscious of something that was nor present before.

He remembers the recent ordination ceremonies for priests and deacons and the answer to the call of their name: " Yes, I am here" He looks forward to the day when he also will shout out: "Yes, I am here".

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Religious Vocation Crisis In Korea

The religious vocation crisis in the west was a topic of discussion for many years, but now we have the same problem facing the Korean church.

A religious sister, a high school teacher, writes in the Kyeongyang magazine on the issue. According to the Catholic Peace Network in 2013 we had 11,734 religious. At  present comparing with the past this was an increase of 74.1% for the men religious and 48.6 % for the women. When we look at the statistics all seems rosy but the reality is different.

In comparison to 1994 the number of men religious preparing for vows decreased 41 % and the women has decreased 67%. Over half of the religious orders have no one in formation.

This is not simply a problem in the church for the reasons affects all of society. The signs of the times are not only confined to the church.

Pope Francis at the end of the year of the Consecrated Life in his talk to the religious stressed the three pillars of the religious life: prophecy, proximity and hope. The pope is telling people that there is a path to happiness and grandeur, a path that fills you with joy. If we lived this life would the crisis end?

The sister has talked to many of the young who are not interested in the religious life. They have little knowledge of the spiritual life and living in a complicated world. We don't only have a crisis of vocations but a crisis of society. What are we to do?

We live in a time where values are missing. How am I to live? This is the guide for life. They are surrounded with materialism, invited to find ways to make money. They are absorbed in finding employment, make money and be a big class consumer. Is there any thought of the kind of person they want to be? Asking the young what they want to be is a dangerous question.

The pope speaks about the prophetic life.This is not difficult for it requires saying no when a no is required and yes to a required yes. We need to be strong in our quest for truth. We are  prepped to look for success, results. Society, she says, sees us as means to achieve goals and when not needed discarded as a spare part. In her own teaching profession she wonders how much her own encounters with the students are person to person.

She concludes the articles by telling the readers that we should not concentrate on the problems or be obsessed with the numbers entering the religious life but to be hopeful and remember that we are to work in the building of Christ's kingdom. Isn't this for a Christian, the reason for the creation of the world, the reason we are here. How we are to live is the decision that follows on this.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Discord in Society


The Korean word for conflict, discord, complications, dissensions, difficulty is made up of two Chinese characters each meaning a type of vine. When they are entangled, one with the another, we have discord and complications, not easily resolved. A college professor who is an authority in the field of social discord gives the readers of the Kyeongyang magazine an understanding of the reasons we see so much discord in society.

Koreans use the word mostly with mental conflicts, psychological difficulties but the writer stresses it is much broader in meaning. When people are interacting with each other both individually or in groups, differences of understanding cause conflict.

Asians have a tendency to work with the internal emotions that arise and work to resolve them with the cultivation of the mind. In the West, coming to a peaceful resolution with the other or others is central. Needed is a concern for both.

The background for these problems may be expressed by differences, needs, perceptions and values.

In the workplace, if another worker enters the workforce at the same time and does the same work and we have a difference in pay, we see this as discrimination and a reason for conflict.

When a person seeks to satisfy their needs we have the possible infringement of another person's possessions or rights and a reason for conflict. "After three days without food, there is no one who will not steal." This Korean proverb shows the lack of what we need can lead to conflict.

In the same situation and circumstances because of our bodily characteristics, experiences, education etc. we perceive reality in different ways. A teacher can say to a student: Why did you act in that way? One student can see it as concern and another as a reprimand.

Values can affect the way we approach a subject.  One may have a value that shows respect more for an older person than for the young. Some would take this as discrimination. These four human qualities do not cause the conflict but are in the background.

Facts and data that are not accepted in the same way may cause conflict. Different understandings, structures, relationships, values, (convictions, religion, philosophies) and our very identity:(our appearance, race etc.) maybe the reason for conflict.

Knowing the reason for the conflict can solve the difficulty. If facts are the problem we work to uncover them in an objective way which will decrease the area of discord. Misunderstandings over the distribution of material goods, fairness and rationality all have to be spelled out clearly and with transparency.

Relationship discord needs the easiness of dialogue to remove the problems. Values and identity have taken a great deal of time to form and finding areas of compromise, difficult. Rather than looking for compromise it is better to recognize the existence of the other, respect and avoid the points of difference, which maybe the easiest way towards a solution.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Prudence Is Not a Popular Virtue

Everything on the face of the earth is beautiful. Even if on the outside it is homely, its existence in itself is beautiful. Prudence opens our eyes.

Even if existence is beautiful not all is beautiful. We have in the world both the beautiful and the homely. At the beginning of spring, it's not out of place to consider what is beautiful and what is unattractive. So begins an article in the Catholic Times by a seminary rector.

Little can compare with the beauty of nature. Marvelous is the beauty when a bud appears from the recently thawed earth. Life is always beautiful. Development that randomly destroys this beauty is not. Those who cut a branch from a flowering plant to place in their knapsack to show to others does not appreciate the beauty of the flower.

From where does the beauty of nature come? Not difficult to answer for it comes from its very being. We like to compare one person with another but all persons are beautiful for beauty comes not from the face or body but from the person's being.

We want to be beautiful, consequently the need to be concerned for interior beauty rather the external beauty and to adorn our lives with beauty. The manner in which we live determines the beauty or unattractiveness of our lives.

We are all different which adds to the beauty. Youth and love he considers of great beauty. Personally, youth without the advantages of wealth who don't envy those with wealth have great beauty and wants to praise them. Beauty is there with those who dream, without dreams we have desolation, loneliness, and unattractiveness.

There is both beauty and ugliness in meeting and departure. As one poet said: how beautiful is the back of the one who knows the time of leave-taking. However, the one who finds the leave-taking difficult when the time demands it is not attractive. 

When we have an exchange of ideas and a meeting of minds, this is a beautiful result of an encounter.  Shouting and attempting to force one's opinion on others is ugly: no matter how attractive, when forced, beauty is lost. No matter how small the issue when we work towards conciliation we are practicing virtue. 

He concludes the articles with the situation in Korea where you have street demonstrations with Korean and American flags appearing, opposing the impeachment of the president. It seems that the Korean flag is not enough so they add the American flag. This leaves the writer with a bitter taste. Too much is as bad as too little and as unattractive. He's sad to see people of faith in these demonstrations. When we try to force our personal beliefs on others no matter how lofty and beautiful the belief, this comes across as ugly to many. We need prudence.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Striving For The Ideal


A priest writing in a pastoral bulletin for clergy mentions an incident on a trip to an island some years ago. A grandmother was carrying a heavy load and would put it down every few steps. He saw it all and in his own mind the thought was present to help the woman but no movement of the feet. A woman behind him ran up ahead to help the grandmother and took one of the packages.

Why seeing the woman's difficulty did he not offer to help? Why didn't the heart and body move? He is always talking about love but those who are less concerned with talk are often more sensitive to the needs of others. He reminds us of the famous words: "the greatest distance in travel is from the head to the heart and the heart to the feet."

Associating for the most part with people with leisure he is not close to the poor consequently the motivation to help is missing.

The famous Russian novelist Tolstoy and his wife Sophia had 13 children. His wife mentions in her writings that he wrote often and eloquently about the love of Jesus and thought a great deal about it but it was not practiced in his life.

Living with high ideals and to feel the love in the heart is important so we read the Scriptures, spiritual books and listen to talks and mistake this for actual acts of love in our lives and think that we are doing much.

He is now up in age, has traveled much but most of what he has learned has stayed in the head. When he sees the acts of others and their concern for others he is moved but making a decision and carrying it out correctly is not easy.

Helping others is important but the way they are helped is also important. Giving of money is not always the best way to help. If a person is not helped to be strong in heart they may be hurt by the help given. He feels that to help the movements that are concerned for the poor may be wiser.

As an individual, he has no reason with his personal history, appearance, or way of life to receive the respect and love of others, his position in the church, his priesthood has made all the difference.  Actually,  not only his priesthood but also all those who have lived the priestly life in a sacrificial way and have moved the hearts of many has influenced the way many see him. To repay what has been received is to live in the manner that they did.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sewol Tragedy Revisited

On the morning of April 16 of 2014, the Sewol ferry sank on a trip from Inchon to Jeju island. The ferry capsized carrying 476 people, mostly high school students, 304 died. This tragedy has continued to smolder in society and a reason for the unfavorable impression given by president Park to many of the citizens.

The National Assembly with more than two-thirds majority voted to remove Park from office on charges of corruption, misconduct, and negligence. All eight of the Constitutional Court justices supported the actions of the National Assembly to impeach the president. Interestingly the allegations of negligence related to the sinking of the Sewol Ferry were seen as troubling but not a reason for impeachment. 

A series of articles in Bible and Life visited the issue again in a Before and After headline for the articles. One writer questions himself: if his daughter had died in the tragedy what would he have done? The feelings aroused with the sinking even after three years are still smarting. For many, it is the lack of transparency and the feeling that efforts are made to hide the reasons for the tragedy.

Why did the ferry capsize? The ferry was carrying more passengers than allowed and many points of illegality were ignored. Why didn't the passengers escape? Many who were in charge of the ship were temporary workers, with little training but took most of the punishment. It was shown that all of the passengers could have been saved if appropriate measures were taken but the confusion and failure in coordination and misinformation were reasons for the tragedy.

The families of the Sewol victims have been critical voices in movements for democracy in Korea and a reason for the mobilization of the citizens asking for the impeachment of the president. The yellow ribbons have been a sign both of mourning but also remembrance and a desire for social change.

Raising of the Sewol ferry had been delayed but just a few days ago, accomplished. There are many questions that will be answered with the raising of the ferry. There are still 9 victims whose bodies were never found, a difficult situation for the grieving parents. One writer mentions in his article the collapse of a gymnasium just a few months before the Sewol tragedy killing nine, added more pain to the Sewol sinking, and the citizen's desire for a new way of being Korea.