Sunday, September 24, 2017

School For Love

One of the strange realities of life is the lack of education for the most important events in our lives. Catholics are required to attend a course of instructions before marriage but it's very short.   

In the Catholic Peace Weekly a woman who began a school in teaching about love, remembers that before her own marriage she spent only 4 hours in preparation and she believes it should be for a least a semester. Looking back on her own experience before marriage she decided to begin her school for communication and healing-- Love School. She is interviewed by a journalist for the paper.

The divorce rate continues to rise and even among the couples who have lived together for many years.  Divorce is not contemplated but many marriages are not happy. She had for 8 years given talks on marriage and met many married couples and was familiar with their concerns and concluded that if they were to love correctly they would have the solution to many of their difficulties. She spent time preparing the course and will begin this month.

How does one go about loving? Sweethearts, couples and family members can leave  scars in their encounter with the other. They express love for the other and at the same time, out of their mouth they spit out poisonous words. Isn't this because they have not learned what is happening in the encounter with the other? The reason for our writer to begin her school for communication and healing.

In the program, the participants will spend a great deal of time learning about themselves. Examine one's tendencies. How does one express what is going on inside, what are the feelings and how to express them and to practice how to make a request and say no. We need to know our hearts and bodies if we are to love.  'Love another as we love our self' but we understand this in our own way. For many, it calls for loving the other more than oneself. She maintains this is not loving but a sacrificial act.

The interviewer asked what did she think was the biggest problem between lovers. Thinking that they are loving was her answer. The male thinks it is by doing something for the loved one but the loved one has no desire for what was given. This is a common event between lovers. The female by talking feels she will achieve pleasing the other. Each fails to understand the other.

She was asked what did she believe was Jesus' understanding of love?  M.Scott Peck, in The Road Less, Traveled defined love thus: "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." She gives the example of not caring for a fish meal but eating it on occasions for the other. This extends me for the other. This is not forcing oneself but doing it willingly for the other and for one's personal  growth in virtue. This is what love is. Not using the other, controlling or using the other as an accessory for that is not love.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Let' s Have a Drink!

Korea is a society which encourages the drinking of liquor.  In a recent popular TV drama, the drinking to excess was romanticized in two consecutive episodes. In a preview for a drama, they had a caricature of drinking from a barrel for spring water filled with Soju (Korean liquor). They used famous young people as models. Beer is cool and Soju is smooth everybody can enjoy, are the methods to tempt the viewers. The mass media just shows the pleasure and delights of drinking with few of the dangers and the need for control.

An authority in the field begins his article in View from the Ark in the Catholic Times with the above words.  He reminds the readers that in the developed countries liquor comes with a warning. No well-known entertainers are used to push the products and all is done very simply by the display of liquor products. In the movies, you don't see scenes where you have conflict and the drinking to excess but only at banquets where it is done very naturally and without fanfare.

In our society it is different. Our young people are continually exposed to drinking scenes. 'I want the opportunity to drink like the entertainers.' 'When things are tough and spirits are low it's  time to drink.' ' Drinking to a point where losing control of yourself is romantic.' Our young people drinking is no longer considered misconduct. 75% of juveniles have experienced drinking and 25%  drink at least once or more a month.

When he meets a juvenile at the hospital because of drink he is baffled. They drink despite the efforts of  parents. When they meet the police officers they respond: "Don't all the adults drink? We have started a bit early is there any big difference?" The writer is disappointed that the schools and society are not  pro-active in trying to dissuade the young from drinking.

The brains of the young people are still being formed. Young people drinking causes a number of problems. They are not able to control their drinking. Usually an adult who drinks too much will be faced with drowsiness, headaches, nausea, and will stop but this is not the case in the young. In their brain the brake mechanism does not react. In one years time there are about 4000 acts of violence perpetrated by drink in the young. What is worse is that the young exposed to drink at an early age are 5 times more open to becoming alcoholics.

Once a person becomes an alcoholic the chances of change are difficult. Preventing the problem is much easier. Among the 30 nations of the OECD, the efforts made to control the abuse of alcohol-- Korea is near the bottom at 22nd place. The developed countries do not look upon the merriment that comes with alcohol as something good. Their culture sees restraint and carefulness as something to be attained.

In many countries the selling of alcohol and the  places where drinking is allowed are regulated. Advertising is regulated with strict guidelines. Adults  need to be concerned with the temptations that alcohol has for the young and take responsibility.

Pope Francis had these words for the young in one of his talks:"You are the makers, the craftsmen of the future, Go out and 'make noise' because where there are young people there must be noise. Be courageous,  and when people say 'have a little alcohol, take a bit of drug', No. Go against this civilization that is causing us so much harm."

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Nobody Wants to Die

A radio performer writing in a diocesan bulletin gives us her thoughts on death. She does a lot of traveling and during her night trips which she takes often there is one person she remembers. He is the author of the well-known, The Little Prince--Antoine de Saint-Exupery. 

He studied architecture at the School of Fine Arts and became an aviator. In his bestseller The Little Prince, he did his own illustrations. The book quickly received the love of many in the different cultures of the world. His image was on the French 50 franc paper currency indicating the respect and love he received from the French people. In 1944 on a flight over the Mediterranean he disappeared.

When the writer was in her twenties she was sorry seeing that he died so young but since he mysteriously died similar to the way the Little Prince exited from the narrative she found this charming. Like the stars in a desert that keep on moving they both returned to the stars....

However, a few years later on a night trip to South Africa, her thinking changed. She no longer considered Saint-Exupery's death something beautiful but painful and lonely: leaving this world in deep darkness and alone.

She believes these thoughts on death come to her now because of age. She was talking to her friend about the blessings of death. Her friend is ready for death if it comes in her sleep. She is prepared for it now or if it comes in 10 years she will welcome death.

The writer, however, is not so open about the situation. We are all afraid of death. We all have to experience death for the first time and bribes don't work. Just a few weeks ago while in bed she had an excruciating headache that prompted her to even think of calling 119 (emergency telephone number). While in that condition she was overcome with drowsiness. She asks the readers if they could imagine what was going through her head at that time.

She didn't want to go to sleep for she feared that she would die in her sleep. She couldn't help but laugh at her thoughts. She hadn't written her will and wasn't ready to die. She got up the next morning with the sun and gratitude in her heart.

She remembers a French popular song from the 1980s: 'Tout le mond veut aller au ciel mais personne ne veut mourir."  Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.

Monday, September 18, 2017

'Me Alone' Society

A survey that was recently made shows that in the year 2025 we will have over 30 % of the citizens living alone. 'One member household', 'eating alone', 'individual economy', all new ways of expressing a new social reality. We moved from the extended family to the nuclear and now the living alone situation. A priest professor writes in the Kyeongyang magazine on this new reality. In his opinion not a temporary phase but a new cultural reality.

A broad definition of culture would be the mold for the life we live. Consequently, once we change the culture we have all kinds of confusion in society. Korea was a nation with the extended family and respect for the elderly, filial piety was a great value. We passed very quickly to the nuclear family and to the one person household: single life, divorce, the death of a spouse, either willingly or not we have independence and isolation for many different reasons.

Korea for over 500 years during the Joseon dynasty, outside of politics and economics, stability was present. These days we have the  philosophy of individualism spreading and taking hold in society.

Individualism challenges tradition, cultural practices, established structures, and religion, with contrary values. Heidegger, the German philosopher, called this losing your hometown. Now everyone does their own thing.

Individualism of the West has matured and is embedded in society. Korea without any preparation is made to face this new way of being and the results are selfishness and immaturity. Also, we have chaos in society and many find it hard to cope: develop mental and identity problems.

This new culture of aloneness is not within the monastery but in the life of the city. On the foundation of individualism, an absence of security,  technological advances in communication, development of women's issues and the like which become part of city life.

In Sweden 47 %  of the citizens live alone. In the capital Stockholm 60 % live alone. Individualism and independence have supported the culture. However, they live alone but form communities, recreate together, eat together, simply expressed they are authentic and altruistic and have a well-developed welfare network.

The individualism of the West is based on a Christian foundation and contains a respect for humanity, and a person's autonomy and a high degree of welfare for the citizens. Korea has a shamanistic underpinning and outside of the individual, a universal concept is not well developed. A universal concept allows for devotion and a high degree of altruism and concern for social welfare. A  'me alone' society is concerned for itself. Money and time are missing for the interacting with others. We are so busy with our own needs that it's difficult to be concerned with others. This is not true with those with money and leisure.

Across all strata of society, there is a need to work on  identity, confidence in one's dignity and to increase a person's autonomy. A sense of joy in life will work to increase our concern for welfare. Happiness comes when others are also happy. Hell is  isolation and heaven, solidarity with others. This is true for those living alone and those living with others.

'Me alone society' has to be cognizant of this otherwise we are heading for disaster and for the writer this will not be easily avoided.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Foreign Workers in Korea

Korea is no longer a homogeneous society and has come a long way from the days as the  hermit kingdom. In a article in a diocesan bulletin the writer reminds the readers that Korea has over two million migrants but has not acknowledged this reality. Stories of racial discrimination continue to appear in the news.

Since we have no laws protecting the immigrants, the children of Koreans married to immigrants and the migrant workers have a difficult life. Korea needs to understand the multicultural reality of society and begin adapting to it.

Korea is an aging and low birthrate country, consequently the need for  workers and the need for mates for their citizens which requires foreigners not only as workers but as spouses for many of  the country areas, making for a multicultural nation. Many see them as a necessary evil and do not accept them as helping to build up the nation.

Society needs to see the problems associated with the large numbers of  foreigners in society and understand the difficulties that the migrants have in adapting to Korean life: the lack of a sufficient knowledge of Korea makes for difficulty in relating and having a harmonious family life with the spouse and children. This often results in conflict over small issues and  the break down  of family life and divorce. 

The children within this family have difficulty in school and are often bullied and not accepted by their classmate. All making for future social problems.

Korea has also to deal with refugees. They have different kinds  of obstacles to face. Korea has one of the highest entry barriers for refugees and the numbers are few but the migrant worker problem is a different dimension. Korea needs workers who are willing to do the difficult, dangerous and dirty jobs that Korean are unwilling to do.

The country has not come to grips with the immigrant integration problems because the foreign born population is still small and temporary. More efforts are made to prepare foreigners with a basic knowledge of Korean and the culture. The migrant workers have helped the country to prosper and  some are  proposing  an increase of  foreign workers on a more permanent basis. A sign that we made see changes in the near future.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"Reading" in Korean Catholic History

During the Jeoson Dynasty (1392-1897)  book reading was fostered. Wise kings would do much to  increase learning  and put the wise sayings and doings of the sages into print. The  government  would control everything.  Kings for the most part would  at least hold as an ideal the life of scholars. An article in the Catholic Peace Weekly on the subject written by a literary critic reminds us of this history.

Interestingly during the Jeoson Dynasty the king with his retainers would have something similar to a forum to discuss philosophical and political questions. This was considered very important and  looking back in history the  wise rulers were readers and would never miss a forum to discuss questions with their retainers. The ideology behind it  was Confucianism a religion of the book. Scholars did not just memorize the teaching in the texts but practiced in their lives what they learned. Through their reading they wanted to meet the wise men of the past: Confucius and Mencius

When Catholicism  entered Korea this was the culture they found. Yi Byeok (1754-1785) played a important role in the beginnings of the Roman Catholic community  of Korea. He on his own studied the teachings of the Church. He was absorbed in reading  books from China on western  learning. He was the person who convinced  Yi Seung heun,  Peter  (1756- 1801) to be baptized. On his return he brought many books and religious articles which helped spread the teaching in Korea.

In the reading of these books they became familiar with the teaching of the west and called what they were acquiring western learning rather than Catholicism. Because the historical times were very propitious to learning from books this made it easier for the spread of Catholicism. The way the ancient scholars and sages acquired knowledge in the past was the way that Catholicism spread.

What we describe as Lectio Divina  the reading and meditating on the Scriptures the scholars who were showing interest in Catholicism were reading the new books and putting what they were reading into practice and finding  change in their way of living.

The first printing house for the Scriptures came in to Korea from Japan in1886. The Daughters of St. Paul and the Benedictine press  started later, and we have the increase in the number of religious books published. He concludes his article by asking how much reading our we doing.? The number of those reading continues to decrease and he asks  the readers to imitate the early Christians and their love for reading.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Deliver Us From Evil

Recent movies made, show that humans can no longer live on the earth as they once did: nuclear war, technology, climate change. The earth that we know will no longer be  living space with which we are accustomed. We will be controlled by machines,  robots with alone be ridding us of trash, and earth people will be going to other planets to live so begins  a seminary rector article in With Bible.

According to a  survey that was made in 2016  of the 14,900 nuclear weapons 93 % are possessed by Russia and the United States. France,  China,  England, Pakistan,  India and Israel each of them, it is surmised,  possess from 80 to 300 and North Korea would have under 15. Pope Francis reminds us in the first chapter of Laudatio Si that  the earth "is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us." And  yet we have enough nuclear  fire power to destroy the world   a number of times over.

Nuclear power plants likewise are  dangerous. He mentions the Chernobyl  Fukushima and the Three Mile Island accidents. At  present we have 442 nuclear power plants. The  spent fuel will take 10 thousand of years  before declared safe. They are not safe and or not economical and are not friendly to our environment.

We pray to be delivered from evil Matt. 6:13 scripture scholars  remind us this is not subjecive  evil but human evil that will harm all of us. At the time of Jesus people thought that the devil was the cause of much of sickness, Evil  brings about division and death, People doubted the dignity of those who were sick and were treated as sinners. and where isolated from the community. Jesus worked against this to reunite  people to the community.

We no longer believe this to be the case but the devil has found in recent times a better way to bring about division and death  with more efficient methods: wars, development of munitions, military installations,  corruption,  lies, violence, conflict,  destruction of the environment. 

He conculdes  the article with the mention of a Paris Foreign Mission who died recently at the age of 78. He spent the last 16 years in the seminary as a teacher  and friend to students. He asked the students in his talks do you bring to prayer the things you read in the newspapers? Regretfully many Christians separate the religious life from the daily life and privatize and individualize  what they hear and see. They do not see Jesus suffering  in what is happening in the world. When we are indifferent to the suffering of our brothers and sisters we are indifferent to God.

He remember on a trip to the Holy Land  in a room where the Lord's prayer was commemorated he heard the missioner crying. He asked  him the reason for the tears and he replied: "Why is it that we all recognize God as our Father  but can't do it together. When will that day come?"

May we be delivered  from the indifference  to the suffering of our brothers  and sisters. Deliver us from the exploitation and the destruction of the creation you have given us only in search of profits and mammon.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Support For Families After Suicide

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day and a religious sister, who is the chairperson in suicide prevention in the Seoul Diocese writes her thoughts in View from the Ark in the Catholic Times.

The World Health Organization and the International Association for Suicide Prevention to emphasize the preciousness of life met in Stockholm Sweden in 2003 and together established the Suicide Prevention Day. Korea since 2007, each year remembers the day with academic meetings and programs for the prevention of suicide.

For the last 12 years according to the OECD, Korea continues to be the leader in the number of yearly suicides. In 2015 Korea had 13,513 suicides. Considering that the average family is 4 we have over 50,000 who are affected by the death.

According to studies made, compared to others, depression is 7 times more frequent and the danger of suicide is over 8 times more frequent in the families of suicides. Not only the deep sorrow but for those that remain, a feeling of guilt and helplessness for failure to prevent the death. The contrary feelings of anger and resentment towards the dead person are also often present. The living have to take responsibility for the debts that were incurred.

Consequently, we need to work for the prevention of suicides, work with those who have attempted suicide, and show concern for the families of those who have died by suicide. Society and the church need to be involved.

Since suicide in the church is taboo, those who contemplate or the families of the suicide, instead of receiving help, they feel alienated and afraid to be hurt again, many  leave the church. Often the families try to hide the death because of the stigma associated with suicide in the understanding of many and the need, she emphasizes, for the church to be concerned.

In the 1917 canon law, those who died by suicide were forbidden a church funeral but this was changed in the revision of 1983. We pray for those who take their life and the families that they can get over their sorrow and despair.

The 'One Heart and One Body Movement' of the Seoul Archdiocese has a retreat and meetings of those who have suffered this loss.Those who have left the church are enabled to return and begin life anew. Many were able to exist a dark tunnel and return to a normal life.

She concludes with the hope that we will always be sensitive to the hurting of others and be quick with a smile of recognition and our outstretched hands, ready to listen to them and participate in their sorrow to give strength.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Peace Apostle to North Korea

The recent edition of the Catholic Peace Weekly had a one page interview with Fr. Gerard E. Hammond, the Maryknoll Fathers' local superior. He recently received the highest honor given by the Knights of Columbus, "The Gaudium et Spes Award for his work with the Eugene Bell Foundation an ecumenical movement which brings medicines to tuberculosis patients in North Korea.

The award was given in the United States in recognition of  the work of Fr. Hammond with the sick of North Korea. The first recipient of the award was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He is the 13th person to receive the award and the first priest. He will receive an honorarium of $100,000 which Father plans to use in building homes for the sick.

Father Hammond who came to Korea in 1960 and is now only three years away from his sixtieth year of priesthood, began his trips to North Korea in 1995. He has now made 56 trips to North Korea as a trustee of the Eugene Bell Foundation. They have helped over 250,000 sick  and are now taking care of about 2000 patients.

In response to a question on his feelings in receiving the reward, Father responds that what he did and hopes to continue doing is what any missioner would do and he receives the award for all missioners.Korea is a country that has suffered much. Jesus is with the suffering of those in the North and  the missioner needs to go. He quotes Pope Francis in showing solidarity with those who are sick.

They are taking care of about 2000 patients and taking the medicines they have 80% who are returned to health, 20% die from the disease. Every six months they return to the North to give the medicines. Plans are in progress to build about 20 convalescent  homes on the outskirts of Pyongyang which will cost about 70,000 dollars each and he plans to use the honorarium money to help build these buildings. Each one will accommodate about 50 patients.

To the question whether he has made any friends in the North he answers that he has only been concerned about the work. They are all Koreans just like the ones in the South. When he was younger they called him comrade but now he asks them to call him grandfather and he calls them his grandchildren.

He tells the interviewer that in his opinion they are not starving. They also like all other societies have some poor but they seem to have a leisurely life all with their hand phones.

Why does he continue his work in the North?  Fr. Hammond replies that Maryknoll began work in South Pyongyang Province in 1923 and the diocese was established in 1927. When unification comes he wants to be one of the first to be with those in the North.

The division of the peninsular engenders a great deal of anger what does he have to say to the Catholic Church of Korea? It's a dangerous time in Korea right now. If a war breaks out we are all destroyed. Three things  should be remembered: we need to maintain peace, without conditions we work for peace. Secondly we work towards reconciliation with the North and thirdly, we continue to work for dialogue between the North and South. Prayer for peace on the peninsular and for the suffering church in the North not only this month of the martyrs but continually.

Fr. Hammond's interview continues with his growing up years and personal reminisces of life in Korea. He concludes that he would like to continue what he is doing: working with the Eugene Bell Foundation with TB patients of the North. It's a bridge with the North and he hopes that in November they will be able to return to the North and asks for prayers.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Minimal Life In Philosophy and Spirituality

Interest in  the 'minimal life' style exists in Korea. A philosophy professor at a Catholic University gives us his ideas  on the simple life in an article of Bible 
and Life. 

In Korea we have extreme competition and indiscriminate consumer desires, little interest in society or ecology, lethargy and depression; concerned individuals see and are worried. Without a change in our life style we will not be happy.

Consequently we have more people using the word 'minimal life', attracted to its meaning. A healthy situation, for efforts are made to rid ourselves of the obstacle to happiness. A life not based on riches, honors or power but  ridding ourselves of these obstacles, hindering us from enjoying life.

Simple life is a positive approach to life but there  are reasons for concern. You have advertising for Nordic and Kinfolk style furniture which is very simple, well made and called the minimal life style furniture but this is not what the writer is talking about. He is talking about a mind set that eschews this materialism. The simple life is a philosophical and spiritual way of looking at life, a positive mode of living.

He introduces us to the book by the French writer  Dominque Loreau who has written a bestseller on how to simplify, where less is more. He also wants us to familiarize ourselves with the Danes and Finnish people to learn about the simple life style .

According to our philosophy professor the minimal life is a way of finding happiness. In ancient Hellenism  especially in Stoic understanding and Epicurus, strange  with all his talk of pleasure, he stressed the simple life. They considered serenity and self sufficiency, philosophy's area of competency. This can be compared to the Asian ideal. Even the present day philosophers and thinkers help us to understand this simple life.

Philosophy makes known that the simple life is the key to happiness. Expressed differently, the formula implementing this way of life requires  practicing virtues. The most important is the virtue of temperance. Minimal life begins here. Happiness is the result of a minimal life, and begins with temperance. 

The natural moral virtue of temperance is not what we talk about in spirituality but is the ground from which we go to the spiritual. Temperance is one of the cardinal virtues: prudence, courage, justice and temperance which preceded the coming of Jesus by hundreds of years. We have added the theological virtues of  faith, hope and charity. They are the basis of our study of humanity and morality. The German philosopher Josef Pieper was one who explained this teaching in his many books.

The spirituality of the minimal life knows temperance and contentment. Our eyes are opened to creation and see it differently, becoming more humble, developing a more contemplative joyous enjoyment of creation. Living in the love of our creator we receive consolation, hope, and with the purity of heart  participate in worship  and the journey of faith, the paradigm of our religious life.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Still Do We Need to Help North Korea?

Why do we need to help North Korea? In the column on Unification and Reconciliation of the Catholic Times the writer gives us his reasons which sadly are not easily accepted by the South Koreans. Why help when they are not acting in harmony with the rest of the world community? If our desire for unification and reconciliation is more than a romantic dream we have to face this difficulty.

The issue is a complicated one, entangled in politics, a controversial topic. Recently North Korea tested a ballistic missile that could reach the  United States. Whether that is a fact or not is not important, they are threatening. This is of course upsetting South Korea, the Untied States and the rest of the world. This can't be denied.

Coming this far we have another question. Why help the North to become independent and better their quality of life? In a word from the Chinese we find an answer in the  'livelihood of the people'. Punishment is important but not hurting the people is also important. The UN Security Council also makes clear that no matter the primacy of punishment, in certain cases, relationships with the North, trade and needs of the people are allowed. Using diplomatic language, we need to distinguish between the North Korean government and the North Korean people.

For Catholics what words can we use to bring about understanding? He quotes from a priest who was the  head of a  committee for the reconciliation of the nation. "Government oppression of the North makes life of the citizens all the more difficult. To ignore  North Korean people is not right for us as Catholics. The first responsibility is that of the government, but it's not easy to say this. When the conditions are of this type we need to calmly go on helping the Korean  people. Helping them to make a better choice."

We need to love the Korean people more than we hate the Korean government is what the writer understands the priest to be saying.  "Our attention should me on the North Korean people who want to live a normal life. When the Church meets up against ideology, philosophy, politics, we should not forget the people and the life they want to live. We need to begin with the thought they are one with us in God. This is the way our society will change and and our hearts will change. This is not easy but we need to begin."

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Mechanisms to Solve Conflicts

A specialist  on conflict resolution has an article in the Catholic Peace Weekly on the subject. He writes about the problems faced: regional conflict, gender, left/right. The government with plans to raise taxes, decrease our dependence on nuclear power, policies on real estate etc. will all come up against public opinion.

Korea is known to have a high level of conflict in society and few provision for their resolution. We have no mechanisms working to resolve conflicts. Parties involved in the conflict need  to find satisfaction in the resolution, without  a great outlay of money and time. We need a way that the two parties will be satisfied with the outcome. We usually call this mediation and arbitration. 

Conflict between North and South Korea presently is the biggest. Here we have to move with the changing  circumstances and continually make proposals for resolution. The writer feels the present government has many such proposals ready. When negotiations don't go well we look for another proposal and with the North/South conflict he wonders whether this is not the way to go. 

In Korea we have the separation of the three powers of government: administrative, legislature and the judiciary. Considering this the citizens need to support the legislative branch of the government with their authority. Public opinion committees that are formed and when the citizens are actively involved this is a great help to the legislative branch of government. Committees formed to make agreements should be supported.

In Europe  public opinion meetings are important. In the United States in the past they used the help of foundations and universities. Korea has to find a way to easily access pubic opinion.

How does Korea arrive at a smooth method of solving conflicts? To this question he responds a trust in society. He praises highly the movement of candle light processions that were present recently.  In contrast to this the culture does not  find it easy to discuss and go deeply into social problems. We need occasions to devote time to these discussions. Here we have the possibility of solving our conflicts. Each of our conflicts  needs this type of  mechanism to allow for discussion as a means of finding a resolution.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Not Born to Be Lonely Islands

In the Social Gospel Academy column of the Catholic times a priest in charge of the Justice and Peace committee of a diocese helps us to meditate on a serious problem in society. He begins telling us of a trip in the subway where he was scrutinizing the faces of his fellow passengers. Most of them were intent on the smartphones they were holding. In the small world of the subway car in which they were in, all seemed lonely islands.

Many older people who gave their youth to the world are dying without care. 'It's okay if it's not me'. Many young people do not show the passion and excitement of youth, dejected and head-down, 'it's okay, it's not me'. Thousands are fighting illegal layoffs on the streets, some are deprived of living due to excessive government projects, families live a life like death, we have the women who were sexual slaves of soldiers, now grandmothers-- as long as it's not me it's okay.

These islands are scattered here and there and make one beautiful spot in a archipelago in the southern dream land. As long it's not me no problem. Is this not the line we continue to recite as in a poem, while the world like these islands continues to float?

It's said the world has become dreary. In order to survive  competition has become part of life. "Why do we live?"  "What's  life?"  "What is true life?" We have abandoned these  questions. I am alive because I breathe and I die when I stop breathing. There is no tomorrow. Life is difficult but we don't ask why, we don't even have the energy to ask why. I don't look at you because it's too difficult. Why do I have to live this way? I don't even ask because it will retard my 'progress'. Why don't we get rid of the word "Why"? Is this not a pathetic way to save ourselves?

We are all walking different paths. However, we can make two big divisions in life. The writer has done this with Cain from the Old Testament (Gen. 4: 1-6)  and the Samaritan from the New Testament (Lk.10:29-37).

The Good Samaritan helped the dying  victim of a robbery,  interrupting  what he was doing to be with the hurting person. Cain on the other hand, for selfish reasons, killed his gentle brother. The contrast between the two is simple and clearly made: 'together' and  'alone', 'sympathy' and 'contempt', 'coexistence' and 'competition', 'sharing' and  'monopoly', 'serving' and 'oppression', 'life' and 'death'.

Our consciences tell us clearly what path we should take. However, knowing and walking the way  are two different actions. What path, he asks, are we taking now? We have the 'Good Samaritan Way' and  the 'Cain Way'. Even though the Cain way is  always  present in our world have we taken the way of the Samaritan, the way of  peace and joy?  Or could it be that we have deceived ourselves in thinking we walk the way of the Samaritan but in reality the way of Cain? Let's us walk courageously the way we know is correct.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Education for Dying

For some time  the phrase in English, 'well-being' was popular in Korea. Even  commercial products received the name. Followed shortly after with 'healing' to a point where it became sickening to hear. We all desire to live well and  receive healing but with the over use of these words, a university professor writing for the Peace Weekly, wonders if it will not have a contrary result.

'Well being' and 'healing' both have for their goals happiness and good health. For the professor, she wonders where does death fit into the picture. In life we have many situations where the beginning is important but the end is more so. Birth is important but not less important is death.

In sports  and studies there is nothing like repeated practice to achieve proficiency, true  also in life. To live well we need to learn about life and since death is a part of life we need to naturally learn about death. Where is the place of death in our lives? Since 'well being' is a part of life we can't separate it from death: 'well-dying'  should be a part of  'well living'. Talk goes on about  the need to  extend the life of the incurable and the palliative care of the sick in hospices and related policies.

She feels that we are falling behind in education for death. We have some small groups doing it with  difficulty. Education to be successful needs to be consistent, systematic, and adapted to the person's age. We need to learn how to live well and learning about death is part of the course and makes the end of life a beautiful chapter.

Visiting a hospital recently she remembers overhearing the talk of two interns in front of the emergency room. Apparently one of them was to determine the time of death of one of the sick persons and was finding the situation unnerving for it was his first time. If we have those who are specialists in the field with difficulties, easy to  imagine how others would feel in a similar situation.

It is urgent that we  make efforts to learn about death. It is all very natural to have a fear of death.  Well being and healing, important as they are, needs some of that  passion turned  towards death.

If the new government is to raise the quality of our lives we have to begin education in death a need in order to live well.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Will Power And Addiction

"More than anything will power is necessary, isn't it? No need for treatment in hospitals. I will stop drinking on my own." A family of an alcoholic brought him to the treatment center of a hospital where he expressed his feeling that he can stop without treatment. The family heard his words with dismay for it was not the first time they were uttered and a return to drinking shortly after. 

Refusal to accept help is very common. Sadly there are not only a few who have this understanding of alcoholism as something they can control on their own. Words by the head of a hospital alcoholic center written up in the Catholic Times.

Aime Duval a French Jesuit priest (1918-1984)  who in the 1950's and 60s was a singer and song writer,  famous not only in Europe, but traveled  all over the world with his guitar giving concerts. The stress that came with his success took a toll on his mental health. He couldn't sleep and began drinking and ended up in a hospital for treatment. He needed help.

"Courage was useless. Will power, strength, hate for the situation, encouragement, knowledge, money, glory, credentials, diplomas even prayer which I tried was useless." When he acknowledged that he failed in everything he tried, change took place. He put down his self-righteousness and stubbornness and saw his alcoholism for what it was and receiving help from others was on the way to health. He joined a self-help group and went on to assist  many in France and Europe to find sobriety.

Many think that the abuse of alcohol, drugs, gambling  is simply a lack of will power.  "Why do I go in search of a doctor and medicine when the problem is my lack of will power?" With this kind of thinking the alcoholic blames himself and his lack of will power. This is a serious obstacle to treatment which drives the person even more into darkness. Alcoholism is a sickness and not a lack of will power. When a person is alcoholic the control of the will becomes difficult.

Consequently,  thoughts that follow addiction are frightening. Often we have the feeling of being victimized and blaming others, anger is not controlled and  unhesitatingly becomes violent. Those around the sick person don't realize this as a characteristic  of the disease and quarrel with the sick one, hate one another, reproach and  often give up on treatment.

Those who are involved in the treatment of addiction make known the poisonous psychological foundations surrounding addiction.Despair is the the worst point  from which a person has to drop for  hope to appear.  At this time the person will willingly grasp at any straw that is offered and all the strength is mustered for the healing.

Know-how, medicines, the treatment and the rehabilitation facilities are all available  for a return to normal life. The only thing in the way 자구책is biases, misunderstandings which blocks the path to recovery. Necessary is the urgent desire on the part of the sick one for help.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Living Without Regrets

Living without desires was a line in a poem by the Japanese poet Sansei Yamao which a religious uses in the beginning of his article in the Kyeongyang magazine to give the readers some idea of his thinking on the subject. He liked what the poet was saying and found himself praying: "If I die now it will be alright."

He makes clear that it is not that he has arrived at this stage in the spiritual life but he wants to examine his heart when he says these words to see what his feelings are. It's a help in his prayer life. When there is a agreement with what he says and what his heart feels that is a good sign.

The article quotes Boethius (480-525 AD) The Consolation of Philosophy "Nunc fluens facit tempus, nunc stans facit aeternitatum." (The now that passes produces time, the now that remains produces eternity.) In other words the duration proper to the eternal Being must be conceived as everlasting  while temporal being is open to a succession of states distinct from one another. We are not able to grasp the 'now' for it quickly becomes the past. Rarely, however, we have moments that are filled with great joy that  last, moments of ecstasy.

Most of us lose the present moment because we either live in the future or past.  We can see our present as a stepping stone to the future or what is worse to see us heading towards some future obstacle. The possibility is also to live in the past because of unhealed scars, sins and the like, that cast a shadow over our present now.

We need to be present to the eternal now where we are in God's presence. The past nor the future are what are important but the now and in the Scriptures we are continually invited to the present. The miracle medicine is trust: Matt. 6:25-34. Trust leads us to the ever present now. We are not given a cross that is beyond our strength to carry. We follow Jesus in the  present.

The only way we are to view the problems, sins, and negativity of the past is with mercy, and with its experience. St. Paul asked God to remove the 'thorn in his flesh' 2nd Cor. 12:1-10 but  God did not, and he  began to see it with different eyes: "My grace is all you need,for my power is greatest when  you are weak."

The future is taken care of by trust,  the remorse of the past is taken care of by mercy, and  both of these can be assumed under gratitude. It is with this gratitude that we enter the present moment and from which we have peace and joy. According to the tradition of our  elders in which they were right on: when one is content all goes well. Rather than you give thanks because you are happy you are thankful and consequently happy. Isn't this the way to have nothing to wish for or to live without regrets?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

From a Teaching Church to a Learning Church

A seminary professor, working in pastoral work for the bishops writes in View from the Ark of the Catholic Times of his thoughts regarding  two popular books by Yuval Harari, translated into Korean:  Homo Sapiens and Homo Deus. From the books' point of view we go from the 4th industrial revolution, artificial intelligence and into the age beyond God-belief into the superman age that Nietzsche ardently desired.

During the middle ages in the west God was the focal point in society. Christianity was its history with the discovery of the new continents in the fifteenth century we had the Renaissance, the humanist movement, the religious reformation, the enlightenment, and the modern challenge from atheism etc. which couldn't ignore the place of religion: God's existence and transcendence and the teaching of the Church. Briefly, the Church's belief in Christ took their mission seriously: "Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples... and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19).

The tradition and order of the  'teaching church' and its authority was challenged. Believers must listen and learn from the bishops and priests of the Church to preserve God's revelation if not, sanctions and punishment. After the French Revolution of the 18th century and rationalism and liberalism of the twentieth century the Catholic Church defended the Church's secular authority wanting it to be the ark for the people in a turbulent world. 

At the First Vatican Council (1869-70) the primacy and infallibility of the pope was emphasized in a way to offset the loss of secular power and attempted to expand the influence and authority of the papacy and the teaching authority of the church.

The world has changed. Pope Francis reminds us that in order to become a 'teaching church" with authority it must first become a "learning church". The first principle of conversation, to maintain human relationships alive, is to listen but the church has always been more interested in speaking and teaching rather than listening. 

As in the time of St. Francis when he went up against the secularism of the times, Christians began to regain the joy of the Gospel as they lived the life of poverty. In our times  we have the currents of secularization that come from capitalism and selfish individualism. Pope Francis attempts to return the power of the papal authority to the Gospel of Christ by going out to those who are hurting. He wants  to listen to them, extend his hand, hurt with them and give a voice to their situation. The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) which tried to adapt the gospel to modern society is the background for the efforts of Pope Francis in renewal and reform.

Looking over the Korean situation even if we don't examine the statistics we know that not all is going well by listening to the  priests working in pastoral situations. In the past the church was able to teach believers who listened and longed to learn but today there are many things the church needs to learn from those in the world.

The era of dividing the clergy into a 'teaching church' and laymen into 'a passive church' is over. Still more believers are leaving the church because of the attitude of the clergy who are soaked in the  nostalgia of the past but there is hope, in the young and enthusiastic priests and religious who listen and sympathize.

We do not know how the future world will change. But no matter what world comes, the truth of the gospel does not change. Only the way the church  understands the world and adapts to the world will change. The  real task of the church is to "read the signs of the times  and interpret them in the light of the gospel."

Monday, August 21, 2017

Importance of Dialogue

Satirically addressing our political situation four  syllables are combined which mean: when I do it it's romance when others do it it's immoral. 

After nine years we have a change of government. The progressive government when it does something the old government did we often hear this sly dig at the ruling government. A journalist writing in the Kyeongyang magazine begins his article on dialogue with these words.

In the appointment of the new cabinet members, the opposition lists all the mistakes and faults committed  and asks for their names to be withdrawn. Since the government is now in power they do their best to defend each one and usually get their way.

'When I do it it's OK, when you do it is wrong' has now entered the world of big business, organizations and the individual. The phrase has entered daily parlance.  Each one uses their own yard stick to judge.  Our egoistical human nature shows itself clearly. We have a tendency, he says, to use our own measurements to judge and act to benefit ourselves. If this was not true competition would find no place in society.

To live in society we have to realize that others like myself have this self love. Socrates tells us to know ourselves. We need to objectively examine ourselves. We have to go beyond  this self-love, we are not the center of the world and need to accept our place in society.

In June there was a forum that considered the position of religion in the work of justice and reconciliation. Two of the speakers concluded with the same emphasis on dialogue which surprised many.

A Buddhist monk mentioned that the meaning of the word justice is not the same for all. The word used in North Korea does not have the same meaning as in the South. In the 21st century with  peace and conflict attempts are made to have a win/win approach to dialogue. Buddha did not refuse to dialogue even with the devil. It is the way to perform miracles. He mentioned 9 conditions and the first is to see the other as a companion.

A priest who was the head of diocesan peace and justice committee expressed himself somewhat differently. The dignity of the person and the common good is central to justice, and dialogue is important and went on to explain. He gives the example of  man who lost everything and prays to God for help in winning the lottery: no luck this week and the following week. He goes into the church and with anger in his voice asks God to give him the winning ticket in the lottery.

As he was leaving the church he hears a voice from behind.  "Hey, before you pray to win the lottery for heaven's sake buy a ticket." Prayer is not a monologue. He feels the relationship is very much like the above person asking God for help without doing what is necessary.

Pope Francis in Laudatio Si reminds us we are all living in a common house. The president of the United States to protect the industry and workers of his country decided to leave the Paris Climate Agreement.

Our life is a series of choices. My choice will  influence my neighbor. The harder it is to find the correct answer the more we need to listen to the opinions of others, discuss and look for a reasonable solution. We invite God with our prayer, make the right judgement an act accordingly.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Working for a United Society

How do we bring different segments in society together? In the Kyeongyang magazine a priest writes about the desire for unity within the country. With the new government in place this desire grows and is fostered with the easy going style and concern for the common person shown by the present government.

What is  necessary for this uniting of the citizens? All the previous governments desired and worked for this unity among the citizens. Progressives, conservatives, and  regionalism would not allow the change to take place. At times the government even helped to ferment the conflict.

"The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate. Thus she cannot encourage the formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State for individual interests or for ideological ends. Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person. It requires that the necessary conditions be present for the advancement both of the individual through education and formation in true ideals, and of the "subjectivity' of society through the creation of structures of participation and shared responsibility” (Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching # 406).

One of the natural tasks of religion is to work for the unity of society. Every society has a mix of unity and conflict. Without the removal of force, control, discrimination and the like from society we will not rid ourselves of conflict but the need continues. We  work towards the goal of unity within a conflicted society.

What should be the first thing to do? The need to understand the reason for the conflict and upheaval. It may be economics, poverty, the inequality in society. These  are all good examples. One daily newspaper in a recent survey of a thousand men and women 35.9 percent thought it was the rich, poor divide.

Secondly the political forces can be a probable cause for unrest. When the government subjugates by force a large segment of society you will get resistance which was what we saw in Korea recently with the candle light revolt of many of the citizens.

Thirdly we have the cultural and ideologically  resistance. The young people revolting against the conservative authority of the older generation. They are in search of freedom, and look upon the stress from the  consumer society negatively.

The president quickly after inauguration made clear  he wanted a just nation, a  united country, regulations and common sense that is understood by all the people... a president of all the people even those who did not vote for him.

There is a need to rid the country of all corrupt practices and work for a fair distribution of the material goods. A need to work for open communication, dialogue and negotiation. The problem of slow development, income and polarization within society, the lack of unemployment of the young are all government concerns. A desire for fair competition, guarantees for opportunities and the improvement of the living conditions of the citizens are all dreams of a more united society.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Taking Time Out To Examine Ourselves

A religious sister who works in a suicide prevention center, writes in the Catholic Times asking the readers  to take time out and look inside. She begins with a program she watched on TV where an entertainer was treated for a panic attack. A rather large number of entertainers she tells us suffer from these panic attacks.

She wasn't familiar with this problem but now is quite in the know. There are many people that are not able to control their anger and indignation which cause the death or injury of another. Is our own psyche and those of others healthy?

In a survey made in 2011 one of four persons have at least one period with mental problems in their life time. However, because  of societies prejudice and lack of understanding instead of receiving help many try to escape with drink, drugs, games, gambling, and the like. These methods don't only give birth to other problems but makes the initial problem more pronounced.

The government last year working to better mental health is strengthening the capabilities of these combine forces in society. Little has changed, she says,  in the way we look on mental disabilities. Which requires that we look at ourselves and start making some changes in our thinking.

Wanting to be healthy we work at exercising, and take helpful medicines but we don't realize in actual fact what is necessary. We  are so occupied, excuse ourselves with a lack of time, or absorbed with material things. We don't take time to examine our emotions, pass  ourselves off as happy persons, in  control of anger and irritability until it's let loose in strange places and with persons with no connection to the out of control emotions. Have we not all experienced such events and failed to uncover the reasons for the outbursts?

When by force we repress our emotions they become more overwhelming and will affect us when we are least prepared and will prepare us for mental difficulties in the future. We should not only be conscious of our joys and happiness but also indignation, sadness, anger and the like.  There is no bad emotion, its what we do with the emotions that is important.

When we realized that we are often angry, distressed and acknowledge the situation we are beginning to sublimate the situation and we are in control and the owner of the emotion. This is not easily done but we have to spend time making the effort to examine our inner life which will make our life with others and ourselves less hectic. She hopes the article will help  readers do that.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Learning From Bhutan

This year is the 30th year of diplomatic relations with the country of Bhutan, Koreans visiting Bhutan in recent years has increased greatly. This year starting in June for 3 months, Koreans are receiving a 50 percent discount on events in Bhutan. What would ordinarily cost 250 dollars daily has been reduced to 125 dollars. A university professor writing in the Catholic Peace Weekly tells the readers that on the plane from Bangkok to Bhutan most of travelers were Korean.

He was visiting the country on invitation to attend a one day workshop on Sustainable Development Goals that were presented by the United Nations and the the ways to achieve them in society.

Bhutan is about one fifth the size of Korea with a population of a little over 750,000 and a GDP that is 166 in the list of nations. It's a Buddhist nation and in many ways just opposite to Korea. In 1970 at the start of restoration under a dictatorship, Korea and Bhutan were similar in the GDP with about 200-300 dollars. Bhutan from that time began its Gross National Happiness goal. Today Bhutan has not quite 3000 dollar GNP while Korea comes close to 30,000 dollar GNP.

However, Korea has one of the highest suicide rates and one of the lowest birthrates in the world and is not able to rid itself of one of the lowest happiness i and quality of life indexes. In Bhutan 9 our of 10 citizens consider themselves happy, one of the highest in the world, Why do we have this  great discrepancy?

Bhutan's philosophy of government is determined by how happy the citizens are. In 2008 the country began their periodical 5 year plan in achieving happiness with a committee devoted to that cause. A happiness policy, which is based on:  * achieving a fair development of the economy * protecting the environment for the citizens, and animals * progress in developing traditional values and systems* to include the citizens in the running of the government and listen to their requests, be efficient and transparent in the running of government and to be conscious of the above four pillars of our society.

The aim is  for the well being of the citizens, health, leisure, education, cultural diversity, good government, community building, ecology and renewal, which will be viewed with other indexes to measure the progress of the efforts.

Recently many countries are going to Bhutan to learn about their policies. Thailand has stared a center with an index for happiness. He wonders looking at Bhutan what have we lost in searching for material prosperity. We can use Bhutan as a mirror to look at ourselves.

He concludes the article with the hope of our new president who is an admirer of the Bhutan experiment. Korea with an excessive search for prosperity at the expense of happiness is able to work together with Bhutan to help the developing  countries to acknowledge the  good and bad qualities of each and to help others achieve sensible progress.