Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Finding Happiness

Happiness is a topic central to life. No one wants to live without joy. However, when we ask ourselves whether we are happy the answers don't come easy. A happy person makes others happy and in the process increases one's own happiness.

A religious sister in the Kyeongyang magazine, director of a research center, gives us her thoughts on happiness in a not particularly propitious time in Korea. If the present moment is all that we have than whether I am happy or unhappy depends on me and not on others, it's  my attitude.

Studies made on the happiness index of Koreans in comparison to other countries registers low. To come to an objective standard of what we mean by happiness is difficult. The understanding that happiness has in society will influence the citizens. She quotes a sociologist who sees Koreans as cliquish, in a hurry and wanting more, which opens oneself to envy those with education, wealth, and places in society.

Many have an understanding of happiness based on secular values, and not Christian. We are all connected and will not find happiness disconnected from others or with our private groups. Recent Korean history played out before our eyes, shows us what happened to those attempting this.

We need to be providers of joy and begin with those closest to us. I love you, thanks, I am sorry, forgive me.... Within the cells of our brains, our experience, and history are recorded. When we meet similar situations we will react with similar responses: consequently, the reason for training. When we use positive words the positive energy increases and we have joy and peace.

She gives us an example of a garden. We have all kinds of good seeds: joy, love hope but also negative seeds: hate, despair, fear, jealousy. Our actions and words are watering those seeds and the ones we water will grow.

She mentions the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh who recommends we overcome anger in this way: "Do not say it is because of the other person but to mention the feeling of anguish and ask for help. I am in pain and need your help." We need to change the negative energy of anger to positive energy with deep breathing and walking. 

For a Christian, we believe that peace is a gift of God. It comes from a trust in God and resting in him. When we surrender to him we will not lose our balance in a  continually changing world. Relatively speaking, less chance of losing our way within the chaos we find.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Defectors from the North

A columnist in the Catholic Peace Weekly gives us a look into the situation of  North Koreans living in the South.

Those born in North Korea who left for the South are called by many names. During the war years, they were called displaced persons or separated families. After the war: defectors from the North, North Korean compatriots, people of a new land, for administrative reasons they are called defectors from the North.

The latest statistics show over 30,000 defectors in the South. Before 1990 they counted about 10 defectors coming to the South during the year. After this date, the numbers increased. In 1999 about 100 entered Korea each year. 3 years later this increased to over 1000 and in 2006 over 2000 entered the South. Before 1990 there were only 600 in the South which is an indication that something had changed in the North after 1990.

During the middle of the 1990s many died of starvation and the reason many left the North. In the new century the economy improved greatly but the defections continued to increase which shows it was not only the economy that was prompting the movement to the South. Many wanted to rejoin their families, a better life and to help those in the North.

At different times and for varied reasons many made  the difficult trip to the South. They live in  cities, living in rented apartments supplied by the government, helped by the government to find jobs and trained. They hesitate to divulge with confidence that they are from the North because of the fear of discrimination and prejudice and wanting to avoid the pain from shunning. [possibly the fear of officials' prying  may be a problem for some]

Instead of being welcomed warmly in the workplace and in schools there is a distancing and ignoring of them. The spirit that was present when there were 20,000 is still present with 30,000. The numbers of those who have dropped out of school have decreased but relations with others is far from warm. 

The fear of hunger no longer exists but the hunger for human friendship is still present. The government has shown interest in helping make the transition.  They continue to improve the treatment in welcoming the displaced persons and accepting them as brothers and sister in the workplace and schools.

If we are to achieve unification there is a need to keep in mind North Koreans who are in the South and to treat them as family. They need to be integrated, feel at home and able to communicate with others as members of the same united family.

Friday, January 27, 2017

From Where Does True Happiness Come?

Today is the Asian's New Year all the other celebrations were a preparation for the Lunar New Year. A time to wish blessings on those we meet. The Chinese character for blessings in Chinese restaurants often is seen upside down. Christians see the blessings coming from heaven from God who desires our happiness. God's nature is goodness, truthfulness and all that is beautiful and wants us to participate in these attributes.

A retired seminary professor writes in the Kyeongyang magazine on what true happiness means for him from his studies. In the Scriptures, the search for happiness has many different paths. Jesus is the teacher extraordinaire showing us the way. Many of the Fathers of the Church saw the Beatitudes as its promulgation.

St. Cyprian showed us the difference between the true happiness and the counterfeit: the happiness of the world. Lactantius mentions that happiness doesn't come from the pleasures of the body or earthly pleasures. Bishop Basil mentions that happiness does not come from health, material goods or our place in society. St. Ambrose mentions a good conscience brings happiness.

St.Augustine distinguishes between happiness and unhappiness. The happiness of those who are evil and the devout. He gives the example of a person who went to heaven and found the angels packaging gifts of blessing for people on earth. They were wrapping the gifts with adversity. He asked the reason and was told so not as to damage or diminish the value of the gift of blessings, However, many see the wrappings and miss the happiness.

The delight that comes from sin is of no use. Leo the pope said that those who delight in evil will miss the joy that comes from God.

"Happy the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night." ( Ps. 1:1-2)

Happy is he whose fault is taken away, whose sin is covered.  Happy the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit there is no guile" (Ps. 32:1-2).

"Happy the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding! For her profit is better than profit in silver, and better than gold is her revenue" (Proverbs 3: 13-14).

"In the New Testament we have a number of phrases: "Happy is he who eats bread in the kingdom of God:  (Lk. 14:15). " The angel said to me: Write this down: Happy are they who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb" (Rev. 18:9).

Happiness that God has prepared for us is for the poor in spirit, the sorrowing, the humble, those who are thirsting and hungry for justice, the merciful the pure of heart and the builders of peace and those who suffer for justice. (Matt. 5:3-10). These are those who imitating God, participate in God's attributes of goodness, truth, and beauty.

May the New Year be filled with this happiness, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and may we be filled with gratitude for such a priceless gift.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Why Aren't Christians All One?---

 Why did Christianity divide? An article in the Catholic Peace Weekly gives the readers a brief summary of the two large divisions in Christianity. The first was the East West Division in 1054 and the second the Protestant Reformation in 1517.

In the West, the Roman Empire fell in 476 AD with the Germanic tribes and the sack of Rome. The Eastern Roman Empire which was centered in Constantinople now Istanbul in Turkey continued for another thousand years even after the fall of the Western Empire. In the East, Emperor Justinius continued as Emperor and as head of the Church in the Byzantine Empire.

Here we can find the seeds for the division that came in 1054. The West used Latin while the East used Greek. The iconoclasm of this period and criticisms of the Church of Rome moved the pope to excommunicate the Patriarch of the Byzantine Empire, Michael Cerularius. The East denied the primacy of the Pope and the infallibility of the Church and called the Pope the king of heretics. In 1204 we had the fourth Crusade and the sack of Constantinople which made the break complete.

The Eastern Empire continued using their own liturgy and language and in 1453 the city fell to the Ottoman Empire and the Orthodox moved to Russia. They called themselves Orthodox for having kept the correct development of belief from the time of Christ. Greece, Romania, Albania and the other Orthodox countries are independent autonomous churches.

460 years later in 1517, we have the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The protest against the Catholicism of that time. Luther and Calvin and others began the break from Roman Catholicism.  Divisions continued among themselves. A few years later we had the break from Rome with the Anglican Church and Henry VIII as the head of a new church.

The teachings of Orthodoxy have the same 7 Sacraments, the veneration of the Saints, the bishop, priest, and deacon hierarchical order as the Roman Church. Priests are allowed to marry. They use the Julian Calendar instead of the Gregorian Calendar which means they have different days for the Feasts of Easter and Christmas.

Protestants have difficulty with the respect shown to Mary, the Sacramental system, teaching on Purgatory, and stress only the Scriptures. Anglicans are in many ways similar to Catholics and their priests are allowed to marry, however, they follow the Protestants in accepting only 39 books of the Old Testament.

There is a desire to find unity among many of the Christians. After the Second Vatican Council, there was a strong movement to find unity with the Orthodox. In 1965 the Holy See and the Ecumenical Patriarchate Athenagoras of Constantinople withdrew the excommunications that were made at the Great Schism of 1054.

St. John Paul II made efforts to increase the contact with the Orthodox. In 1978  each year on the feast of St Andrew, representatives of the two churches meet for talks. The desire for the unity of Christianity is a wish of Jesus which all accept but the desire will need encounter and dialogue, efforts to rid ourselves of prejudices, discrimination, and a large dose of humility to acknowledge where mistakes were made and continue to be made by all the different members of the body of Christ which we know is meant to be one.

Monday, January 23, 2017


Writing in View from the Ark of the Catholic Times a member of a research center recalls passing a police station where, on a wall were the words: "abnormality is made normal." This reminded him of a slogan back in the 80s, "let us make a just society," and responded with a wry smile. 

On the news that evening a politician from the past, far from an example of integrity, commented on the bleak situation of our politics: the pot calling the kettle black.

Citizens reacted with weekend candle demonstrations in the streets of Seoul. They wanted a change from the old ways of doing government. Investigations continue which will help overcome the fear many have of the future.'Hell Chosen' and the division of society expressed with the example of spoons: clay, bronze, silver and gold spoons are the signs of this dissatisfaction. Metaphoric language for the levels in society: lower class, working class, middle class and upper class.

The weekly demonstrations have removed the shell that all is well in society and the citizens are moving towards hope from despair, from death to life, they have become a Paschal procession but on Mondays, for many, everything goes back to normal, fatigue and despair.

Kierkegaard the Danish philosopher said we should proclaim the Gospel on Mondays instead of Sundays. The Gospel is for weekdays. The welcoming and joy of Sunday does not transfer to Monday and the weekday. The Gospel has to be proclaimed in the reality of our daily lives. The writer continues with talk about the many pseudo leaders we have in society and deplores what he sees.

Pseudo is a word we often use to mean sham, false, phony, artificial. Confucius had a great dislike for this sham for it tarnished justice and faith, and virtue is harmed. In the Christian Scriptures it was the Pharisees who distorted what was justice and honesty. One of the prime examples in present society for many is the Sewol Ferry Tragedy, still shrouded in mystery.

In the time of Jesus we had similar falseness that passed as truth. God made the cosmos from chaos and Jesus asked us to prepare new wine bags for new wine. We need to pray for the wisdom to distinguish the false from the true a task that is far from easy.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Teenage Internet Addiction Prepares for Adult Addiction

Internet addiction is a disorder. We hear a lot about the implications of addiction and many are the studies and articles dealing with the problem. We can describe it as compulsive behavior which prevents one from living a normal life. We can see it with the use of smartphones and the way they are used in daily life, a dependency that dominates life. An article in the Catholic times gives us some information on the issue.

Adolescents using PC rooms, chatting, and gaming are more likely says a recent study by a professor at the Catholic Medical School and a research center to be addicted to smoking and drinking as adults.
(PCs are commercial gaming places where patrons play games for an hourly fee of 50 cents or more. It is a place of social contact for gamers, they may buy snacks and the hardware is more technically powerful than what they have in the home).

The team selected a group of 15-year-old teenagers, who didn't smoke or drink and revisited them 5 years later to analyze their habits of drinking and smoking. Use of the internet, place, time and reasons were studied to reach their results.

Those who often chatted, played games, watched adult sites, at 20 showed a connection to excessive drinking and those who used PC rooms were smokers. The team saw this not only as a Korean problem but a worldwide problem. They concluded that the young person's brain is not fully formed and the reason addiction has a greater influence on the brains of the young.

One person expressed the opinion that the frontal lobe of the brain is not fully formed and when exposed to material that is addictive the development is hampered and when they are adults the danger of addiction is greater. Excessive use of the internet will facilitate addiction.

The research team reached the conclusion: excessive use of the internet will delay the development of the brain and the danger of addiction will be greater as an adult.

Consequently from an early age a need is present to prevent addiction by education and programs for the young. There has been studies that have shown the correlation of use of the internet and addiction to smoking and drinking. These studies, however, have been fragmentary. This was a study of 4000 teenagers who after 5 years were again interviewed significantly showing a  correlation between the use of the internet and future addictive behavior.

If parents wont allow the children to use the internet for gaming there will be resistance. They need to find other ways in which the young people can remove stress and entertain themselves. Instead of using PC rooms, they recommend, having the computer in the living room and the time to play games determined with the parents.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Lay Catholics in Korea

The Catholic Peace Weekly reminds the readers in its Peace Column that the Second Vatican Council brought a  big change after the Council on its understanding of the laity within the Church. Before the Council, laypersons came after the clergy and religious at the bottom of a pyramid. The Church built a wall between the church and the world. The Church was holy and the world was earthy and mundane.

The church was divided between the teaching and receiving church. Clerics were the teachers and the laity the students. One was active and the other passive. The Council made an epoch change in this understanding. We are all the people of God. We are all God's children and have the same dignity. Some have expressed understanding after the Council as we are the Church of the laity.

This understanding of Church is not difficult for Koreans to understand. In the beginning different from China and Japan where missioners came with the Gospel the laity, in the beginning, were the leaders in the church. They had a thirst for the truth that led them to study and embrace the teachings of Jesus. They had little knowledge of the faith in the beginning even taken the place of the priests in their religious rites as temporary clerics until they were told that was not possible. 

With this new understanding, they worked hard to bring priests to Korea and died in great numbers to keep their religious beliefs. Saying the Korean Catholicism is a made up of laypeople is no exaggeration.

After the Council, in 1968 The Catholic Lay Apostolate Council was formed to inspire the work of the laity. Shortly after the Council Lay Sunday was established and is presently celebrated the next to last Sunday of Ordinary Time. The time was selected to remember the first baptized Korean of those who began the study of Catholicism in the last years of the 18th century.

Catholicism has grown and is a very active and praised for the energy shown but the writer wonders how many would say with confidence that we are a Church of laypeople. New year we will have the 50th anniversary of the forming of the Lay Council of Korea, 

Having ceremonies and events to celebrate the anniversary is all for the good but he would prefer to see the laypeople in the manner described by the document of the Council become animated and become truly a Church of lay people.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Unity Octave 2017-- RECONCILIATION

This year's Unity Octave from Jan. 18 to 25 is also the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Editorials and articles in both Catholic papers on the subject reminds us that it's different from the previous octaves.

Once every year Christians remember the prayer of our Lord at the Last Supper: "I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me" (John 17:21). We come together to pray for unity. The Roman Catholic Church at the Reformation suffered a division and the scars have never healed. Whatever the reasons that brought the division, today we look forward to a reuniting.

One of the papers has a discussion on the subject between two theologians, a Catholic and Anglican. More than concentrating on what divides us they want to focus on the joy of following Jesus and we will come to an understanding of much that separates us. The theme this year is  Reconciliation: "The Love of Christ Compels Us" (2 Corinthians 5:14).

The disunity of Christians is a great obstacle in the work of evangelization. This year they will begin the 3rd Christian Unity Academy to help Christians better understand the different denominations and one of the editorials hopes many will attend the Academy.

One of the priests who is familiar with the workings of Ecumenism within Korean Catholicism laments the lack of interest in many parishes and among priests. He writes that many feel that it is useless and not necessary. Protestants are seen as heretics.

The Second Vatican Council in one of its documents recommends that in seminaries they have regular courses on Ecumenicism but of the seven diocesan seminaries only Inchon has a course of studies for the seminarians, a sign of the little interest the Church has in Ecumenism.

He mentions that the material for the Unity Octave will be sent to all the parishes but many pay no attention to the material. What is necessary is not arguing about who is right but rather to talk about the joy that Christ brings to us. We need to get close to the others who are Christians, to study with them, work with them, and to pray together. Talking to each other is the first stepping stone for progress to take place in achieving unity in Christ.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Going Through Puberty

The Kyeongyang magazine has an article by a member of a diocesan family bureau on puberty and some lessons gathered from the author's own experience.

His daughter is entering middle school this year, they had a pizza party to commemorate her first monthly period. The father to make this a memorable day besides the party, discussed what happened with the daughter.

What did the girl experience, when did it begin, what did she feel, what did she do with the clothes, were there other girls she knew who had their first periods...  and similar very intimate questions which they discussed at the party with the family. He, the father, without any hesitation spoke very naturally with the daughter and she was at ease with the discussion.

He digresses on points of puberty which he explains for the readers. Often those beginning puberty like to go to bed late and get up late. The reason is the change in the hormones in the body. It is not laziness or lack of virtue but what is happening in the body of the child and the need for  parents to understand the changes taking place.

Studies made  show persons going through puberty need a little bit over 9 hours of sleep. He lists some of the problems that arise when deprived: growth of the brain is hampered, difficulties in studies because of memory loss, and suppression of the growth hormone a cause of anxiety and depression.

In Korea sleeping for 9 hours is difficult. Making the rounds is the myth that four hours you get your college of choice, with five hours you don't. Students required to leave for school early in the morning and return late at night is something society should be concerned.

The visual processing center of the brain is developing and children are conscious of how they are seen by others and interested in good-looking celebrities and clothes others are wearing. Interest in piercing their bodies for jewelry, if not excessive, parents need not be overly concerned, for it will pass in most cases.

The use of mobile phones for games and chatting are  a concern for parents but he doesn't see this as  a problem if parents keep in mind the reasons for the absorption in games. The games have a very clear goal with easy steps. They receive intuitive feedback, and it is a challenge they can handle. Games are not bad but they require close attention by the parents for they are addictive.

Children going trough puberty don't like to be reminded of this fact. At this time they are  becoming independent persons and parents need to help them walk this road. "Do not anger your children. Bring them up with the training and instruction befitting the Lord" (Eph. 6:4).  

He wonders if he does follow these commendations from the Scriptures. It is one thing to know this with the head and another to carry this out in his daily contact with the children. He ends the article by telling his readers that parenting is difficult

Friday, January 13, 2017

Love And Its Counterfiet

In one of our diocesan bulletins the writer gives us something to think about. Love is a word we use often but many questions are associated with the word. To illustrate what he wants to express he uses a well-known fable to introduce us to the meaning of love. 

We hear about a love marriage between a cow and a lion. Many were opposed to the marriage in the village but they went ahead.

The cow would prepare the best grasses for the lion and the lion the best cuts of meat for the cow. They both hated what was provided but each thought they were giving the other the best there was. This continued for some time and finally, they separated each one professing that they did the best they could for the other.

Each did not understand the meaning of love. They loved in their own way. They were not familiar with the technique of love. They lacked a concern for the other as other.

The article introduces us to a farmer who in a difficult time in Korean history prepared a room in a house with a rice storage bin where anyone in his village in need could come with no need for asking or making themselves known and take what was needed. The room with the rice was built so no one in the house would know who came for the rice and no one's pride hurt. The owner was concerned with the feelings of those coming for the rice. Love that is lacking concern for the other is violence and mockery. 

The farmer understood what the technique of love demanded and showed it by the way he treated the poor in his village.

Communication is a word we often here nowadays: mutual understanding in the home, society, between nations. When no problems are evident mutual understanding is not difficult, however, with problems communication often doesn't take place.

For healthy communication to take place we have first to be concerned with the other. Concern for the other is a requisite for love and understanding is what will follow.

When we thirst for communication and understanding we need to trust and prepare ourselves with silence as Jesus did before Pilate.

Our society is lacking this humility and desire for service which presents us with all kinds of obstacles in communicating. The problems we have require a concern for the other. The English word benevolence comes from the Latin word meaning wishing well of the other. In the Latin languages, 'I love you' is often expressed with "I wish you well'. Unfortunately, we use the word 'love' in Korean like in English that is often misunderstood.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fourth Industrial Revolution

In the Catholic Peace Weekly, a professor writes about artificial intelligence, Internet thing, (Internet of things) big data, all connected with the fourth industrial revolution-- cyber-physical systems and what they will mean for colleges and universities. We have already been affected with repercussions from the new wave influencing every area of our lives.

Colleges which have been the leaders in learning are now in the middle of the changes and reform. Ironically the knife of change is aiming at these schools of higher learning. The synonym for knowledge online is Wikipedia. Online we have the spread of popular free lectures on MOOC  (Massive Open Online Course). Deep Learning (machine learning) evolving new learning is putting pressure on the colleges to come up with new paradigms.

Artificial intelligence and 'Internet thing' join together with marketing and education are in a position to take away jobs from college graduates. The old pyramid like systems of the past, ignoring the middle classes and slimming down is what we are seeing. Colleges still are working with the old fashion textbook model of learning when society is looking for a creative workforce. We don't have harmony between what our colleges are producing and what society needs.

Moreover, with the widespread MOOC, we have the ability to hear first class scholars with translations,  all free on the internet: a vast treasure of knowledge open to all. At one time what was the prerogative of our universities is no longer the case. Consequently, we have the schools of learning wanting to be more in harmony with the demands of society in their course of studies: mergers, educating for cooperation and creativity, problem-solving.

However, if this reform is only of structures, they will not withstand the encounter from the 4th industrial revolution. With the continuance of the four-year bachelor's system, colleges will not produce graduates society requires: no harmony between demand and supply. The need is to educate for the practical world that they will be entering.

An English inventor James Dyson is investing his money in an engineering school. Dyson Institue of Technology will open this year in the fall. Unlike other schools, there is no tuition, and working together with their teachers, students will be given a salary. What they produce will be sold and with the profits, the running of the school. The professor sees this as a sign of the future and the direction the colleges need to go.

Colleges are no longer the ivory towers of learning. Colleges will no longer be the only ones educating those entering society. Without this change in the curriculum, the present colleges will disappear.

The dilemma, however, will be the education for the workforce in answer to the demands of society or the search for maturity and wisdom. Fortunately, the internet world and cyberspace are able to supply the demands of individuals who want an education in wisdom.

Monday, January 9, 2017

"Oh, My Papa" Venerable Aloyius Schwartz

'Oh, My Papa' is a Korean documentary film on the life of Venerable Aloysius Schwartz who began his work as a missionary priest in Pusan Korea in 1958. His Korean name was So Jae-gun. An article in the Kyeongyang Magazine by a movie critic and teacher gives us an understanding of the priest's work under the headings of mission, love, courage, practice, and hope.

The film was made from old photographs, materials uncovered from the past, memories of those who knew the priest and the places where he worked. There is no exaggeration, embellishment, monetary desire or dramatization, only the use of the microphone and camera to show us the life of the priest.

He was ordained in 1957.  He had a strong devotion to our Blessed Mother and while in Belgium for his studies often went to the shrine of Our Lady of Banneux also known as the Virgin of the Poor. He took the teaching of Mary to work for the poor as his mission in life. The destruction of the  Korean War left many widows, beggars, street children and great poverty.

His sister is quoted as saying that while in the States giving talks to raise money for his work he met some specialists in fundraising which made his raising of funds in the States successful.

His love for the poor and his work for the missions enabled him to build schools for the poor but he realized that the children needed a mother's love and founded the Sisters of Mary in1964. The homes for children have spread to 6 countries and in 10 different locations with over 20 thousand children. He was the recipient of the Magsaysay Award for International Understanding in 1983.

His life was lived in voluntary poverty. His house his clothes his manner of life was one of detachment and his community of sisters appreciated the sign that his life was for the community.

He wanted his children to someday live a life of hope and be able to join society as mature healthy citizens. Hope was given to many and many aspired to work for the good of society. Life is given to us to hope. Without hope, a person is already dead. Many did not see the children but that is why many sing with great joy: Oh, My Papa.

He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease which slowed him down but he continued working. He did wonder if he was working to accomplish his own will instead of God's. He began the work but he left it up to God to continue. It was his unfinished symphony: all was left to God.

For Fr. Aloysius the Gospel was the message of love. We are to put this love into practice. We don't want to package it up but to spread it to others, for this is the way we become one. God is full of blessings and the message that Venerable Schwartz left us.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Fox Knows

View from the Ark of the Catholic Times introduces the readers to a parish priest's reminiscences of his love of books during his early years of schooling. He remembers the joy of reading and would read everything that came his way. Comic books introduced him to the fanciful and the world of imagination.

Books on great men gave him a longing for the impossible (?) and the classics and literature as a whole such as Ivan Turgenev's First Love allowed him to dream. During the 80s when the society was chaotic, he read Korean history. Since there was no object or reason for the reading it was a smorgasbord. He was young and not able to connect what he read with the life he was living.

If there was one thing that he learned later on from his reading was that not everything that hits the eyes is all that there is. Many are the books that left him with an understanding of life and one in particular was The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

With money life is comfortable. Science and civilization have modernized our lives, machines have advanced greatly our way of living and made it comfortable. Buildings are tall and strong. Traveling with computers we  live with illusion and the way smart phones are evolving is difficult for us to imagine. Schools of higher learning are being build continually, increasing the educational level of the citizens. The GNP continues to rise but so also has the debt of the citizens.

Development of the country has been great but young people find it difficult to find work. We give a number index to even some of the highest values in life. Profit is a standard for our society. Materialism and wealth are put at the center. Technology has become so omnipresent that without machinery at our disposal we can do little. Money is what makes everything work together.

Something that looks good on the outside is also good to eat is a phrase from the past. What we can't see, the tendency is not to want to see: life, dignity, respect, love,  faith, truth,  justice, friendship, sharing, authenticity, purity, and the like. 

He concludes his article with a meditation on the words of the fox to the prince at the end of the fable. The fox gave the prince a very simple secret to remember: "you are only able to see correctly with the heart, what is essential is invisible to the eyes."  The prince not wanting to forget what he heard repeated to himself: "What is important you do not see with the eyes."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"Like a Ship Battered by Wind"

A professor emeritus, a man active in diocesan work writes in the Catholic Times on the high waves buffeting the ship of state and the society in which we live.

Comparing our times to persons on a battered ship is a good analogy for the times. In Korea the captain seemed to have turned over the ship to a personal friend; the passengers, hearing of the news, were overcome with anger and with candles in their hands, wanted the captain and supporters removed.

With the coming of the new year, we have the impeachment of the president, political turmoil, economic depression, fear of earthquakes, nuclear fear from the North, US THAAD missile system placement in Korea, fear of what president Trump will mean for Korea, and the population problem.

In the coming year, the number of those over 65 years of age will be larger than those under 14. The professor emeritus says this is not seen as a problem by many. He quotes a population expert who says that on the Richter scale this would be an equivalent reading of 9.0: a catastrophe in economics, politics, and society.

This aging population and drop in the birth rate will not only impact society but also the Church: schools will close, people fired, jobs harder to find,  production and consumption in the country restricted.

The Korean Institute of Health and Social Affairs has reported that 8 out of 10 students from 14 to 18 years of age do not think we have a just society. Collusion between Business and Government, corruption, and conflict between management and workers will continue to increase.

Choi Soon-sil Gate is far from settled. Her daughter entered a prestigious college and was later expelled because of allegations she received special treatment. Incidents of this type give credence to an unjust society. One questionnaire that was mentioned showed that half of the respondents do not see the children bettering their lives in our present society. This makes a desire for a family all the more difficult for the young.

He concludes the article by lamenting the blind spot many of the Catholics have on matters of justice and peace. We have on many different occasion received  communications from the Bishops, heard parish sermons but the parishioners have little interest.   More lamentable, however, we hear talks on justice and peace and label it leftist and Communistic.  He hopes the new year will see a change  and find the Catholics as leaders in the movement for a better society.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Religious Census of Korea

Catholic News Now Here has an article on the publication of the recent government house census that was conducted in 2015. The number of those with some form of belief has diminished greatly from the past. This is similar to what is seen in other countries. Statistics show that in 2005 the number of believers was 52.9% of the population but in the latest census the number was 43.9%. The majority of Koreans have no formal association with any religion.

Catholics have in recent years seen more Catholics listed in the government census than the Church's own statistics but this year we have a big change and a shock. The number of Catholics has been reduced to 7.9 % of the population from 10.8% in 2005.

19.7% of the population belongs to Protestantism which is an increase from 2005  where it was 18.2%. Buddhism in 2005 was 22.8% and in 2015 decreased to 15.5%. The largest religious group are the Protestants and the total number of Christians would be 27.6 % of the population.

The method of making the census this time was different from the last. A priest member of the Bishop's pastoral research center is quoted as saying it was more accurate than the past. Not surprising that the numbers are lower than the registered Catholics in the country. Many of those baptized while in the military, he says, don't even remember being baptized and many don't even remember that they are Catholic but all these have parish registers and are counted as Catholics.

He feels that the last religious census of 2005 was not reliable. The Church has aged faster than the society at large. In the 2005 census when the homes were visited canvassers would be dealing with the elderly family members and he guesses, would inflate the number of Catholics.

Many may get the impression that Korea is an atheistic country with such a large number of no-religion but the no-religion in Korea are not like those in the West.  Shamanism is very much part of the culture. Korea has a very small number of those who call themselves Confucian but the culture has been strongly influenced by Confucianism. You have those who do not consider Confucianism a religion. Any census that attempts to determine the number of religious believers is always going to have problems.

We will no doubt have the atheists uniting in the future but Korea is still a very religious society with a strong feeling for the unseen and the spiritual. This will undoubtedly change since the whole world is at the fingertips of our young people.

The census shock was necessary for the Church to begin to look again at the work of evangelizing and the pastoral work of the Church.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Greeting the New year with Hope

We begin a new calendar year. A time for resolutions and for Christians the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. A good time to resolve to live in the manner that Mary showed us by listening to God's word in our hearts and consciences and living it in our daily lives.

We are made to be happy and for many of us the hope is not the reality. And yet that is what we need to expect and desire. God gives us the graces; we believe we are the temples of the Holy Spirit but fail to remember the meaning. Despite the many problems, sickness, the situation in which we find ourselves and the craziness that is all around, we are called to live with joy, a gift of the the Holy Spirit.

A Korea priest who spent some time in Lima, Peru, as a missioner writes in the Catholic Digest about his experience in living in a poor area of the city. On the day  before the New Year the people are busy making life-like dolls for the New Year.

This is the summer season and you hear the words from open doors: 'bring more clothes' as they prepare to make dolls out of old clothing. if you ask what are they dong, they will answer preparing to burn the old year.

At midnight they shoot off fireworks and burn the dolls which symbolize all that was negative in the past year: the bad things, the sins, all that made for unhappiness they burn and hope for a different and joyful new year.

He reminds himself, now back in Korea, how in the pastoral work he uses his own yard stick to determine what is right and wrong with often clumsy results and fails to acknowledge the problems which follow from this.

He remembers the Peruvians and their dolls and wants to begin the New Year with the burning of all that was bad: the wrong judgments, improper emotions and begin a completely new year.

"God does not tire of being merciful and forgiving us." These words of Pope Francis begin to resonate with him. He concludes the article by hoping to live like a person who has  been forgiven. To meet every person as if coming for the first time, meeting all as if he has never been hurt, and see all occasions and persons with hope. Isn't this a way of living with joy in our hearts? Happy New Year!