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.

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