Korean churches have piety but no spirituality. This was the subject of the Peace Column in the Peace Weekly this week. A subject that is well worth looking into not only in Korea but in the rest of the religious world.
The writer mentions how this was a topic often heard when discussing theological and pastoral issues in the Korean Catholic Church 20-30 years ago. The Korean church is active and energetic but lacks something, which we call spirituality.
What is 'spirituality'? The Korean dictionary describes it as 'spiritual character or temper'. In the Korean Catholic Dictionary, spirituality is with many words expressed as "a living expression of the faith of a person or group of people who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is open to the love of God, oneself, neighbors, and the world through Jesus Christ." Not easy to understand. Eliminating the long modifiers it can be reduced to "a living expression of faith"—living out the teachings of Christ in our daily lives.
Forgetting the dictionary definition, the writer personally understands spirituality as the "fragrance of life". Just as a coffee shop smells like the scent of coffee, and when you enter the butcher shop, it smells like a butcher shop, so a person with faith has a unique scent. A devoted Buddhist believer should be filled with the fragrance of the Buddha. The fragrance of Christ is what should be emanating from a devoted follower of Christ.
But this fragrance of life doesn't come overnight. With the passage of the years, it gradually develops linking one's heart, thoughts, and actions together. When this happens we have the spirituality of the person.
If someone has lived as a Christian for thirty years and one does not smell the fragrance of Christ in that person, he is a Christian believer, lived the Christian life but not internalized. In the same way, if one was a Buddhist believer for 30 years and the fragrance of Buddha is not experienced one has lived a life other than that of of the Buddha. So spirituality is a measure of a person's life.
Spirituality is often used in a religious sense, but it's not limited to religion. All areas of human life are connected to spirituality. External manifestations that are not connected to the roots of one's life are unrelated to spirituality. If the fragrance of life soon disappears or changes, it's not the fragrance of true life, true spirituality.
The writer hasn't heard much lately, on the topic of piety and spirituality. He doesn't know if it's the writer's lack of knowledge, whether the Korean church has grown spiritually, or whether there is no interest in this topic any longer within the church.
The writer has been a Catholic believer for 30 years, as well as a Catholic media reporter. What kind of fragrance did the articles and columns he wrote in the 'Catholic Peace Newspaper' emit? He hopes the scent wasn't bad.