Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Asking Fish to Climb a Tree

The number of school-age children is over 6 million. A few years ago it was 7 million. A drop that is readily seen. 

We live in a world in which the young are rare. Even without concern for this fact, the reality of our schools is lamentable. Writing in a diocesan bulletin a priest working in alternative education reminds the readers of the educational programs of our schools. 

Statistics from four years ago showed that from 4 to 5 percent of the school-aged students are not in school for one reason or another. Half of those attending school are not interested in what is offered or unable to adjust to the teaching environment.

He doesn't know how much has changed in the meantime but in his estimation, it is much the same. We have a high-ranking 10% who are doing well, and another 10% who follow but the other 80% he compares to students lost in a labyrinth and does not believe he is exaggerating. All preparing for entrance into a university although there are many other  possibilities, the system does not permit it.

A world-famous futurist sees the educational system in Korea still preparing the student for the industrial age. Students are spending 15 hours in classrooms and in academies preparing for jobs that will not be around. This, he considers a waste of time. He compares the system to trying to teach fish how to climb trees. There is a need to examine our educational programs and what the students are preparing for in the future. 

Our smartphones compared to the telephones of a hundred years ago are different; the automobile is different from the horse and cart of a hundred years ago. Why hasn't the classroom changed? 

The reason many of the students are not able to adapt to the classroom is not the student's fault. Education is forgetting the students and their needs and forcing them to adapt to a system that prepared for a reality no longer present. 

Education is not to prepare for examinations but to help the students think and open their minds to possibilities. Creativity is an important component of education. Information is plentiful and the classroom is not the only place information is found. With the internet, it is there for the asking. The need to prepare students for the competitive world we live in requires creativity. 

He concludes his article with the thought that our Sunday School programs also need to be examined.  Parents and students are not the only ones at fault but we need to see the new reality in which the students live and prepare them for it.

Monday, February 20, 2017

What Kind of Persons will be Born Among us This Year?

A parish priest writing in  Bible & Life magazine, begins with the sad reflection that none of the signers of the Proclamation of Korean Independence from Japan, during the Japanese Colonial rule, were Catholic. The only Catholic freedom fighter he knew as a child was An Jung-geun. Hearing all about the Protestants and their large number of freedom fighters, left him with sadness and embarrassment.

Both Protestants and Catholics were followers of Jesus but we had different positions on the way we looked on independence from Japan. Why did we see the love of country and Jesus so differently? What made for the division?

The writer admits that he is simplifying the issue but not beyond reason. In the South, Catholicism was spreading and in the North, Protestants were doing well. We had Catholics in the North and Protestants in the South but Catholicism seemed to find it easier in the South. Catholics were more at home with the elite while the Protestants with the commoners and their concerns.

North Korea was the center of the Goguryeo Kingdom and when it collapsed after a thousand years they were alienated from power, resentment increased because of the continual enjoyment of power by the elite in the South. 

Even though you have the same seed when it is planted in a different soil the taste and texture of the fruit will be different. At the time of Jesus, we see the same reality. Those born and raised in the North, the Galilee area of Israel, were far removed from Jerusalem and the elite of the South and close contact and influence of the Romans. The South were content not to rock the boat and enjoy what they had.

Similar was the situation in Korea. The South were willing to accept the Status Quo while those in the North, like the Galileans of Israel, wanted freedom. Protestants in the North were forming freedom fighters to fight the oppression and exploitation of Japan. Up until liberation of the country, Catholics as a group did not fight against oppression and lived peacefully with the colonial rule.

They remembered the martyrs of the past and not willing to fight for their country. The Church during this time did not give any formal witnessing in desiring liberation.They were not involved in the March 1st  Movement also called Sam-il. One of the first displays of resistance to Japanese rule.

This all changed as we know with the end of the Korean War. He concludes the article with the hope: "freedom and concern for the weak in society will always have a place among us."

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Blind Men and the Elephant (群盲撫象)

We are all familiar with the fable: the Blind Men and the Elephant from the Buddhist religious tradition of India. The king calls a group of blind men and asks them to examine an elephant and tell him what it is. A diocesan bulletin gives us the story and the writer's meditation.

Each blind person gives their thoughts on the section of the elephant they touch. Touching the ivory tusk one blind man imagined a large turnip, another felt the trunk, like a pestle, the tail was a rope, the legs like pillars, the belly was a wall. Shakyamuni (Buddha) tells his disciples they are like these blind men with their lack of understanding. They all have only a partial understanding of who the Buddha is.

In the same way, we Christians are only accepting a part of the God we worship. We believe in a Trinity but each of us with our different environments and individual personalities experiences God's grace  differently. One person experiences God as revealed in nature, another in his love showed to us in Jesus, another in the Holy Spirit working in our souls. God comes to us in many different ways.

Korea is made up of those who come from different Providences of the country but we are all Koreans. We all value experiencing God in different ways. Consequently, we don't want to disparage the way others experience God. If we combine all the opinions of the blind men we come to a truer synthesis of  elephant.

The elephant fable has much to teach us in the way we see God. Under the banner of Church, Jesus gives us the community of faith with its many understandings of the mystery of God. 

By the working of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is working thru us in our daily life. No matter what our position  in the community of faith, the level of our knowledge, we are all brothers and sisters of Jesus, disciples, and members of his body, and active subjects of his Gospel.

We can with this fable stress the relativity of what each one experiences as if this is the essence of what the fable wants to say, forgetting that the elephant was always present and much bigger than what each one imagined. Each was limited by their experience of the elephant but it doesn't mean the elephant wasn't there. Objective truth is there and we with the help of others, speaking and interrelating with others within the church and society come to a greater understanding of the God we believe in and who continues to work in us and through us.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Automation and the Future

World Future Society was the topic of an article in the Kyeongyang magazine by an educator with experience as a teacher and counselor. She lists the occupations that may not be existent in 2050 according to the World Future Society.

Classrooms and teachers will give way to supercomputers and smart systems. On-line programs will be available to all. 80% of the present occupations will disappear with the appearance of robots. Languages will disappear. We have over 6,000 languages at present.The expertise of translating will be so advanced that there will be no need to learn a language and the three languages with the greatest number of speakers will be the important languages.

The number of doctors will decrease with the use of technology that will allow examination from a distance. Paper will decrease with the appearance of eBooks. With the availability of technology like Google Glass, we will be communicating with the computer in a hands-free format.

She mentions students knowledge of English has improved greatly. Thanks to on-line Google's translation programs and correspondence with international friends met on Social Media, students have no fear in communicating with friends in different cultures or fearful of traveling overseas.

She mentions students have a wide variety of possible occupations they aspire to, while parents are limited to the ones they see as safe and lucrative and make for an easy life.

However, many of these professions will not continue to have the numbers as in the past. More important is how will I wish to live in the future. Some of those who have studied the situation see occupations demanding sensitivity and emotional maturity continuing to exist. Artists, therapists, and counselors will be around.

How do parents prepare their children for this new age? Students need to prepare to do what they want to do and not what the parents would like. Success and money are not what the goal should be.

There have been countries that have experimented with guaranteed income for those who will not find   jobs. In 2016 the Swiss turned down by vote a monthly salary of $2,555  for every adult but that will probably be the direction society will be headed.

The writer concludes the future is not to determine the kind of occupation according to income. The future will be automated and the need is to find happiness and to follow one's dreams: searching for what will satisfy. She concludes her article by asking parents are they preparing their children for non-existent occupations? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Old Missioners Returning Home.

Both Catholic weeklies had articles and even an editorial on two Maryknollers who will be leaving for the States in March. Father Gerald Farrell 93, and Fr, Joseph Slaby 84, who have spent over a half a century in Korea.

Sadness is present, they expressed to the interviewer, but they were led by the Spirit at the same age to come to Korea with joy in their hearts and they leave with joy.They have no misgivings on their new calling. This will be their new life in the States. They have no pictures to show of their life.They have tried to live in the present and not look back with lingering attachment to the past. They both worked to deepen their own spiritual life and those with whom they worked.

Many are the similarities of the two missioners. They both came to Korea at the age of 33. Both were delayed vocations. Fr. Farrell started off as a medical officer in the Navy and Fr. Slaby was an engineer. They both entered Maryknoll with the opposition of their fathers. Fr. Slaby's father was Protestant and found the son's decision hard to accept. Both had difficulty in the study of Korean they told the interviewer.

Father Farrell joined the navy as a medical officer after graduation from medical school. During this time he made his decision to be a missioner. He had a bright future but decided to leave it all which was a big blow to his father. He mentions how difficult it was even to mention his decision to his father. The father hearing about his son's plans refused even to speak to him. This changed the day before ordination.

Father Slaby worked as an engineer after college and had the same problem with his father who was a Protestant. He mentioned the most difficult part of the missionary life was language as did Fr. Farrell. Fr.Slaby, also mentions to the interviewer some difficulty with scrupulosity with which he had to struggle and worked hard to live thoroughly the life of a priest and missioner. He spent a year at the Angelicum in Rome studying spirituality,.

Both where involved in the Charismatic movement from the beginning. Fr. Farrell was one of the leaders of the Charismatic movement in Korea when the whole idea seemed Protestant and many priests not happy with the movement. They were also instrumental in introducing the Eucharistic Adoration Movement to Korea. In 1978 they began the Marian Priestly Group, meeting  every two months for the study of the spiritual life.

The editorial mentions how the two missioners considered their time in Korea a grace and gift. The work of the missioners in Korea have done much to make the Korean Church the envy of many other nations. In conclusion the editorial hopes with the growth of the Church and the blessings of large numbers of clergy being ordained each year they will like the two old missioners consider going to other countries as a grace and gift.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

In Face of Death Some Run

When we think about the history of the Church in Korea we remember the many martyrs but at the same time many were those who wanted to live and turned against the community of faith.

After Chu Mun-mo, James (1752-1801) the Chinese priest entered Korea, the Masses were attended with great fervor. However, those who reported the Masses and gave the names of those in attendance to the authorities were also Catholics. The numbers of those who turned against the Church were as large as those who died as Martyrs.

An article in Catholic Digest taken from lectures of a professor reminds us of the sadness during the  many years of persecution and the large number of those that turned against the community of faith. The writer mentions how in his own life he reflects on what he does and wonders whether it is a martyr's choice or a renegade's act. When he speaks and acts, is it building up or dividing the community?

One of the Catholics who because of the rites controversy fell away; reported to the authorities the whereabouts of the priest. The Christians were quick to hide him. In order to give the priest time to escape the leader of the Catholics put on the priest's clothes to give time for the priest to escape. He was tortured, suffered but never gave in and finally killed.

Many of the Catholics gave their lives to save the priest. Kang Wan-suk, Columba, was a member of the noble class and the authorities were not allowed to search her house and that is where he was hidden for 6 years. Many are the stories retold about Columba and her work as a catechist. 

The priest during this time was hearing about the deaths of many of the Catholics because of his presence  and he decided to return to China. He had only to cross over the Yalu River to live. It was at this time that he began to think deeply on what was transpiring in Korea. The Catholics were given their lives for the priest and he was returning home. He returned to his Christians and gave himself up to the authorities.

This part of the story was written by the French Missioner Fr. Dallet, using the written material left by his compatriot, the martyred bishop Antoine Daveluy. He called this the Korean 'Quo Vadis'  (Where are you going?) section of the history. (The story of St. Peter who was leaving Rome to escape the persecution and was met by Jesus on the Road asking him Quo Vadis? And returns to Rome and death).

Father reported to the authorities that he was the Father Chu they were looking for and was killed on April 19, 1801, the first priest who died as a martyr in Korea.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Education for the Family

In the Kyeongyang magazine, an article by a layman who has worked for 16 years with the diocesan family pastoral committee tells the readers what he has learned.

He mentions a documentary he saw about a priest who was sent to a poor country in Africa. He wondered what would Jesus do in his situation.  Would he build a school or a church? It's not what I need but what the others' need that is an act of love.

The writer has the same question about family life. What would Jesus do to help families? We all know the difficulties families are facing in our society. The relationship of husband and wife, the axis on which the family rests is shaking. Children consequently are affected negatively. Alienation comes with age, economic difficulties continue to exist, courting, marriage and having children are renounced; all are part of the reason that Korea has one of the lowest marriage and birth rates in the world. 

What would Jesus do? He believes it would be programs for the families. How do families need to communicate? How to solve the problems they meet? How are scars inflicted and healed? How does one  convey to another what he feels inside? How to listen to another person? He feels these questions are important and need answers.

We know what Jesus is asking of us but just repeating this we know is useless. Important as it is to know what Jesus wants us to do, we need something concrete to experience. Persons have to be prepared to listen to the words they hear.

Programs for families, the engaged, for fathers are some of the possibilities. He has seen the good that programs of this type have done. He desires to see the family as a church and the church as a family. They need to be seen as one. Jesus came to us in a family and we need to work to make the family into a church.

"The most Beautiful thing that God made, the Bible says, was the family. He created man and woman, and He gave them everything. He gave them the world! Grow, multiply, cultivate the earth, make it produce, make it grow. He presented to a family all of the love that God has in Himself, all of the beauty that God has in Himself, all of the truth that God has in Himself, He gives to the family. And a family is truly a family when it is able to open its arms and receive all of this love" (Pope Francis).