Thursday, December 8, 2016

Difficult Questions to Face

A priest contemplating retirement in future years introduces his readers to his reflection on the future in an article in Bible & Life magazine.

One day while giving a retreat, he received a telephone call from a religious sister asking if he would say Mass for them. He looked at his schedule and since he was busy at that time he told them he had another commitment and was sorry, he would have to refuse, A few hours later he was giving a talk that made him recall the refusal.

Jesus on the mount of Gethsemane said to his disciples: "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." That temptation, he says, was to be concerned only for oneself and not to see the problems of others.  Jesus was sweating drops of blood and they were tired and wanted to sleep and didn't perceive the anguish that Jesus was dealing with.

If he was a little bit more concerned with the needs of others who were asking  for help with a  little change in his schedule he could have accommodated the sister who called. He was concerned only about himself and fell into temptation.

A few days before in a retreat for priests,  one of the priests expressed his concern for the years of retirement that were approaching. He found no good examples to imitate. Choosing a retirement home for priests is difficult for a person who has lived his whole life alone. Going to a country area and living near a mission station and helping with the pastoral work for the community makes it difficult for the pastor of the area. To farm a small area of land in the countryside is another possibility but they are all big steps to make.

After retirement, there is a possibility of 20 to 30 years of life. One needs health if not to be a burden on others. So, hold back and take care of yourself so that you will be prepared for retirement. Using all your energy to live a long life is not what is important  and not to worry about life after retirement but to give yourself completely to the work that you are now doing. Isn't this  the best preparation for retirement?

The writer mentioned his own present problem with health,  He has a growth in his throat that  will take a long time for healing and has been told by his doctor to cut back on its  use. His work requires that he give talks leaving him with a serious conundrum.

One of his classmates mentioned to him: "Present society has for its icon the preserving health. One's health is of primary importance. Health and living a long time  becomes  one's greatest interest.  Resurrection and God's kingdom disappears. This world and ourselves become all important. The desire to do what is difficult  and need for sacrifice is forgotten.

Each day at Mass Jesus says through the lips of the priest: "Take this, all of you and eat of it for this is my body which will be given up for you." He hears from the inside the voice of Jesus:  "What are you going to do???"

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Concern for Human Rights Within Religion-- Peripheral or Essential?

Dec. 4th was Human Rights Sunday in the Korean Catholic Church and begins the Social Doctrine Week. The bishop's message for the day  reminds the Christians of tension experienced by the military build up, approval of the terror law, the death of a farmer in a peaceful demonstration, the plight of workers and the unemployed, voice of the 'comfort women' and the unsettled problems with the Sewol Ferry tragedy. These and many other issues need to be solved.

Both the Catholic Times and Catholic Peace Weekly have editorials and articles for Human Rights Sunday.  The Church realizes that it may not have done a good job in catechizing the parishioners on the horizontal dimension of our faith life, concentrating for  many years on the vertical: God and ourselves.

Many Christians want the Church to keep quiet on politics, security, science, economics, in these areas, they say, the Church has no authority. "The Holy Spirit is not involved and each one is free to follow their own conscience: a matter of choice." Christians need to keep their eyes closed, ears blocked and remain satisfied with personal salvation. Sad, but also a reminder that a poor job was done in the teaching of Christians.

Human Rights are concerned with the dignity of the human person who was made in the image of God. Consequently, unreasonably to restrain a person's inalienable rights and freedom is wrong. Government concern for family needs to be highlighted. Labor should always be considered more important than capital and skill.

The world of finance also has to be governed by virtue. The increase in wealth needs to be related to the human family community: selecting the poor as a concern for society and industry. The common good has to be always present in our thinking. Peace between nations is always the goal  of our government  taking all the necessary means. We  need to stop the competition with armaments and gradually to reduce  what we have.

We as Christians need to respect the personal rights of others. To make a just and a peaceful society we need to be willing to give up part of what we possess for the good of the greater community. What we have we need to possess wisely and share what we can with those who are in need. We need to be conscious of the solidarity with all our brothers and sisters.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Lessons From Choi Soon-sil Gate

In Korea, the names of the president and her friend from the past continue to monopolize the news with the  escapades of Choi Soon-sil Gate. Like any drama or movie, it fascinates the populace and those involved continue to add to the story. With false belief and a strong ego, without  a speck of personal guilt we continue the tug of war within the country.

A religious sister in the View from the Ark column  of the Catholic Times  gives the readers her understanding of what is happening. Very much like a screenplay that is performed before the eyes of the citizens, different from what we are accustomed. We have always had the struggle between good and evil. The good have mostly accepted very naively and passively the evil. However, here we have the pack of wolves and  citizens wise as snakes and gentle as doves.

A citizens movement against distorted beliefs. Truth, logical thinking, instead of restlessness; peace, instead of egotistical attachment and stubbornness, politeness and constancy. These two states of affairs confronting each other are moving to a climax. Before the end, we will have many variables entering the picture. However the values of  truth and love  will be the results.

Those looking on from the sidelines are waiting for the truth to become manifested and this has not yet been the case. With the candlelight demonstrations, the citizens have come to a critical point. Here we have the anger of the populace coming to a head and the sign of their maturity. Tears in the eyes and a solemn demeanor is evident.

She quotes from the Book of Changes: "When our situation is difficult  we change, we find understanding, and we will continue to live well. Heaven will come to our aid and  it will not be harmful." She prays that the ringleaders of the mess the country is in will understand what is happening. And wonders how the citizens have been involved in accepting the false values of the times.

Citizens, because of what has happened have upgraded their concern for the county. They have made known what the citizens want from those running the government. They want to salvage the truth and want it carried out. This is the teaching of Jesus and a preparation to participate in the 'Paschal Mystery' a new way of living in Korea.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hospice Movement in Korea

We are born into the world to live and one day die. So, what is the meaning of life and death? With these words, a doctor emeritus at the hospice center at a Catholic hospital begins a column in the Catholic Peace Weekly.

The hospice movement, he says, does a great deal to open us to the meaning of life and death. One of the ways of showing us what the completion of life is.

With the discoveries made in medicine especially antibiotics in the last century, we have had an extension of the average lifespan. In 1955 the ordinary lifespan of Koreans was 55.4 years it is now over 80.

Medicine's saving lives and extending the lifespan enabled society to  avoid issues of death and care for the dying.  Results are that many terminally ill cancer patients have serious pain problems in meeting death. In the intensive care unit of hospitals the patients are in unfamiliar surroundings with all kinds of mechanical gadgets and apparatuses that they have to deal with. Separated from their families, in many cases, alone to face death.

Precisely because of these problems  the hospice movement began. An English physician Dame Cicely Saunders began work with the terminally ill in 1948, which eventually became the first hospice. Society,  volunteers, clergy, family and many others worked together holistically  to alleviate the suffering  of those seriously sick who were  facing death. The Little Company of Mary, religious sisters, were the group that began hospice work here in Korea in 1965. From there it spread to other parts of the country. 

Our columnist has been working in hospice for the last thirty years. He has worked with those terminally ill from cancer and  working with anti-cancer medicine. They cured a few and extended the lives of many. With the cure of some of the patients, he has found great satisfaction from his work. However, the majority, treatment extended their lives but the pain was there and this has bothered the doctor much and wonders why he ever got into the work with the dying sick, but this soon disappears.

He was a frequent visitor to the chapel  where he expressed his frustration in not being able to do more. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament were often to complain but he always found consolation and found strength to continue his work in the hospice movement.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Growing in Married Love

Living together in marriage becomes more difficult with the passage of time. Few were the problems at the start of married life but they developed over the years. They were present but didn't appear until later. A college professor  mentions his growth in married life in a Catholic Times article.

He gives us the example of putting socks in the washing basket and putting  clothes in the clothes' closet. They are very insignificant tasks. However, they can be reasons for friction between the couple.

In time they began to mention the issues that irritated them. Why do you do it that way? After hearing the words of scolding and no noticeable change the words cease but the irritation remains. Usually, habits  carried from childhood difficult to change.

On his part, he has a habit of opening cabinet doors and the rice cooker lid and not closing them. His wife: "Good heavens once you open a door you need to close it. Why do you continually forget to close the doors?"  

On the other hand, his wife has a habit of putting her clothes on door knobs and on the back of chairs. He likes a neat room and this bothers him. "How come, aren't we to put clothes in the closet why do you continue to hang your clothes here and there?"

These are some of the areas in which they both had problems with the other. It's a failure to put oneself in the other person's shoes. We understand that we are different with the head but it doesn't register with the heart.

As the years pass they no longer are a problem, no words are exchanged and each of them will make up for what the other lacks. If he leaves the door of the cabinets ajar she without any comment will close the doors and he will without words take the clothes he finds on the door knobs or chairs and puts them in the closets.

With this way of thinking, they both are concerned with the others life and schedule and help each other to remember what is to be done. They become  managers for each other. It is not only celebrities and the famous that have managers but they have found this way of working together with profit for each of them.

Korean culture is influenced by Confucianism. In   this article, we see that it is not all pervasive in society. We have other influences which also spread within society. Christianity has  changed many of the old cultural ways. Patriarchy is no longer what it was. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Learning About Learning

Korea gives education a high priority and has  great respect for what education is able to do for the country and the individual. It ranks high in the results that it achieves in primary and secondary school programs. A religious sister writing for Catholic Digest reminds us of the price that many pay for the emphasis on achievement in studies.

While in high school she heard over and over again that her studies, no matter how difficult and time consuming,  would propel her to the middle class. You only have to overcome the trials of the present  and your future is assured. Do you know what life is ahead of you if you don't graduate from college? These words made her feel miserable but made her pay attention to what was being said.

At the same time she had all kinds of questions  about her education. What is the reason for school? What is learning and study all about? One of her teachers made her feel lousy. He pointed to the janitor working outside sweeping and told her if she doesn't study she will be doing that kind of work. One of the students asked if the janitor was her father and all the students began to laugh making her feel nausea and wanting to leave.

Did she have to go along with what was being demanded? Competition-- winning, was that what it was all about? She felt alone, despondent, was there any  way out of the maze? Feeling lost while at home she saw a small book on St. Francis on the book shelf and began to read  and  peace and freedom came.  A person without possessions was free... Without freedom we will not be happy. She realized there was another road that could be traveled.

After that she read all the books that she found in her  house on the lives of the Saints. She wanted the freedom that these Saints experienced. It didn't make any difference what college she would attend.
No longer was this of primary importance and she entered a college run by an order of  religious nuns. 

For her it was the  first  time  she  was to meet sisters who wore  every day dress. At first seeing the nuns dressed without the  habits they seemed to be inelegant. They were not like the sisters she knew from the parish and kindergarten she attended.

After graduation she worked as a teacher for over two years with the community and  ended up as a member of that community of sisters. After finishing her course of studies her first assignment was precisely to be a teacher at the high school level. She was going back to the place where she felt so shackled and despondent.

However, the school she taught was much different from her own high school years. The teaching based on Christian principles was based on dignity and respect for the students. They were able to temper the hell of college entrance examinations and with the families make the search for learning and humanity the spirit of the school.

She taught at the school for 15 years and was regarded as a good teacher by the talk in the school community. But was that the reality? Were the thoughts that she had during her own years of schooling still the reality?

Two years ago she was faced with a great challenge. Her job was not to cram into the minds of the children what she deemed necessary but to foster  students' thinking. They were to  define what was necessary and she was to help them achieve their goal and to keep students as the subject of the learning.

This was an import from Europe and required a big change in the way she approached her students. What she considered the proper educational method  was a lie and a barrier in  helping students to grow as human beings.  She learned  something  new about learning. She was learning something that answered the questions she had as a student. She liberated herself and the students.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent Message

Today is the first day of our new liturgical year, the first Sunday of Advent. A new color for the vestments and a new beginning. Both Catholic papers have editorials and articles to prepare our Christians for the new year. Catholics begin the new year with Advent, as world citizens, they will greet the new year on Jan 1st and again as Asians on Jan. 28th.Which one is of greatest importance is without doubt Jan. 28th. This year it will be a long holiday.

Each Diocesan Ordinary has a pastoral letter for the parishioners reminding them of what is necessary during this period of preparation. The love of God is the message and we are to respond. We need a new answer to the old message of evangelization: a more faithful response to the  sacramental life of the Church.

The temptations of the world are many and great. Materialism and pleasure are always beckoning and the need to be vigilant. The Cardinal invites his diocese to remember the centrality of the Eucharist in our lives. Once we have deepened our faith life we go out to spread this love.

One of the editorials mentions a  book  by Cardinal Walter Kasper recently translated into Korean. The cardinal stresses we need to be the signs of hope and joy to the world. We have to remember what God has deemed important and participate in that work: for the good, justice, and truth.

Our society is thirsting for hope.The corruption and deceit  have demoralized many and they are looking for hope. This way of life was shown to us by Jesus and his followers. We are to show the way to truth, justice, goodness, mercy, and hope.

In John's Gospel 13:35 we hear: love one another. He gave us the new commandment. By keeping that commandment people will know that we are disciples of Jesus. Pope Francis has asked us to be people of hope and be witnesses to the truth--prophets.

We need to be careful to not separate our religious life and our daily life. Our life is one, lived according to the Gospel. A norm that comes to us from the time of Jesus. We are Christians, honest citizens of the country. Let us be born anew during this Advent to be more merciful and hopeful messengers of the Gospel.