Friday, July 28, 2017

Growing Up Well Nurtured

A priest working in counseling writes in a pastoral bulletin about a newly wed couple waiting for their first child and asking what is necessary to have a child with a good family background. They wanted to know what they had to do to raise the child to hear this compliment in the future.

In psychological therapy language, the good relationship between parent and child is the sign of a good family background: the results of the proper upbringing of a child. He compares the two words used for raising in Korean, one used for children, the other in the raising of animals. One is to nurture and the other to train.

Nurturing a child is to appreciate the growing period of a child and not to confine growth to a mold of one's own making but to the needs of the child. Putting it simply, to give the child liberty to grow creatively and freely. The other would be to raise the child according to a standard with coercion and  without accepting criticism.

Both with children and animals when you take away freedom they become cruel. They in turn in dealing with others want to do the same. They want to force their ideas on others and when this is not possible they get angry and have problems controlling their anger. We see this is in psychopaths and dictators.They force their ideas on others and will not take criticism.

We have this situation not infrequently also within  religion. We have those speaking in the name of God and giving their personal violent teaching in the name of God.They do not consider the diversity of believers and act as dictators. We have the dismantling of existing groups. There is not a nurturing but a standardizing which destroys the spirit of the community. 

They have a weak sense of humor. They have a stiffness about them. We have this example in some of our leaders, they become an object of ridicule. In the church, we have those who speak the Gospel message but it feels like we are eating rice not well prepared.

Those who are not nurtured correctly will not be creative. They have been raised in an uninformed and forced manner. They are not able to forsake their way of thinking and accept a wiser opinion. They lack freedom that does not allow them to grow.

Jesus was a free spirit. He criticized the Pharisees for keeping the people locked up and force fed with their ideas. Those who grow up with freedom have a joy and openness that comes from a home in which they have been well nurtured.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

500th Anniversary of the Reformation

This year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's break with the Catholic Church. Undersecretary of the Korea's Bishops' Conference writes in View from the Ark of the Korean Times on taking another look at Martin Luther.

The way the Catholics and Protestants look upon the Reformation are obviously different. Catholics see the Reformation as dividing the Church. There is no way one can justify breaking the unity of the Church that Christ established. (Johannes Cochaleus, 1479-1552) strongly opposed Luther. "He was an apostate monk, destroyed Christendom, threw off morality a depraved individual, a heretic"  this was his view of Luther and what is embedded in the minds of many Catholic even to this day.

On the other hand, the Protestants see the Reformation as rediscovering the Gospel, gaining an unshakeable faith and freedom, they were freed from the corrupt Catholicism of the middle ages and returned to a Gospel teaching Church. Very naturally they see Martin Luther as a witness to the Gospel.

The 500 years of conflict are not going to be easily overcome. However, the Second Vatican Council did open the gates with the notions of reform, renewal, dialogue and cooperation being stressed we are beginning to relate with the Protestants.

"Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ" (Decree on Eucumentism #3).

In 1999 the Lutheran Federation and the Vatican came to a consensus that the teaching on justification no longer needs to separate the two communions. In 2013 a joint statement was released From Conflict to Communion. This year 16 Korean theologians have got together to translate the document and to publish it, expressing a desire to work for unity.

The writer mentions that after finishing his studies in Germany in 2003, in his office as a seminary professor, he has continually encouraged ecumenism within the Church. In his experience, most of the pastoral workers within Catholicism and lay people are prejudiced and misunderstand ecumenism.  Among the Protestants, we hear the voices saying that the Protestant Church in Korean is more corrupt than the Catholic Church in the time of Luther.

The main stream of Protestantism in Korea has no desire to dialogue with Catholicism. They have not been brought up with the teaching of a universal Christianity and the need for unity among Christians, for the writer a great tragedy. 

He concludes the article with the hope that we can get over our emotional feelings, forget the scars and work towards unity. During this anniversary year of the Reformation, we don't want to change the history of what happened but to change the way we talk about the history.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Bed of Flowers

In the random thoughts on religious life column, a university professor recalls a visit to a book store where a green cover of a book caught his eye. He fingered through the book, memoirs of the family members of those who committed suicide. The book was published by a center in the prevention of suicides.

It easily brought tears to those who would read the book Each day almost 40 dies from suicide in South Korea.

Each of those who died was hurting. It's important to see the way we encounter the adversities that come in life. Often in the book, there are pictures taken from books of psychology. One picture is a composite picture of a witch's face and the face of a beautiful young woman. Depending on the viewer one can see an old witch's face or that of a young woman or both.

The example is also given of a half filled bottle of wine, One person sees the empty section and laments while another person sees the wine and rejoices: same reality with different responses. Our values determine our viewpoint and our future.

Ku Sang was a well known Korean poet who was known for his Christian sensitivity. (His parents were Catholic, an older brother a priest. He studied in Japan was raised in North Korea and the Communist regime had little sympathy for his poetry so he fled to the South. He suffered from tuberculosis and died in 2005)

The professor includes a section of one of his poems the Flower Bed. "Delighted, thankful, joyful/ I am in a flower bed/ you are seen as a place of thorns/ However I see you as a flower bed." ( a literal translation) Depending on our attitude we can see our situation as a bed of thorns or one of flowers.

He recommends to the readers to take the few lines and keep them in their pocket note book and glance at it often. We can turn negativity into something positive. As in the poem about the Chinese date. The date doesn't turn red on its own but needs the encounter with typhoons, thunder, and lighting and we have the reddening of the fruit.

St. Paul says the same in Rm. 5: 3-4 "These suffering bring patience, as we know, and patience brings perseverance,  perseverance brings hope, and this hope is  not deceptive because the love of  God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us."

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Zero Sum Game in Children's Upbringing.

A four-year-old child on the 14th-floor of an apartment went out to the veranda, climbed over the rail and death. The family was out. The grandmother checked to see the child who was sleeping and went out to find another grandchild who was playing outside. During this short time outside, the child woke up and tragedy. Both parents were working. A university art professor recalls the incident in his column in the Catholic Peace Weekly.

The professor presents to the readers the famous painting of the Sistine Madonna by Raphael the Renaissance artist. At the bottom of the painting, we have two angels. They are waiting for Madonna's direction. If one looks closely at the background of the painting one sees hundreds of faces of babies. Each baby selects the parents they want and the person on the left and the woman on the right agree and the Blessed Mother takes the child in her arms and gives it to the angels to deliver to the parents on earth.

The interpretation according to tradition is the way parents should see their children.They have been selected in heaven and given to the parents. This is the way the professor says Catholics should look upon the children born.This makes each child all the more precious.That is why they are to be respected and not ignored.

In Germany, the Sistine Madonna painting was placed on the walls of kindergartens to show how the children should be treated. 

A zero sum game theory is common in our society. In the raising of children, this theory is central. The time spent at the workplace has to be taken away from the child. Both can not win. One has to take a loss for the benefit of the other.

This theory briefly says the time spent away from the child is a loss to the child. We don't have a win/win situation. Parents who spend less time working outside the home have more time to spend with the children, benefiting the children emotionally, intellectually and physically. Who in the family is benefiting when parents are always working? Is the extra income worth the loss to the children?

In some way this is understood by all but sadly society does not give us the environment that allows this to happen. This is probably one of the reasons we have the kind of society we have and it will take a revolutionary change in thinking to see a different future.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Red Queen's Theory

An article in the Kyeongyang magazine by a member of the diocesan pastoral committee for family introduces the readers to the words of the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass: "Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."

Simply expressed,  if we do not continue to move we will be overtaken by others and fall behind. This is the kind of society we have made. The children, especially in their studies, are faced with this reality.The older generation feels sorry and helpless for their plight but is this the correct direction?

A wise person needs leisure. Our situation in Korea is gloomy. According to OECD in 2016 Koreans on the average worked for 2,113 hours a year. Of all the member countries, Korea was the second highest. Japan was 1,719 hours a year, 400 less than Korea.

The word leisure comes from the Latin word licere (be allowed) freedom from necessary occupation. The word school derives from the Greek word schole, originally meaning leisure. We can see how far we have come from the original meaning of leisure in our schooling, because of competition. We have to outdo others. After school, the speed continues to increase and we have personal and family accidents.

Speed has to be reduced otherwise we miss the most important moments of life. We have to slow down to a pace where we can stop and look around. We should take time to measure the speed in which we live. 

Psychologists distinguish between pleasure and enjoyment. Both give happiness but there is a world of difference between them. Pleasure takes little energy, effort and easily achieved: eating a good meal, watching television, playing with the handphone etc. but it is temporary and disappears with the end of the action.

Enjoyment, on the other hand, the energy expended gives rise to more energy. We don't have only instant gratification but the added satisfaction that continues: reading, playing an instrument, a sport, study, prayer etc.. Pleasure is a good but we need the proper balance of pleasure and enjoyment.

He concludes with a layman's treatment of the brain waves: alpha and beta. The alpha appears when at peace and the beta when anxious. When these waves appear at the proper times we have health. Koreans because of the fast pace of life and stress, the beta waves are predominant.

If we want to supplement the alpha waves we have to take time our of our busy life and spend time in prayer and meditation. Where have we come from and where are we going? We have been given this moment in time and need to live it fully.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mothers Have to Change for Society to Change

The Korean Bishops' subcommittee on women's issues recently in their regular yearly seminar used a different approach than in the past. They decisively jettison the old system in which a talk and authorities in their field would discuss the topic and the participant would listen. Both Catholic papers and editorial brought the meeting to the attention of the readers.

This time they used the principles of the Open Space Technology to conduct their meeting. The idea is attributed to Harrison Owen an American who gathered the many ideas on meetings to form this new technology of coming to a decision. The participants freely expressed their opinion, they selected what they wanted to talk about and determined how they wanted to make the decisions.

They became active participants from the beginning to the end. This was a strange method compared to what they were accustomed to from the past. 

As the meeting progressed they began to find a vitality present. Under the big heading of the  meaning and role in the call to the feminine they considered: * motherhood and the feminine * recruiting of women experts * religious education in the family * child care within the Church * care for the women who are marginalized * relationship within the community of faith these and four more  the participants selected.

Participants came from different dioceses and parishes, all workers within the community of faith. They were all convinced of a need to change the way of doing things; agreed the change had to begin with themselves. A change from a passive to active participation in the life of the Church. A  change was also needed  in the system.

60 members attended and were convinced that they had to change if society was going to change. The bishop who is the committee chairman said that hearing the women talk, he had a need to change. Women have a great deal to do within the Church. Since the women's role and position in society has changed this has to change also in the Church. The women have a role also to make in the society and the Church needs to support them in this role.

The topics discussed at the seminar will continue to be  matter for study and development.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Encouraging the Middle Aged Men

A religious sister in View from the Ark of the Catholic Times begins with the news of a middle aged comedian's suicide. He was in his 50s, suffering from depression over money matters. The death shocked many because of his popularity and his recent appearance in a TV drama. The sister is in charge of a diocesan desk which works in the prevention of suicides in the diocese. She prayed that this suicide would not lead to imitations.

The suicide rate among middle-aged men continues to increase yearly. More than 70% of all suicides are male and half are men between the ages of 40 and 65.

Most of the suicides are related to work: failing in their work, losing their job or not properly assessed in the workplace. Depression and thoughts of suicide enter. Men, even at the sacrifice of family, often give themselves to their jobs to such an extent that when things goes wrong, despair, great shock, and suicide is the result.

Men in our society are judged by their work and consequently, the responsibility they feel is great. Unlike women, they are not able to express in words the pressures and frustrations they face. This means they carry it with them, it isolates them, despair follows and the last escape is death at their own hand.

Even though this is the case, in Korea, in the mass media and in our approach to the problem, we continue to concentrate on the youth and the elderly.  Problems with the middle age men are not seen as important. Considering the current social situation with the lack of employment opportunities and economic slowdown, the problems will increase.

What can we do? What can the church do? We need to be more attentive to this group of men and understand the difficulties they face. Family and acquaintances need to show concern and sympathize with them. In her counseling, she hears often how responsibility they have for the family and their abilities make for conflict and trials. She has much sympathy for them living in our present society.

The nation has to become involved and a national response is necessary. Money, both public and private needs to be set aside for suicide prevention and to establish a safety net. We need to help the men to express themselves and find ways to lighten their burdens. "I am tired. it's difficult,  I want to rest, I am lonely," we need to help them say what is inside. All of us need to show concern.

We need to get out of the functional mode which society puts us in at an early age and begin to see life from a contemplative and being mode. Show gratitude for what people have done, instead of saying "fight the good fight" better to say, "you have done much, thank you". Need to remember that life is more precious than what we do.