Tag Archives: Catholicism

Catholicism in a Honduran Farm Village

For almost one year (from the summer of 2010 until the summer of 2011) I had the opportunity to live and work at a Catholic school in Honduras . During my stay in Honduras , I experienced Catholicism in many ways and on many occasions. Perhaps, my most memorable experience was Holy Week of 2011. I had originally planned to take a trip to different beaches and enjoy the vacation time. When a Catholic friend in Honduras who lived close-by my apartment heard about my plan, she scolded me for my indifferent behavior and told me I should be using Holy Week for God, not for some beach trip.
Once she offered me an alternative option, I immediately changed my mind. The alternative was to go on a mission in the mountains. It would be to a faraway place to preach the Gospel to people who do not get much of a chance to hear it. I decided to seize the opportunity, as it felt totally right in my heart.
Holy Week came, and I was very excited. I went with a team of four other missioners, three Hondurans and one Costa Rican, one Honduran was a young man and the rest of the people were young women. It took several hours riding on an old school bus and then in the back of a pickup truck down and up bumpy and rocky dirt roads. We finally arrived at the church and unloaded our bags.
The church was simple and small. The walls were covered with lime which brushed off onto one’s clothes if one were to rub up against it. Inside there were not too many decorations but just enough to keep the place looking beautiful and focused on God. I would like to call the place quaint.
This was the place in which our mission group did most of our work. We would have one session where we organized fun Catholic activities for children, another one afterwards for young people, and a final one in the evening for adults. I had the opportunity to give one talk to the young people and another to the adults. Everything was conducted in Spanish (which is why I always stress the importance of learning other languages to serve God).
The work inside the church building was only part of our mission. Our mornings were spent going door to door reading from the Bible, explaining the truths of God to people, and praying with the people we met. This was a very adventurous experience for me. Going door to door does not sound very adventurous, but allow me to explain what sort of homes these were.
The simplest way to describe the place where we were is by saying it was a farm village or spread-out town. It was not a typical town. Each house was usually a decent walk from the other. All the houses were very similar in that they were white, just like the church. They were very primitive-looking. Some houses had electricity, but not all. The men would work on the farms with the older boys while the women would cook and take care of the younger children. Many stoves were fueled by wood. Dogs, chickens, roosters, turkeys, cows, and horses were scattered about.
Many of the Catholic people in this place were very open to hearing the Word of God that we were preaching to them. They listened attentively and were interested in what we had to tell them. Some would even participate in our discussions. It is not surprising, either. These people are so far away from society that they rarely get any chance at all to hear the Word of God. They have no priest. A priest only comes once per year to celebrate Mass. They are happy with whatever they can get.
One interesting thing to note about these people is that they were extremely generous. Even though this place had less money than any other place I had been to, I remember eating up to six times in one day and being stuffed the entire day. This was because many of the people to whom we preached would want to reward us for our efforts and so gave us food. It would be impolite to refuse such an offer from someone who did not have much to give, so we accepted nearly every time.
One man, after I asked him where I could buy a machete, gave me his own with a handcrafted sheath. Machetes were carried by all farmers in this place and were not too cheap, so it was a big sacrifice for him to make, but he did it out of generosity and his faith in God. I prayed for him many times and you should, too.
The mission was a physically trying but rewarding experience. I had been to a place I had never thought existed but had been looking for my entire life. In the end, I was glad my friend gave me the push to go. I had experienced Catholicism in a Honduran farm village, and it was one of the best times of my life.

 

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Catholicism in Honduras

Honduras, a small country in Central America , is worth knowing about when it comes to the topic of Catholicism. The third poorest country in the Western hemisphere (behind Haiti and Nicaragua ), Honduras has been a place torn by political corruption, violence, disorganization, poverty, and indifference among the people. Ways to improve the country from within are very limited due to the lack of education, sophistication, and desire to improve. Yet, Catholicism still has a seat in this place.
 
Critics may say, “If Catholicism were so great, how could this country be in such shambles? The country would be better, not worse if Catholicism were truly great.” It is true that Honduras suffers greatly in many ways. For example, one Honduran city, San Pedro Sula , is now considered the most dangerous city in the world because of the overwhelming number of homicides happening there everyday. In Honduras, thieves tend not to discriminate either. Whether one is man or woman, boy or girl, native or foreigner, all should not be surprised if a man in dark clothing riding a bicycle stops, pulls out a knife, and demands one’s cell phone.
 
However, Catholicism is not the cause of these actions and ought not to be blamed. One must take a look at what Catholics have done for Honduras in order to see the true impact of Catholicism on this country. When one does take a look, the contributions the Church has made become ever so obvious.
 
First of all, Honduras has many Catholic schools and universities. Many young people receive an education learning English and acquiring knowledge in science, math, history, religion, and various other subjects. The Church gives them this opportunity if they or their parents so choose it.
 
Second of all, Honduras has many Catholic infirmaries. The sick and injured are given care. Granted, Honduras is a country with limited resources, but something is always better than nothing. Without these infirmaries, there would be much more suffering.
 
Third of all, Honduras has many churches. The majority of the churches are simple but beautiful in their own way. They are designed in a style not seen in the United States . Coming to church gives the people a sense of hope and joy they would not receive otherwise in a place often so desolate. One pleasantly surprising aspect of Honduras is that it seems to contain very few people who would consider themselves atheists, and people are generally not afraid to talk about God in their daily conversations. Whereas most people in the West consider the topic of God to be too sensitive and personal to talk about, Hondurans do not mind talking about what God has done for them in their lives. Sometimes, it takes a poor person to see God’s blessings.
 
Fourth of all, there are many Catholic missions in Honduras . These missions of lay people or religious orders carry out important corporal and spiritual tasks. Some groups may host retreats, Bible studies, and youth group activities, giving young people a community of which to be a part and grow closer to God. Other groups may bring food to the poor, take care of orphans, teach children who are referred to as “children of the street”, and travel to faraway homes to preach the Word of God. All of these actions are crucial for turning Honduras into a better place. When the youth are formed in the right way, in God’s way, then they will hopefully grow up with a selfless mindset instead of a selfish one.
 
Although Honduras has been a difficult place to live, as shown by the large number of emigrants in recent years, Catholicism has done its part in giving the place physical, intellectual, and spiritual help. May the patroness of Honduras , Our Lady of Suyapa, be a constant reminder that God is present in this country and will continue to help, if people start to go to Him.

Korean Catholicism

When thinking about the continent of Asia , many people assume the place to be filled with Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, and other unfamiliar religions of which the West has little experience. This was the case many years ago, but it is not the case today. It is important for people to understand Korean Catholicism in our modern world in order to have an enriched faith experience in their own situations.
 
Though many do not realize it, there are many Koreans in South Korea as well as the United States who are Catholic. According to statistics, about ten percent of South Koreans are Catholic. Ten percent may not seem like much, but for a country formally filled by Eastern religions, ten percent is a staggering number. Imagine one out of every ten people one meets in the United States is Buddhist (the current number is less than one percent). This number shows the openness of the people of Korea and how they are willing to change for what they believe is right, even when the vast majority of people are not in accord with their beliefs.
 
Attending a Korean Mass is a worthwhile experience. It is always interesting to note the unique cultural experiences that the priest and congregation bring to Mass when they are from countries other than one’s own. Korean churches often have a futuristic appearance and feel, something not seen in churches from other countries. The priests are usually down to earth and are able to connect well with the people.
 
What is most striking about Korean Catholicism is the devoutness of the people. Most of them faithfully participate during Mass, go to Confession, and practice devotions such as the rosary. One interesting thing to note is that many of the women continue to wear the veil on their heads during Mass. Many of both men and women will dress well during Mass and not take the event casually.
 
Also, during the Mass in Korea , one may experience a different sort of collection of donations. Instead of baskets being passed around, the people line up as if it were a Communion line, approach the altar, and slip their donation into a donation box. In addition, during the sign of peace, people do not shake hands, as is the tradition of the West. Instead, the people do a polite bow to each other and greet each other with peace, as is the tradition of some Eastern countries.
 
Although most ordinary objects owned by people contain the words “Made in China ” written on them, when it comes to religious objects, the words most commonly found are “Made in Italy ”. However, if one were to purchase religious items in Korea , one may commonly find the words “Made in Korea ”. This is a country whose Catholicism ought not to be neglected. Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, Saint Paul Chong Hasang, and many other Korean Catholic martyrs have proven God’s entry into this country, and its modern Catholic presence should continue to be recognized by Catholics. Asia ’s Catholicism is a pearl waiting to be discovered by the world. Korea is just a small part of this pearl.

Political Scheme for Catholics in China

Are people allowed to go to Mass in China? Do people go to jail because they are Catholic in China? Are there Bibles in China? Many people are unfamiliar with and often misinformed about the life Catholics are permitted to live in the People’s Republic of China. Their ideas regarding the political situation of China match those of the past reality and not those of the present. It is important, therefore, to update people about the political scheme surrounding Catholicism in China.

 

I will speak in the first-person in this article and explain my experience, knowledge, and observations of what Catholics are and are not allowed to do in China as well as the relationship between the government and the Church in China. Before coming to China, I was unsure of what truly to expect, and I even feared what the government would do if they knew my beliefs as a Catholic. I did not know if I could even bring a Bible into the country.

 

However, after entering China three times on different occasions and passing through customs, I realized that not only did they not check my bags for religious items, they did not check my bags at all. I could have brought a hundred Bibles into the country. They simply do not care. Even if there are laws regarding what can be brought into the country, which I do not know about, they do not enforce them.

 

After spending a couple days in Shanghai, I began looking for churches in which to attend Mass. I found Saint Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai. Yes, there are many cathedrals in China, with bishops. From my experience, all the churches I have visited seem not to be part of the government-run fake catholic church. They all seem to have been genuinely Catholic. However, the relationship between individual priests and bishops with the government is uncertain. One local woman who was about in her sixties or so explained to me in English that some priests are loyal to the Chinese government and some are loyal to Rome. I think the average person, however, cannot tell who follows whom. The main content of the Mass appears to be exactly the same as it is everywhere else in the world, so one cannot tell by the Mass alone.

 

Many people believe that the Church is underground in China. Everything I have mentioned so far has been the aboveground Catholicism. The same Chinese woman did tell me that there is an underground Church with a bishop. They are Catholic and are loyal to the pope and do not follow any of the restrictions the government tries to place on them. They remain underground because if they were to do what they do aboveground, they would most likely be imprisoned. The government does, in fact, restrict the actions and movements of certain priests, bishops, and even seminarians, not allowing them to visit certain people and places at times. I have heard this from many different people. This can be frustrating, though we must remember how much China has improved in recent years and pray for a continued change toward religious freedom.

 

Although the government sometimes uses a strong arm against religious leaders, the average person is left untouched. I have seen many smalls groups of people walking in the streets wearing shirts with Christian messages on them. Perhaps, the acceptance by the government of Christianity at the local level is because of the increasing number of population and ideas coming from the West, but I cannot tell exactly why. It could be that the government sees some economic or political gain by allowing Christianity in a general sense in China. Either way, what the Chinese government seems not to want is large demonstrations that challenge or threaten their power.

 

Catholics are allowed to go to Mass in China. They do not go to jail because they are openly Catholic. Bibles are in many places and can be purchased at many churches. Most Catholics can live the same way in China as they would be able to live in many other countries of the world. Although the communist government sometimes will assert its power, Catholicism still lives and operates in China in a vibrant and pleasant way.

Catholicism in China

Catholicism in China – it is one of the most interesting news topics that ought to be considered for Catholics in today’s world. With its current booming number of baptized Catholics and history of persecution, China and its Catholicism remain a matter filled with intrigue, misconception, and hopeful discovery: intrigue because of the vast interest and curiosity revolving around the subject, misconception because of the false impressions coming from the world about the lives of Catholics in China (especially regarding the political scheme), and hopeful discovery because of the blessings from God that exist in this country that have yet to be viewed by the world.

 

For thousands of years, China has been a country that has fascinated the minds of everyone who has come across an image, reading, or film of it. The stark difference of it from the Western world leaves the West with a mixed sense of fear and wonder. Christianity as a whole has largely been associated with the West. To conceive of such a religion in a place far different from the West is a hard concept to grasp by Westerners. Yet, one should keep in mind the origins of Christianity. It has not always existed in such familiar places. It was in Israel that Jesus Christ was born. There it was that Christianity first was born. Egypt for more than 1,500 years has harbored Christians throughout the ever-changing world. If places such as these have been bases for Christianity, is it so farfetched to believe that the same could happen in modern China?

 

The truth is that Catholicism in China has been on a rapid rise. Large numbers of Chinese agnostics and non-Catholic Christians are becoming baptized Catholics. In China, it is not surprising to find a Mass where fifteen or so adults are being baptized. Yes, adults. Though babies are also baptized, the large number of adults being baptized is a spectacle not often seen in the West. This sweeping wind of adult believers testifies to the honest faith and search for Truth of the Chinese people. Many are seeking what has been missing in their lives and finding it in the Catholic Church. This certainly is a matter of intrigue; a land previously focused on Buddhism, Confucianism, and Communism is now making a move towards Christ. Granted, Catholicism is a minority in this largely secular place, but that is not stopping honest truth-seekers from coming to the Church in the hope of living a better life with God.

 

Nonetheless, the misconceptions about Catholicism in China tend to prevail. Some may ask if one is allowed to go to Mass in China. The answer is, absolutely. There are numerous Catholic churches spread throughout the country, and each big city will have several of them. They offer Sunday Mass in Chinese regularly and often times in other languages as well. Daily Masses are also celebrated in many parishes. For example, Saint Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai offers two daily Masses per day along with several Sunday Masses, one being in English. Both Chinese natives and foreign visitors come together in church and celebrate the beauty that exists in God. It is a sight to see.

 

There is great hope for Catholicism in China. Chinese priests in general are quite friendly, down to Earth, and enjoy serving the people in many ways. Most priests sing during different parts of the Mass every Sunday. They sprinkle the people with holy water, use incense, and give thought-out homilies. As far as Mass in China goes, the minimum effort is not the case. The congregation is packed with devout believers who pray and sing. Many, especially elderly people, receive Communion in a very respectful manner. Some of these Chinese Catholics have been Catholic their whole lives, perhaps over eighty years, and are still willing to kneel during the consecration of the Mass. They are quite familiar with Catholic doctrine, the saints, and the pope. The rosary is a daily part of their lives. When one begins to discover the Catholicism that exists in China, there is no doubt that the inspiration to change will be knocking at the door of one’s heart.

 

Do not be surprised that there are places in our modern world where Catholicism is growing. Although the decline of the Church in the West has led many to forget about Christ, China is giving Christ a home more and more as His name begins to be known by people who want to know Him.