Proposing silence in an unbridled culture

Jul 17 , 2019 Stories

Ask Jesuit Father LEE Huyn June, SJ about the defining characteristic of the youth apostolate in Korea and he'll tell you that he deals with young adults who are always "super busy". Either they are full-time students, dealing with the pressure for unreasonably high academic results that is endemic in North Asian countries, or they are juggling their responsibilities between studies and a job that can provide a living wage. As the Seoul-based animator for Magis-Korea in Seoul, Fr. LEE sees clear evidence that religion and spirituality, while important to young adults, are usually not at the forefront of their daily concerns. Yet, Huyn June insists, young people are thirsty and hungry for something other than a frenetic life till death.

This is part of Magis-Korea's challenge: to invite young people to pause, leave the superficiality of their "super-busy" lives, and allow themselves be led on the path to interiority. The crown jewel of the Magis program are weekends of silence retreat where participants are introduced to the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, but Fr. LEE understands that the youth usually need a few steps before those weekends to prepare themselves for the experience. As such, Magis starts with group meetings, moments of prayer, and participation in Magis activities with people from other countries, especially within the Magis experience that is offered during World Youth Day.

In the 1980's, young Koreans joined the Catholic Church in large numbers, but to do so back then was seen as a way to express opposition to an authoritarian state regime. The socio-political climate has changed significantly since those days: Young Koreans are similar to young Westerners in that they feel little attraction to embrace the older institutions, including religious institutions such as the Catholic Church. In a country with a religious history largely grounded in Buddhist tradition, adherence to the Christian faith must be a considered personal choice. In making that choice, Fr. LEE suggests that the path to interiority offered by the Ignatian tradition can, perhaps better than other traditional approaches, satisfy the thirst for the "greatest", the "truest".

Young people from various Magis groups met Father General during his visit to Seoul. Father Arturo spoke to them, stressing that Jesuits need THEM to find a way to a better future in a world that bears so many wounds. [Click here to read Father General's message to the young Koreans.] One of the participants asked Fr. General whether, as in any organization, the Church should live in a hierarchical regime. Father Sosa replied that what Jesus wanted was not a "hierarchy", important figures who are held above others, but an environment of mutual service where ministers prepare the way, invite people to the table, gather others and allow everyone to serve according to their talents. This is the type of Church proposed by Pope Francis, in line with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.