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A CALL TO THE CATHOLIC FAITH AND MISSION

A TESTIMONY AND REPORT

July 18, 2010

By Benedict Sang M. Lee

 

 

  1. My conversion to the Catholic Faith
  2. I was born and grew up in a Presbyterian family in Korea. My father was a clergyman, who was active in social work as Secretary General of the YMCA in Taegu, Korea. In my high-school years (the early 1960s), which was the time for preparing for adulthood, I felt the need to become better informed as a Christian and, for that purpose, wanted to familiarize myself with the truth about the Catholic Church, as the Catholic Church had existed for fifteen centuries since the early times of the Twelve Apostles before the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century. Even at some Protestant churches and in the high-school classes, I had sometimes heard about Fr. Francis of Assisi ant St. Thomas Aquinas, and also learned that many of the great musicians like Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, and Gounot, and artists like Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci were Catholics. I wanted to know for sure if the Catholic Church had really been so bad and, therefore, abandoned by God and had to be replaced by the Protestant churches. I was seeking an objectively correct discernment that was acceptable to my conscience. For the next two years, I was intently involved in reading many Catholic books, even neglecting much of my regular studies at high school. I was most impressed by the books on the lives of the Saints and the Catholic teachings since the era of the early Church Fathers. It really surprised and pleased me to see that the Catholic Church was teaching (1) the truths to believe, (2) the moral commandments to observe, and (3) the nature of the Sacraments in the most convenient form of Catechism, which was simple and yet so clear, profound, and definitive. The Catholic Church was teaching all these contents with the authority from the Lord Himself. I became convinced that the Church founded by the Lord and being sustained by the Holy Spirit could never be replaced by "the new churches" started by humans. I knew there were imperfections and mistakes among the members of the Church, but the Church herself was of a divine origin and foundation, was an instrument of God Himself for His plan of human salvation, and contained the absolute truths and the sanctifying power from God, the best evidence of which was the production of thousands and thousands of martyrs and other Saints during the past 2,000 years. I also learned that most of the criticisms of the Catholic Church by the Protestants were not correct and were mostly the consequences of prejudice and ignorance. On September 25, 1964, the Feast of the Korean martyrs, I was baptized into the Catholic Church in Taegu. I was so happy to become a Catholic, even though my initial intention in studying the Catholic Faith was not to become a Catholic but only to become a better Protestant Christian. Then, I entered a Catholic college in Seoul, established by the Jesuit priests from Wisconsin in the United States (1965). In that college, I majored in Economics but also had some opportunities to learn more about the Church teachings.

     

    My father had a stroke in January 1964 and my mother looked after him for the next six years. In 1970 when I was nearing the end of my military service, my father consented to receive the Sacrament of the Sick from a Catholic monsignor with the Catholic name of Francisco, two days before he passed away. My mother and I came to the United States in 1972, and I continued the study of economics at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. I was married in 1978, and my mother and wife converted to the Catholic Faith and were baptized in Chicago in 1980. Our son, Christopher, was born in October 1979.

     

  3. Called to a Mission
  4. After the graduate study at Notre Dame, I taught at a college in Illinois for six years (1977-1983) and, then, worked at a bank in Portland, Oregon, for 3.5 years (1983-1987). From 1987, I worked for a different company in Oregon managing a new department for trading with Korea. In early 1991, I left that company to begin a family-owned business. While doing that, my family wanted to become more devoted to Our Lord and Our Lady and consecrated ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary at a small Croatian church in Portland, Oregon (St. Birgitta's) in May 1991. I liked the work I had been doing, but there had always been a sense of concern in my heart that I was not doing enough for seeking God's Will and doing His Work. We only live once in this world, and, if we do not work for God, our life may not be a true success regardless of what the world may say about us.

    On August 15 of the same year, after the Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Portland, I took a photograph of the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was touring different cities in the United States and was placed in the front of the church at the shrine on that day. I wanted a good photographic image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which could be placed in our living room. Many other people were also taking photographs of the Image and praying before the Image. When the photograph was developed, we saw that there were several unexpected images of the Eucharist and others in the photo, and we gradually felt that this was not a casual occurrence but a sign from the Blessed Mother, calling us and others who see and appreciate this photograph to a mission. People around us also saw the photograph and were amazed. A Korean lady in Los Angeles even smelled the fragrance of roses when she opened the package from us containing copies of this photo and asked us if we had sprayed perfume on the photos before mailing them. Many people in different States requested this photograph and we sent out about 20,000 copies over the next few years. We are still sending this photo to whoever requests it. This photo is also displayed and explained on our website: www.marys-touch.com. This photograph has been a source of much comfort and encouragement to us, as it reminds us of the ever-present, the most caring and loving protection and help by the Blessed Mother. It also seems to describe the approaching triumph of Our Lady. Of course, our private discernment will be subjected to the official discernment by the Church, if there will ever be such official discernment.

    On August 22, 1991, Christopher, our 11 year-old son, and I began our first-ever trip to Europe. My wife stayed home to look after my mother. Before going to a business appointment in Germany, we made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, which was a very special grace-filled experience. Two months later, in mid-October 1991, I made another business trip to Seoul, Korea. On a Saturday in Korea (October 19, 1991), I took an express bus to Naju to take a few photographs of the Blessed Mother's weeping statue, if possible. I had been anxious to visit and see that place, as I had read about it in several newspapers and seen it in the video: Marian Apparitions of the 20th Century. After a five-hour bus ride, I arrived at the Blessed Mother's Chapel in Naju at near sunset. There were many people gathered to participate in the overnight prayer meeting on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the Blessed Mother's first shedding of tears of blood. I had not known about the anniversary before I got there.

     

  5. Became connected to Naju
  6. That night in Naju, I was deeply impressed by the Blessed Mother's tears in her left eye, which Julia later explained to be tears of joy, and the fragrance of roses filling the whole Chapel all night and also by Julia Kim's powerful and moving testimony. The fragrance was very strong, sweet and pleasant, and never tiring. It was unlike any scent of this world. It smelled quite similar to the scent of roses but not the same. I realized that this was the fragrance that I had read about in the Lives of the Saints. Noticing that there was no English publication in Naju, I offered to Julio Kim (Julia's husband) that I would translate the messages into English and spread the information in the United States. I went to Naju to take a few photographs, but it turned out to be an experience and occasion that would change my whole life and my family's.

    After returning home in Oregon, the work of translating the original Korean messages into English proceeded fast and was completed in a few months. As I did not intend to publish the message book myself, because I knew nothing about publishing a book, I asked Dr. Tom Petrisko of Pittsburgh Center for Peace to publish it. He agreed, but later asked me to publish it myself. So, unexpectedly, I found myself directly involved in publishing and distributing the English edition of the Naju message book. Before sending the English manuscript to the printing company in Illinois, I sent it to Fr. Raymond Spies in Korea for his examination and permission, as he was Julia's spiritual director. Only much later, I learned that, at that time, Fr. Spies was not eager to give me the permission, as he had never met me and had been informed by a lady, a school teacher in Canada, that she would translate the messages in French (already translated from the Korean original by Fr. Spies) into English. For many months, however, this lady had not been making any progress. When Fr. Spies received the manuscript of the English translation by Express Mail from me (This was in May 1992), he was overwhelmed with surprise and joy, because the package containing the manuscript was giving off a very strong fragrance of roses even from the post office in Fr. Spies' town. Of course, this fragrance had not been anticipated by anyone including myself. This unexpected phenomenon of the fragrance was perceived by us as a sign from the Blessed Mother calling us to spread the Naju information in English. Filled with excitement and joy, Fr. Spies called me at 1:30 A.M., Oregon time, and enthusiastically gave me the permission to publish the book. Several months later, in October 1992, Chris and I visited Fr. Spies' residence located just south of Seoul after our pilgrimage to Naju and delivered a box of the new English message books, which gave much joy to him. Later, in October 1998, I had another opportunity to visit Fr. Spies together with a pilgrim from Iowa. In his small chapel, Fr. Spies was keeping the pieces of the Eucharist (in a small monstrance or reliquary) that had come down during the visit of the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giovanni Bulaitis, to the Chapel in Naju on November 24, 1994.

     

  7. Established Mary's Touch By Mail
  8. When I was beginning to promote the information about Naju, I chose the method of mailing through the post office, because I had a few years' experience in the mail-order business at the company I had been working for previously. My plan was to do this work with the funds generated from our family-owned company. But, soon, it became clear that I was devoting almost all of my time and resources to the work for the Blessed Mother, because the workload kept increasing as we were publishing not only the message book but also other books, pamphlets, newsletters, and videos about Naju. I simply could not focus on the family business any longer, which also required full dedication to become successful. We finally made the decision to discontinue the family business and become totally devoted to the work for the Blessed Mother as my family had promised during our consecration at St. Birgitta's in May 1991. My wife and our son cooperated without any hesitation despite the certainty of the anticipated financial difficulties for the family. There actually was the serious question of financial feasibility of the new work, but we were not too concerned about it. We were too eager to go ahead with the missionary work. Because I was working full-time for this work, I had to receive some salary: $7,000 in the first year and $10,000 in the second, but these were not enough even to make the mortgage payment. We drastically lowered our standard of living, but were happy and excited with the new frugal way of life. As our past savings were disappearing, however, my salary had to be gradually raised to enable us to pay the bills every month. Of course, I alone could not handle all of the duties in the Organization. It is Chris who has been doing many kinds of difficult professional work such as accounting, taxes, proofreading, typesetting, updating the website, video editing and production, and many others. Chris has been doing all these tasks for the past 19 years without any pay. From 2000, he has been away from home for his graduate study and, then, for his work. He came home once or twice per month to take care of the accumulated work for Mary's Touch By Mail. If he did not do this and I had to hire somebody else, the Organization would not have survived the financial burden. In 1992, we registered ourselves as a corporation called: Mary's Touch By Mail with the State of Oregon. In 1993, Mary's Touch By Mail was recognized by the IRS as a non-profit corporation, which opened the door for receiving donations, which would be tax-deductible to those who give donations to Mary's Touch By Mail. Our spiritual director was Fr. Milan Mikulich, the Pastor at St. Birgitta Church in Portland, but, about a year later, he permanently moved to Croatia because of his health problems. So, in 1993, we asked Fr. Robert Billett, the Superior of the Claritian Missionary Priests in Los Angeles, to be our spiritual director, and he graciously consented. We were so happy and honored because we had much respect for Fr. Billett for his strong Catholic Faith and much experience in the Church.

     

  9. What we have done so far
  10. Now, in 2010, our organization is in its 19th year of existence, which may seem quite remarkable considering our small size and financial weakness. Until now, we published 10 books, 9 color pamphlets, 10 videos/DVDs, and many newsletters in English. We also published one Spanish message book with help from Mexico for translation. We published 4 books in Korean: two were collections of articles defending Naju and two others were Korean translations from Fr. Stefano Manelli's book: Jesus Our Eucharistic Love and Professor Dietrich Hildebrand's Trojan Horse in the City of God, with permission from the copyright owners. I wanted to translate and promote these two books, because they could be very helpful and effective for the true renewal among the members of the Church and also because the ultimate purpose of Naju is the propagation and revitalization of the authentic Catholic Faith worldwide and the true renewal of the life in the Catholic Church. These two books were printed and distributed through a company in Korea. I also wrote and translated numerous articles in English and Korean about Naju and the Catholic Faith. We have also sent out about a hundred thousand color photographs of the Blessed Mother's weeping, the Eucharistic miracles, and the Precious Blood of Our Lord in Naju, as we have been keenly aware of the powerful effect that color photographs can have on people's minds. In addition, we have sent frequent reports to the Holy See, especially, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Holy See to keep them current on Naju. Our report-making to the Holy See has not been a normal, official activity but an extraordinary and voluntary function, simply because the hierarchy in Korea has not been reporting to the Holy See on the facts of Naju since their beginning. His Eminence Cardinal Ivan Dias, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, personally thanked and asked me to continue sending reports to his Congregation during the visit that Fr. Aloysius Chang and I made to the Vatican on February 16, 2008. (The Cardinal, however, declined to receive any verbal reports from me.) Also, in August 1998, several months after the Kwangju Archdiocese's announcement of its negative Declaration on Naju, Archbishop Marcello Zago, OMI, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, wrote to us thanking for the materials that we had sent to the Congregation. As Korea is still considered a mission territory, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has the authority and responsibility to guide and oversee the Church in Korea. The Prefect of this Congregation is the direct pastoral superior to the hierarchy in Korea. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also becomes involved whenever there are important doctrinal and theological issues.

    In October 1993, Julia came to the United States and spoke at several churches in Los Angeles, CA; Tacoma, WA; and Beaverton, OR. She came again in 1994 to speak at churches in Los Angeles; Pittsburgh, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Toronto, Canada; and Honolulu and Kailua, HI (A Eucharistic miracle occurred at St. Anthony's Church in Kailua on November 2, 1994). In 1997, she visited Hong Kong and Macao in May and several churches in Los Angeles and the Convention Center in Long Beach, CA in November. In 2005, she visited Manila and Cebu in the Philippines. In these trips, I served as her interpreter.

    We also organized pilgrimages from the United States to Naju in 1995 and 1996. In addition, we made personal pilgrimages to Naju in 1992, 1997, 1998, 2003, and 2005 to renew and strengthen our faith and also to promote the cooperation with the volunteer helpers in Naju. Nevertheless, we have never established any legal, financial, managerial or any other formal ties with Naju. We have been completely independent of each other except in the areas of exchanging information and in my service of translation for Naju. In the work of establishing Mary's Touch By Mail in 1992, Julia and others in Naju did not play any role (except prayers). The financial, organizational, and managerial independence and separation between Mary's Touch By Mail and Naju will remain unchanged. The cooperation in working for the Blessed Mother's cause, however, will continue.

    In February 2008, Fr. Aloysius Chang and I went to the Vatican and visited the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Congregation for the Clergy. Since 1997, we have not organized any pilgrimages, because it would take up too much of our time away from our main work of production and propagation of the publications. Since then, the pilgrimages to Naju have been organized by two ladies in California: Ms. Yolanda ChanKuo in San Francisco and Ms. Judy Navarrete in Los Angeles. Both ladies have been full-time nurses and have been doing the pilgrimage work as a service.

    In 2005, I went to St. Louis, MO to give testimony at a church and several homes and also spoke at a few churches and homes in Portland, OR at various times. It appears that such talks are helpful in reinforcing the effects of the publications.

    Distribution of our publications is done in two different ways: (1) sales to the Catholic bookstores and individuals; and (2) free shipments to individuals in the United States and many other countries. Before the Kwangju Archdiocese's negative Declaration on Naju issued in January 1998, the sales accounted for a substantial portion of our total revenues. After January 1998, the sales plummeted, while free shipments increased and became several times more than sales. In the past several years, the sales were less than a tenth of the total revenues. The incoming donations were stable for several years after 1998, but, in recent years, have decreased substantially resulting in large deficits of several tens of thousands of dollars in every year since 2005. Increases in both the sales and donations are urgently needed to prevent a financial crisis and to expand our shipments of publications both domestically and worldwide.

     

  11. A hostile IRS audit was concluded on June 30, 2010
  12. The IRS office in Seattle, Washington, began the audit of the Organization in February 2007. We were not worried but welcomed the audit, because we had been faithful to our stated goal and had managed the work and financials conscientiously and also because the audit could be an opportunity to learn more about the IRS rules and correct whatever mistakes we might have made out of ignorance about the IRS rules. We soon learned, however, that the auditing agent, a young immigrant from Southeast Asia, was strongly prejudiced against us and our work. From her first visit, she was talking about taking away our non-profit status, portraying us as commercial booksellers disguising as religious workers and as the agents and workers for the individual: Julia Kim in Korea. She kept on making totally groundless accusations and also making frequent mistakes in calculation. We even suspected that she probably had been influenced by the opponents of Naju, as they have many Korean helpers living in this country. We protested to her superior in Seattle and asked for her replacement. Her superior admitted some mistakes by the agent, but did not replace her. The continuation of this irresponsible audit was taking away so much of our precious time and also creating an uncertainty for the future of the Organization, as the agent intended to revoke our non-profit status.

    After two years of the audit, she wrote her formal reports, in which she recommended the revocation of our non-profit status and heavy penalties of extra taxes. We appealed to the IRS Appeals Office and, recently, the appeals process was completed in a very satisfactory way during a phone conference on June 3, 2010 (the Feast of Corpus Christi), and formal letters were received on June 30, 2010 (the 25th anniversary of Our Lady's first tears in Naju). The appeals officer based in Houston, Texas, ruled that our non-profit status would remain valid and we would only have to pay a small amount of extra tax instead of the huge amount proposed by the agent. The appeals officer acknowledged that the agent had made a number of inappropriate judgments and incorrect calculations. We did not think even the small amount of extra tax was justified, but were happy to end this disturbing audit process as soon as possible by accepting the appeals officer's offer. We have learned that the IRS appeals office would not let people go free without paying some tax. So, we are very satisfied and grateful to the Lord and the Blessed Mother for this victory and for removing the annoying burden from our shoulders. Now, we are ready to refocus on our mission. The appeals officer also made a suggestion that we add two more Directors, preferably Church officials. We invited a retired Bishop in Canada and a layperson in California to be Directors of Mary's Touch By Mail, and they graciously consented.

     

  13. Our goal: Helping the Evangelization of the world and Revitalization of the Catholic Church

The messages and miraculous signs in Naju are not new public revelations intended to alter or complete the truths that have already been revealed and entrusted to the Church. Rather, their role is to awaken, prod, and encourage as many people as possible to clearly understand and faithfully practice the teachings of the Church, which are actually God's own teachings expressed and organized in human languages by the Church with the authority and guidance given to the Church by the Lord. The widespread negligence and confusion regarding these official Church teachings and moral commandments especially since the end of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s have led so many priests and lay people to go astray. Many of them have ceased to be the light and the salt that can enlighten and rescue people from their sins and restore them to spiritual and moral health. Because of the rampant and deep-rooted errors and bad examples in our current world, the Holy Father and the Bishops in union with the Holy Father can turn the tide around only with the most vigorous and self-sacrificing efforts by many individuals (both the clergy and the laity) to help carry the burden of this tremendous work. That is why God has been giving us the powerful messages and countless miraculous signs in Naju, Korea, for the past 25 years – to motivate and mobilize more people to work for the truth and justice from God. The devil is making his desperate efforts to prevent and ruin all this, especially through the priests unfaithful to the Lord. But, with the dedicated help from many little souls, the Blessed Mother will succeed in accomplishing the task given to her by God to defeat the devil and restore truth, order, and peace on earth.

The goal of Mary's Touch By Mail is to spread the information about the messages and signs in Naju in the correct context of the official Church teachings to the maximum number of people in the whole world. Achievement of this goal is far beyond the limited abilities of Mary's Touch By Mail alone. We sincerely invite every individual who reads this testimony and report to think more seriously about working for Our Lord's Will and Our Lady's Plan by participating in the critical efforts to change the world and renew the Church especially through fervent prayers and active efforts to defend and spread the truths. Everyone is given precious time, specific talents, and other means that can be mobilized for the work of realizing God's Will and His Kingdom.

 

One additional note: Regarding the question of how to respond to the Blessed Mother's call in Naju, some say that they will wait until the official recognition of Naju by the Church. The fact is that Pope John Paul II already formally recognized the Eucharistic miracle through Julia that he had witnessed in his private chapel in the Vatican on October 31, 1995. Accordingly, the Holy See permitted the public display of the photographs and explanations of the Eucharistic miracle of October 31, 1995 at St. Michael the Archangel's Church near St. Padre Pio's shrine at San Giovanni Rotondo and also the nationwide TV broadcasting in Italy of the same miracle from May 2001. Pope John Paul II urged the Korean Bishops to approve Naju, at least on two occasions when the Bishops were in Rome on their ad limina visits (1996 and 2001); and Cardinal Ivan Dias also strongly requested the Korean Bishops in December 2007 to approve Naju, but the church hierarchy in Korea has been resisting (actually disobedient to) the instructions of the Holy Father and the Cardinal Prefect.

The cause of this incredible anomaly in the relationship between the Holy See and the local church in Korea has been the powerful and stubborn modernist priests in Korea, many of whom were educated in Germany in the 1970s and have been deeply into the so-called Liberation Theology, which seeks just and equal political, social, and economic conditions in the society and despises the traditional Catholic teachings and Tradition. They have also been in the key positions of every diocese in Korea and adamantly opposed to Naju and persecuting the pilgrims to Naju. They despise everything in the Church that is supernatural and indicates God's direct intervention in the Church and human history including the messages and miracles. The Church in Korea is in a grave crisis because of this. Many priests there are saying that other religions are also valid ways of human salvation. Some even deny the historical facts of Our Lord's Resurrection and Our Lady's Immaculate Conception. Many of the priests in Korea say that Our Lord's feeding five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fishes was not a real miracle. Many are in favor of female priesthood and the revoking of the priestly vow of celibacy. Those of us who are delaying their visits to Naju and refraining from the promotion of the Naju information until the official recognition of Naju in the spirit of obedience may be allowing themselves to become victims of the false information and illicit threats spread by the modernist priests in Korea who have vowed that they would block the official church recognition of Naju as long as they live, which seems to mean that they are determined to fight God.

Also, if the shepherds in the outskirts of Bethlehem two thousand years ago heard the good news from the angels and decided to wait until the High Priests in Jerusalem approved, they would never have succeeded in visiting and worshiping the Baby Jesus. If we have already witnessed the information about the signs and messages with our own eyes or ears, and are convinced of their truthfulness according to our conscience and the Faith that we received from the Church, then, we have to act now. If we remain silent and inactive, we would be contradicting our conscience and faith and failing to be witnesses for God. If everybody waits until the official announcement of the recognition, how can there be fruits, and, without fruits, how can the Church observe and discern? Also, in early April of this year, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, said to Cardinal Ivan Dias that His Holiness is favorable on Naju. The liberal priests in Korea now say that the Pope is the Bishop of Rome and they have their own Bishops. This is an act of defiance, revolt, and disobedience that does not belong to the Catholic Church. Also, the modernist priests say that there is no evidence to prove that "the miracles" in Naju are from God, but they are the ones who have refused to conduct scientific tests of the miraculous evidence in Naju for 25 years and have ignored the DNA tests that have already been done at the most reputable laboratories in Korea. It is obvious that their intention is to destroy and bury Naju regardless of whether it is truly from God or not.

This is the darkest and saddest moment of the history of the Catholic Church in Korea. I don't think it will take too long for the Church in Korea, dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Gregory XVI in the 1860s and which produced 20,000 martyrs in the 18th and 19th Centuries, to overcome the current crisis, restore its splendor of the past, and play an important role in evangelizing the world and renewing the Universal Church.

 

Benedict Sang M. Lee
Mary's Touch By Mail
Gresham, Oregon
U. S. A.


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