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I WAS A PROUD RATIONALIST

A personal testimony by Hak Ja Kim
(Miss Hak Ja Kim, a college student in Korea.)

I belong to the so-called new generation. In high school, I learned about the Renaissance, Enlightenment and rationalism in a positive context. Now, I am an engineering student specializing in communications technology. I have been a cradle Catholic, but, to me, religion was not much more than restrictions on my life. I think there were two main reasons for that. First, I considered the Bible a collection of fables written for educational purposes. Second, I was influenced by rationalism without realizing it. I am used to studying electric currents and data flow in computers, which are not visible to our eyes but can be confirmed through experiments. After learning about their existence and movement, equations can be formulated. With regard to faith, it was not possible to find proofs through experiments. For the past twenty some years, my faith was out of habit, going to Mass on Sundays and occasionally making Confessions in a hurried way.

It was only recently that I happened to open the Naju homepage on the Internet. I was shocked to see the photos of the Blessed Mother shedding tears and tears of blood through her statue and the Sacred Host turning into visible flesh and blood in Julia Kim’s mouth. It was an experience that began changing my entire faith life. The Blessed Mother was telling me, weeping tears of blood, that the Church doctrines concerning her were not human fictions but had a heavenly origin and that Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. I have not witnessed the Sacred Hosts miraculously coming down in the Chapel in Naju as Raphael Song and many others did, but the photographs of the miracles were sufficient for me to become shaken up. The Blessed Mother’s tears were signs that were melting my hardened heart and transforming my mind that had perceived faith only in intellectual terms. Only after seeing the signs from the Blessed Mother, my eyes became open to the words in the Bible. What was recorded in the Bible were not only historical events two thousand years ago but are also living words for my present reality. Jesus is truly God and truly man; He truly died on the cross; and He truly resurrected from death.

On the last Palm Sunday, while listening to the Gospel reading, I wept like never before in my life. I realized that I had been crucifying Jesus for the past twenty years with my hardened heart filled with pride and selfishness. I could not control my tears. Because I tried so hard to control my weeping, I began feeling pain in my throat. Since then, I become deeply moved whenever I read the Bible. Yesterday, April 11, 1999, was the Second Sunday after Easter. The Gospel reading was about the doubting Thomas. I felt that I had been like Thomas, saying, "I demand a proof," and, "Explain it in a rational way." The priest told us a story during the sermon:

There were loggers in a jungle, using an elephant to move cut trees. The elephant was working very effectively with its powerful trunk. During the lunch break, the loggers tied one of the elephant’s legs to a little stake with a weak rope. Then, the elephant did not move away, even though it could easily cut the rope with its strong leg. What was the reason? It was because the elephant had been tied to the stake since its infancy, and it had believed all along that it was not possible to get away once it was tied to a stake. Even though it had grown up and became more powerful, it did not change its way of thinking.

God has given us the power to feel the love from the infinite God, only if we change our way of thinking a little bit. However, we remain tied to the little knowledge that we have, as if it were the ultimate truth and everything that is important in the world. Our Lord has given us free will so that we may become freed from our bondage, but we keep demanding visible proofs like the doubting Thomas. I can understand how Thomas must have felt when Jesus told him to touch the nailmarks in His hands and His side. Without actually touching them, he must have prostrated himself before the Lord and professed his faith. Whenever I heard this story about Thomas, I used to laugh at him. But now I realize that I have been worse than he, because I believed only after seeing the signs from the Blessed Mother. The Germans who believed after seeing the sacred statues were more simple people than myself, because I was demanding not statues but proofs.

Some say that the story about Thomas is a fiction, made up to strengthen people’s faith. They say that there are many Bible scholars claiming this. However, I cannot understand them. To me, a big change has occurred since the moment I replaced my perception of the Bible as a collection of educational fables with a new realization that it was about true reality. I am worried that some people who are like me may be misled by such claims.

Every word that a priest says can have a powerful effect on the faithful. I am not worthy to say this, but I think that those who are smart, well-educated and well-armed with reasoning are causing a greater harm to the Church (than those who are not). Mysteries are being despised, because they cannot be explained in a rational way. The truths that have been preserved in the Catholic Church all the time are gradually losing light. In the new, revised prayer book (in Korea), the prayer to guardian angels is missing. Now, those who enter the Church can only think of guardian angels as pretty characters in children’s stories.

Now is the time when people invent their own God whom they can understand and accept and worship him. I see such an example in the case of my father. He studied for several years at a Catholic seminary until he left for health reasons. He was trained in Latin, philosophy and theology. My mother, on the other hand, did not go to college, but converted from the Presbyterian denomination to the Catholic Faith at the time of marriage. Now, my father is a non-practicing Catholic, while my mother is a fervent Catholic. Sometimes they debate about religion, but my mother is no match for my father. It is only recently that I began doubting that the God my father has known is truly the real God. Before, I always thought that my father’s reasoning was correct. But now I am frightened at the thought that, if my father became a priest with the same thoughts that he has now, he would be leading so many people into errors, even though if he became a priest while praying harder, asking for wisdom, he could have overcome his errors through the grace from the Blessed Mother.

Peter, who was the rock upon which Jesus built His Church, was a fisherman with little education. Jesus had a special love for children. The Blessed Mother has usually appeared to children. It was not because children have more knowledge but because they are simpler and can recognize the Lord’s truth more readily. It may seem that rationalism, intellectualism, and many kinds of knowledge make us smarter. It is also possible that they become a trap that ties us up. If the ability that God has given us is not used for God but is used for distorting the truth and for making people proud, even making them feel higher than God, it will become a poison. If the intellect is used for spreading errors and enhancing one’s own honor, it will only lead one to destruction. I am not very smart, but have been proud of myself. Those who are truly smart may be facing an even greater danger. That is why I feel pressed for praying for them.

—from Mary’s Touch, May 1999 Newsletter

 

 



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