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MY EXPERIENCE WITH NAJU

By Hak Yoon, a lawyer
Seoul, Korea
(Reprinted from Catholic Digest Korea, the February 1999 issue)

I first heard about Naju from a priest, who was studying theology in Rome. At that time, I was a lukewarm Catholic, not even attending Mass regularly. This priest was spending his vacation in Korea. It was amazing that I even made a confession to him. I wept a lot while making the confession. The tears that I was shedding were coming from my deep-seated desire to amend my life.

After Mass, the priest was riding in my car. I invited him to visit my house and bless it, as we had moved into it only a while earlier. He did come and bless the house. Then, he took out a small ball of cotton and asked me to smell it. It was a fresh, mysterious fragrance of roses permeating my whole body. I had never smelled this fragrance before.

The priest said that the cotton ball had absorbed fragrant oil from the Blessed Mother’s statue in Naju. Then, he told me about his mysterious experiences in Naju. He also explained the meaning of the tears and tears of blood that were flowing from the Blessed Mother’s statue. The priest’s voice was gentle and clear. This gentleness and clarity of his words sounded to me like an invitation to become interested in Naju.

I decided to find some time to visit Naju. If what I had been hearing about Naju were true, it must have been an important event that could change my whole mindset toward everything in the world.

However, I also thought that there was a possibility of someone intentionally fabricating tears and tears of blood, throwing down the hosts, and spraying perfume. It was not possible for me to believe such significant events without personally checking them out.

I visited Naju with my mind filled with curiosity. I examined the ceiling from which it was said that the Eucharist had come down. I also examined possibilities of artificially spraying the perfume of roses. I did the examination like a lawyer, but could not find any evidence of fabrication. Later during the same trip, I visited the "miraculous" spring on a mountain near Naju and smelled the fragrance of roses while praying there. I also smelled the same fragrance after I came back to Seoul and was working in my office. My doubts were weakening.

After these mysterious experiences, I began attending early-morning Masses on weekdays. The experiences in Naju gave me new eyes to view the world.

Then, last year, I was greatly shocked by the Kwangju Archbishop’s Declaration on Naju. According to the Declaration, the changes in my life came from a foolishness with which I believed in fabrications and plagiarism.

For several days, I was struggling in confusion. I read the Declaration again and again to get out of the confusion. However, the more I read the Declaration, the more strongly I felt that the Declaration contained many problems. When I read the Bible, I feel more and more convinced that it is the truth, the more I read it. However, when I was reading the Declaration, I had a depressing and stifling feeling that I feel when I read something that is not true.

The Declaration was announced in the name of the Church, but did not have the warm concern for the faithful or the fervor for the truth that we find in dignified documents. It was restricting people’s basic rights to read, write and see without sincerely and clearly explaining the reasons. Furthermore, the Declaration was quoting from Church doctrines, distorting the sentences and presenting meanings that are totally different from the originally-intended meanings.

After finding these several obvious errors in the Declaration, I could not help thinking that the Kwangju Archdiocese made a wrong judgment. I could not erase the thought in my mind that the Archdiocese, which should be leading the faithful in practicing love and respecting the truth, made a decision that contradicted the truth and treated the faithful carelessly. And it did it in the name of the teaching authority …

I continued examining more information about Naju and found the following amazing facts.

When Archbishop Bulaitis, the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio, visited Naju, the Eucharist came down. The Apostolic Pro-Nuncio did not have any doubts but consumed a piece of the Sacred Host and gave Communion to people who were in the Chapel. With just one Sacred Host, he gave Communion to about 70 people. (Two small pieces have been preserved.) In 1990, Bishop Hak Soon Chi saw the Blessed Mother shedding tears and tears of blood through her statue. He prayed, wept, and wrote down, "I surely saw and firmly believe." Bishop Chang Yeol Kim of Cheju also came to Naju and witnessed the Eucharist that miraculously appeared before his eyes.

After learning these facts, I had the following thoughts. Why did the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio, other bishops and priests visit Naju? It must have been for the purpose of becoming more faithful to their priestly duty of being good leaders for the faithful. Also, their humble minds with which they could understand the Blessed Mother’s sufferings as God’s children must have led them to Naju.

However, the Kwangju Archbishop and the priests who became the leading members of the Naju Investigating Committee had ignored the events in Naju for more than 10 years, even though these events were happening within their own diocese. Only after learning about the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio’s visit, they hurriedly formed a committee.

Many theologians and priests have been pointing out that the Kwangju Declaration contains errors. They have also been pointing out that what needed to be scientifically examined were rejected without any scientific tests. Even some of the Naju Investigating Committee members are admitting that there are problems in the Declaration. Some of them even say that they are ashamed. This is a fact.

Archbishop Kong Hee Youn of Kwangju must be well aware of all these. We hear that he gave a strict order (to the priests in his diocese) not to discuss Naju publicly. I cannot erase the thought that the Kwangju Archdiocese is still doing something wrong.

Where did they find such audacity to tell the numerous people who had clearly seen the descending Sacred Hosts and tears on the Blessed Mother's statue to accept the bishop’s judgment without presenting any rational explanation. The old saying that one who has not even been to the Southgate Market (in Seoul) pretends to know more about it than others may well fit the current situation.

The Kwangju Archdiocese has been completely silent about the numerous criticisms coming from both inside and outside Korea. Are they expecting blind obedience by the faithful?

The Kwangju Archdiocese has prohibited public celebrations in Naju. In obedience, Julia Youn has been refraining from all public activities. On the other hand, streams of pilgrims to Naju are continuing. The Declaration was translated into foreign languages and mailed to all corners of the world, but foreign priests and lay people continue visiting Naju.

It appears that the number of pilgrims to Naju will continue rising. Are the pilgrims making the mistake of being disobedient? Or is the Kwangju Archdiocese making a mistake by refusing to correct its errors?

On one First Saturday, people were quietly praying the rosary in the Chapel in Naju. When the rosary was over, one man stood up and suggested that they pray for Archbishop Youn.

He invited people to picture in their minds the Archbishop’s boyhood in Jinnampo, a city in northern Korea, when he was walking to and from school, with his schoolbooks wrapped and carried on his back and with his heart filled with humility, love, and a desire to become a priest. He began singing a children’s song: A Winter Tree:

Standing lonesome in a shadow on the snow-covered ground;

In this winter when no visitors are coming,
are you only whistling with the winds?

He began singing quietly, but soon was joined by everyone in the Chapel. There was a boy who came with his parents. There also was old lady. There was a girl from afar. They came from many different places, but were of one mind, praying for the Archbishop.

They had no hatred or resentment in their hearts. Even the official measures were not an immediate concern to them. They were only praising God and trying to imitate the immaculately clean Heart of their Heavenly Mother.

As I was watching them, I was moved to pray that repression of the truth in the name of the truth may no longer occur at least in the Church.

—from Mary’s Touch, March 1999 Newsletter

 



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