[OUTLOOK]God bless Korea’s new cardinalSt. Teresa of Avila, who was born in Avila, Spain, in 1515 and died in 1582, is one of the most famous female saints in the history of Catholicism. Also known as Teresa de Jesus, she entered the convent at age 21 and became a nun.
At the time she joined the religious order, monasteries were more of a place for aristocrats to network, a kind of a waiting room for well-bred maidens until they found their matches. Teresa made up her mind to reform the convent into a religious life as strict, poor and solitary as that lived by early ascetics in the desert. She set the three disciplines of solitude, silence and detachment and practiced them.
She called the order “Discalced Carmelites.” By having the nuns and monks take off their shoes, she meant to propagate the practice of honest poverty. The then clerics who were respected by many aristocrats criticized her, saying her reform was foolish and pointless.
Clergymen with vested interests asked how you could benefit society in an age of chaos by shutting yourself inside a monastery for all your life and praying.
St. Teresa replied, “On a battlefield, not just the soldiers fighting against the enemies are needed. While they do not have swords or guns, there are flag bearers who symbolically promise hope and victory and encourage all other soldiers. The flag bearers must not fall even though they are injured. If they fall, the flags will go down with them. Moreover, flag bearers are likely targets of the enemy. The enemy will concentrate their attack on the flag bearers in order to damage the spirit of the soldiers. We, the ascetics, are like the flag bearers on a battlefield.”
On February 22, 2006 at noon, Pope Benedict XVI announced the elevation of 15 cardinals, one of whom was Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk, the archbishop of Seoul. Thirty-seven years after Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan was appointed in 1969, Korea celebrated the appointment of a second cardinal and confirmed its status in the Catholic world.
In retrospect, with 4.5 million Catholics and an unprecedented number of martyrs, Korea has a significant place in the history of Catholics. Some might feel that the appointment of the second cardinal came very late. At any rate, God’s grace and benediction has come to Korea just as Archbishop Cheong said, “God blessed the country and led us to have another cardinal.”
However, is this really a blessing? Is one more cardinal an event to rejoice in as a nation, a decoration of honor and a symbol of victory? Such is hardly the case. Archbishop Cheong’s elevation to cardinal means the birth of yet another flag bearer without a flag, who, according to St. Teresa, must not fall even if he becomes a target of the enemy and comes under fire.
In times of a rhetoric of evil and words of sophistry, Archbishop Cheong has been made cardinal. Just as the blood-red gown of a cardinal implies, the elevation signifies the birth of yet another sinless sinner who walks barefoot towards the Hill of Calvary bearing a flag of the cross, in order to be crucified.
So Almighty God, please have pity on the poor barefoot sinner, Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk. To this flag bearer without a flag, please give indomitable courage and the spirit to stand high despite injuries and wounds.
Just as the Son of God knew that “all things were now accomplished” as he expired, bless Archbishop Cheong so that he can fulfill his duty as a flag bearer.
* The writer is a novelist. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Choi In-ho