My daughter has been curious because she has never seen the inside of a Catholic church building, and I have been curious because I have never seen a Korean Catholic church building, so we decided to just go into the one behind our house and see what was there. The country where I have seen the most Catholic churches is Mexico. In Mexico, the buildings are full of statues and very ornate. Some are glittering with gold. Others have life like statues of Mary, Jesus, and the apostles. One statue in a village in Mexico I can never forget because there was a life sized statue of Christ hanging on the cross, and the artist had actually painted the blood dripping off his body. I lived in an Orthodox country for 8 years, and the Orthodox church buildings are a real sight to behold because they are so decorated. In the village where we lived outside of Sibiu, Romania, there was a Lutheran church that was declared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site. It was extremely interesting and decorated. You could actually see two different styles of architecture in that building from the original building that was built before Luther, and then the part added to the building after Luther all in the same auditorium. However, this Catholic church building behind our house just couldn’t compete with any Catholic, Orthodox, or Lutheran church building I have seen.
An important thing for people to know about the Catholic church in Korea is that Christians from other Christian religions here will not acknowledge them as even being Christian. When you see the large percentage of people being Christians in Korea, it probably does not include Catholics. I have been corrected by Koreans concerning the name God in Korean too. If you say “Han-na-nim,” that means God in most Christian religions in Korea, but if you say “Han-nu-nim,” that means God in the Catholic church. They sound very similar, but the Korean make a big distinction. “Han-na” actually means “one” in Korean, and “nim” is a term of respect like “Lord.” We don’t see a big difference, but the Koreans make a big difference between these names.
As we look at the building from the outside, it seems rather plain compared to other Catholic or even Orthodox church buildings I have seen. As we get closer, we can see the name of the church is written in both Korean and English. Before we go in, I notice a very modern looking indistinct statue that I realize must be Mary and baby Jesus, but my daughter had missed it because of its lack of detail.
As we go inside, we turn to the left, and I see a statue of the Pope. This statue is a little closer to what I have seen in other Catholic church buildings in other countries except that it is all one color. As we walk past the statue, there is a coffee shop. Inside the coffee shop, there is a shop that happens to be closed of Catholic memorabilia.
A Coffee Shop A Catholic memorabilia shop
Next, we decide to go back out of the coffee shop and go right inside the front door instead of left. There are stairs that go up. On the way going up, we encounter of picture of Jesus hanging on the wall. Usually, Catholics have statues rather than paintings, but here there is a painting. At the top of the stairs, there is a foyer lined with stained glass windows, but the windows are small and the art is not very detailed. In the middle of the room, a plain statue with a pocket is standing. My daughter saw someone putting money into the pocket. It must be for contribution.
Behind the statue is the auditorium. It looks like people are beginning to assemble for Saturday evening mass. We poke our heads in, and decide to just take a picture from the back of the auditorium and go because we don’t want to be disrespectful.
We head down the stairs toward the front door, and a Korean Catholic priest with a backward collar and a dress is coming up the stairs. He says “Hi” to us in English and we say “hi.” He heads for the auditorium, and we head for the front door.
This building was just so plain compared to other Catholic or even Orthodox church buildings I have seen. It might have been a Protestant church in the United States as plain as it was. As for the coffee shop, well, I have never seen a coffee shop in a church building before, and I have been all over the world. At the most, I have seen soda pop machines or a kitchen in church buildings in the States. As for the Catholic memorbilia shop, when I was in Romania, at the entrance to the Orthodox church building in Sibiu there was a place where you could buy Bibles, memorbilia, candles, etc. I have seen that kind of thing before, but my daughter’s take on it was that Jesus would probably drive out the money changers like he did in the Bible if he went there because of the shop and the coffee shop. I felt the same way about the little shop at the entrance of the Orthodox church building in Sibiu, Romania. My daughter’s curiosity was satisfied, and I was actually disapointed because I have seen much prettier and more interesting Catholic, Orthodox, and even Lutheran church buildings.