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Mother Lee Hae-in describes Cardinal Cheong as soul-healing baby's-breath

Mother Lee Hae-in describes Cardinal Cheong as soul-healing baby's-breath

Posted April. 30, 2021 07:31,   

Updated April. 30, 2021 07:31


“I may liken Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan to a rose. Likewise, I identify Cardinal Cheong Jin-suk with baby’s-breath,” said Reverend Mother Lee Hae-in, who writes poetry, in an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo on Thursday, paying condolences to the death of Cardinal Cheong.  

Mother Lee and Cardinal Cheong date back to 2006 when she was commissioned to write a lyric of a song on the occasion of the cardinal’s enthronement ceremony. “I was asked by a priest who took charge of the music part of the event and wrote a lyric only for Father Cheong. He thanked me for presenting him incredible words and traveling all the way from Busan to be part of the event,” said Mother Lee.

Although it was their first and last encounter, Mother Lee perused Father Cheong’s books to seek answers to theological inquiries and get inspirations. “He was dedicated to protect life ethics and lead churches to reach their hand out to those in need. As a poet myself, I find it inspiring that he wrote every year to publish as many as 51 books despite being busy serving as a high-level clergyman,” the 75-year-old poet said. “All of his achievements make it clear that he dedicated every single moment of his life to being part of the clergy and studying as a scholar.”

Mother Lee said that she was greatly moved and impressed by Cardinal Cheong’s love for his mother and his decision to donate his eyes following his mother as featured on The Dong-A Ilbo. “He managed to survive the Korean War,” she said. “He almost lost his life as many as three times. Although being an only child, he chose greater love over a normal life. I felt his agony and anguish in the article.”

It came as a surprise that Cardinal Cheong refused to receive life-sustaining treatment back in 2018, according to Mother Lee. “Jokingly saying, it is my turn today and it will be yours tomorrow,” she said. “A lot of senior clergy members in the monastery relate to his death promising to refuse life-sustaining treatment or accept the last day of their life gracefully.”

Mother Lee shared a special anecdote on Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan who passed away in 2009. When she underwent chemo and radiation therapy at Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, the cardinal happened to be hospitalized in the same ward as she was. They called each other “friends who share and fight against the same disease.” “One day, I didn’t feel well. When I asked him to pray for me, he prayed too long. I asked why his prayer went too long, and he said, ‘I asked God a special favor. I asked Him to take great care of you because you are a good writer and a great nun.”

She agreed that Catholic believers identify Cardinal Kim with their father and Cardinal Cheong with their mother. She likened the two cardinals’ life to different flowers, saying, “As Father Kim had a sense of humor and charisma, I’d like to say that he is like a rose. On the other hand, Cardinal Cheong reminds me of baby’s breath that gives people consolation and relaxation.

“I feel deeply sorry that great seniors of the church pass by,” Mother Lee said. “I pay condolences to Cardinal Cheong strolling and contemplating in the monastery although I cannot go to his funeral due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Gab-Sik Kim dunanworld@donga.com