The Gospel warns us of a sudden disaster, telling us to flee, without going back for anything left behind.
For five years during my stay in Korea, I had a man named Peter working for me, and in 1950 he had ignored that Gospel warning. Then, in 1954, after he came to work in my parish, Peter told me the sad tail of his going back for something in June of 1950.
Peter and his wife Clara lived twenty miles south of the 38th Parallel on the East coast of Korea. On June 25, 1950 they heard that a North Korean army had broken through the 38th Parallel, and was thundering down the road toward them. They both filled their arms with belongings, and they fled south down the only road. But when they were just out of town, Clara remembered money in a jar she had buried behind their kitchen, and she sent Peter back for it.
The North Korean soldiers grabbed Peter, and they turned him into a pack animal. Joined to nineteen other captured men. For three years Peter and the others were loaded down with munitions and supplies, and they were sent carrying supplies from the Yalu River south toward Pusan.
Since American planes could strafe them by day, they plodded along with their heavy loads at night, sleeping in the the daytime, cuddled under scrub oaks. In early summer of 1953 they were captured by South Korean army units who quizzed each of them, shooting them when their answers were inadequate.
As Peter was being called up to be quizzed and maybe shot, he noticed some American GI’s nearby. He began furiously making the sign of the cross over and over, shouting Peduroo, Peduroo. One of the GI’s noticed him, and said, “Hey, that Gook’s a Catholic. Let him out of there.”