Friday, May 30, 2008

Summer Plans? Joke 4 Friday

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

As some of you might know, I am spending most of my summer living at a church in Milwaukee called All Saints Parish. This is my third day with the community and already I feel very welcomed and alive with these people. The pastor, Fr. Carl Diedrichs, has been very helpful in opening his home to me. I am grateful to the kindness all the staff has shown me thus far! I felt compelled to write that in my blog, just so you all know where I’m at for the summer and where some of the inspiration for postings will come. If anyone feels like sharing summer plans on this blog, please do so. Even if you think your summer is going to be filled with school, work, or good ole’ boredom, I’m sure there is SOMETHING interesting and awesome about what you’re doing. You’re all adventurous, exciting, creative people. What’s up for your summer?

Thank God it’s Friday Joke:
I’d like to reiterate a joke that was said at a dinner Fr. Carl invited me to several nights ago. Sister Margaret (who just so happened to be my mom’s former boss…SMALL WORLD!) retold a joke she had heard about an eighty year old woman who was marrying her fourth husband. The previous three had all unfortunately passed away before the woman. (I’m not terribly good at retelling jokes, so bare with me). The first husband was a banker, the second husband worked in a circus, the third husband was a minister, and the fourth husband was an undertaker. As the woman told a person about all her experiences with her husbands and her new husband, the undertaker, the person couldn’t help but be intrigued by the unique jobs of each of the husbands. In awe, the person asked the woman why she had been attracted to such different men with such different jobs and experiences. The woman replied, well, the first husband was for the money, the second for the show. The third was to get ready, and the fourth is to go! I hope that brightens up your day a little bit.

Peace friends,

With love,


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

El Salvador, Day 2

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I am writing a posting in regards to the second day of my trip to El Salvador. (I said I would write one post a day for each day I was in El Salvador, but unfortunately I caught the “I just got home from school for the summer and am waiting to finalize my plans for the next few months bug” last week. Not to mention, it’s been quite difficult to wrestle with the reality that I am back in the United States after ten days of bliss, difficulty, pondering, questioning, but ultimately, I believe, spiritual fulfillment in El Salvador. I thank God for the experience and pray that our group can somehow transfer all that we learned from the people of El Salvador to our lives here in the Midwest. I have faith in the other members of the Loyola Immersion group; they are all amazing, Love-filled people! All of you reading these network postings (fellow Network of Love Lovers) might hear more about the other group members in coming days. I can’t help but brag about people I admire.

So, let us continue loving El Salvador…from the little journal I keep, it was a Christmas gift from my mom : )

El Salvador Day 2:

There is way too much to write about. I feel as if I’ve been hit across the side of the head with a culture crowbar. (I mean this in the best, least violent of ways!) Parts of the day have been a struggle and parts of the day have been filled with some of the most God-given moments I have ever experienced. The language barrier has been a little difficult to deal with. However, it always feels wonderful when I click with a native speaker. And, there have been those moments of communication that surpass the need for words. Those have been truly rewarding.

I pray for the abuela (grandmother). She feels as if she is about to die. But, she has Christ to cling to. She has church to help her through this difficult time, the end of her life here on earth. And when I say she has church, I mean she has faith and people. She has a family who cares and loves her. She has children who watch over her. It’s depressing, a little haunting even, to watch a woman painfully give witness to the fact that she can feel death in the air. But, the fact that she has hope in God makes the bee sting hurt less for us on the receiving end of her mournful story.

Our host family has been such a delight. The coffee! Damn…it might be the most delicious grounds I’ve ever sipped. Our host mom is such a sweetheart for taking the time to make us coffee. The way she did it puts the finest Starbucks barista to shame (no offense to any coffee connoisseurs, I’m just partial to my host family!) The two little girls in the family (one is ten, the other five) are such a gift to be with. Laura and I (Laura is staying with the same host family as me) find ourselves hooked to the children, playing catch with a plastic soccer ball, playing hide and go seek, and watching children’s TV shows with the two of them. And the mom and dad in the family have been a delight! Of course, I can’t forget the eight-month old baby Elizabeth. Que una familia! They seem to have such a welcoming, comforting Spirit, despite the fact that they live in a house the size of my dorm room. It’s humbling, eye opening really.

Parts of the day were incredibly unsettling and still are. These people deserve better. By better, I mean they deserve more support from this world. They deserve basics like consistent running water, a refrigerator, personal space. They have hope because they have Love. Some of us should be so lucky. But I can only imagine where this hope might take them if they were freed from some of the restrictions the economic situation in El Salvador has imposed upon them. I realize that I know little about the situation. I am only drawing my words from the emotion and experience of living a day in a city in El Salvador with regular people of Zaragosa (city we’re staying in). I have a lot to learn, but I am willing to do so.

I look ahead to writing more about what my personal struggle feels like, but how it contrasts in ways with the peace and hope I feel from these wonderful people. Love is here. Christ is here. Human connection and Spirit is here. The government can never take this from the people.

Peace to my sisters and brothers!

With love,

Your friend bob.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Transitioning Back 2 the States

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

This post comes to all of you a wee bit before 10 pm at night and after a long day of plane riding and feeling bummed about leaving El Salvador, a place that changed my life (and I hope continues to change my life in the coming future). I'm just starting to realize I am tired...but before bed, a post (think of it as a pre-bed post).

What I would like to do for the next ten days to help me remember my trip to El Salvador and to help others get a feel for what I experienced is to write a little post for each day I was in El Salvador. So, here comes ten posts. Do with them what you will (maybe read them or something), and feel free to post any comments, questions or otherwise. And without further ado...let's travel backwards in time to May 12, 2008. (Cue time travel music...whatever that means)...

El Salvador: Day 1

After our group landed, we ate pupusas, a most popular food in El Salvador. To make you salivate a little, it is a fried tortilla filled with frijoles and beans. They come out piping hot and gooey and tasty. YUM!

Later, we ventured to a church in a rural part of El Salvador where a priest was assasinated in 1977 for his words on Liberation Theology. The powers that be at the time of the killing couldn't stomach the priest's message of peace. So they shot him to death. Within only a few miles of the church, we visited the grave of the priest located on the side of the road next to a massive field. It was chilling to think that a non-violent person was murdered in a place so beautiful, so seemingly calm.

Dinner was wonderful. We stopped at a scenic cafe with an even more scenic view of mountains and a small river. I must also point out that during dinner, we were privileged enough to watch the sun set in the skys of El Salvador. The gorgeous end to the day and the wind filled, friend filled ride back to our guest house put a bit of closure to the confusing first day in El Salvador.


I wish I could bottle up some of the distinct smells of this first day. The smell of burning fire characterized much of the countryside. I can't quite get the skinny cows eating from near grassless, littered fields, out of my head.

The contrast, nasty contrast, between the glimmer of hope Julieta (immersion leader) talked about regarding Liberation Theology and the hope inside of the church she preached in (she didn't really preach, but I almost felt like she had the inspiration and Spirit to do so), and the man stumbling outside the church, the officer with his gun stopping the bus driver for an unknown reason.

This really is a country desperately hoping, and in desperate need, in some places, of a sign that hope is working. Liberation Theology... from the little Julieta told us...means to be the protagonist of your own life. Julieta put it so eloquentely, and I'm not doing her justice when I try to paraphrase her explanation given to us in the church. We are called to realize that God is HERE and not far off in the heavens. This is a defining belief of the Christian person. We believe that our God is here with us...that the Good Spirit, in some mysterious way, breathes through my pen right now. May Christ and the peace he came to spread throughout the world be with everyone in our group (10 of us) as we venture on in slumber, anticipating day two. Amen!


And so concludes the first El Salvador post. I'm sort of sleeping at the keyboard, so I best be off.

Peace to all of my friends.

with love,


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Treadmill Theology

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

It's been a long while since I've made a posting. For the time being, I'm using Blogger to post reflections. I'm working on a website and I pray it will be finished soon. When I say I'm working on a website, I mean I've been busy/lazy and have not done the little work I need to to get my domain (, which my dad very generously donated to the cause of the Network) up and running. I'm rather's been almost a year and I still haven't successfully launched a website. Will power, Bob, will power!

Alright, well, for those of you familiar with the Network of Love format, consider this a quick review. For those of you new to the Network of Love, the "Network," as of right now is reflections written by me, Bob Spoerl. Currently, I am a 19 year old attending St. Joseph's College Seminary on the campus of Loyola University in Chicago. The situation is confusing to an outsider, but what it boils down to is this: I am a college seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In addition to being a major in Philosophy and Black World Studies, I am journeying through the early stages of preparation for diocesan priesthood. As of May 2, 2008, I completed my first year at St. Joseph's, and my second year of college (I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a freshman before transferring into seminary).

I give this information to give you a general idea of where these reflections will be headed. That is, though I will try to make them as universal and inclusive as possible, they will almost certainly have a Christian twist to them. In fact, being a seminarian studying in a Roman Catholic seminary, they may even have a Catholic vibe to them. But please, for all of you non-Catholics or non-religious people, don't be thwarted off by this disclaimer. I tend to believe in the "universality" of the Catholic church and that us Catholics are called to live in this world and spread a message of love and hope in a comforting, ready to embrace all our sisters and brothers kind of way.

Having said all of this, if something I write offends, irritates, or confuses any of you, please, by all means, make a comment to the blog and me. Voice concerns, voice opinions, voice love, voice your voice. (All I ask is that respect and open-mindedness stay at the center of this Network). Other than that, let us begin the Summer 2008 installment of the Network of Love!

The title of this post is "Treadmill Theology." As this title implies, the idea for this reflection came about while I was striding on a treadmill. On Saturday afternoon, I had a little energy to burn and PLENTY of time on my hands having just finished two of my most difficult exams the day before. I figured, instead of sitting around my parents house waiting for dinner to start cooking, waiting to watch my parents start dinner, I would stretch my legs out and get a little workout at a local athletic club. After changing in the locker room, I picked my partner in calorie burning crime, a new and really quite odd looking treadmill. About five minutes into the run, I noticed a man who I had spoken to in passing in the locker room took a spot on the treadmill to the right of me. He made a comment to me about his Brewers and might have asked whether or not they were playing this afternoon. I can't quite remember what he said. I think, truth be told, what was running through my head was, I would rather just run and lift weights and then leave instead of being talked to while on a treadmill. However, thankfully I was given the grace to hear the man out for a minute or two. We started conversing about baseball, and I mentioned it was good to see a fellow Milwaukee Brewers fan after living near Wrigley Field (home of the Chicago Cubs) for almost a year. He laughed and asked where I went to college. I explained my situation and that I was in the seminary. Immediately, his face kind of lit up and he started talking about how he had thought about joining the seminary at a younger age while he was living in Puerto Rico, before he had moved to the United States. From all of this, theological talk ensued.

To pause a moment, I think at this point I was happy to be talking to this man, but still a little more concerned with watching the time on the treadmill than talking to my new found friend. But I was getting better. I figured this talk wouldn't go on for much longer and that I'd be able to cut it off after a few more minutes. However, I am really happy that I let it go on for a little longer than that. What my friend Herman had to say to me in the next half an hour was extremely eye opening, inspiring, and touching. He was one of the most heartfelt and emotional speakers I have ever "run" into (pun intended, thank you very much). But in all honesty, this man was alive with the Spirit of his faith, a human and divinely inspired Spirit that in the brief moment of life that I was able to share with him, struck a chord in my inner being.

Herman's theme, as I will call it, for our discussion was how to bridge the gap between the Humanity of Jesus Christ and the Divinity of Jesus Christ. For my Christian brothers and sisters, you all recognize just how complex and difficult this gap really is. The fact that we believe Christ's life to be one of true humanity and true divinity is the cornerstone of our faith. It is also one of the greatest mysteries of this world. I often find myself struggling to wrap my head around such an amazing and profound concept. To think that God would actually take on flesh and walk the earth is to give a lot of responsibility to the human person. It does not, in any way, make us gods, but it does make us intimately closer to God than we ever thought we could be. In a sense, believing that Jesus Christ could seriously be the ultimate sign of love for all of us to capture and live in and through makes us much more prone to fall into the trap of losing humility and to forget about our faults. Herman stressed that we need to realize that we are only human, that we will fall, we will make mistakes, we will go through times of trial. And yet, we must also, if we are truly Christians, realize there is a person who we can draw life from when we are stressed, broken, and losing all hope. To put our trust in Christ and to nail our anxiety and fear onto the cross of Christ, as Herman noted, is to allow the Holy Spirit to fully enter and dwell in our hearts. When the Holy Spirit is our advocate, Christ says all of our prayers will be answered, whether or not we realize they really are being answered.

This is where trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit comes into play. Herman noted that, in all respect to some leaders of the church (he was talking about the Roman Catholic Church, but this could pertain to Christian leaders in general, and, really, leaders in general), they fail to realize that control is not all with them. Some leaders fail to realize that it takes the cooperation and integration of the members of an entire community and---most importantly---a Spirit of service to humbly lead a body of believers closer to the goal in which all members of the group strive to attain. How many times, when we are asked to lead a particular group, do we fully trust the other members of the group to pull their weight? How many times, when we lead a group, do we end up stressed and feeling as if the group is more of a burden than a blessing? I know this sometimes happens to me, and I'm sure that, at times, it happens to many of you. When we lead with sincere desires, we will draw others to follow and, in time, inspire others to lead and map routes we never thought explorable. This reminds me of in the Gospel when Jesus promises his followers that they would be able to build off the work that he started and further what he had begun. "Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these." (Jn 14: 12) Christ lives and breathes our humanity, suffers the death of a criminal, and then rises to the most boundless of heights to the God that watches over all of us. This is what Christians believe and this is what gives Christians a full sense of mission and participation in service to the entire world.

Herman helped me to embrace, in the moment of our treadmilling, the fact that I, as a Christian, believe that God came to this world in the form of a person and left the world forever changed but forever the same. Humanity was and is before and after Christ. But for those who subscribe to the belief that Christ is one part of a three-part God, humanity is forever given a beacon of hope, a light in the darkest of hours. In speaking of the link between God the Creator and Christ the son of God, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit. Herman, as I said before, spoke with impeccable passion about how we have to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives so as to bring us closer to the Divine and thereby bridge the gap between God and people. Referring to the Spirit that would follow his life on earth, Jesus says, "he (the Holy Spirit) will take from what is mine AND DECLARE IT TO YOU" (Jn. 16: 14) WOW! Imagine that, we have the ability to seek the same wisdom that our God has! According to Jesus, the Good Spirit, when we trust in it and work through it with pure and loving motives, can bring us to the ultimate source of life. As St. Paul, a person who found God only through an intense and sudden conversion experience, writes, God "is not far from any one of us." As Herman noted as we concluded our run, finding God comes first with an acceptance that we are not God. After realizing this, we can begin to, using Herman's phrase one more time, "bridge the gap between the Humanity and Divinity of God."

We all have the opportunity to seek and find and grow in love---to ultimately, we pray, find God. Where do we begin to look for something as awesome as the reason for why we live? Might I suggest we use what the Jesuits often encourage us to do (the Jesuits are the religious order who run Loyola University in Chicago), to find God in all things. In other words, do all things "for the greater glory of God." We can do all things for love, or as Blessed Mother Theresa wrote, "do small things with great love." It does not take a monumental epiphany to find God and to serve others. But it does take a realization that there is something larger and more important than ourselves working in this world.

peace and love!

your friend bob spoerl : )