Thursday, May 28, 2009

At work...

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I have abandoned the blog for about a week because I just moved into a new place and started a new job. I am living and working at the beautiful seminary building and grounds in St. Francis, Wisconsin, the major seminary and place where some of the administration of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is housed: I am enjoying my time here thus far and I am happy to be working for the Vocations office of the Archdiocese. Though I am busy, I still plan to continue compiling stories and reflections from El Salvador. I want to get that trip on paper before the memory fades too much!

I hope all is well with all of you~

peace and blessings.

with love,

your friend bob : )

Friday, May 22, 2009

Prayer for beginning our Trip

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Here is a short prayer that summed up the pre-landing feelings stirring inside of me. As I mentioned in the last posting, the next few weeks I would like to share with all of you my experience in El Salvador from May 11 - May 20 on immersion with a group of fellow Loyola University students.

Prayer for beginning the trip:

We thank God our Creator for having brought us to this moment, together sharing in life.
We seek God the Spirit, ask the Spirit to provide a path as we journey ahead to a new place, making new friends.
We ask God the Redeemer to help settle any internal or external tensions that may arise in this time of reflection, awakening and renewal.
We trust that together we are strong and that where we are, so God---the LIVING God---is present.
And so we walk together in light---Juntos somos fuertes! (Together we are strong)...Amen.

peace and blessings,

with love,

your friend bob : )

Thursday, May 21, 2009

El Salvador 2009: In the Sky

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

I have just returned from a ten day immersion with a group of fellow Loyola University Chicago students and staff. It was another incredible experience---touching, motivating, captivating. I can not wait to witness the fruits of this trip both within me internally as well as within the lives of my fellow pilgrims.

I would like to share the experience with all of you who might read this blog. Each day, I want to share some writing from my Travel Journal for the trip (thanks to my mom for giving me a specific journal for El Salvador 2009). And so today begins day one of recapping what I witnessed in El Salvador, and how I felt the Spirit moving me as I tried my best to immerse myself in a place new to me.

El Salvador 2009, DAY ONE - Monday, May 11, Morning:

I would like to fall in love this week. I'm not seeking a long-term relationship with the woman of my dreams (I mean, I am a seminarian after all!). But in all seriousness, I'm talking about a different style of loving. It won't be long distance, though it will include people from a distance far from where I know home to be. This kind of love will sustain and nourish me, will make me struggle; it will frustrate and anger me just like any other act of falling in love. I suspect there is a tension inherent in seeking this kind of love---as a matter of fact, I know there is, having tasted tiny moments of such a love in travels before. This love, being transcendental, multicultural, border-crossing, body moving, spirit shaking, mind-altering, heart-captivating. It is the kind of love that Jesuit priest Dean Brackley (a professor at the University of Central America in San Salvador) hints at, a kind of falling in love with the poor.
"The poor usher us into the heart of reality. They bring us up against the world and ourselves all at once." (Brackley).

Will I meet the poorest of the poor in El Salvador? Probably not. I really have to? Or, do I just need to meet the people where they are, even though that spot is impossible for me to materially comprehend. I still remember the family I stayed with in Zaragosa, El Salvador last year. I don't remember their names---but I recall their faces. And I recall their lack of material things---a dinner table, a refrigerator, running water,, things I assume would make their life much less complicated. I remember the grandma of the family taking my friend Laura and I to her church, Laura and I hungry, thirsty and cranky from the long trip. We were both irritated because we were incredibly uncomfortable. I think we were being forced "up against ourselves" as Dean Brackley suggests happens to privileged North Americans who take immersion trips to developing countries. And yet, despite our discomfort, we made it through that night and through the trip. Fatigued, but touched.

It doesn't seem probable that I will encounter something magnificent in only a few hours when we depart the San Salvador airport to meet with Julieta and begin our life in El Salvador. As I sip my complimentary Continental Airlines coffee, and tower sky high, gazing below at a seaof puffy white clouds, I can't help but recall Julieta's mind-blowing description of a God who is HERE AND NOW---a God who liberates.

Maybe it doesn't seem probable to recapture some of the mystery of last year's trip to El Salvador---or maybe I need to trust in the"mystery of God," the encounter that brought me somehow here to this moment and in this place.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Urban Church Gardening

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I find myself in St. Louis visiting a wonderful parish called St. Elizabeth the Mother of John the Baptist The pastor, Fr. Jeff, has welcomed me into the community, keeping me busy helping out at the school and getting aquintated with some of the various ministries of the church. This morning I helped the eighth grade class do some gardening with "Mr. Steve," (though he prefers to be called Stephen). Stephen is an urban farmer who co-operates Natural Roots an urban farm a few miles from St. Elizabeth. Fr. Jeff asked Stephen to come and help plant a garden at the church; St. Elizabeth now has a garden to call their own, a little urban garden!

More to be said about the experience in St. Louis...I'm enjoying my stay very much but I am also looking forward to running a marathon in Lake Geneva on Saturday morning! And then...I return to El Salvador, a country I visited and wrote about on this blog last May. I can't wait to continue to journey onward, to continue to seek God in the people and places I visit.

I hope you all are enjoying your May and that PEACE prevails.

peace and blessings,

with love,

your friend bob : )

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Namesake

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

TGIF...except that I have three exams in the next four days! Yikes. My friend Stephen is in the same situation, as are many other students during this time. But we see the light at the end of the tunnel, as our summer break is only a few days away. Thank God.


I just (literally 5 minutes ago) finished a novel called The Namesake. Written by author Jhumpa Lahiri, made into a motion picture recently, the novel received some pretty favorable review upon its publication several years back. The story is told in a very subtle, readable fashion. I read a majority of it in one day, finishing about two hundred pages yesterday. (Okay, so I have an exam on the book today...but I really did enjoy reading the novel!).

It deals with the Ganguli family who move from Calcutta to the Boston area to start a new life in America. The story centers around Gongol, the son of Ashoke and Ashami, the couple who had moved from India to the states. Gongol, a first generation U.S. citizen, lives a fairly typical childhood for a kid from the Northeast---except for the culture and traditions his parents maintain from their native home. I don't want to write a reflection on the entire novel, but I would rather reflect on one line in the final chapter that struck me. I warn you, if you have any incling to read the book, you might not want to read this reflection.

That being said, here is the quote: "Her husband dwells discreetly, silently, patiently within its pages." To put the quote into context, Gogol has recovered a book The Overcoat that his now deceased father gave him while Gogol was a teenager. The book, written by Nikolai Gogol, has a special place in the heart of the Ganguli family, especially in Gogol's father. It was this book that had, in a sense, saved Gogol's fathers live. He had been in a massive trainwreck in his early twenties, and had been saved because someone had noticed him drop a piece of paper from his hand, a single sheet from The Overcoat that was still in his hand from reading before the plane had crashed. He gives the name Gogol to his son because he consider's Gogol's novel to have saved his life.

So, back to the quote: "her husband dwells discreetly, silently, patiently within its pages." Gogol, who had shrugged off the moment his father gave him The Overcoat as a teenager, cherishes the book and that moment some twenty years later, after his father has passed away and as he has time to reflect on just what Gogol actually meant to his father. When he gave the name, it was out of thankfulness that he survived, that he was given the gift of continued life. Gogol, the son, resented the name for such a long time, actually legally changing his name to Nikhil, which he think sounded much more professional and reasonable. However, Gogol, with a copy of The Overcoat in his hands, seems to understand something more about the book than he had ever understood before. The book contains a memory of his father and the life that had helped to give him life. His love lives and dwells "discreetly, silently, and patiently," within the pages of a book.

And think of texts that have an impact on how we live. Think of Shakespeare's famous plays, or of Aristotle's philosophical writings, or Confucious' sayings, or of Ancient Israeli texts that compose part of the Bible. I reflect on how important the Bible is in my own life, how the Gospel writings in the New Testament help to give my life meaning and I believe that God dwells patiently, discreetly, and silently within the pages of the text.

Well loved writings, like well loved music, has the ability to open up our Spirit and provide us with purpose. It is that goosebumpy feeling, becoming SHOOK, understanding that there is a way to remember and record memories. It is in the remembering of history that we transform and shape our present, and work to build a better future.

I hope you have a chance to open up a text that you hold close to your heart, or listen to a song that really strikes a chord within you, or simply be silent and allow a patient Spirit to gently soothe your soul. In our busy lives, finding these moments can keep us motivated and moving forward toward a more beautiful reality.

peace and blessings!

with love,

your friend bob : )