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. But...do 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.