Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dinner at Polish Restaurant with a Central American Theme

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

It is Wednesday mid-morning and I am blogging on break from a summer camp that I am helping to run for my job. This afternoon, sixteen high school boys interested in ordained priesthood are going to come to our seminary to find out more about what it is like to be a seminarian. So I suppose I will have to be on my best behavior : ) Enjoy the heat if that is what you like. If the weather is too warm for you, play it safe indoors. My run this morning was filled with sweat, and this was before 8 am. The high is supposed to be in the mid 90's F in the Milwaukee area. Yikes!
Grab a beverage from a lemonade stand today if you can find one. Or, start your own lemonade stand (you can always be a kid at heart!).


I had dinner last night with a friend of mine. He is a Franciscan order priest who has been to many places throughout the world. Where we found ourselves last night was at a polish restaurant in the Milwaukee area. As we nibbled on Polish fare and drank a Polish beer, we chatted about some of our excursions. A melting pot of cultures became a part of our conversation amidst cuisine: I was wearing a Brazilian soccer jersey and talking about El Salvador, while Fr. Steve was speaking in Polish, ordering Polish food for him and I, and discussing his three weeks in Guatemala back in 1984. It was his discussion of Guatemala that I want to talk briefly about.
He was there to give a retreat to a group of religious sisters. He had done a talk in New Orleans for members of the same religious order and they had like him so much that they suggested he ought to speak to the sisters in Guatemala. Back in 1984, it was a bit easier for a United States citizen (or anyone for that matter) to travel to New Orleans than to Guatemala. Guatemala was in the process of fighting what would be a decades long civil war. The war ended up ending the lives of thousands of people, some innocent women and children. The story goes very similar to that of the Central American country that I am most familiar with and that I have blogged about, El Salvador. Both of these neighboring countries were like ships in tumultuous, raging waters in the 1980s---I learned this from a young outsider looking historically in on immersion trips. Fr. Steve, though an outsider as well, learned a bit about the struggle of Guatemala during the time when the struggle was at the height of a civil war.
He said he came back being very angry at our government. I had the same feeling when I left El Salvador for the first time. I thought to myself: why did we do what we did? Why didn't our government have the intelligence to look beyond black and white? Why was the cause who had Marxist tendencies so severely wrong and the people in charge, the government who acted as a military dictatorship...why were they the ones being given money and support? I understand that we were in the middle of the Cold War...but it doesn't seem to excuse the actions of our institution.
And yet, reconciliation has to come from these events. From the war between peoples of the same country and land, from the governments working on the outside and looking in, and from everyone---innocent and guilty---in between. A man in El Salvador at a revolutionary museum that commemorates the efforts of the Guerrilla group who fought against the government during that country's civil war had this to say about the war: there were mistakes made by BOTH sides, and NO ONE had the full truth.
It was a mentality like that that seemed to be a grounds where reconciliation and forgiveness might someday gloriously take place. And it was a faith, coming from the woman I stayed with in El Salvador, who had lost a father and brother in the civil war, that reconciled my own anger. She believes in the intercession of saint Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador murdered while saying mass by soldiers of the El Salvador government. Romero has become a real Christ-like figure for the people of El Salvador and for others around the world.
It is in believing that the martyrs of our faith, the martyrs of the people of God, still live to tell the story of how their death can somehow continue to bring life to us, that we begin the long and difficult journey toward reconciliation and healing. Martyrs give us hope and love that there is something beyond this world, if we believe that their lives meant something beyond the struggle, the pain and the wars of this world.

peace and blessings.

with love,

your friend bob : )

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