|One of my last nights at our despedida, goodbye party.|
|Levin, the time he decided, totally on his own,|
to dress up as a king for the day.
|The three boys who came to the home around Christmas|
and became my students in January.
|My special needs one-on-one student, Rana.|
Another strange development has been the Amigos kids' use of Facebook, and even Skype! After we left some of the older boys figured out how to download Skype on their phones and I've skyped several times with them! It's crazy to see them on my computer screen, to speak in Spanish with them. I really can't describe it. In September, four of the kids came to the States for the annual fundraising visit Amigos has. Our executive offices are right in Malvern, P.A., so I was close enough to go to a lot of events, even to meet them in the airport. There was a magnetism to their visit. I couldn't stay a way, even though I felt them scratching away the scabs I had made. It was so beyond wonderful to be with them, to laugh with them, play with them, remember inside jokes we had. I felt again that belonging and was reassured that I still have my place with them. But each night when I went home, and especially when I had left, the reality of our apartness had to be faced.
|Levin and his little brother Wilbur.|
|Getting asked to be my student's godmother at his Baptism.|
In one of my favorite novels of all time The Brothers Karamazov (I'm really not trying to be pretentious -- if you've read it you know it's great stuff!) the brother Ivan makes his case that freedom is not worth the suffering of innocent children, that the world order set down by God in the form of free will, and atonement, is not worth the blood and tears of one abused child. "Why, the whole world of knowledge is not worth that child's prayer to 'dear, kind, God.'"
Dostoevsky had an answer for that, and it's all somewhere in the God who didn't remain just God but became man and died, and somewhere deep in my own personal culpability, which I am to spend my life atoning for. But the logic of Ivan sometimes is clearer, more seductive, more plain. Then again, it's no way to live.
That personal culpability sometimes takes more concrete and immediate terms. I left them after a year of getting to love them, I needed to leave, and I went into it knowing I would. I took so much from them, then I left. I might have given a little, too, but ultimately I'm gone. That's an incredible responsibility. The story doesn't have to end there, unless I let it. But distance and forgetfulness are funny things; I feel them creeping up on me already.
Really all this wrestling is something everyone does anyway, I've just given it my own twist. The truth is, when I think back on my time there now, what I remember most is being happy.
And when I think on my life now, the proper response is gratefulness.
Thanks again for reading this blog. Many of you supported me financially too, which I am so very grateful for. I may post just one more time to let you know when I'll be giving a presentation on my time in Honduras at my parish, St. Stephen's in Pennsauken, N.J. I've been working with the pastor there to set a date and when it's all settled I'll let you know. Most of all, I know many of you were with me in prayer this year, and that was such a blessing. I can't thank you all enough for your love and support on this journey!
There's a beautiful prayer, written to commemorate the martyrdom of Msgr. Oscar Romero in El Salvador, that tells how all work like this must necessarily be incomplete. I was reminded of it recently by my boss at Catholic Charities. So I won't try to wrap this blog up too neatly either, but will instead use those words.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.