Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Glory unto Glory

I am leaving Chile with many things --only several of which have physical form. Yes, there is a volume of Neruda packed in my bag, there is a medal of San Alberto Hurtado keeping Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat company on the cord around my neck. (I love that, actually, and have no doubt whatsoever that the two of them would have been friends had they known one another.) There is a copper picture frame my community gave me last night before we went out for empanadas at Las Delicias. There is the stone in my pocket from la tierra chilena in Pelarco.

But, more importantly and more lasting, there are other things...intangible wonders...that are also coming with me.

New words to describe concepts. Some of my favorites include: Hermandad-- a word that for me encircles much more than sisterhood. Hermandad, in addition to having a more pleasing sound in my ear, has the added dimension of the feeling as well as the concept. Hay que averiguar... there is the need to discover/determine/figure out/piece together. Pues, no sé, fíjate...Huh, you know what, I don´t know! Involucrar--to engage the other in such a way that the other is motivated to lend support or assistance...

There are so many more complex, stark, juicy, dense, colorful, pared and honed words...and so incredibly immediate are they that it is hard to think of them being of another language, really. Simply more options, more ways to speak of this incredible journey. I am grateful beyond telling to welcome them into the pool of language that waits for the dip of my mind, my pen, to offer her treasure.

There are new feelings as well. New levels of frustration and impoténcia, unique experiences of awe, moments of glory and desolation and desire and fear and support and wonder and even a little whooooaaaaa that is coooool. Among other things, realizing that I was looking at the other side of the moon fell into that category.

A friend wrote in understanding that it is difficult to leave a place where you heart has been stretched and where you have had to stretch to make room for your heart. There is much, much truth in that. I wrote to someone this morning that...

I just got an email...suggesting that perhaps God has done all that he had to do in me here in Chile. While that may be, I replied, I remain with serious questions about that. But, hey, questions allow the conversation to move forward. It is more a curiosity than anything else-- If not here, where, then? And, what? And, when? A somewhat frustrated, sad, and yes, disappointed, curiosity at the moment, but curiosity nonetheless.

As I wrote that, I could not help but think of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, the Religious of the Sacred Heart who brought the Society to the United States. For years before being given permission, her burning desire was to come to the United States and work with the Native Americans. In 1818, the desire to come to the US became real...though at first, her work was in founding schools and establishing communities rather than working with the Native Americans. She never managed to learn English or the language of the Potowatomi, never felt herself any sort of success. and filled letters with her doubts and uncertainties, her frustrations. What she wanted, as she wanted it, did not happen. Something else, did, however. And it is thanks to that something else that I am here, experiencing my own frustrations and moments of enlightenment.

On Saturday, a wise, caring, brilliant, laugh-filled and tear-filled, 64 year old rscj died as a result of a brain tumor in California. In thinking of her, in thinking of Philippine, in thinking of the rscj here that died several weeks ago and the stories people have told of her...in thinking of this wild and mysterious, rica y redonda journey, I propose that instead of "dust unto dust," however ultimately concretely true, we go with the image "glory unto glory."

It is equally mysterious, equally incomprehensible, yet filled with awe and eternity.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fourteen days

One´s world can be spun a startling number of times in fourteen days.

Being in a historic earthquake; the consequent upheaval and uncertainty; as well as profound devastation in much of Southern Chile.

Near daily aftershocks-including three (7.2, 6.9, 6.0) within a half an hour the day before yesterday that were accompanied by a tsunami alert with Caribineros sending all people and vehicles to the hills. This required us to evacuate all students from the school, each leaving only in the company of a parent.

The funeral of a 97 year old rscj and having the incredible experience of accompanying her to her final resting place in the mausoleum by singing and praying aloud as we walked the halls and courtyards. Other families that we passed who were also mourning would reach out and touch the casket-one putting a flower on top-most stopping what they were doing, turning to face us, and quietly signing themselves. This mausoleum, with the cracks and crumbles that mark the effects of the recent quake. What an amazing thought, that even to those who have died, the earth still speaks.

The news of the advancing illness of another rscj.

Continued news of my grandfather´s declining health and the toll it is taking on my grandmother.

The absolute desire to be doing something concrete that can help the people who have suffered such devastation, losing everything and sometimes, everyone. The desire to go help our sisters in Concepción by being two more ears to listen, two more arms to carry, one more voice to speak of love and hope amidst the fog of confusion and pain and overwhelmedness.

And, along with that coming to know with great pain and difficulty that the continuing problems with my knee and leg do not permit that now... and that instead, for the sake of everyone, the responsible thing to do at this time is return to the United States, figure out what I need to do to get my knee back in order, do that, and go from there.

So I shall.

This coming week, I leave Chile with my tears adding to her glaciers, my sighs adding to the Atacama winds, and my hope to return living in the song and cry of her people.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

This God

This God I know, this God who created the complexity of my being, the intricacy of a molecule, the simple beauty of a rain-spattered spider web... This God who created in six days the forces, the energies, the potentials, the being-ness, that over time have brought the world to the present moment... This God of love...

...is more a mystery now than ever before and I´m fairly sure I did not think that possible. In a way, it is like moving from those Encyclopedia Browns that I thought were the be all and end all in my youth, to discovering Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. More mystery is revealed as growth occurs. Actually, it is more the relationship shared that is the mystery to me these days. The relationship that is gift, purest gift, covenant, a promise of being so profoundly, intimately, a part of one another that the binding can not be overcome.

It is this Mystery that has provided space to say in the midst of this devastated country, God is good. Mystery allows gratitude amidst such suffering. Mystery inspires youth to organize caravans of supplies and people to help remove rubble, listen to the stories, and be faces of love.

At the same time, there is space in Mystery for my desire to sit with Jesus and ask, what exactly is going on here? Earthquake, ill grandfather, grandmother who is not dealing well with that, and now to know that the reason my knee is still swollen three weeks later is that there is a lesion on my tibia. Tests to follow this week.

There is space within this Mystery to offer thanks and express gratitude and ask what the deal is...and I have done that.

In a nutshell, the most mysterious thing to me is the core simplicity of my reaction, amidst the nervousness, the uncertainty, the sadness:

What is, is. And so am I and so are many others and so is God. With that, the new day dawns, the work continues, the hope lights the path so the neighbor too finds her way. Those who have died know the fullness of Glory and are part of that hope now too, as are all the saints.

It is a living out of the covenant here on Earth, really. The binding of one to another in time of need and suffering.

Thanks be to God, mysteriously.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

From an Email

From an email I sent to Xavier in NYC, my wonderful, wonderful, parish there.

Know of my profound gratitude for all of the prayers and love sent from those at Xavier. As to how I am doing... I have only reasons to praise God while my heart is breaking to see the devastation and hear the stories and feel the "impotencia" of not being able to do much that can help. Right now, word from our community in Concepción and the news is that it is too dangerous to go to the region, though there are those here in this area who are organizing a caravan that will leave tomorrow. People suffered multiple times with nature. Now, the fear is the people themselves. The looting, the violence, the raids of houses, the fires, the complete, complete, chaos.

Just being here in Reñaca Alto, where damage was so minimal, the memory of that early morning still lives in my body. I know now that a 7 on the Richter Scale is worthy of a quick review of all that is most precious as one is made to dance along the shores of the Jordan... I can not imagine an 8.8....where the river, the land, the ocean herself, came to take away so much and so many. Fatalities up to 711 at last reporting.

No, safe to say, I was not expecting all this.