Today I was feeling the very strong need to pull close to my Vox community, and was so so grateful for the liturgy podcasts, prayers, and reflections available online. I guess it was because I went to mass this afternoon, and although I enjoyed participating in the traditions and practices of this community, it reminded me of the community that feels so much more like home to me. I’ve been here practically a month now, having passed through the extremes of excitement, fear, happiness, and physical discomfort (including but not limited to a scorpion sting and a rash covering every part of my body), and only today did I stop and thank God for it all. And after catching up on the prayer requests and liturgical reflections of my family in Austin, it seems only right to respond with some prayers and reflections from my experience here.
First of all, I am eternally grateful for the great hospitality that infiltrates the Salvadoran culture. Wherever I go, I find that I have family, and I have been humbled by the generosity that I have encountered everywhere I have gone. El Salvador is a country with fresh wounds; just 25 years ago they were in the midst of a war that pitted brother against brother, and that defied any sense of humanity or compassion. I see Jesus in the poor men, women, and young people who know both hunger and generosity, and my heart aches for the loss and division that is still so fresh. Countless people have told me stories of watching their siblings tossed off bridges like rag dolls, or of their parents starving to death, and the struggles did not stop with the war.
The US government is one among several mega forces that ensure the continued poverty and misery of the majority of the Salvadoran population. Policies like CAFTA mean that rural families are without work, unable to afford the cost of growing their own food, and too poor to buy the food available in markets, which is imported from the United States. US funded anti-gang campaigns take the form of repression of youths who are trying to make positive changes in their communities. US and Canadian mining companies use their wealth and power to threaten the health and sovereignty of Salvadoran people. The United States is not the only antagonist in this story, but it plays a larger role than any of us in the US are bothered to realize, but that nobody her in El Salvador escapes from knowing.
I don’t believe that any political party or school of thought has the answer, but I do know that people in positions of power have forgotten compassion, and the love of Jesus is absent from the way the US treats our neighbors in El Salvador. Please pray for the people who are in positions of power, that they would know compassion and love. And also for the people who pursue the power that is denied them, that the people of El Salvador would also follow Jesus’s path of compassion and love as they seek justice and dignity.
In the poor rural community where I am living, the brokenness of the world and our interminable need for God is felt every day, but in the comfort of the small upper class here, or the bloated middle/upper class in the US, people are granted the luxury of ignorance. If they do not want to see poverty, they do not have to. If they do not want to see the destruction we are all causing to our planet, they do not have to. If they do not want to see the physical,spiritual, and emotional toll that the illness of greed and egoism has on a society, they do not have to. For the curse of being too comfortable to see, I pray to the Lord.
For all these things, and for the Vox family that I know is back in Austin, eating lunch together on Sunday afternoons, loving on each other’s children, and living the Church, let us bless the Lord.
[written by Catie Johnston]