Corpus Christi Blog

El Salvador Examen Reflection

06-24-2018What's Your Story?Andrew Cardellini

Before anything else, I want to express my sincere thanks to all of the parishioners of Corpus Christi who truly allowed me to go on this trip, and especially to those who kept me in their thoughts and prayers as I traveled to El Salvador.

Being raised in the Church and receiving Catholic education in all thirteen years of my schooling, I had heard the idea of “seeing God in all things” too many times. Over the years, as I became somewhat more understanding of God and His role in my life, I felt that I was doing something wrong solely because I was failing to see Him in the life that surrounded me. However, upon returning from El Salvador, I have realized that I was not doing anything wrong in my search, rather the privileged world around me was one that lacked God’s real presence. As I dove deeper into my connection with God through this trip, I have completed the first two steps of the pastoral circle, and now I must work towards the third. It was in El Salvador that I witnessed God in all things, judged the way God portrayed Himself through the crucified people, and thought through how I must act to embody their abundant love and generosity here at home.

Below is The Examen, a Jesuit type of reflective prayer that asks the three questions:

  1. How was God at work in my life?
  2. How have I responded to God’s presence in my life?
  3. How am I called to respond now?

At Brophy, we pray The Examen every afternoon following lunch, and therefore it holds a special significance in my heart. I decided to give you a taste of my El Salvador experience through this beautiful style of prayer.

How was God at work in my life in El Salvador?

Throughout the trip’s entirety, God was at work in my life in each and every aspect of the emotional rollercoaster that I experienced. From being brought to tears at the Garden of Innocence and the story of David’s murder, to the singing bus rides and hours of joyful dancing, I was able to see God at the root of both the frowns and the smiles. Our Lord’s characteristics were abounding through the crucified people of El Salvador, and I definitely witnessed them the most in the villages of La Hacienda and El Junquillo. While there, God’s abounding love and generosity surrounded me, and quite frankly, it made me rethink my own actions of self-interest that I so often portray. Never in my life will I forget the insisting generosity of my host mother, Santy, in La Hacienda. As Nik and I prepared to make the quarter-mile trek back to the community center for the last time, we packed our arms with belongings and attempted to leave open a free finger or two for the water jug that we would surely need in the future. Just as I went over to pick it up, Santy stopped me and declared that she would carry the gallon and make the walk with us. I attempted to tell her in my broken Spanish that she did not have to perform such an act, but she gently waved me off and proceeded doing so. Santy is fifty-eight years old, approximately four feet, eleven
inches tall, and cannot weigh more than seventy pounds; yet there she was carrying a real heavy gallon of water while I was left staring between my empty two fingers in awe of her incredible generosity. That was God at work and I could not be more sure about it.

How did I respond to God’s action in my life while in El Salvador?

Being in El Salvador and living in solidarity with God’s crucified people opened my eyes and allowed me to truly respond to His presence in my life. One of the biggest things I realized when I was there was how contagious God’s love is when you are among people that genuinely express it correctly. Although it may sound shocking, physically responding to the acts of God in El Salvador was actually quite easy, simply because all I had to do was reiterate the love and care that these people showed me. When Candido or Carolina or Mercedes or any of the
kids smiled at me, I could not help but return the smile because of God’s contagious love. So while I was there and fully immersed in the actions of God through the Salvadorans, I did not have trouble responding to His action since the beautiful people there did all of the embodiment for me. However, in addition to physically responding to God’s action in El Salvador, I had to mentally and emotionally respond as well, which I found much more difficult.
That being said, I recall times where I questioned why God had provided these people with so little opportunity, especially since they are such pure and beautiful people. While in El Salvador, I did a lot of listening and observing to try and see where and how God was answering my questions.

On our final day there, as my thoughts wandered to returning home, I came to the conclusion that God is calling me to use the opportunities that I have to further expand the opportunities that they can be presented with through my help. Although the crucified people may lack resources and opportunity, they express love, kindness, compassion, and generosity in abundance. Therefore, since God blessed me with the opportunity to grow in their abundances, my job must be to share with them what I have in abundance, which is just the thing that they unfortunately lack: opportunity.

How am I called to respond now that I am home?

When determining how I am now being called to respond at home, two intertwined ideas come to my mind in order to start me off: the pastoral circle and its incorporation into the parable of the Good Samaritan. Having analyzed the Good Samaritan in our final days of class, I believe it sets reveals how I am being called to respond upon returning from El Salvador. One of the thoughts that most resonated with me in our class discussion was the easiness and comfort that goes along with having the “scarcity mentality” — that there just is not enough in this world for everyone and since I did not create the problems that are happening, it is not my responsibility to help. Therefore, I first must work to rid these conceptions from my mind and replace them with the idea that in order to have my heart be broken in solidarity with God’s crucified people, my future plans must be broken as well. Once I have done this, I will be able to accept the plan that God has for me, wherever it may take me and whatever it may entail. As I work on changing presets that have been engraved in my brain because of society that is around me, I must begin working to give the Salvadoran people a voice by sharing their stories with my family, friends, community, and hopefully many others. I feel a drive to preach the true beauty of the poor and the real presence of God among them that so many of us privileged people are unaware of. Not only must I say these things, but I shall act upon them and take the love and generosity that I witnessed in El Salvador and work to apply it in my everyday life. No longer can I sit around and do nothing about the injustices of the world because I have taken part in a blessed experience that opened my eyes and shoved me out of my comfort zone that I had been so used to my entire life. El Salvador popped the bubble that I once lived in, where I did not care about what was happening in other places around the world and ignored the news because it either saddened or angered me. However, I am positive that my life has changed for the better since spending my time with the suffering. I now feel motivated to help those around me realize what an impact we can have on those who lack the opportunities we take for granted. Although I do not know exactly what my future holds for me, I am certainly able to act upon the thoughts that I have mentioned as a start to see how God will further call me to respond after experiencing ten days of what it is like to become more fully human.