Friday, June 25, 2010

A Day in the Life: A Photo Tour

I felt inspired recently to document a normal summer day for me here in Los Angeles through photos. Gives you a glimpse into the places where I am spending time. Hope you enjoy!

This is Casa Luis Espinal, the current Jesuit community that I am staying. It is a relatively small community with four other Jesuits currently living here. Two are involved with Dolores Mission and two are involved at Homeboy Industries. I very much have appreciated living in an Apostolic community during this summer thus far.

Around 9am in the morning, I walk for about ten minutes to the nearby metro station at Mariachi Plaza in order to get to Homeboy Industries (I's weird taking public transportation in Los Angeles). I find myself praying quite a bit during my walks. Recently, my morning prayer has been to pray the rosary--perhaps being influenced by the Mexican community's devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and probably to quench my neurosis of walking in the neighborhood. Personally, I find the rosary roots my prayer in Christ, as each mystery allows me to go back to those powerful images of my silent retreats where I prayed over the Gospel scenes. It also centers my prayers of petitions for the day.

A few stops down from Mariachi Plaza is Chinatown station, the stop to get to Homeboy Industries. I must admit that I was quite surprised to see what Homeboy looked like--it's a lot nicer than I thought. One Jesuit remarked that the location is strategic--it is located in a place where a gang has not claimed territory. I'm sure some people don't like this place in their backyard. However, during my time at Homeboys, I often see many different groups of people being given tours around the place. They come because they often find Homeboys to be an inspiration and an example of how to approach the gang situation. Unfortunately, Homeboy is going through some financial difficulty, so the place is much emptier than before.

I recently watched a documentary: Father G and the Homeboys, which is narrated by Martin Sheen. It's received quite a number of film awards. If interested, you can read about it here.

Here is a view of the main lobby of Homeboys.

Here is Homegirl Cafe. Their tarts are soooo good. I've had lunch here on occasion. Very tasty!

On this floor, they provide different services such as counseling.

Here is one of the Jesuits: Fr. Mark Torres, who works on this floor.

Today, I had the privilege of sitting in on a healing circle with some of the Homies. During this time, I was given a very consoling image of a horse who carries me in my travels and guides me on the way--which I connected to Christ in my life. I was honored to listen to their stories, their struggles, and also their hopes.

In the afternoon, I head out to Dolores Mission to be with the men at GHP (Guadalupe Homeless Project). The walk from the house is another ten minutes or so, and I find myself during this time often praying for peace in the community, in our families, and in the world. As I mentioned in an earlier blog posting, the neighborhood has a sad history of violence. I recently visited a family who was commemorating the death of their daughter/sister caught in the line of fire between rival gangs while riding her bike a number of years ago. Her death, however, spurred community members to speak out against the violence; their street, now, is now more well lit and has speed bumps as deterrents. Dolores Mission has served as a beacon of hope for the community and a place where people come together to help bring change in the neighborhood. This is a picture of the School across from Dolores Mission.

At 5pm, I typically go to the daily mass here at Dolores Mission, which is celebrated in Spanish. I had the terrifying task of reading today (I have a hard time saying Nebuchadnezzer in English let alone Spanish). I think they understood me...

Here is the outside of Dolores Mission. To the right is the place for the GHP men. At night, a number of them sleep in the Church. Usually, I just spend time with the men, getting to know them and such. Jesuits talk about justice for the poor and lifting them out of poverty. I firmly believe that if we are going to help the poor, we need to spend time with them and get to know them. As one of the men told me today, the pain of being homeless is the pain of feeling invisible in society--the pain of feeling that no one cares for them. Yet, I find it quite inspiring that so many of these men talk about their faith in God and that they trust what He is doing in their lives. They tell me that they appreciate someone just taking the time to listen to them and to be with them. They desire to be treated with dignity and respect--as people created in the image of God, they assert that such treatment should not be conditional. When I spend time with them, I don't really consider them as homeless people. Some of them I simply just enjoy spending time with. One of them was joking with me today and asking when I will be pope. I replied: "if that ever happens, then we're in trouble!"

While I was with the GHP men today, I caught a glimpse of a group of teenagers across the street, and one of them was wearing a Jesuit t-shirt. I thought to myself: "Oh, I wonder if they're from Jesuit High in Sacramento." After a few minutes, I decided to go up to the group, and I ended up running into my junior social justice teacher, Mr. Tim Caslin! When I think about what spurred my interest in social justice, I typically think about him--he was the one that first opened up my eyes to the inequalities that exist in our world. He invited me this evening to spend a little time with them and to share about who I am and what I have been doing as a Jesuit. Such a small world! This group from J-high has been doing an immersion experience here in LA as part of their service learning requirement as seniors. It was a great gift for me to spend time with them and to share in some Jesuit High brotherhood.

Today was a little unusual because of my meeting with the Jesuit High guys--I ended up getting home a little before ten o'clock. Usually, I am home by around 8pm or so.

The rest of my time here in Los Angeles primarily will consist in the sorts of things I have just shared with you today. So far, I feel very blessed to be here and to learn from the different sorts of people that I have been encountering. Truly, it has been a gift to me, and I have been learning quite a bit. I have no regrets about being here--I feel that I am exactly where I need to be at this time in my formation, and I believe that God has been with me every step of the way. Such sentiments are worthy of offering praise and thanksgiving.

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