By Bishop James Conley
Three weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey struck the coast of Texas with ferocity, and wreaked havoc on Houston and surrounding cities. Last week, Hurricane Irma flooded parts of Florida, and displaced millions. Islands of the Caribbean have seen nearly every building flattened, and families left homeless. Everywhere, men and women are unsure of where and how to rebuild.
We can thank the Lord for the first responders and others who sheltered families from the storm, for those who risked their lives to rescue others, and for the lives saved and homes spared in the path of the hurricane and tropical storms. But we also have a responsibility to assist our brothers and sisters in Christ, the men and women who have lost so much in these storms.
Catholic Relief Services, the Knights of Columbus, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and many other organizations have collected millions of dollars in recent weeks, and begun putting those funds to work to assist the places damaged by the hurricanes. Each one of us should consider how we can contribute generously to fundraising campaigns, and how we can offer our resources to assist those in need.
After the floods in Texas, hundreds of ordinary citizens formed a volunteer coalition working to rescue people who were stranded by the flood. Groups of “first responders” even traveled from our own state of Nebraska to help in the effort. Those with boats navigated flooded streets and neighborhoods, searching for people in need of help. Medics, nurses, and other medical professionals accompanied them, providing medical care to the wounded.
Those who could provided assistance, coordinating those efforts by radio and cell phones. Parishes and families opened their doors, giving shelter to those who were homeless or who were lost in the storm.
The rescue efforts, which many of us watched on television, are an apt metaphor for our mission and responsibility as Christians.
We live in a world beset by storms. The chaos of this world—the noise, confusion, disintegration of the family, and the denial of the fundamental reality of truth—is a storm unlike any other. And the philosophies and ethos of our time are dangerous winds. In 2005, Pope Benedict wrote about these winds:
“How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking? The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error comes true.”
Christ, Pope Benedict wrote, calms the winds, and quiets the storms. And only a renewal of Christian life and thought, can bring peace to our culture. But even when a storm ends, those who have been stranded, or displaced, or left abandoned, need to be rescued. And the rescuers in Texas, going out in little boats two by two, are a reminder of the Church’s mission: that each one of us should go out to find those who have been lost, confused, abandoned, and bring them into the shelter and peace of Christ and his Church. Each one of us is sent out, as missionaries of salvation, to offer the hope of Jesus Christ to those who have nothing to which they can cling.
Join me in praying for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. If you can, please be support the Church’s efforts to assist them materially. Pray for them. And keep in your mind the image of those who went to rescue the lost from the storm, remembering that Jesus Christ calls each one of us to do the same.