Tag Archives: earthquake

A Child’s Question

The pope answered questions from around the world during Holy Week on Italian television. This one was from a seven year old Japanese girl, Elena, who asked why did the recent terrifying earthquake happen.  You can find the rest of the questions and answers  here.

Q. Holy Father, I want to thank you for your presence here, which fills us with joy and helps us remember that today is the day in which Jesus showed His love in the most radical way, that is, by dying on the cross as an innocent. It is precisely on this theme of innocent sorrow that is the first question that comes from a seven-year-old Japanese child who says: “My name is Elena. I am Japanese and I am seven years old. I am very frightened because the house where I felt safe really shook a lot and many children my age have died. I cannot go to play at the park. I want to know: why do I have to be so afraid? Why do children have to be so sad? I’m asking the Pope, who speaks with God, to explain it to me”.

A. Dear Elena, I send you my heartfelt greetings. I also have the same questions: why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease? And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent, and that the true God who is revealed in Jesus is by your side. This seems very important to me, even if we do not have answers, even if we are still sad; God is by your side and you can be certain that this will help you. One day we will even understand why it was so. At this moment it seems important to me that you know “God loves me” even if it seems like He doesn’t know me. No, He loves me, He is by my side, and you can be sure that in the world, in the universe, there are many who are with you, thinking of you, doing what they can for you, to help you. And be aware that, one day, I will understand that this suffering was not empty, it wasn’t in vain, but behind it was a good plan, a plan of love. It is not chance. Be assured, we are with you, with all the Japanese children who are suffering. We want to help you with our prayers, with our actions, and you can be sure that God will help you. In this sense we pray together so that light may come to you as soon as possible.

“I was in an earthquake”

“ I was hungry and you gave me food,

I was thirsty and you gave me drink,

a stranger and you welcomed me,

naked and you clothed me,

ill and you cared for me,

in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew)

Why does the tragedy in Japan calls for a generous response from the rest of the world?  Because a generous God has blessed us all with gifts of life and  enables us  “to look out upon the beauty of the sky, the sun in its course, the circle of the moon, the countless number of stars, with the harmony and order that are theirs, like the music of a harp. God has blessed us  with rain, with different kinds of food, with the arts, with houses, with laws, with states, with a life of humanity and culture, with friendship and family,” St. Gregory Nazianzen writes.

 

The same God, our Father, asks that we be generous to those who are our sisters and brothers. “ He has given abundantly to all the basic needs of life, not as a private possession, not restricted by law, not divided by boundaries, but as common to all, amply and in rich measure.”

 

Haiti

Haiti: The God of Tough Places, the Lord of Burnt Men

Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ  2010   $29.95

Fr. Richard Frechette, CP, Passionist priest and medical doctor, has served the poor in the tough, burnt land of Haiti through floods, revolutions and the recent catastrophic earthquake of January 12, 2010 which left 200,000 dead.

There’s not much he hasn’t seen. But here’s a book of stories that reveal what all of us find hard to see: there’s a mighty, joyful goodness in that tough, burnt land. Frechette uncovers the graces of God in the chaos, violence and poverty of “Calvary hill,” Haiti today.

He has eyes that see in the dark, beyond the defeat most see. His stories of Haiti’s poor, especially its children in the pediatric hospital and slum schools he directs, reveal  goodness, spiritual strength and wisdom. Here the poor speak, whom Jesus called blessed.

The book’s twenty or so stories introduce us to a land that few of us have a heart to visit, but all of us should learn from.  Most are set in the context of the feasts of the Christian liturgical year, which Fr. Rick says,  “empowers us to make grace present, concretely in our world.”

With poetic insight and faith he tells us about grace present.

Available at www.crossplace.com

Passionist Press

526 Monastery Place

Union City, NJ  07087

201 867 6400

A Funeral in Wethersfield

Just returned from the funeral of Gerri Frechette at Corpus Christi church, Wethersfield, CT. She was the mother of Fr. Rick Frechette, CP, the director of St. Damien children’s hospital in Haiti.

He was attending his dying mother when the earthquake struck Haiti last week and at her urging he returned to help in the disaster. He returned to her bedside a few days ago and as he and his family were celebrating Mass around her bed, she died.

In his homily, Fr. Rick said how grateful he was that as a priest he was able to offer his mother to the Lord as part of the great offering Jesus makes in the mystery of the Eucharist. A woman of great faith, she knew the significance of her death at this moment.

Fr. Rick commented on how different his mother’s death and burial were from what thousands experienced in the Haitian earthquake. Her death was expected; she prepared for it; all the funeral arrangements for her burial were carried out with great care and dignity. The Haitian dead died unexpectedly;  they had no warning; the bodies of many of them were dumped unceremoniously in mass graves, unaccompanied by loved ones and signs of respect and faith.

A number of Fr. Rick’s Haitian associates attended the funeral. He will return with them to Haiti and their relief efforts tomorrow.

Fr. Rick expressed the hope that the world will be a place where people could live their lives, like his mother, in dignity and respect and pass to the Lord in confidence and with a sense of fulfillment, as she had done.

May she rest in peace, and may all those who have fallen asleep, rest in the peace of Christ.

A Cross in Haiti

Like so many, I’m following developments in Haiti these last few days, especially the activities of Father Rick Frechette, CP, a member of my community, the Passionists. He’s a medical doctor in charge of a free pediatric hospital, St Damien’s, outside Port-au-Prince, which is still functioning in make-shift conditions after the horrendous earthquake. You can read about him, and donate to his mission, if you wish, here. Major networks, like NBC and ABC, have been covering his story and the hospital where he ministers.

The world is responding to this poorest of countries with sympathy and help. How could it not? An earthquake is such an unexpected tragedy, and this one struck a poverty-stricken land crowded with human beings living in brittle homes that crumbled and crushed thousands of men, women and children.

We ask “Why?” Is the natural world cruel as it is kind? Is its Creator uncaring or distant from all of this, or not there at all?

Faith doesn’t answer our questions, but instead invites us to look at the mystery of the Cross of Jesus as God’s wisdom for times like this. One picture from Haiti yesterday showed a crucifix in the midst of the destruction. A reminder to see Haiti’s  suffering and death with this mystery in mind.

The mystery of the Passion of Christ doesn’t give answers, but it gives comfort and hope. That’s what the great English mystic, Julian of Norwich, says it brings:

“The passion of Christ is a comfort for us. He comforts us readily and kindly and says:All will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.”

Teresa of Avila sees this mystery in the same way.  When Jesus says “Come to me all you who find life burdensome and I will refresh you” he is inviting us to find refreshment in his Passion, she says.

When faced with the mystery of suffering and death, go to the Cross of Jesus, she tells us, and look up into his face. “And he will  forget his own sorrow, turning his face to relieve yours.” He will be our comfort, our refreshment.

Certainly, this is a time to reach out and extend our help in material aid to the poor people of Haiti. But let’s not forget to pray for them, to stand before Cross of Jesus and look into his face, to ask him to see, not us, but them, to care for them, to comfort them, to give them hope.

In many ways Haiti has been a forgotten place in our world. Will this terrible event help us remember this land and its people? The Cross of Jesus is a mystery that brings humanity closer.

“The nearer we come to the cross, the nearer we come to one another.”

The Rocks were Rent

I’ve been thinking about the earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, that claimed 292 lives. We stopped on our pilgrimage from St. Mary’s at that beautiful old medieval city on our way fron the shrine of St. Gabriel in the Abruzzi last November. Now it’s in ruins.

In January, 1915, an earthquake hit the town of Pescina, about 25 miles from Aquila, killing 3,500 of the town 5,000 people. The Italian writer, Ignazio Silone, a native of the town, dug his mother’s body from its rubble and would remember the day the rest of his life.

“In an earthquake,” he wrote, “everyone dies: rich and poor, learned and illiterate, politicians and people. An earthquake accomplishes what words and laws promise and never achieve: the equality of all.”

News from the Passionist shrine, not far away, was that the community there were sleeping in cars outside the buildings, which have been shaken by the shocks.

They buried their dead in L’Aquila on Good Friday at a mass funeral.

Earthquakes are awful experiences. They ‘re the harsh face of nature– our mother, our sister, our brother– that nourishes us with life and delights us with beauty. Yet, nature also brings death and destruction. With all our technical expertise we can’t predict when or where the earth will open up.  Quakes are no respecters of persons: old, young, rich, poor are taken.  Treasured buildings completely destroyed.

It’s interesting that Matthew’s gospel says “the rocks were rent” when Jesus died. He was describing an earthquake. But this one reverses the equation; it brings the dead to life.

“This day you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus says to the thief hanging in the dark at his side. As the rocks are rent, the dead rise. Jesus’ resurrection reaches out to all humanity, to all the dead.  And the earth itself takes part in the mystery. An earthquake, its sign of death, becomes a sign of resurrection.

The mystery of his cross speaks to the mystery of death. As the earth quakes, God wills that there be life.

On television news from Aquila, a reporter picked up a cross from the rubble and handed it to a Franciscan priest who was showing him a ruined church. Then the earth quaked again and they had to get out of the church. How significant his gesture was!