When Calamity Strikes We are Held

WARNING this week’s blog (late due to illness of this blogger) tackles very difficult questions that relate to the major natural disasters that caused many fatalities. (All readers may want tissues on hand.) When events like these happen, many questions can raise that cause faltering in one’s faith. I focus on the Philippines in my writing. I am aware that this past week while recovery from a setback our Midwest was hit by bad tornados. If you are personally dealing with these tragedies while living with severe illness, you may want to pass on this and come back to it later when your heart is better able to cope. Just know you are in all of our prayers, and we are holding you in our hearts.

From: JJ4christ YouTube Channel

Music By: Arwen Vigil – The Piano Guys (original tune and video)

 “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is the megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

 ~C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 53

When calamity strikes the innocent we often hear, “Why did God let this happen?” The very depth of ourselves riles at the unfairness of those who suffer who are as innocent. Those who do not believe in God will often use that calamity to point out that if there was a God he would not allow evil, suffering, or pain to happen to the innocent. He would stop it.

Our responses to these challenges can are very different. A theological response might be to say evil happens throughout the world because the fall from the Garden. Adam and Eve sinned through free will and caused everyone to fall. That is true that through the fall not only are we broken but the world also is broken. That is why storms can destroy instead of sustaining life.

Words seem so empty, when we look into the irreproachable eyes of children who lost their whole world. These innocent ones haunt us. Their corporate suffering demands an answer. We must bring hope to a hopeless situation.

When we see those who harmed by others through violence or indifference in their many forms. Our response to evil is so much easier, because we can blame the people who caused the harm.

When natural disasters strike causing such utter destruction; it is perfectly normal for us to cry, scream and shake our fists to heaven. The loss of life and destruction of a whole region seems pointless and a great waste. The only one we can reproach is the Creator who controls the waters and the seas.

When we or someone we know struck down with a chronic degenerative disease in the prime of life, we can often feel this way. There is no one to blame for that type of calamity either. Once an acquaintance of mine heard the words from a bishop, “Never forget, you are filling up what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ.” She had just woken up in her hospital bed. What she wanted to do was throw her bed pan at him. One might be so angry they would want to throw the pan at God. I might even say to God, “You can take your free will.”

I heard a response to this problem while studying theology that turned attitude upside down. God allows evil in the world precisely because he loves us so much. How could God allow someone to suffer or countries to have a whole region destroyed because He loves us so? **

This principle explains that our world is fallen and cut off from the full grace of God due to its fallen nature. That means storms can destroy instead of nurture life. Animals kill other animals for food and nutrition. Man and woman must labor for everything they need to survive. And we all know about the violence that can reside within the heart of man. None of this was part of God’s original plan.

Ultimately, God allowed Adam and Eve to fall because he loves us all. He knew his first humans would fail – but still gave them the freedom to fail. He knew he would need to save what he created before he even made Adam and Eve. God knew we would mess up, but He still wanted every one of us. That is how much He loves us! Evil would not have the final say. The Word incarnated would.

He had a response to natural evil, a plan. “I have witnessed the affliction of my people…I have heard their cry…I know well that they are suffering…” (Exodus 3:7-8)  “Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away.” (Songs 8:7a) 

God sent his only son to redeem the whole world. That means that Jesus did not just come to save sinners, but to transform all of creation. Through the greatest sacrifice of LOVE, he would redeem all  creation back to the way it was before the fall. Obviously, this would only come to fruition in His kingdom. Pounder the magnitude of that! That is why the Church explains that redemptive suffering is a mystery!

But you ask? What of those in the midst of that outrageous storm of destruction. Let us look to the Psalms,  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley I fear no evil, for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4) There is a famous poem out there called Footsteps in Sand. In that poem Jesus tells the poet that when she sees only one set of footsteps he was carrying the her. I believe in the midst of the horror of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda there were many souls being carried, being held. I find hope in that and have experienced it personally sometimes even in my greatest moments of suffering through serious illness. Not only is he there for those who lost their lives, but those who survived too. He was there for everyone even if they did not know they were carried.

I remember the Christmas Tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean and killed so many on Christmas day. There was a song that came out during the same time frame that I cried through many times in prayer. I think that captures this truth so fully. The words are powerful, so I choose a video on YouTube that focuses on those only.

Held by: Natalie Grant (Mobile Device alternate video.) Very beautiful performance by Natalie Grant.

Challenge for the Week: We need to respond in solidarity and prayerful presence in the midst of these destruction storms. 

So how can we here in the states, especially those who are sick, respond to this event. We can grow in solidarity and prayerful presence.

Solidarity as defined by Blessed John Paul II, is more than a “feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good. That is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis 38)

So let us learn about the people and grow in solidarity with them.

A friend I knew in religious formation came from this area of the Philippines. I pray for her!

A friend I knew in religious formation came from this area (blue star) of the Philippines. I pray for her!

The region we mostly see in the news is the first largest and smallest islands that took a direct hit. (Those pictures and video clips I used in my video at the beginning of this post come from that area.) What you can see from the map above there were many more islands hit by this storm. The slide show below will show wider areas and people impacted.

Slide show of the people impacted by storm: NBC NEWS.

Something to think about while growing in solidarity for these brothers and sisters in the Philippines: over 80.6% of those you see in photos and videos are Catholic. Christians in general make up 93% of the population, and Muslim is 5%, the rest are other or unspecified.

See the Filipino people have a deep personal faith no matter the tradition they are from. Their faith touches all aspects of their cultural life as a people.

I have been personally touched by pictures of those who fled their homes carrying very little personal items. But I saw many a prized religious item carried in their arms through the flood waters. So touching.

There was a picture and story of a father who clung to his children as they died together. They were found still in his arms though they were carried miles by water and struck in large debris. Among their bodies were rosaries and holy items they must have carried on their person during their tremendous struggle. Their picture was too graphic and I did not put it in the video I made because it made me cry really hard.

There are many stories of hope too. So many people interview on international news talk about their faith when any journalists stop to ask them questions. There still are tears and gut wrenching pain, but that is to be expected. How is inspiring it must be encountering someone who has lost everything, but they still share their faith even in a place where all hope seems lost.

NEWS FLASH – As of this posting – there are 5,200 + confirmed dead with over a 1,000 missing. This does not count those who may still not survive the aftermath of the clean up and disease that is sure to follow. Over 4.3  million people are without homes and over 1 million of those are children.

Below is an appeal to Catholics from a bishop who is in close contact with some of the bishops of the area hit. I am very partial to CRS because I know the good work they do and I am Catholic.

Donate to them here: Catholic Relief Services,

Other reliable organizations are. Red Cross, Word Vision. Samaritan’s Purse

I chose the above groups because of transparency and how well they use funds to impact the people the most. I like CRS and Word Vision the most because after the initial response they stay and continue the work in the country. They move beyond critical needs and help to rebuild long after others leave.

Our second response to this news is to be a prayerful presence. We are brought to prayer.

Prayer for the Week: Catholics of the Philippines are famous for their beautiful liturgical music and for guitar music.  Let us look to the Filipino people and their liturgical music to help us in our prayer. As we watch let us pray for them and all those who are impacted by calamity that threatens life and wellbeing.

Hangad – Simeon’s Canticle based on (Luke 2: 29 -32)

Hangad is a music ministry out of Philippines produced through the Jesuit Communications Foundation.

This song they sing is a prayer found in the above scripture. It is known as the Canticle of Simon and prayed every night before bed (Compline) of those who practice the Divine Office. I find solace when I pray this and when I am in my worse pain it is the only way to fall asleep

The Canticle of Simeon with antiphon

Ant. Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in His peace (alleluia).

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;

your word has been fulfilled:

my own eyes have seen the salvation

which you have prepared in the sight of every people:

a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Ant. Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in His peace (alleluia).

May you have peace and know you are in my prayers.

* Great book, catechist, speaker and author living with MS. Kathleen O’ Connell Chesto, Risking Hope: Fragile Faith in the Healing Process.

** Two really good books tackling the problem of suffering are from Peter Kreeft, Making Sense Out of Suffering and The Problem of Suffering Reconsidered.