A storm “of biblical proportions” is the phrase some in the media have used. The words make me wince a bit … I mean, using a religious reference to describe the destruction of Hurricane Harvey. [I feel the same way when insurance companies describe the reason for a claim as an “act of God.”] I know, I know … I am being over-sensitive. The point of the allusion to Noah is that the effects of Harvey’s landfall and continuous downpours on south Texas and a part of Louisiana have caused unprecedented damage. I can’t get my head around what it’s like to have rain measured not in inches, but in feet.
One can get numb to all the terrible stories we hear in the news: violence in Syria and Afghanistan and Africa, North Korean rockets being fired over Japan, and flooding in northeast India and Nepal that has taken more than a thousand lives. It can depress us, or make us feel helpless. For most of human existence, we never had to face so much bad news from everywhere. Before the printing press … and especially before the telegraph and telephone, terrible things could happen in the next valley and you might never hear about it. But it is our “blessing” that news of terrible things happening across the globe are now part of our knowledge.
The answer to feelings of emptiness and depression about such stories isn’t to stop reading newspapers or to yank the power cords of our televisions and computers out of the wall (though I do know a few people who could improve their disposition by watching less of the 24 news channels). I think the solution is, according to our ability, to be of some concrete assistance. Prayer, surely, but according to our means, perhaps also something physical. Sending “stuff” at this distance isn’t realistic … so it comes to a monetary contribution. But how? The Red Cross, of course, is a possibility, but let me offer a couple others ideas.
On the website of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (archgh.org/news-data/latest news) there are links to two agencies that, because they are local and already there, might be most effective in responding to the crisis: the local arm of Catholic Charities, and the Houston St. Vincent de Paul (sibling to our own St. Vinnie’s on Thomas Street). You can make a gift through the links on the website. Alternately, you could make a contribution through our regular parish offering in the next weeks (by check made out to the parish or the Diocese of La Crosse with “Flood” or “Hurricane Relief” written on the memo line, or cash in a plain envelope with the same words on the front). It won’t solve all the problems, or have instant impact, but it will be a start on what is going to be a very long rod … it will keep us from feeling helpless … and it will give lots of folks in the South the sense that they aren’t facing this without some distant friends.
This is a weekend of continued transitions here at the Eastside Parishes. Yes, yes, I am leaving Sunday afternoon for my sabbatical … but what I really mean is that with the end of August, Patrick Burkhart, who served as Minister of Music and, for a time, Director of Faith Formation, ends his service with us. In my mind, worship of God and deepening our faith are two of the most important things we do. Join me in thanking Patrick for his service.
Oh, and when you wake on Monday morning, assume that I am in Rome and in one piece. Watch this space next week for more “blah, blah, blah,” Italian style.