By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator 

The 2018 hurricane season might have been a quiet one for Louisiana, and the faithful are once again offering their prayers for another quiet six months.  

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Employees from Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge attend the Hurricane Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral on June 8.  Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator  

 

Even while preparing for the season that kicked off June 1, emergency responders took time out to prepare spiritually for what’s ahead to attend the annual Hurricane Mass, which was celebrated by Bishop Michael G. Duca on June 7 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge. The Mass was celebrated one day after a deadly flooding event in Baton Rouge.

 During his homily, the bishop noted the difference in south Louisiana weather versus other areas of the country because of the proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. He also pointed out that because of regular weather reports, people can become comfortable in knowing what’s coming.  

“I realized over the years that we get this kind of false sense of control when we have weathermen or weatherwomen telling us exactly what’s going to happen the next day. What’s going to happen tomorrow? We look and say, ‘OK, I know what’s going to happen tomorrow,’ as though we actually do know what’s going to happen,” stated Bishop Duca. “Of course sometimes like yesterday (June 6) they don’t quite get it exactly right. It was raining but I don’t think anyone predicted four or six or seven inches of rain coming down in a few hours. And you suddenly realize in these little moments that we’re not in control at all.   

“We are good at observing but we are not really controlling things. We get a feeling of being in control but in the blink of an eye things can spin terribly out of control. When we feel like we’re in control we do not need God. God is far away. ‘Lord, I got this. Go take care of something else more important. I can handle this today.’ But when we’re faced with disaster, that blink of an eye when everything changes, we are brought down to our knees because quite frankly we are frozen. We’re in kind of a panic. We can’t move into the future. We can’t go back. We say, ‘Lord what am I going to do? Save me. Save me.’ ”  

The bishop noted that “God does hear our prayers” but that Catholic theology holds two things in opposition: miracles and laws of creation.  

 “We believe he steps in at times and gives us another chance, gives us a turn at faith. We believe that and we pray for that,” said Bishop Duca. “At the same time we know that God has set in motion certain laws of creation that he seems to respect quite a lot. He’s kind of proud of his creation and he kind of respects it. And so sometimes things happen that we can honestly say maybe God does not intend in an evil sense, they just happen. And in those moments we have to realize that the miracle is not going to come from God, if we’re asking for restoration and salvation. It’s going to come from people’s hearts that have been turned to compassion, to action, to stand together – are coming together – to pray for God’s help in times of storm and hurricane and tragedy. It’s a testimony that we come together with a kind of a first response within our hearts. We have a community of faith that will stand against difficulties not as one person but as a family.  

 “And so we pray together today for God to save us, God, to turn those storms away from everybody, turn them back out into the ocean. Fish know how to handle hurricanes, let them take care of it. But, if Lord, they do come ashore we pray that our prayer for your help will be answered by whatever graces you may give us personally and by hearts that are turned to service. Our spiritual first responders who are motivated not just by need but before the need even comes, motivated by a commitment to stand with our brothers and sisters in need.”  

The bishop noted the work of employees and volunteers of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, several of whom were in attendance, calling them “our organizing power and presence.” He also recounted a visit to the command station for the city of Baton Rouge where employees were marking the day as “a blue sky day,” which means a day dedicated for emergency planning.    

“Our Catholic Charities, the extension of our intention and our will, are planning all the time to be ready, working with other agencies, creating a network of care throughout the diocese,” said the bishop. “So we can be part of that team and sometimes leaders on that team. And that is all part of God’s grace and what we pray for today is that we will work with God. God works on nature and if our nature is ready he can do powerful things with us. If we’re prepared then we can be ready for that.”   

“So people will in the midst of when they might say God is not good, in a moment encounter with another, a believer, will say, ‘No, God is good. And he is here.’ Let us be that witness.”  

Bishop Duca prayed for the blessing of Catholic Charities donors and that everyone be there to help those in need.  

“If we are the ones in need, that we know where we can turn when that disaster strikes and know that God is good, he is with us with his grace, with his love and through his people,” the bishop said.