This is being written Friday morning, in the midst of preparations for Hurricane Frances. The weather forecasters are telling us that they are still not sure where the storm will make landfall - it still will be “somewhere on the east coast between the Florida Keys and South Carolina.” The forecast models have changed back and forth a bit, but currently the highest probability seems to be somewhere around Stuart.
Yesterday, when things began in earnest here, we celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Good Hope, which seemed like a good omen. Today was the feast of Pope Saint Pius X-our patron saint against the errors of Modernism-not particularly hurricane related (unless one considers all the “hot air” generated by the Modernists)-but a good omen as well. Saturday will be the feast of our Lady of Consolation-hopefully, we won’t need a great deal of consolation, but it is good to know that our Lady is always available to console us when we need it-Saturday is the day of the hurricane’s probable landfall.
I was astounded, though, when I realized that Sunday we will read that beautiful Gospel about “the lilies of the field.” In one sense it is a little bit frightening, because it doesn’t take too much imagination to envision how such a powerful storm could leave so many of us like “the lilies of the field” and “the birds of the air”-without so many of the comforts and with so little of the security that we normally enjoy.
On Friday, not knowing how things will play out by Sunday, I can only hope and pray that the damage will be light and the casualties will be few. It is, somehow, easier to to accept the idea of divine providence when things are going well, rather than in the midst of misery. It is always a bit difficult to discuss the reality that God does permit natural evils in this world-earthquakes and hurricanes and so-forth.
That we are subject to natural evils is a result of original sin, and to a lesser degree, to the sins which we ourselves have committed. It might help to recognize that sometimes even the most awful natural evils can work for good by getting the attention of those who have fallen into the trap of trusting too greatly in themselves. Our Lord would certainly not object to the idea of putting up storm shutters, or having some bottled water and cans of food on hand-the parable is hyperbole (an exaggeration in order to make the point)-He really didn’t expect His listeners to go around wearing no more than the birds of the air, or making no more provision for themselves than the lilies. But some times, we human beings lose sight of our ultimate destiny in eternal life, and we make plans that are simply too tied up with the things of the material world. We really should be more concerned with the works of the spirit, rather than with the works of the earth.
In the prayers we have been adding to the Mass for the past few days, the Church reminds us that even though we may (and should) pray for a favorable display of God’s providence, we should not lose sight of the fact that “God chastens us to heal us, so that He may forgive us in order to heal us”-“peace and tranquility are the gifts of His mercy.”
Again, this is being written on Friday morning, and there is no way to predict the outcome of the next two or three days. Hopefully, God will not find us in great need of “chastening,” and the effects of the storm will be light. Or, maybe, He will afford us to remember the need to help our neighbors. In any event, we must be grateful that God has given us yet another opportunity to consider our own insignificance in the light of His almighty power. Hopefully, He has given us yet another opportunity to choose God over “mammon”-an opportunity to seek the kingdom of God and His justice,” so that all that is truly important “will be given us besides.”