September 2005

Dear sisters and brothers,

Much of my life has been dominated in the last two weeks by the images of destruction in the aftermath of Katrina, as Iím sure yours has as well. Our Regional Executive Council has voted to donate $500 toward disaster relief; I encourage you all to do what you can to support the relief and rebuilding efforts. Our ongoing prayer support is of course essential along with providing for the physical needs of those affected.

In the face of a disaster like this, a real challenge for us may be to help others (and ourselves!) keep their faith in God when itís hard to understand why a loving God would allow this to happen. I know I am not competent to explain why such disasters happen, and I donít find the explanations I hear from religious people on the radio acceptable. I donít believe this is Godís vengeance, or a sign of the end times, but that doesnít mean I understand WHY. It reminds me of Godís response to Jobís complaints - basically, "Iím God and youíre not." While that doesnít satisfy me either, the best I can do in this situation is to accept that I donít know why Katrina happened, or the tsunami, or any number of other terrible things large and small.

Since I do believe that "God makes all things work for good," I expect to see positive events out of this terrible situation. I was relieved when our government admitted that we could use help from other countries, who were ready and willing to come to our aid. (Before I get too judgmental about our government thinking we could manage alone, I have to remind myself of how often I want to be able to deal with my own problems without help from anyone else. Acknowledging our own insufficiency is hard, whether as individuals or as a nation!) Of course, there are many, many people from all over the country converging on the Gulf coast, and great progress is being made (and Iím sure much more will have been made by the time you read this). Over time, we will hear more about some of the acts of heroism and greatness of spirit demonstrated in this time of extreme adversity.

Part of our Franciscan charism is to take a positive approach to dealing with problems, rather than dwelling on the negative. This does not mean we wear blinders - we need to see what is wrong in order to work for what is right. However, it does mean that we should spend our energy supporting good - and making it easier for others to make good choices - rather than railing against evil. There are many stories about St. Francis that illustrate this choice for the positive. An example is his agreement with the wolf of Gubbio, in which Francis arranges for the townspeople to feed the wolf (a positive action) in exchange for an end to the wolfís attacks on the townspeople and their animals. Francis did not ignore the evil - he made it clear to the wolf that his attacks had to stop - but he did something positive that made it easier for the wolf to stop.

We have choices in the face of every adversity, whether we are suffering directly ourselves or not. It may be easiest to dwell on whatís wrong and whose fault it is, especially when the situation seems hopeless. However, we are called to move past that to what we can do to make the situation better. If the problem is far bigger than we can handle, we can follow Mother Teresaís example and take care of one person, or one need, in confidence that this is better than nothing - and for that one person helped, it is EVERYTHING.

May the peace of Christ be with you, now and alwaysÖVickie