Hurricane Sally inflicted damage upon much of our archdiocese. Its effects were felt as far north as Montgomery and Auburn. The worst of its winds were endured by the people in the southern half of Baldwin and Mobile counties. Although many have modest repairs to address, others have suffered considerable damage to homes and businesses. Most of all, we pray for those who died because of the storm. I am grateful for the Catholic parishes from outside of our archdiocese who sent truckloads of water, cleaning supplies and other aid to our most affected areas and for those who came to provide free hot meals. I am also grateful for the people in our Catholic Social Services who, aided by your donations to Catholic Charities, were able to assist in the days after the storm. May God bless them all these good people. Now the long haul begins to repair the damage. Catholic Social Services will be part of this effort.
After these past challenging and painful months, we could have done without Sally. The storm was one more matter which saps our strength. With so many trials coming our way, we may echo the psalmist who wrote:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day? (Ps 13)
We can feel his heart aching from all he had to withstand. Yet the psalmist continues:
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Ps13)
Sometimes life seems to give us more than we can handle. Yet our strength lies in knowing that God is with us in all things. If we believe God is with us, we know His strength will strengthen us. With God we can handle anything. We believe, as St. Paul teaches:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose. (Rm 8:28)
St. Paul tells us that all things work for the good of those who love the Lord, even the things which are painful.
We in Alabama are blessed by the presence of our stately live oak trees. In times of storms they, unlike many other tress, even other oaks, can weather the strongest of winds. I have often found comfort in these living symbols of strength. After a storm, despite being leafless and stark, they have stood their ground ready to grow their beautiful canopy of branches and leaves once again. So must we stand our ground, rooted in our faith, despite the worst storms life may throw at us.
Allow me to share an anonymous poem I came across 15 years ago after another hurricane. I offer it to you for your reflection.
A mighty wind blew night and day,
It stole the oak tree’s leaves away.
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark,
Until the Oak was tired and stark.
But still the oak tree held its ground,
While other trees fell all around.
The weary wind gave up and spoke,
“How can you still be standing Oak?”
The oak tree said,
“I know that you can break each branch of mine in two,
Carry every leaf away,
Shake my limbs, and make me sway,
But I have roots stretched in the earth,
Growing stronger since my birth,
You’ll never touch them, for you see,
They are the deepest part of me.
Until today, I wasn’t sure
Of just how much I could endure.
But now I’ve found, with thanks to you,
I’m stronger than I ever knew.”