Thursday, February 24, 2011

Christchurch, New Zealand: A Cathedral, a Hotel, People, and Prayer

Prayer is important.

But first, here's something from today's news and views:
"The authorities in Christchurch, New Zealand, kept emergency workers and others away from one of the city's tallest buildings on Friday, concerned that it might collapse three days after it was heavily damaged in an earthquake that killed more than 100 people.

"But engineers familiar with the city and with New Zealand's building codes said the structure, the 26-story Hotel Grand Chancellor, had performed up to standards during the quake. It survived initially, allowing those inside to escape.

" 'That's kind of the minimum performance expectation' for a building of that type, said Chris Poland, who is chairman of an American Society of Civil Engineers committee on seismic rehabilitation of buildings. ..."
(The New York Times)

"The death toll from the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand's second biggest city was revised higher on Friday.

""The latest information I have regarding the number of deceased is that we have 113 people in the temporary morgue," police commander Dave Cliff told reporters...."

"The spire lost in New Zealand's earthquake matters. Obliterating past treasures or leaving the scars of ruins never helps

"The collapse in Tuesday's earthquake of the bell tower of ChristChurch cathedral is a tragedy both for those killed and for the heart and soul of New Zealand's second city. The tower was the focus point at the heart of this charming, peaceful chip off the old British block. Its loss is symbolic of the tragedy. It should be rebuilt at once.

"Cities vary widely in their response to disaster. London reacted to terrorist attack differently from New York. The resignation of the poor of Pakistan, Haiti and Indonesia faced with earthquake and tsunami surprised western observers, as families and villages turned in on themselves and found a comfort and security the state could not supply. It is the same in time of war.

"In each case someone comes along shouting for a memorial. They demand some artist's self-regarding creation of modern sculpture, like a Diana fountain. They demand hunks of concrete and steel, cenotaphs and memorial walls, the crude litterings of New York's Ground Zero or London's Hyde Park Corner. It is as if tragedy required atonement in an all too visible and eternal gesture of commemoration...."
The Reuters article puts the number of people missing in Christchurch, New Zealand, at upwards of 200: but explains that some of the bodies recovered may be people who are missing. The folks in Christchurch are a long way from getting themselves sorted out after the most recent earthquake.

If Christchurch, New Zealand, sounds familiar, it should. They had another earthquake last year:

Christchurch, New Zealand: Prayer Couldn't Hurt

The folks in Christchurch, New Zealand, have been shaken up. Literally, of course: and I'm pretty sure that many of them have felt calmer than they do now.

Some have lost family, friends, or acquaintances. Others are dealing with familiar places that aren't so familiar any more - or usable.

As I've said before: no pressure, but I don't think prayer for the folks there could hurt.

That's the important part of this post.

People Pay Attention to What Matters - to Them

Those excerpts are from a quick Google news search for articles relating to New Zealand. I picked three that had numbers or observations to offer.

The New York Times may have published something about the Christchurch cathedral's destruction: but what I found near the top of the pile of results was a discussion of a hotel and building codes. That's quite understandable, in a newspaper that is written by folks working in one of America's major cities. It takes planning to come through a disaster like an earthquake without the sort of devastation we saw in Haiti.

That isn't a criticism of Haitians: but the folks running that country could have done a better job of making sure that buildings stayed up long enough for folks to get out, at least. Looks like the survivors have learned from the experience:
Simon Jenkins, in, doesn't have The New York Times' point of view. Another excerpt from his op-ed piece:
"...On Wednesday the dean of ChristChurch cathedral said that the loss of his tower was devastating, 'but the most important thing at the moment is not the buildings, it's the people'. The dead must be found and buried. I would question only the implied demotion of the buildings. Unlike dead people they can live again, and if revived can restore more than brick and stone. They restore morale, civic pride and collective memory.

"ChristChurch cathedral tower is the totem of civic continuity. Begun in 1864, it was built apart from the nave to minimise collateral damage should it fall...."
I think Simon Jenkins is right, where it comes to structures being important to people living near them: important in more that a strictly utilitarian sense. I also think that "unlike dead people they can live again" misses an important point or two about Catholic beliefs: like the Resurrection. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 638-655, 988-1014, for starters)

What impressed me was that he seemed to appreciate at least the cultural and psychological importance of the cathedral to Christchurch's people. The Catholics, anyway. Kudos.

The point is that, in my opinion, people tend to notice what interests them.

For example, if a fashion designer, a botanist, and a sports writer watched the same football game, the first might be chiefly aware of the fabrics and colors worn by the teams - and fans; the second might notice what sort of grass was on the field; while the third would see the strategies and skills involved in game play.

Each has seen what's 'really' going on - from their own point of view. That's hardly a profound observation.

Moving on.

Christchurch Cathedral

(from AFP, via Radio New Zealand News, used w/o permission)

That photo is from Radio New Zealand News (online):
More about the cathedral and earthquakes:
"The picture of the crumbling spire at Christchurch Cathedral is one of the starkest images to emerge from today's devastating earthquake.

"But it's by no means the first time the historic cathedral has suffered major quake damage.

"The cathedral, consecrated on November 1, 1881, was damaged just a month after the event when a magnitude-six quake hit the city.

"University of Canterbury history professor Geoffrey Rice said the cathedral bells gave one toll when the quake hit on that fateful day.

" 'A stone fell from the finial cap below the cross on the spire, and dented the asphalt below,' Professor Rice wrote in an article published by New Zealand's The Press newspaper last year.

" 'Luckily nobody was passing at the time.'..."
This time around, the news isn't so happy. There's a good chance that 22 people died when the spire fell on them. Folks in Christchurch will find out just how many, as they clear away the rubble.

Sometimes Bad Things Happen to Good People

From time to time, I run into - interesting - assumptions about Christians and Christianity. ("Report of a UFO Would 'Destroy One's Belief in the Church?!' " (August 6, 2010))The notion that meeting people who aren't human would shatter Christian faith has been around for quite a while. I suspect it may come from assuming that the more rabid radio preachers and dudes who sell 'prosperity gospel' books are the foundation of Christendom.

Back to the Christchurch quake, I'm not at all surprised that people - probably Catholics - were killed when a cathedral spire fell on them. Sad, and sympathetic for the survivors, yes. Surprised, no.

It's that Matthew 5:44-45 thing. Also Psalms 145:15. Both of which are cited in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2828.

Then there's the tower of Siloam incident. (Luke 13:4)

No, I do not see my faith as a sort of celestial 'get out of jail free' card.

Prayer: It's Important

I was going to write about prayer today, and this post came out instead.

Here's where I intended to start:
"Prayer cannot be reduced to the spontaneous outpouring of interior impulse: in order to pray, one must have the will to pray. Nor is it enough to know what the Scriptures reveal about prayer: one must also learn how to pray. Through a living transmission (Sacred Tradition) within 'the believing and praying Church,'1 the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God how to pray.

"The tradition of Christian prayer is one of the ways in which the tradition of faith takes shape and grows, especially through the contemplation and study of believers who treasure in their hearts the events and words of the economy of salvation, and through their profound grasp of the spiritual realities they experience.2"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2650-2651)
Maybe I'll try to get that train of thought back on the tracks - tomorrow.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.