Monday, August 29, 2011

What Hurricane Irene Doesn't Mean, and Prayer

First, about this post's title: "What Hurricane Irene Doesn't Mean...."

I've got opinions about Hurricane Irene, but I also have the teaching authority of "some guy with a blog." I don't speak for the Catholic Church.

Still, I'm pretty confident about this:

Hurricane Irene Wasn't God Getting Even With Those Sinners Over There

I could be wrong about that. Maybe God decided that about three dozen people had to get killed, becauseI really don't think so - but I suppose it's possible.

It's not so much the 14 decades that's gone by since those riots that makes me think that Hurricane Irene isn't some sort of vindictive divine payback.

It's the sort of petty viciousness I associate with assuming that God kills people because He's peeved about something their ancestors did. That doesn't seem like a good fit with God the merciful and righteous, source of all truth, good and love. Still, He's been known to get rough with us.1

As far as I know, nobody's said that Hurricane Irene was the righteous wrath of an angry God - punishing sinners in big east coast cities. Not that I've looked for the sort of thoughtless statements celebrities made after recent earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.2 And I'm getting a little off-topic.

Oddly, I also think that - - -

God Sent Hurricane Irene

Since I'm a Catholic, I have to believe that divine providence exists: the idea that God runs the universe in a very hands-on way. It makes sense, but taking divine providence seriously also forced me to let go of the 'clockwork' model of creation.3

I think this is a pretty good super-short summary of what the Catholic Church has about divine providence. The basics, anyway:
  • God
    • Cares about His creation
      • From the smallest detail to the largest events
    • Does what He wants
      • Regardless of whether it fits our plans
      (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 303)
There's more, including:
  • Jesus told us to
    • Trust God
    • Not be anxious about what we
      • Need
      • Want
      (Catechism, 305)
  • Providence and
    • Secondary causes (Catechism, 306-308)
    • The scandal of evil (Catechism, 309-314)
I don't have much of a problem with assuming that God set Hurricane Irene up the east coast of the United States. What I won't do is assume that the storm is the righteous wrath of a tame God, smiting folks who don't agree with me.4 There's that Matthew 7:1-5 thing for starters.

I think it's safe to assume that God had a reason for arranging weather conditions over the weekend. I also suspect that I couldn't understand His motives. God's God, I'm not.

However, I also think a little speculation won't hurt. First, though:

Hurricane Irene: Prayer Couldn't Hurt

So far, about three dozen folks near the east coast died as a result of Hurricane Irene. I think it'd be a good idea to pray for their families and friends - and for the victims.

About Prayer

I think prayer is a good idea: whether it's a quick 'please help me stay calm;' or a nine-day sequence of structured prayers and meditations.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a pretty good place to start learning what the Catholic Church says about prayer:
  • Prayer
    • Isn't just an impulsive outburst
    • Is
      • A learned skill
      • Taught by the Holy Spirit
      (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2650-2651)
There's more, of course: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2650-2660, for a start.

Hurricane Irene: Opportunity for Prayer and Charity?

This is just speculation, but I've wondered if maybe one of God's reasons for the east coast's wild weather is educational. Americans have an opportunity here to pray - and offer help to folks affected by the storm.

It's just speculation, of course.

Related posts: News and views:
1 There's more to God than this sort of thing:
"7 As he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and the whole region of the Plain, he saw dense smoke over the land rising like fumes from a furnace." (Genesis 19:28)
On the other hand, seeing God only as a nice, inoffensive chap who doesn't do much except smile and tell people how well they're doing: isn't, I think, a good idea. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7) It isn't, I think, the end: but I also think it's a good place to start.2 There seems to be something about major disasters that brings out the cluelessness in folks:3 The notion that God created the universe, wound it up, and let it run on its own, allowed me to sidestep questions about the existence of evil. That 'clockwork universe' notion wasn't easy to let go:4 Minnesota is so far north, it isn't even a 'flyover state.' Not for folks whose world exists in Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Too many folks seem to have the 'anything I don't know, isn't important' attitude. That can be annoying or amusing, or a bit frightening: depending on whether the ignoramus is obnoxious, harmless, or a prominent member of society. I've gotten the impression, now and again, that a fair number of America's leaders don't realize that Green Acres is fiction.

Then there's the tendency to assume that folks in your neighborhood, and near your office, are 'normal:' and that anyone who's not like your little group - isn't.

I've discussed parochialism, The New York Times, and assumptions about New York City's home town paper, mostly in another blog:

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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.