As I sit down to write this letter early on Thursday morning, the National Hurricane Center has just issued a Tropical Storm Warning for New Haven and the entire southern New England coast, as the remains of Hurricane Elsa make their way up the eastern seaboard. They are predicting we might see 35” of rain and wind gusts pushing 60 mph. By the time most of you are reading this letter, the storm will have blown through. Looking back, perhaps we will all say, “Boy, was that a dud!” Or perhaps we will see damage somewhat close to what we saw with Hurricane Isaias a year ago, where tens of thousands lost power, trees were toppled, and the friars even saw two sections of copper flashing ripped off our priory roof and hurled to the ground below. Hurricanes are among the scariest weather phenomena out there. The combination of driving rain and massive winds that continue for hours on end, combined with the flash flooding and sometimes tornados that come as secondary effects, are a serious threat to life and property. While hurricanes, per se, were unknown to Biblical authors, there are plenty accounts of similar weather to be found in the New Testament. One such account is this one: He got into a boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?” (Matthew 8:2327) In the midst of the hurricanes of life, Jesus calls us to center our faith directly on Him. He is the one whom “even the wind and the sea obey.” He may not immediately remove the tempests swirling in our life, but when we firmly place ourselves in His boat, we know we will never sink. Earlier in the same Gospel, Jesus tells an important parable: Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” (Matthew 7:2427) We as Catholics also know another place where Jesus speaks about rock. He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:1518) And so in the midst of the storms, the tempests, the hurricanes of our lives our faith gives us the clear approach we are to take. We are to root ourselves in Jesus Christ, drawing closer to Him in prayer and especially through the Most Holy Eucharist. And we are to stand firm in our Catholic faith, secure on the rock of Peter. This has been what Catholics have done for two thousand years to weather every type of storm and tempest imaginable. This has been the secret to the holiness of the saints of every generation. This is what Our Lord calls us to every day of our lives.
Fr. John Paul