When disaster strikes, it can leave many affected by its immediate damage and leave others asking how they can help. For many Oklahomans, this question has been on our mind in recent weeks.
Whether it's flooding or house fires, disasters seem to be a natural part of life. In fact, they may even seem biblical. Genesis, six chapters in, opens with the story of Noah and the Great Flood:
"In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month: on that day All the fountains of the great abyss burst forth, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. "For forty days and forty nights heavy rain poured down on the earth." -Book of Genesis 7: 11-12 (NABRE)
These words seem to have taken on new relevance in the last few days across Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and other states in the Great Plains. Homes have been lost, families separated, and almost a dozen people have been called home to God. It's a time of sadness and misery.
Despite of all this, we are reminded of a simple directive: "love one another as I love you," (John 15:12). Out of this suffering, we the opportunity to help those around us, raise them up, and live out that directive. As Catholics, we especially must take opportunities like these as a mission and a calling to love, and we have two, easy ways to guide us: the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. These come from the teachings and instructions of Jesus and remind us how we can love one another.
The Corporal Works of Mercy
Remembering back to those Sunday School classes years ago, we can remember this list of ways we can help those less fortunate than us. These are the Corporal Works of Mercy, and they are ways be can be more Christ-like in how we act and take care of those temporal needs. In times of natural disasters, these can help the immediate suffering of those in need:
Feed the Hungry.
Give Drink to the Thirsty.
Shelter the Homeless.
Visit the Sick.
Visit the Prisoners.
Bury the Dead.
Give Alms to the Poor.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
We're not all chaplains, but we all can be witnesses to our faith. Let me say this: if you've ever asked "Why does God let this happen" when a disaster occurs, you're not a bad Catholic. Questioning the will of God is something even our saints have encountered frequently. We only need to look to our parish's patron saint, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, for instance. Bedridden and struck with tuberculosis, she called her last months on Earth her “trial of faith" (The Story of a Soul).
Now, just as we need to feed the body we also need to feed the soul, especially during times of great distress. This is where the Spiritual Works of Mercy reveal their beauty. They are our opportunity to help others in their spiritual needs.
Counseling the Doubtful.
Instructing the Ignorant.
Admonishing the Sinner.
Comforting the Sorrowful.
Bearing Wrongs Patiently.
Praying for the Living and the Dead.
How Can I Help With What's Happening Right Now
Catholic Charities of Tulsa & Eastern Oklahoma is the primary, charitable arm of the Diocese of Tulsa & Eastern Oklahoma. Outside of the 78 parishes and missions of the diocese, it's through Catholic Charities that most people experience Christ's love through our help.
Throughout the year and during times of particular natural disaster, their Disaster Relief Fund supports hundreds of families and individuals in getting the assistance they need. This can range from short-term assistance, e.g. clothing, food, and immediate financial assistance, and more long-term aid, e.g. navigating federal recovery or emotional difficulties months later.
More information can be found at: https://cceok.org/disaster-relief.
You can also help a local family our parish is helping, right now, to recover from a house fire. Father Ernesto is calling on those in our community to help this family. Ways you might be able to help include:
Entertainment for kids, such as board games or books.
Immediate clothing while insurance is being claimed: dad's size is XL shirts, 34" to 36" waist, shoes size 9 mens; mom's size is small tops, 26" waist, and shoes size 7 1/2 or 8 women; 12 year-old son is an adult small, and shoes 8 1/2 men; and 6 year-old son is an adult small or kid size 6 to 7, and shoe size 13.
Anything that is donated should be brought to the Parish Office.
Jake Brillhart is a student at Rogers State University studying Public Affairs with a focus in Media Communications and minoring in Technical Writing. He is an active volunteer in Tulsa-based and nationwide-serving nonprofits. He enjoys helping groups share their story through digital and print media and enabling nonprofits to be more, know more, and do more. He currently works at Saint Thérèse Catholic Church as their Communications Coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org