What we can learn about Natural Disasters?

At the moment that I am writing this article, I am thinking of all my friends I have in Mexico City because just a few hours ago a powerful earthquake (7.1) shook the Mexican capital.  Just couple of weeks after the earthquake in southern Mexico and about a week after hurricane Irma hit the U.S. east coast and the Caribbean, we have a new disaster now in a densely populated city: my beloved Mexico City.

I spent couple of years living in a city in which I fell in love with Our Lady of Guadalupe. I was a seminarian studying in Seminario Hispano Hispanic Seminary located in a suburban municipality with the name of Tlalpan. I just was a couple of miles away from UNAM | Portal UNAM I took the train every other week from the Southern part of the city to visit the shrine of Our Lady Guadalupe which is located in the north of Mexico City, by the hill of Tepeyac; the place where San Juan Diego was a witness of the miracle that changed Mexican modern history forever. While traveling from the south of the city to the north, more than an hour,  I prayed to the Lord, so he could give me the strength and perseverance to continue in my vocation to the priesthood. I liked to go for confession at the Basilica of “La Morenita”

My first time in Mexico was in 2000, at the turn of the millennium. By that time, I was amazed by the cultural richness of Mexico as I was fascinated enjoying Mexican food.  Even though Venezuela and Mexico are part of Latin America, our cultures are very different; what is somehow the same is the language: we speak Spanish. Coming from Venezuela, I felt welcomed by the faithful that I got to know.  I was able to make many new friends that I still treasure.

My second time living in Mexico City was between 2012 and 2014. In two years, I was sent to three different parishes to help in several ministries.  I engaged with the People of God from different backgrounds.  We have to remember that Mexico City is a magnet for many internal migrants (from the same country) and external immigrants coming from other parts of the Americas and even from other parts of the world.  Mexico is the route of many immigrants who want to get up north and cross the border to pursue the so called “American Dream”. Some of the immigrants get stuck in Mexico and some of them just decided to stay and make a living in the big metropolis: the capital of Mexico.

In this environment, I was able to see both sides of the coin of a contrasting reality.  I visited the most wealthy parts of the capital; I also visited a huge landfill in which impoverished Mexicans had built a surreal shantytown within the city; this was the same site were the movie Elyseum was filmed.  It was shocking to me seeing the facts: kids walking and looking for something of value in the trash.  As surreal at it was, I worked along the youth of the parish I was serving, to deliver gifts to the kids.  It was a happy moment to see kids smiling as they received these gifts.  We delivered those gifts right after the “Dia de Reyes” or the feast of the Epiphany, when Mexicans celebrate the visit of the magi to baby Jesus with “La rosca de Reyes” or pan dulce baked for the occasion.

This is just one of numerous fulfilling episodes that I lived in the capital of Mexico.  As I heard the news today, I though of the many friends I have there.  I was praying for them and even I called a handful of them checking on them, praying that they were safe.

The questions I made for myself today were: What It has to happen a natural disaster like this to call my friends?  Where is God in the midst of this disaster? I do not have an elaborated answer to this questions, but a I am willing to listen the word of the Lord in my personal prayer, as I reflect on my approach to relationships and friendships.  Today I offer my prayer for my friends. Likewise, I will offer my prayer tomorrow for them.

Without a doubt, I can tell that part of my heart is still there in Mexico City.  Probably tomorrow I will keep calling the friends I was not able to call today.  I just continue praying for my Mexican brothers and sisters who were taken by surprise by the earthquake today. Now I have another question for myself: Am I prepared spiritually for a natural disaster? The answer: I am trying as a good Catholic Christian to be ready for a moment like this. I am a priest and I should be ready. I am praying…

I found a Psalm very appropriate for this difficult moment. May the Lord bring them consolation as we pray together with Psalm 46:

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 
3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. 
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 
5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 
7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 
Amen.

10 thoughts on “What we can learn about Natural Disasters?

  1. I am right there with you, Father, in my prayers for the people of Mexico City and Chiapas. In my mind I know that the Lord has a plan, and that he intends to bring a greater good from these tragedies, but my heart can’t help but break for those afflicated. I also ask the Holy Spirit to increase my trust in God, knowing that he is (ultimately) in control.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Fr. Juan. Like you I have questioned God in times of huge natural disasters that affect thousands of people. And just like you, I can’t seem to find the right answers to my questions. I can only read your passages and pray solemnly to calm my own thoughts and offer those prayers for all the people affected by the recent hurricanes and earthquakes. May God bless ALL of us…

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  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Fr. Juan. Like you I have questioned God in times of huge natural disasters that affect thousands of people. And just like you, I can’t seem to find the right answers to my questions. I can only read your passages and pray solemnly to calm my own thoughts and offer those prayers for all the people affected by the recent hurricanes and earthquakes. May God bless ALL of us…

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  4. Thank you, so much, Father Juan, for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.
    I will join my prayers with yours for all of persons affected by the earthquakes and hurricanes in the last few weeks.
    I pray that our Lord continue to give you strength to continue your writings and your vocation. You are, also, in my prayers – daily

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  5. Thank you father for your thoughts. I’m with you in that we should not wait for a natural disaster or other to communicate with friends. I learned today that a co-worker I used to work with passed away in a tragic senseless way–she fell from the stairs in her condo. She was only one or two years younger than me and I’m still in shock. I will pray that her children and mom can rely on their faith for peace.

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  6. Thank you Father Juan for sharing your experience as well sharing the psalm that helps put things in perspective. I will join you in prayer for all those that have been affected by natural disasters. As humans, we tend to ask many question, specially things like why. It is during these times that we need to remember that we are all created in the image of God and that we need to love one and other regardless of race, color, etc… Disasters like these do show the bright side of humanity from the first responders to parishioners coming together for prayer or for raising money to support the relief efforts. Thank you for the gift of this blog as it does put the word of Go into something tangible.

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