Lately I've been returning to that most extraordinary event held at the height of the coronavirus crisis in Italy.
When we moved to New Orleans, we were told that the four seasons here are a little different from what we'd been used to. Instead of spring, summer, fall, and winter, it's Mardi Gras, crawfish, hurricane, and football. Of course, the most difficult part of that list is hurricane season, which technically begins on June first and doesn't end until Nov. 30.
As the last few months have proven, tropical disturbances, depressions, storms, and hurricanes are no joke. Everybody around here knows that very well. After all, this year marks the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and everyone who was here in 2005 has a story to tell. That category-five storm utterly destroyed New Orleans and coastal Mississippi, killing 1,833 people and displacing more than a million residents. Many chose not to return.
I wish the meteorologists who predicted a higher than average number of storms this year had been wrong. In the past few months, we've prepped for possible evacuation or extended power loss six times -- but we've been lucky. Marco dissipated, Laura made landfall 200 miles west of us, Sally hit 150 miles to the east, and Delta landed within 20 miles of Laura. Nearly 10,000 Laura refugees from the western part of the state have been staying in New Orleans for the past six weeks. Just as things should have been settling down for them, they have a whole new round of damage to deal with.
While hurricanes here are somewhat similar to the Blizzard of '78, we're still figuring out what it means to be prepared for a storm headed our way. There are all kinds of conflicting weather models to watch on something we started calling the "spaghetti map." We're all set up to receive local warnings by text and email, and we've downloaded the state's get-a-game-plan app. When warnings are issued, we now store enough water for three days and turn the AC and refrigerator a bit colder. We've talked about where we would go if we needed to evacuate. And while we haven't actually had to leave home yet, we're not naïve enough to think that it couldn't happen to us someday.
Life is full of stormy weather. Though they often seem to come from nowhere, storms are forming all the time. They begin slowly and far away, and then move steadily toward us. There are times when we are at the center of a storm's path, and others when we are spared the direct hit. But there is always someone not far from us who is suffering the buffets of life's winds and waters.
Storms come in all shapes and sizes; a serious illness or death, a job loss, a broken family relationship, a military deployment, a natural disaster, and yes, even a global pandemic. That's why it is so critical for us to remember that Christ Jesus is not waiting for us on the shore. Where is God? He is with us in whatever difficulties we face. As our Holy Father Pope Francis reminded us at the Urbi et Orbi blessing last March: Christ is in the storm.
Lately I've been returning to that most extraordinary event held at the height of the coronavirus crisis in Italy. Even more than a "moment of prayer," the beautiful holy hour at dusk and in the rain provided not only a glimpse of the Church at her best, but a portrait of Catholic faith in miniature. All the hallmarks of prayer were engaged to offer healing and hope to the whole world. That single hour is one worth returning to again and again as a school of devotional prayer in the midst of trouble.
That's why I'm so excited to have had a part in producing the extraordinary Urbi et Orbi event in book form. Available now, "Christ in the Storm: An Extraordinary Blessing for a Suffering World" is more than just a photograph packed memento of that powerful evening in St. Peter's Square. It's a plan for prayer, a lifeline to hope, and tangible reassurance that Christ is with us in every circumstance. Eventually, storms pass. But we can take something even more powerful than high winds with us -- a faith that draws us closer to God and to one another.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.