Who can assure us that we will be alive tomorrow?
Let us not put off from one moment to another
what we should do,
because the next moment is not yet ours.
–St. Pio of Pietrelcina, 20th century
This is my OSV Daily Take post from today. Given the devastation in Haiti, I thought it was important to share this more newsy post on Not Strictly Spiritual.
By Mary DeTurris Poust
Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida, has deep and strong ties to the Haitian community in both this country and abroad. Before becoming Bishop of Orlando, he served briefly in Haiti and later was director of the Pierre Toussaint Haitian Catholic Center in Miami and pastor of three Haitian parishes in the Archdiocese of Miami. Fluent in Haitian Creole, the bishop took time away from meetings related to the Haitian earthquake crisis, for an email interview with Our Sunday Visitor. Here are the bishop’s thoughts on the current situation in Haiti and his hopes for the country’s future.
OSV: Right now people are focusing on the immediate crisis in Haiti following the devastating earthquake. Can you give us a broader perspective, putting this crisis into the context of Haitian life before the earthquake?
Bishop Wenski: Life in Haiti was always hard for the majority of its population, most of whom live on less than $2 a day. However, the earthquake hit an area of Haiti where a third of its population of 8 million-plus people live — Port-au-Prince and vicinity. So, it’s really unprecedented. With the high mortality rates, it is hard to imagine one Haitian family not immediately affected.
OSV: Relief organizations are being flooded with donations for Haiti right now. Is there the possibility that relief aid will help Haitians finally build a better future for themselves and their children, or are the issues there — poverty, government instability, etc. — too great?
Bishop Wenski: Hopefully, those in charge of leading the recovery will get it right. In the short term, removal of debris and rebuilding will provide much needed employment; however, in the long term, the now destroyed infrastructure (in the best of times fragile) will need to be rebuilt: hospitals, schools, churches, utilities like electricity, water and communications.
OSV: Where must the rebuilding effort begin in order to be most effective?
Bishop Wenski: First, since much of Port-au-Prince is destroyed, many families should be relocated to the provincial towns and villages where many in Port-au-Prince have their roots. To do that, adequate resources also have to be directed to these areas even though they might not have been directly affected by the earthquake. Then Port-au-Prince has to be “redesigned” and “re-imagined” so that it can emerge from its ashes better than before.
OSV: How is the devastation from the earthquake likely to affect the everyday lives of Haitians for the weeks, months, years to come?
Bishop Wenski: A child who loses a mother or father because of the earthquake will be affected forever; a mother that cannot give a decent burial to her child killed in the earthquake will carry that with her for the rest of her life. This earthquake will be the ecological event of the 21st Century – and it will shadow Haitians for generations to come.
OSV: In your statement (HERE), you talk about the need for President Obama to give Haiti Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Can you explain the importance of this and what it could mean not only for Haitians nationals living in this country but their families back home?
Bishop Wenski: There is a discrete number of Haitians in the United States “out of status.” They face deportation, which would only complicate the humanitarian situation on the island. TPS would allow them to stay for the time being and to work legally, which would be of immense value to them as well as to their loved ones back home.
OSV: How is this crisis going to impact the Haitian community here in the United States?
Bishop Wenski: Almost every Haitian I’ve talked to in the U.S. since the earthquake has family members and friends in Haiti. Right now many are anxious awaiting news of the fate of these loved ones. Haitians are a resilient people. They will survive, but the pain of loss – and the extent of loss – will leave a permanent mark on this community. Hopefully, even in evil God can bring about good. The solidarity of the international community hopefully will hearten Haitians here and in Haiti; and this tragedy has affected Haitians of all social and economic classes. Hopefully this tragedy will bring about a new national unity among the Haitian people who have been long divided over class and or political lines. And for us in the United States, let me say that geography has made the U.S. and Haiti neighbors; now is the time that we show that we also are truly brothers and sisters.
From my post at OSV Daily Take today:
In addition, the U.S. bishops are urging parishes to take up a special collection this weekend for the people and church of Haiti. Collections will support the efforts of Catholic Relief Services, which has already made an immediate commitment of $ 5 million for emergency supplies.
CNS Blog has posted John Thavis’ unedited interview with Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who is chairman of the board for Catholic Relief Services. You can view the clip below:
Well, well, well. Almost a whole week has gone by since I last posted here. Was it because I was busy with Christmas visits and celebrations and lots of family time? Absolutely, yes. But my absence here is about more than that, I’m realizing. There were a couple of times when I sat down to post but backed away at the last minute. I reflected on all this and tried to put my finger on what was keeping me from this blog. What I’m finding is that lately I want to fly under the radar of life. Not in a depressing way, but in a less-is-more kind of way.
As with so many other strange phenomena in my life in recent years, I think this more muted version of myself has something to do with my spiritual journey. Where I used to want to talk non-stop (and often did, as many of you can probably attest), I have less of a need for chatter these days. Where once I may have thrown myself out there in an effort to make people laugh, or at least make people like me, I now find myself pulling back, fading — or perhaps, “blending” is a better word — into the background of life. I even deactivated my Facebook account for about five days recently and simply stopped reading other blogs (except for OSV Daily Take, which is part of my job so I have to show up there).
I felt like I needed time away from the high-tech frenzy. Then I realized that I couldn’t get in touch with some people without social networking. Oh, the tangled worldwide web we weave. So…I had to reactivate my Facebook account yesterday, and now here I am today. Connection? Not sure yet, but certainly being back in touch with my Facebook community makes the drive to blog again seem more urgent.
Where is all this leading? Well, as a writer who has to try to drum up publicity for books and other projects, it’s kind of impossible — or crazy — to just disappear from the social networking and blogging world. Although I really don’t like self-promotion, I recognize that the people who succeed in this very difficult world of book publishing are the ones who are willing to get out there again and again and again and remind us of what they’re doing and how to climb on board. So there’s that. But more than good public relations, being in touch with folks through Facebook and this blog has really been a tremendously positive thing for me in general.
As with so many aspects of our lives, I think the key is balance, learning to set our own pace and to avoid the temptation to get caught up in someone else’s version of what life should look like. We don’t have to do everything at lightening speed, in blazing color, at top volume. We can live our lives very happily and serenely doing just the opposite, in fact. Slowing down gives us more time to breathe and appreciate the world around us. Muted colors like grays and browns and dark blues can be even more beautiful than flashy colors that typically grab the spotlight in the color palette. Whispers can often get our attention more quickly and more powerfully than shouts.
I found, as I often do, that Thomas Merton has food for thought on this topic:
“When I am liberated by silence, when I am no longer involved in the measurement of life, but in the living of it, I can discover a form of prayer in which there is effectively, no distraction. My whole life becomes a prayer. My whole silence is full of prayer…Let me seek then the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is all in all.” — Thoughts in Solitude, Thomas Merton
So I’ve been away for a while again, and not simply because I have overbooked scheduled. At I tried to put my finger on the reason I haven’t been blogging, I started noticing a new phenomenon in my life — spiritual and otherwise. I kind of want to fly under the radar of life. I don’t mean that in a sad or depressing sort of way. I find I have much less of a need to be out there getting attention for myself lately. Now, granted, the blog is as more (or more) something I do for myself than for the readers. It really is a spiritual exercise for me to sit and write about my spiritual life and struggles. But it’s the me/my/mine stuff that I think is getting in my way. Kind of like how when I was young I was constantly talking out of some need to make people laugh,