From the Pastor: It’s Hurricane Season
Hurricane season began a month ago. This is the first hurricane season during which I have been at Epiphany of Our Lord, as is true for many of you. We have not had a hurricane hit this area in quite a few years—thanks be to God!—but that doesn’t mean that we will not be affected by one or more this year. So I wish to give you four basic pastoral guidelines on what to do if a hurricane threatens.
First: Pray. This seems to be the obvious first step for all who have faith in God but I have never seen it mentioned in any of the “official” hurricane guides put out by the local news outlets or government agencies. Here it gets top billing. Pray to avert the storm. Pray to lessen the storm. Pray that, if God deems it best to allow the storm to hit, it will bring about increases in Faith, Hope and Charity which will far outweigh any perceived or real physical or moral evil it brings. Get out your rosary, read your bible, open your prayer books and pray. Come to Mass if possible (more on that later). Some of the weekday Masses, under such circumstances, may be celebrated with special prayers of the “Mass to avert storms” when a hurricane threatens. [Sometimes people question whether it is proper to pray that a storm changes course. What if it hits somewhere else rather than us? Are we then responsible for the damage, destruction, disruption of people’s daily activities, or even deaths? Let me answer bluntly, without trying to sound either callous or flippant: the people living where it eventually hits have the opportunity to pray for the aversion of the storm just as much as you do. Pray for their spiritual and physical safety, too, but do not worry that somehow you took control of the storm away from God. He is still in charge.]
Second: Follow any good secular advice given for preparation before—and survival during and after—the storm. For instance, make sure you have several days’ worth of food and water stored at your house. If the storm destroys your house and wipes out your food and water supply, there is not much you can do about it. But do you remember seeing images on TV of people complaining that “the government is to blame” when they were simply too lazy or cheap to follow mandatory evacuation orders or even to buy a couple of gallons of water a week before trouble hit? Don’t let that idiot be you!
Third: Do not come to Mass if it would be dangerous for you to do so. I live on the church property. Even if a hurricane is predicted to hit us, I should be able to be at the church to celebrate any scheduled Masses. But that doesn’t mean that you have to brave the storm to get here. Think not only about your own safety but also about the safety of any emergency personnel who may have to come and rescue you if your car winds up in a ditch. Please don’t put anyone in danger. That being said, if you can make it to the church safely, feel free to come. This church is not in a flood zone or evacuation zone, but, as you know if you have been here during an afternoon thunderstorm, the local streets and even our parking lot flood in the low spots when the rain gets heavy. So be careful if you decide to make the trip.
Fourth: If you cannot make it to Sunday Mass due to a hurricane, bring in your offertory envelope for that Sunday the next time you come, or give online. The last time we had hurricanes come through I was at St. Rita in Dade City. I think there were three Sundays when attendance was extremely low due to hurricanes coming through on weekends. Very few parishioners thought to later come and give the monetary offering that they would have given had they been at Mass. Most people seemed to treat the missed Mass the same as if they didn’t go to a theme park that day and therefore did not need to pay the admittance fee. Your contribution is so much more than that. It is a spiritual offering, a tithe. Please don’t short-change either God or yourself!
I hope that helps to answer any questions you have about whether or not Mass will be celebrated and whether or not you should come. But going back to point number one, I think it is always best if we just pray the storms out of existence and not have to worry about the rest of it. So get going even now, when no storm is threatening. If a storm comes anywhere near, the news people will get you all worked up and you might just forget to pray then, so pray long before it seems necessary!
With prayers for you holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka