How sad that certain voices have chosen to pass judgment on the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Times like this call for compassion, not judgment.
As catechists, we can help those we teach to shape their/our response according to Catholic principles. With that in mind, I offer the following thoughts.
How Catholics Can Talk About and Deal with the Tragedy in Haiti
The tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti calls us to respond according to Gospel values. Here are some specifically Catholic concepts that pertain to the current situation in Haiti and that can help us when discussing the event and how we can respond.
- Catholic Social Teaching – This body of teaching by the pope, bishops, and other church leaders addresses the most fundamental questions of human coexistence: Who are we? What do we owe one another? How should we live together? How can we establish peace and freedom for all? The tragedy in Haiti challenges us to come to respond to all of these questions in a way that is in harmony with the Gospel. These are the basic tenets of Catholic Social Teaching and how they apply in the current situation.
- Life and Dignity of the Human Person – All life is sacred, and all people must be treated with dignity. Our efforts to help the people of Haiti is in response to our recognition of their human dignity
- Call to Family, Community, and Participation
Haiti is part of the world community and as such, the health of the world community is intimately intertwined with the health of the community of Haiti
- Rights and Responsibilities
The Catholic Church teaches that every person has a right to life as well as a right to those things required for human decency. As Catholics, we are responsible for seeing to it that the people of Haiti have what is required for human decency.
- Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
As Catholics, we are called to pay special attention to the needs of poor people. Haiti is already a highly impoverished nation. The earthquake has only exacerbated matters, calling us to address the needs of people who are now extremely vulnerable.
- The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
Catholics believe that the economy is meant to serve people, not the other way around. The economy of Haiti is devastated. We are called to assist them in reviving an economy that can truly serve the needs of all.
Because God is our Father, we are all brothers and sisters with the responsibility to care for one another. This spirit of solidarity unites us with the people of Haiti, reminding us that we live in an interdependent world. We share a special solidarity with the people of Haiti, 80% of whom are Catholic – fellow members of the One Body of Christ
- Care for God’s Creation
God is the creator of all people and all things, and he wants us to enjoy his creation. Our response to the tragedy in Haiti includes an opportunity to restore the beauty of this island and makes its resources available to all.
- Prayer – The Catholic response to the tragedy in Haiti is not complete without prayer. We are called to unite our minds and hearts with one another and with God, knowing that, in prayer, we come to recognize God’s loving and healing presence in our lives
- Suffering – As Catholics, we do NOT believe that God sent this earthquake to punish the people of Haiti for their sins. We believe that evil entered into the world as a result of human sinfulness but that God does not will for his people to suffer. Rather, God is present with us, especially at times of suffering, offering his comfort and healing grace. We also believe that suffering can be redemptive and we unite our suffering to that of Christ’s, knowing and trusting that, out of this moment of suffering in Haiti, new life will spring forth.
- Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy – The tragedy in Haiti presents us with an opportunity to put our faith into action. For Catholics, the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy are concrete actions that reveal God’s loving mercy in human ways. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, burying the dead, giving alms to the poor, consoling the doubtful, comforting those who mourn – these are all ways that we can share with others the mercy that God has shared with us.
- Stewardship – We are all called to offer our time, talent, and treasure for the good of the community. Everything we have is a gift of God which we have been entrusted with. The people of Haiti are our brothers and sisters and we are called to share the abundance of God’s creation with them at this time in which they are being deprived of it.
- Death is not the end – we grieve for the loss of life in Haiti, however, we also trust the souls of all the faithful departed to the mercy of God, knowing that death is not the end. We can and should pray for all those who have died in Haiti, asking that God’s perpetual light may shine upon them.
- Catholic Resources – There are many agencies that can and are responding to the tragedy in Haiti, some of them specifically Catholic. Here’s a sampling:
Please note, as well, that Catholic Relief Services has a link for Resources for Catholic Educators and Youth Ministers to help young people join in solidarity with those suffering in Haiti. It includes prayer services and lesson plans for middle and high school.
Thank you Joe!
I was just about to send you a link for CRS’s resources. I guess greater minds think faster.
Just as a plug for Catholic Relief Services, they have one of the best records internationally for using donations in ways that truely reach people quickly and directly and they have a longstanding relationship with Haiti so you know that donations will not only be directed at short term outcomes.
Thanks, Maura…not sure about the “greater mind” notion….I just don’t juggle as many things as a DRE does! Yes, you are absolutely right about CRS. I’m glad that people are donating generously to CRS according to reports.
Thanks for the lesson on Haiti. I plan to use it this coming week along with some web sites I found. If you want the list let me know-it’s a word doc. I included my wife’s aunt-she leads a mission trip from Washington U. in St. Louis every January to northern Haiti. She is supposed to fly today and feed the juvenile victims. We shall see is she got the proper clearances. Now do you have a lesson on Pro-life issues for the 22nd? We will be up for Religion textbook adoption soon and my principal and I like Loyola Press. Omaha has a strong Jesuit tradition and we have some Magis teachers here from CU.
Steve, thanks much. Yes, by all means, please send along your list. You can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I pray that your wife’s aunt’s trip goes well. Sorry, I don’t personally have a specific pro-life lesson ready for the 22nd…perhaps some of our colleagues do? Let me know if I or someone here at Loyola Press can be of help to you and or your principal in your textbook adoption process. Thanks again.
Came across this website for the Daughters of Saint Paul
they are offering a free downloadable book of prayers which can be reprinted.
Our parish will be using 1 prayer a weekend in our bulletin to keep Haiti in people’s minds and hearts.
I will be using a few of the prayers with our older students to remind them of our call to solidarity with the Haitian people.
Hope you and others find this helpful
Thanks for sharing this Maura!