Tropical storms, trees, and grace

A week ago I was in darkness as tropical storm Irene swirled around my home, casting trees onto power lines, making the electrical grid groan as transmission breakers slammed open.

While the week since was busy at work dealing with how power outages were affecting wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure, I was one of the lucky ones. There was little damage at home and National Grid was able to restore my power some 18 hours after I lost it. Others in Rhode Island are just getting it back. And others around the Northeast won’t be restored soon—and some in Vermont, New York and New Jersey have had to deal with the tragedy of massive flooding. May God give rest to all the souls that were lost.

Irene—oddly, a name from the Greek word for “peace”—did her share of damage. Especially to trees.

This got me thinking about my neo-pagan friends who insist that nature offers complete harmony if only we’d leave it alone. Well, I don’t know about you, but after looking around at all the felled trees since last Sunday, it seems nature can be at war with itself.

Now, of course this is all part of the natural order. Downed trees make good food for all sorts of critters, fungus and microorganisms. And their absence brings sunlight to smaller trees around them.

But is this harmony? I suppose that’s in how one looks at things.

To me, the damage done by storms, and the good that can come to it, is both tragic and an opportunity for grace. Many people lost beloved, ancient trees. But the natural cycle of death and life seems remarkably like how God can bring good out of evil—out of sin.

As trees fall, so our fallen human nature often brings with it destruction. And as nature uses the opportunity of downed trees for new life, so God’s Grace is offered to us always so that our sinful nature—and the hurt, anguish, loneliness, pain, and death that comes with it—can be raised up.

I was talking to a wonderful couple after Mass today. The woman’s brother has a rare cancer, and she’s taking care of him. “God has a plan,” the husband noted. And we reflected on how God does not will evil, but He certainly allows it, and—more importantly—He can bring much good out of it, if we let Him. Sort of like the new life that can come from a great oak felled by an eighty mile-an-hour gust.

Something to consider. And while you consider this, please say a prayer for John, the brother who has cancer. May God give him strength and the support of family and loved ones; may his pain be lessened and may great good be brought from any suffering he and his loved ones endure.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.