Archbishop Chaput: Katrina shows us fragileness of human life; true meaning of Christian discipleship


Reflecting on the days following Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the U.S. Gulf Coast last week, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver wrote Thursday that the tragic events should invite the world to see “what true Christian discipleship and real humanity mean.”

In his weekly column for the Denver Catholic Register, the Archbishop noted that while Catholics in the U.S., and in his own Archdiocese of Denver, had been exceedingly generous in assisting the “parade of human suffering from the Horn of Africa to Southeast Asia” over the past decade, with Hurricane Katrina, that giving takes on a whole new meaning.

“Until now,” he said, “doing the ‘right thing’ — the generous thing — for victims of natural disaster has usually involved foreign faces in faraway places. On Aug. 28 that changed. Now the need for our help is right here at home and overwhelmingly urgent. Nothing like the scope of the Katrina hurricane disaster has ever happened in the United States. The image of refugee Americans wandering through a devastated major metropolis like New Orleans is something utterly new.”

He said that, “Most of us — God willing — will never experience the confusion and suffering we’ve seen these days throughout the battered Gulf states. For that gift of God’s mercy, we need a serious return to humility and gratitude. Everything we have, including life itself, is fragile. It can vanish in a moment.”

“We may think we’re masters of our environment,” he said. “Events have reminded us that we’re not.”

“The very same events,” the Archbishop stressed, “invite us to show the world what Christian discipleship and real humanity mean. The people of the Gulf states are fellow Americans. Many are fellow Catholics. They need our prayers. They also desperately need our financial support.”

Dioceses all over the U.S. are taking up special collections for victims of the tragedy. Catholic Charities USA, working in conjunction with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said it is mobilizing one of its most massive aid efforts ever.

Added Archbishop Chaput: “Those most in need are never strangers. Catholics help the suffering because we love Jesus Christ, and we see his face in theirs. We don’t ask whether the victims are Malays or Sudanese; Christian, Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. We do the work of charity because it’s right.”

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