The heart of the nation is heavy from the recent spate of flooding the likes of which we have not seen in living memory. The Prime Minister called it a “national disaster” and Archbishop Gordon spoke of “a distress that is national”.
Many persons have lost practically everything—houses, appliances, vehicles, crops, livestock, pets. We are grateful God has spared us loss of human life. Drone photographs of the flooding show a significant portion of the nation under water. The Caroni river repeatedly breached its banks; north and south were separated for days.
Yet through all this, the Trini sense of humour, rooted in our history of violence and hope, was apparent. People joked as they helped others: “Doh worry; we coming for allyuh.”
The outpouring of charity and free services of various kinds was astounding and a sure sign of a better national self. We are proud of who we are and our capacity to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper in this time of national distress.
Some have said this is God punishing us. We take a different perspective and use it as an opportunity to reflect and read ‘the signs of the times’.
That this is a time of crisis is indisputable. The word ‘crisis’ carries with it a dark connotation, as when we speak of a political or economic crisis; but it also carries with it the notion of a turning point, for better or for worse. We choose better.
We have seen this ‘better’ in the response of neighbour to neighbour, risking their own lives in the process. But it also asks us to think better theologically; not in terms of punishment but in terms of care for the earth. Pope Francis has made ‘care for our common home’ the eighth work of mercy.
If we care for the earth the earth will care for us; if we rape and pillage the earth, as we have done since the age of industrialisation, the earth will treat us with wrath.
We have experienced this wrath not only locally but globally. Strange weather patterns due to global warming are springing up everywhere. If we partner with the earth then the earth will help us create a safer home for the future.
Thinking better theologically also invites us to re-examine our Marian theology as we come to the end of the month of the rosary. For instance, when we pray to Mary that the floods not hit us were we implying it should hit someone or somewhere else?
There is a bizarre understanding of Mary’s intercessory power that we have put in the service of ‘them versus us’. The battle of Lepanto is the most embarrassing example. Mary does not give us victory over war; she asks us to make peace.
More than praying intensely about whom the floods shouldn’t hit, we should be asking for the faith and courage to take care of all. She is also calling us to personal and institutional conversion—the perennial echo of Fatima.
If the recent earthquake and the floods are to teach us anything it is this: care for one another, care for the nation, and care for the earth.