Port-au-Prince Map

Above is a new image layer for the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, provided by Google Maps. The difference is striking.

As updates from Haiti continue to pop up, with more and more haunting, devastating and disturbing images and stories, my heart can’t help but break for everyone involved. I’m almost sick to my stomach at every news article or blog I read that adds more detail to the destruction. I imagine that this is the Holy Spirit grieving within me. I definitely feel that if I hadn’t opened my heart to Him a few years ago, I would’ve been a lot more numb about this tragedy… It makes my stomach churn to think that, but then again, I’m sinful and my “heart is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). God, however, isn’t. His compassion and sorrow and nausea over the pain in Haiti right now is deep and everlasting. God is among the suffering, He is right there in Haiti with his hurting creation. He is suffering alongside them and losing loved ones with them. God never fails to astound me in that He identifies with those He loves.

Naturally, I was interested in the Franciscan participation in relief efforts. In his official appeal to the Catholic community, the Pope actually gives a shout out to the Franciscan and Dominican orders, both of whom take vows of poverty and who have both been present in Haiti, establishing communities there well before the earthquake hit earlier this week. A particular group of Franciscan Friars have taken to various Haitian cities in the past quarter of a century; in the capital of Port-au-Prince, as far as I’ve learned, a handful of Friars and Postulants have settled in the poorest district there to serve.  That’s all I’ve found about Franciscan activity in the country, so far.

In the Pope’s appeal – which I’ve been hard pressed to find a verbatim copy of – there is a gem that he closes with that I felt should be shared.  Amidst his obvious empathy and compassion upon the affected Haitians and his urging for immediate aid by the Catholic community, he is sure to pair his message with the mission of all Catholic orders, to spread the Gospel.

“At the beginning of this year we invoke Holy Spirit, the eternal youth of the Church; may he help everyone feel the urgency to provide a consistent and courageous witness to the Gospel, so the world will never lack holy men and women, who make the Church radiate, to render it capable of irresistibly attracting the world to Christ, to his salvation. ”

– Quote from Pope Benedict XVI, at the close of his appeal for the Catholic Church to reach out to Haiti

My heart warmed when I read this. The Pope here is urging the Church to be instruments in reaching the world with the Gospel message, “irresistibly attracting them to Christ” as he puts it eloquently. In his appeal he pledges the wholehearted support of the Catholic Church to support and care for the victims and families thereof .  His remarks are found amidst a whirlwind of unity, support and focus on this poor country; he isn’t alone in his desire to stir up numb communities.  It’s everywhere.  I myself found out about the catastrophe on Twitter, simply following the trend for hours until my eyes blurred and I couldn’t think clearly.  I read appeals from Haitians themselves, who had barely survived collapsed buildings, immediately followed by pleas for aid, and links to groups like Unicef, Compassion International and Red Cross.  Thanks to such incredible communication technologies, everyone is connected, on the same page and thus unified, I think, in a way the world has never been after a natural disaster before.

More stories on the Franciscans as I find them.