As towns along the Front Range were being hit with flash floods on Sept. 12 and 13, a huge mudslide careened down Mount Meeker, just above St. Malo Retreat Center. The deluge of mud, rocks, water and trees carved a 7-mile-long, 100-yard-wide path through the property and surrounded St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, which was protected because it is built on a rock.
The mudslide traveled down the John Paul II Trail, completely changing the landscape and erasing any sign of the trail ever having been there.
We are fortunate because the chapel only suffered minor cosmetic damage to its exterior, while its interior was left untouched.
St. Catherine of Siena was protected because it rests on a rock about 8 feet above the basin it sits in. At one point, the amount of water surrounding the chapel was so great that it sent whole trees floating across Highway 7, which runs in front of the property.
I tell this story because it reminds us that faith is the only firm foundation for our lives, whether we are living through times of blessing or times of suffering and desolation.
I cannot help but think of the parable Jesus told about the wise and the foolish builder.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
“And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it” (Matt 7: 24-27).
Our faith is built on the teachings of Jesus, and like the chapel at St. Malo, it is a solid foundation that can sustain us in times of trial.
In the wake of the floods, we all have a chance to see how God was and is with us in our trials. It can be hard to see how God is with us when we are in distress, but we know that he did not hesitate to participate in our suffering. When he was faced with the cross, Jesus embraced it; he loved us to the end.
In his first encyclical Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), Pope Francis reflected on this mystery of suffering.
“To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light,” he noted. “In Christ, God himself wishes to share this path with us and to offer us his gaze so that we might see the light within it. Christ is the one who, having endured suffering, is ‘the pioneer and perfecter of our faith’ (Heb 12:2).”
In the weeks and months ahead, as thousands of Coloradans work to rebuild their lives, we should turn to our faith, which is a sure foundation and helps us to see light in these times of adversity.
If you are reading this and are not a person of faith, I invite you to reach out to God or turn to a friend who knows him well. As Pope Francis said in his recent “Letter to a Non-Believer” in the Rome newspaper La Repubblica: “Did not Jesus himself say, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life?’ In other words, truth, being completely one with love demands humility and an openness to being sought, received and expressed.”
Open your hearts to the one who is love and receive his love for you!
For those of us who have not been affected, this is an opportunity to grow in charity and generosity; it is a chance to bring God’s light and hope to those who are suffering. And for those of us caught up in the disaster, this is a time to grow in our trust of the Father, in his loving care for us throughout these difficult times.
You will need grace to do this, and so I urge everyone to frequent the sacraments, especially reconciliation and the Eucharist. When you go to meet Jesus in the sacraments, he can heal your grief, anger, disappointment and any despair, and fill you with hope and perseverance. There, the Father will embrace you and the Holy Spirit will stir into a flame the gifts you need to bring his life and love to the difficult situations you encounter.