Friday, September 23, 2005

Rita ...

Still contemplating Katrina in the face of Rita's arrival, I have been thinking a lot about poverty. The reality in New Orleans requires me to do that: to contemplate the face of poverty and the shadow of economics (and politics) that linger behind it.

Much has been said in the aftermath of Katrina that critiques (and even criticizes) the poor for being poor and for not reaching outside their poverty to "save themselves" before Katrina's arrival.

Today, I want to focus on a different aspect of the conversation: what loss means to the poor (and working class).

Often times, we think of the poor as having very little, if anything, in terms of personal property and possession. Consequently, in the face of loss, we presume that even though they have lost (almost) everything they haven't lost much because they didn't have much to lose in ther first place.

However, if we think about the fact, that little is all they have, then perhaps the poor and working class who have less actually have lost more in terms of personal property and possessions than those who have lots more to start. (And maybe this is even more true if they more deeply value the little they have as opposed to those who have much valuing each item less deeply.)

Truthfully, I don't want to propose the question of "Who has truly lost more?" because loss is loss. I do, however, want to invite us to think deeply about poverty, about the poor, about the working class. I want us also to think about possessions and our relationship to them especially things we have acquired (purchased) and not so much things with sentimental value since regardless of economic standing, the loss of sentimental items is a deep loss for the items cannot be replaced.

Let us not undervalue what loss means to the poor and working class in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. In contrast, let us not over- or undervalue either what loss means to the economically stable or economically privileged.

No, let us understand that as humans we suffer loss in very similar ways, and we desire to survive and overcome to the same degree. Let us not criticize the poor for being poor or for not handling life the way the middle class thinks they should. Rather let us think innovatively about constructive and life-giving ways in which we can work to empower the poor and working class especially as they move through recovery in the aftermath of Katrina (and maybe Rita, too).

God of the winds,
God of the seas,
God of the rains,
God of the storms,
God of the calm,
God in all things
and at every moment,
have mercy on us, your people,
and bless us!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Amidst the Storms

It's been three weeks since Katrina unleashed her power and now New Orleans, among the Gulf Coast communities hit hard, begins to put back what it can of the pieces. As the floodwaters begin to recede, however, let us ensure that our concern and attention do not recede. The people along the Gulf Coast who will be rebuilding their lives -- whether here, there, or somewhere else -- for some time to come need to know that we are in it with them and for them for the long run.

At the same time that we remember the losses and the lost, let us also be grateful for the blessings that have been poured out in the midst of the catastrophe, chaos, and confusion. For example, last night, after three weeks of worry and prayer, I received the good news through someone else that a pair of friends who own and run a B&B at the edge of the French Quarter are safe and secure (and the business pretty much is, too, but truthfully that's secondary). I was so relieved I began to dance and sing!

While the blessings and losses, collective and personal, cannot be weighed one against the other, let us find hope in the blessings in order to garner the strength to rebuild despite the losses. And at the same time, let us remember too those experiencing the rains of Ophelia and those who are preparing for the touchdown of Rita.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Living Tribute

When I arrived home today, I was surprised that a package was waiting for me in today's mail. As I gently loosened it from the mailbox, I looked quickly at the handwriting and happily recognized it. Still the package was large but soft and pliable so I really wasn't sure what it could be.

After a little while, I opened the package and could not believe my eyes: a t-shirt and memorial book celebrating the life of Glenn D. Cunningham and commemorating the first anniversary of his death along with a thoughtful note from the very thoughtful senders.

The items simply took my breath away for still, after just over a year, the absence of Glenn's physical presence among us is only sweetened by the sureness of his living spiritual presence among us and within us.

Glenn Dale Cunningham (1943-2004) was many things to many people. To me, he truly was -- and still is -- a treasured friend, a source of encouragement and confidence, someone who took the time to show he cared no matter how busy he was, someone who always remembered. Glenn climbed the ladder of life's successes but never forgot the people about whom he cared.

There's no way to capture succinctly all that Glenn is for those who love him still. I guess the best way to tell the story of Glenn is to share a little bit about him from time to time, keeping alive the legacy of his life and telling his story for many generations to come. This is certain: he truly ranks among the best of men, the best of humanity.

Believing there are no coincidences only divine encounters, the tears began to flow heavily when I realized that this special package of remembrances arrived on September 13th, Glenn's own birthday.

I know he's looking down and blessing us, and in faith I am confident that today he's at the table of our good God enjoying the best lemon meringue pie at the feast for truly he has captured the greatest prize, life in Jesus Christ.

Rest in peace, dear friend, and know always that we love you!

Back to the Blog ...

Wondering where I have been? Ok, I got off to a slow start with blogging, but now I am back in the blog business and ready to go.

The ripples of Hurricane Katrina continue to reach out and enfold even as the flood waters begin gradually to recede. The tragedy and depth of human need post-Katrina continues to move me to the core of my being.

This week I received a beautiful reflection, "Canticle of New Orleans." It was written by Sister Margaret Charles Kerry, FSP. It bears with it a request that the Canticle be shared far and wide and with it ongoing prayers for recovery, healing, and renewal so I am passing it on to you. For more information, check out


Canticle of New Orleans
By Margaret Charles Kerry, fsp

Waters of the earth, bless your Maker.
be kind to the people who need you to quench their thirst.
Hold back your raging destruction of flood and overflowing banks.
Be kind to the city that sings about you in legend,
that travels over you to unknown places.
Unite people - do not disperse them.
Waters of the earth, bless the Lord!

Winds of sky, bless your Maker.
Keep cool breezes flowing over the people of God.
Keep away disease and danger by your healing movement.
Hold back your anger in storm and destructive power in tornado.
Be kind to the city that knows when you caress the land
and keep the heat from overtaking the plants and livestock.
Remind people of God's care.
Winds of the sky, bless the Lord!

City of humanity, bless your Maker.
Keep your people safe who have built you.
Allow them to write music, sing, play and dance
in praise of God-given life.
Keep those in leadership from misusing what is gifted
by the unity of men and women, children and family.
Be kind to the City that brings happiness to so many.
Be kind to her history that tells the human story.
May the city be a city on a hill that shines God's light.
May your music, dance, and food be a foretaste
of the eternal banquet.
City of humanity, bless the Lord!

People of God, bless your Maker.
Keep hope in your hearts in time of distress.
Give hope to those around you
and know that you are loved
by those who worry about you
in your distress.
Reach out to those who are near.
Reach from afar in times of trouble –
reach in prayer if you can't reach physically.
Let us ask forgiveness when our response to trouble
seems slow and unthoughtful.
Open your hearts to those who are vulnerable.
People of God, bless the Lord!

People of New Orleans, bless your Maker.
Know that you are loved.
Know that the rain, wind and water that bless the city
and surround it as a hug outside of times like this
will return to their banks and sky.
Your hope is our hope. May we share what we have
with you as you share your faith with us.
We reach you in prayer even as we long to reach
you with a helping hand and pluck you from distress.
We share in your distress and hold in our hearts
your pain and sorrow. May God renew you!
People of New Orleans, bless the Lord!


Margaret Charles Kerry, FSP, is a native of New Orleans and a Daughter of St. Paul. She can be reached at Website:; BLOG:

Copyright © 2005, Daughters of St. Paul. Reprinted with permission.

Permission is granted for the free reproduction of the Canticle of New Orleans in newspapers, magazines, bulletins, websites, or in photocopied format, provided that the entire Canticle and the author byline and credit is printed with the Canticle.