My parents discovered that a rather inexpensive way for a family of eight to vacation together is to camp in a tent. I vaguely recall whisking by signs that advertised hotels just before we plunged off the interstate into the deep woods of northern Wisconsin, but the Korta family never actually stayed in one. In the middle of one particular camping trip when I was a junior or senior in high school, my mother became quite ill and my dad rushed her back to Milwaukee for medical care and the comforts of home, leaving the rest of us behind. That very night as we slept in our tent, a violent storm came up with incredible lightning, loud claps of thunder, and torrential rains.
We kids had camped long enough to know that if we didn’t dig trenches around our tent, we would be lying in a pool of water with soaked clothing and bedding. We sprang out of our tent and into the driving rain to dig our trench using our one shovel and whatever sticks, rocks, or other objects we could find. We frantically worked, all soaked to the bone, intermittently frozen in place by bright flashes of lightning and angry bursts of thunder, and frightened by the trees overhead that bent with the wind and threatened to crush us. Well, we weren’t all out digging … my younger brother, probably a freshman or sophomore at the time, was fast asleep in the tent.
I think of this night every time I hear the story of Jesus sleeping in the front of the boat. Don’t get me wrong—I am NOT equating my brother Andy with our Lord in any way. He wasn’t sleeping because of faith in God…he was just oblivious. And spoiled. Maybe lazy. But this is a newsletter article and not a family therapy session, so let me get on to the point. What I remember is how angry I was at him for being asleep. Here we were risking our lives and working our tails off to avoid total disaster, while he is snoozing peacefully. I wonder if the disciples didn’t feel a little bit the same—everyone was fighting to keep the boat upright in a turbulent storm except for one person who was fast asleep in the front. I hear an angry and indignant tone from the disciples: “Lord, do you not care that we are going to die?” (Mark 4:38) When Pope Francis referenced this Gospel story in his Urbi et Orbi homily on March 27, it really resonated with me.
We find ourselves in the tempest of a pandemic, economic recession and social unrest. My inbox fills with questions and concerns about what lies ahead: what will school look like in the fall, will my child be safe if school does open like normal, how in the world can my child learn if it doesn’t, how can we afford everything, where do we stand with the protests and the riots? These are all valid questions and concerns. In the midst of the uncertainty, we will first turn to our Lord with full confidence and beg Him to calm the waters. We continue to monitor primary sources of information regarding the pandemic and prepare for possible scenarios of opening school like normal, opening school in a remote learning environment, and/or opening school with some combination of both. We are pursuing every avenue possible to assist with funding our school so that we can relieve the financial burden on families and parishes. We are listening to the voices and stories of our minority brethren and trying to think of ways that we can build empathy in our students while equipping them to pursue non-violent solutions to social injustice.
As I write this, I do not know how school will start in the fall. I do not know how quickly the economy will recover. I do not know what it will take for all people to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their differences. I do know that Jesus is in this boat with us, and that He loves us very much. Let us face these turbulent times together with confidence that He will see us through the storm.