Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

In the Middle of Chaos


Hurricane Harvey destroyed the tranquility and order of thousands of lives. Wars rage and new wars threaten to erupt like the wildfires destroying forests and property in several states. Drug addiction takes lives and tears families apart in even the smallest of communities.

As I write, another monster hurricane is bearing down upon our country. Disasters and looming threats are beginning to feel like part of our daily life.

Lately, times like the ones we face make me think of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. He, too, lived in a turbulent age and the underpinnings of his society had come apart at the seams. One minute Elijah acts with great courage and faith, standing up to those who defy God, defeating false prophets in one triumphant gesture.

Next, we see him hot-footing it across the outback to hide in a cave on a distant mountain. From the safety of the cave, he reminded God that he was a faithful servant and that he "alone" was left. Elijah knew the loneliness that comes with feeling overwhelmed.

Aren't most of us a bit like Elijah? One minute, we boldly speak out in the name of faith. The next, we wring our hands and feel there is nothing we can do to stem the tide of evil. How is it we can be people of courage one day and hide in a corner the next? Perhaps the most consistent thing about being human is our inconsistency.

Of course, Elijah did find God, but not where he expected; not in the storm, earthquake or fire. By the way, all three of these disasters have shaken us in the past few weeks. (Hurricane Harvey, the earth-shaking bomb detonated by North Korea and fires raging out West.)

In the middle of all these, God's presence can be seen most clearly in the thousands of small, quiet voices and hands reaching out to encourage and restore neighbors and strangers.

True enough, Elijah's life was in danger. When he focused on himself, God revealed something Elijah didn't know. There were 7,000 others known only to God who had not fled, but quietly stayed where they were and kept their faith. Seven thousand were not running for their lives or hiding in caves, but were back at home remaining steadfast to their calling.

Today, those of us who pray and work quietly sometimes feel we are the only ones left. Yet, there are thousands upon thousands known only to God who hold fast, just as there have always been in other troubled times.

Prayer, like an invisible net around a broken world, still opens channels for grace to pour through. Most of us may not be called upon like Elijah to face down an angry crowd of "prophets" bent on destruction. All of us can stand among those who pray and work to hold the bedrock of humanity in place. 

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.