Archbishop dies in Haiti earthquake… moral lessons

The Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, H. E. Most Rev. Joseph Serge Miot, was killed in the earthquake that devastated the area.  His body has been recovered.

Please pray for the repose of his soul and God’s mercy for him and the others who suffered.

In the older form of the Litany of Saints we sing to be preserved from an "unprovided death".  That is to say, we pray God the grace not to die in such a way that we don’t have the last sacraments. 

This is one reason why I travel with an oil stock.

This is a reason why people should make a good confession frequently, holding nothing back, and should examine their consciences daily.

When people die in earthquakes, in less then modernized countries, it is often because the buildings were poorly constructed, or there was shoddy work or materials.  People die often because of the greed or laziness of others.

You all have your vocations and your professions.   Do your work well.  

Your vocation demands certain things from you.  Your profession demands certain things from you.  If you receive a wage, in justice do your job well. 

But in many cases many people can come to great harm if you do not fulfill your vocation well, or your profession diligently.

Imagine being a person who worked on a building and cheated on the construction, knowing that when people died in its collapse you were partly to blame.

This could extend to other aspects of our lives.  Parents, raise your children well and in the Faith.  If they reject it later, you will at least have done your part and given them their chance.  This goes for priests, or teachers, or …. what have you…

Try to be the best you are able at what you do.

And be ready as best you can for that moment when you will have to give an account for your life and hear GOD’s account of your life.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. EXCHIEF says:

    While I do not disagree with anything you’ve said I think in the case of Haiti, a country which I have visited and traveled through, the shoddy construction which led to collapse and so many deaths was not so much the result of greed or laziness but other factors. Being the poorest, least educated country in the Western Hemisphere limited both the knowledge of those doing the construction and the resources they had to work with. In short, in a country with 80% living in abject poverty the shanties they lived, worked, and worshiped in were the best they could provide. It of course didn’t help that for decades the people lived under a corrupt dictatorship and even now under UN oversight the country’s infrastructure is practically non-existant.

    The extent of this tragedy is, at this early date, impossible to predict. But it clearly looks like over 200,000 souls will have died, over 2 million left with no place to live, no water, limited food, and the strong potential for an outbreak of multiple infectious diseases. Truely that poor country needs our prayers. Would that the USCCB divert some of the funds earmarked for questionable causes and use it to aid the Haitian people who are in dire need.

  2. pseudomodo says:

    Lord God in Heaven, have mercy on us all.

    Help us, love us, be with us and care for us for we need you, want you and love you. Amen

  3. Melania says:

    Exchief: Excellent idea for a proper use of USCCB funds. I hope some decision-maker sees your suggestion and acts on it.

  4. wanda says:

    On American Papist blog there is a report that 100 Priests died as well. It seems they were there on retreat. I imagine and pray that they were in close contact with Our Lord.

    May Our Father in Heaven grant them His Tender Mercy and receive them into the joy of The Master’s House, in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, Amen.

  5. wanda says:

    Speaking of aid, go to Catholic Relief Services on line. Give. Do some good with the gifts God has given us.

  6. kat says:

    Requiescant in pace.
    From a sudden and unprovided death, Deliver us, O Lord.

    Thanks for the reminders, Father.

    We know that God always draws good out of evil. Somehow good will come from this catastrophe, and the greatest good is of course the salvation of souls. The Church has worked there a while. Are many of the natives Catholic? Often times the poorest are the closest to God and most ready to die…

  7. Agnes says:

    Thank you for that reminder, Fr. Z. God give us the grace to do what we do, and do it well.

    Praying for the repose of the archbishop and his priests and flock, and all who are suffering there.

  8. Margaret says:

    Many insightful, thought-provoking points, Father. Thank you.

    “Direct line” for donating to CRS efforts in Haiti:

  9. jasoncpetty says:

    Our earthly house must fall to ruin; our heavenly house is eternal. Let us move our goods beforehand, whither we are ourselves getting ready to come. St. Augustine.

  10. Jenny says:

    My father is a structural engineer and has designed many buildings, some quite large which some of you may have entered. He lives with the fear and knowledge that a mistake in his design could cause death and destruction. This knowledge animates his work and drives him to perfection. His greatest wish is that none of his buildings ever fail. Some others in his field do not seem to be as concerned which frightens him. We are so blessed to have building codes.

  11. Frank H says:

    There is a terrific documentary on the mechanics of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, in which the architect looks truly stricken with the knowledge that his building, in some ways, failed, although no one anticipated such a calamity. Can’t recall the title, but it aired on PBS, I think.

  12. xsosdid says:

    I agree with everything you say, Father. I am a telecommunications technician (a li’l old “phone guy”) and one of the first things you learn on the job is how terribly important that link to the world is for some people – especially the elderly and the sick. Doing a good job is one of the real satisfactions in life (and when it’s 20 below out, and you have to climb that pole, you need all the motivation you can muster!)
    Also I would add that if you stay as much as possible in a state of grace, when trouble comes to you it doesn’t drown you, but with Jesus at your side you walk on water.

  13. Peggy R says:

    Pat Robertson is saying that Haiti made some pact with the Devil to cause this harm. That’s par for the course for Robertson. Sigh.

  14. Jason C. says:

    When people die in earthquakes, in less then modernized countries, it is often because the buildings were poorly constructed, or there was shoddy work or materials. People die often because of the greed or laziness of others.

    I’m not trying to turn this into a debate, Father. But I just wanted to suggest that perhaps “modernization” is part of the problem. The push for “modernization” going back, for example, to the Alliance for Progress was, as people pointed out then, a sort of war on subsistence, a forcible molding of these countries into the economic and social models of the United States. The push for modernization eroded the culture of subsistence in the third world, and it sent those countries on a chase for a “modernization” that they could never live up to (and in some ways which they would do well not to try to live up to).

  15. Roland de Chanson says:

    Fr. Z: This is a reason why people should make a good confession frequently, holding nothing back, and should examine their consciences daily.

    Why? Is the vengeance of the just and merciful Creator as eager to annihilate the souls of the poor wretches whose bodies He obliterated in a cataclysmic display of his omnipotence?

    Mais comment concevoir un Dieu, la bonté même,
    Qui prodigua ses biens à ses enfants qu’il aime,
    Et qui versa sur eux les maux à pleines mains ?
    Quel oeil peut pénétrer dans ses profonds desseins ?
    De l’Être tout parfait le mal ne pouvait naître ;
    Il ne vient point d’autrui, puisque Dieu seul est maître :
    Il existe pourtant. O tristes vérités !
    O mélange étonnant de contrariétés !
    Un Dieu vint consoler notre race affligée ;
    Il visita la terre, et ne l’a point changée

    -Voltaire, Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne

    There are no moral lessons in this disaster. Theodicy is a fool’s game. The archbishop was only one of perhaps a hundred thousand. Were prayer a right response to this evil, I would pray first for the smallest child, then its mother, and father, and the thousands of others like them. Let God give the accounting, the God who visited the earth to console our afflicted race, the God who changed nothing.

  16. Roland: You don’t know when you are going to die. I suggest regular confession. The Lisbon earthquake, and Voltaire, are not relevant here.

    Again, you don’t know when you are going to die.

    It could be in the next few minutes at your keyboard.

    I am not talking about why this thing in Haiti happened. I am not talking about the problem of evil. I am reminding you to live well, and fulfill your part in God’s plan, because one day or another, you will die. It might be because something clogged an artery, or a meteor fell from the sky or you were stabbed with a kudu horn.

    Have a nice day.

  17. Supertradmom says:

    Ironically, as one of those actually in Haiti described on the bbc website,, the horrible poverty-stricken houses may have saved some people: “Haiti is extremely poor and a lot of its buildings are badly constructed. Strangely though, the shacks are where more people are likely to survive. The building materials are lightweight and survivors can get out more easily. At the moment, the rescue efforts will be localised with friends, neighbours and family trying to get to survivors. It takes time to mobilise heavy equipment and so it will take a bit longer before we see the larger scale operation get going.” God have mercy on them and us.

  18. pseudomodo says:

    Fr.Z, Sometimes you do know when you are going to die. Jacques Fesch (April 6, 1930, Saint-Germain-en-Laye – October 1, 1957, La Santé Prison, Paris) was the murderer of a French police officer, who became such a devout Roman Catholic while in prison awaiting execution that he has been proposed for canonization as a saint.

  19. Roland de Chanson says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf: But I am indeed talking about why. That is why Volaire is relevant here. It’s far more interesting than local construction codes, don’t you agree?

    As to regular confession, the Church has had various opinions on that down the ages. The only scriptural reference that I can find is the epistle of James, wherein he suggests that we confess our sins to one another. I doubt either of us wishes to initiate that exchange, salubrious though it might be for us both. It might even spike your stats! ;-)

    If I happen to die of a kudu horn at my keyboard in the next few minutes, I will mention your name to St. Pete as a prodigy of prophecy. You’ll be in like Flynn.

    Though as I now remark that it is four hours since your post and I am still amongst the quick, I will have to temper my accolades. In prophecy, it’s not just the what, it’s also the when.

    Excuse me now, I have to tend to some sort of antelope my wife says is grazing on the lawn. I hope it’s only Rudolf having missed his sleigh.

  20. xsosdid says:

    Mr de Chanson,
    Father Z is right, you should be always in the state of grace. You are free to believe that or not. God made you free. He was so disposed to preserve freedom that He was willing to let the world be just as it is – He came not to change the world, but only to call us (remember: in the dessert Jesus was tempted to be the sovereign of this world – and fix everything – but rejected that to fulfill His kingdom).
    This world is as it is because God gave us a say in our own creation. You get to decide your final destiny. That’s why Fr Z is right: confess often, and always be ready for death.

  21. laurazim says:

    These jolts at the very heart and soul are, indeed, reminders to live the way God means for us to live, to take nothing for granted, and to partake of the Sacraments as often as possible. Why in the world anyone would even consider faulting a good priest for his wise counsel to this effect is beyond me. May the all powerful God have mercy on us and on the whole world. May He grant us peace in our world, a restful sleep, and a peaceful death. My prayer for those who perished in this tragedy is that their leave-taking from this world was surrounded by the light of the angels, and for those who continue to draw breath, that the same light be ever present to them. + JMJ +

  22. Roland: Given the proximity of that kudu, I will make this quick. In your comment you might be introducing the “why”, but I did not. I am just trying to help you get to heaven.

  23. Dr. Eric says:

    It is a chilling thought that we will be called to account on Judgment Day how we spent our lives, how we used our talents in the service of God and men. I must redouble my efforts in patient care, to listen more attentively to the person who is rambling on and won’t get to the point of why he’s in my office. I must pay more attention to the little signs and symptoms and not brush anything off. I must care for the patient as if he were Our Lord or if she were Our Lady. I must do more.

  24. Francisco Cojuanco says:

    kat: Are many of the natives Catholic?

    Indeed, 8 in 10 Haitians are Catholic, or at least baptized so. Even if you account for CINOS and Voodoo (while syncreticism is a significant factor (as it is in most of Latin America), it is not as pervasive among Catholics as is stereotyped), you’d still have a comfortable Catholic-majority population.

  25. TomW says:

    Thank you for your efforts in trying to get Roland and the rest of us to heaven. I continue to pray for you.

  26. Dr. Eric says:

    I doubt that Voodoo is any more a part of Christianity in Haiti as the New Age is in American Christianity.

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