Disasters, Death, and You

Terrible things happen to people through natural disasters or attacks or human error. We now see the images virtually in real time splashed on our screens.

Misery, loss, pain come in the blink of an eye to people who, the day before… even hours or minutes before… were going about their daily lives.

Now and then I post here about the need to have a plan for when or if something really bad happens.  I am especially concerned that parents of small children have some sort of plans in place for some different scenarios.  Obviously you can’t cover every possibility, but some basic steps could make a difference.  Having clean drinking water and food for 72 hours, warm clothing, a way to communicate, means of self-defense and so forth.

So, make some basic plans.

Also, because we have to be concerned not merely with the body, please look at this image…

This could be your life.

Please develop the good practice of examining your conscience every day and going to confession regularly.  Please teach your children to examine their consciences and take them to confession, teaching them what to do and why.

Fathers, this could be your parish.  You will be called to account for the souls entrusted to you.  Preach about sin, about the Four Last Things, about the Sacrament of Penance.

A subitanea et improvisa morte… From a sudden and unprovided death, spare us O Lord.”

A sudden death can be a blessing.

A sudden and unprovided death – unprovided in the sense of having no recourse to the sacraments when you are not in the state of grace – is a horrifying prospect.

Make plans for, provide for, the needs of both body and soul for yourselves and those in your charge.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I lived three miles from Three Mile Island near Middletown Pennsylvania in March 1979 when we received the news that all hell was breaking out at the nuclear reactor. I left work straight away. The roads were densely packed. There were huge lines at the gas stations. Unknown to me my wife was off shopping with her mother (no cell phones in those days) and I couldn’t reach her. They had, as I later learned, turned off the car radio and were blissfully unaware of anything.
    I had to dash ten miles to the elementary school to pick up our children, go home, and await civil defense instructions to be broadcast to learn where we were to go in case of meltdown.
    My heart goes out to anyone and everyone caught-up in catastrophes such as Oklahoma’s.
    Speaking of confession and absolution, I do remember the Bishop of Harrisburg at the time granted some sort of absolution to all Catholics of the Diocese when this was going on.
    Would anyone know what that sort of absolution may have been?

  2. Konstantin says:

    “Fathers, this could be your parish. You will be called to account for the souls entrusted to you. Preach about sin, about the Four Last Things, about the Sacrament of Penance.”

    Thank you, Father, we need this more than ever. Even “Traditionalist” priests don’t preach this anymore.

  3. LarryW2LJ says:

    If I may. In addition to the fine spiritual advice that Father gave ……

    If you live in the States, consider calling your local Office of Emergency Management and inquire as to whether or not there is an active CERT program where you live. CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. You will learn basic First Aid, CPR, triage, how to turn off gas mains, the basics of the Incident Command principle, how to set up an effective “In Home shelter” among many other important things. Even if you can’t volunteer tons of time with your OEM, you will still be a valuable asset to your community as well as your family. All the concepts you learn can be used in your own home; and as my Director of Emergency Management continues to drill into our heads – “Use what you’ve learned here on your own familes first – only THEN come out and help the town. If you can take care of your own, then we won’t have to.”

  4. Priam1184 says:

    So Father, essentially what you are saying is don’t go to Hell right? The things that one must do to avoid that are well known to all, though every last one of us needs to be reminded of them and to remind ourselves of them every day of our lives. If we put in the time and effort and live as we ought every day of our lives (and when we don’t live as we ought we repent and seek forgiveness through the Church and the Sacrament of Penance) then the suddenness or lack of suddenness of our death won’t really matter. So live the Faith and in the end the storms of life in the end will have no power over you. And keeping some water, food, extra medication, flashlights, a radio, and a good supply of batteries in the house never hurts either.

  5. Maltese says:

    A blessed Scapular should be worn by all.

  6. guatadopt says:

    My 7 year old had his first confession in late February. He has since been back three times (we are getting on a regular schedule). The first time, he complained about having to go. Now, he asks if he can go more regularly. Parents, take your kids to confession!!

  7. jenne says:

    I also realized how out of physical shape I am in and that is a no go when you need it you can get it just like that. Thanks for all the reminders.
    (my two year old can outrun me now so I will be in shape soon in enough)

  8. Maltese says:

    I guess I’m different, but I wear an almost original twice-blessed Miraculous Medal from France, and a blessed Scapular. As an ex-EMT, I know how fast death can strike. I was out running recently, and had a grand mal seizer. I literally just dropped, and blacked-out. And then the paramedics came and airlifted me. It turns out I’m alive, but remember, “for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” Grim, I know, but true!

  9. Maltese says:

    And this is coming from a man who has climbed Mt. Whitney in California, and ran two marathons–we all need to be deeply humbled, I guess. My brother-in-law used to run the Pikes Peak Ascent in Co. Springs. But went training, and had a massive heart-attack, and was barely saved with a splint. Death does happen.

  10. The Masked Chicken says:

    As for being physically prepared, a question for you ham radio operators out there:

    I see these walkie-talkies at places like Target or U-haul that seem to have fairly good range (10 + miles). Apparently, one does not need an FCC license to own and use one (except for certain frequencies on the more powerful ones). Since, in many emergencies, cell phone towers go down, is it useful to own one of these walkie-talkies? I have, often, envisioned a country where everyone had one and a sort of relay could be set up, so that messages could get passed back and forth over long ranges (10 miles at a time).

    Anyone have any comments on this?

    The Chicken

  11. Maltese says:

    Also, and this will be my last comment, I recently went mountain biking, crashed, and broke two ribs! I literally can’t save this decaying body of mine! Physical exercise is great, but our Lord is greater!

  12. Margaret says:

    That’s an interesting point, Chicken. Huh. My husband purchased some recently, primarily for keeping the front and back ends of Cub scout hikes from getting separated. I wonder if different brands/types are compatible, though , or what…

  13. Supertradmum says:

    Food stores in England, even huge ones like Sainsbury’s or Waitrose, only hold two days of food. If there was an emergency here, many people would not have access to food and water, as most people do not have basements or cellars.

    Those in America have the ability to plan and store. Take this seriously, as most countries do not have the luxury of planning.

    As to Confession, go often and ask for the grace of final perseverance.

  14. LarryW2LJ says:


    I believe that those are FRS radios (Family Radio Service) and you are correct, in that no FCC licesne is required. Range is limited (intentionally), but for loacal family use they are quite handy. We have used them while on vacation, so I can keep in touch with my wife and kids, should we get separated. Keep in mind that it’s like a party line. There are tons uf talkers and even more listeners (lurkers). For an emergency, they can be very, very useful.

    Amatuers use hand helds that, while having about the same power and range, use repeaters to extend their range literally to hundreds of miles. and with Internet connections, make hand helds usable for nation or world wide coverage. Most (if not just about all) Amateur repeaters have emergency power back ups, so they continue to function when the rest of the world seems to be knocked out of commission.

    A lot of people go on about how Amateur Radio is century old technology, and how is must surely be anachronistic. But our national organization, the American Radio Relay League has a very appropos slogan: “Amateur Radio, when all else fails”. And true enough, time and time again, throughout our history, dedicated men and women Amateur Radio ops have stepped up to the plate to vital radio communications – saving lives in many, many instances.

    Sorry, Fr. Z – thaks for the bandwidth for the plug for Ham Radio!

  15. Joe in Canada says:

    And pray to St Joseph for a happy death.

  16. Fr. Z., you have forgotten to add to the end of your post the usual
    so I have done it for you. :)

  17. Suburbanbanshee says:

    After the big Xenia tornado of 1974, their parish of St. Brigid’s was totally destroyed: massive old church, school, old convent, everything. But they rebuilt everything, too. Maybe not as beautifully or as big, but they did it and fast.

    I was just in Xenia today, and by St. Brigid’s too. You can still tell the tornado scars from where there’s suddenly no old trees, or where the old town buildings suddenly become 1970’s stuff (or 199o’s stuff, from another later tornado). But it’s not raw and defiant, like it was back in the Seventies.You lose things, but you get things back. And people from Xenia are very big on volunteering for disaster stuff, because they know.

  18. onosurf says:

    Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

  19. bookworm says:

    Speaking of being prepared, I recently stumbled across this website that offers lots of useful stuff:


    It was started by survivors of the Joplin tornado and offers just about every prep supply you can think of — pre-packed bug out bags, flashlights/lanterns, food and water supplies, blankets, first aid kits, and even the two-way radios/walkie-talkies mentioned by earlier posters. You can get handy items for as little as $5 and the bug out bags are tailored to different needs (children, storage in your car, etc.)

    Also, a couple of days ago I was browsing the Facebook page of a well-known storm chaser (I don’t chase but I read chaser blogs to see where bad weather is going to be) and one of the posts was from a pastor (presumably Protestant) who asked whether the chaser’s team could use a chaplain, since they sometimes aid in search and rescue and encounter people in distress after tornadoes strike. I thought that was an interesting idea and wondered if there were any storm-chasing priests or permanent deacons out there. Of course, parish priests would probably have little if any free time to chase storms but if one had been a weather enthusiast in his “past life,” his knowledge might come in handy sometime, if he lives anywhere in Tornado Alley.

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  21. after reading fox news coverage it is amazing as many survived as did http://www.foxnews.com/weather/2013/05/22/experts-say-oklahoma-tornado-power-dwarfs-hiroshima-bomb-as-residents-face-long/
    not much else to add other than how communications go down in these disasters at a time when you need them most. This is when Ham ops would be very useful. Land lines and cell phones are generally always out. A community could make a request to have committed operators.

  22. JonPatrick says:

    A co-worker yesterday told me about a neighbor, in his 40’s in perfect health, went sailing one day on Cape Cod, suddenly dropped dead, not a heart attack, his heart just suddenly stopped, apparently when he stood up and blacked out. Scary. Yes our lives can end at any moment.

  23. an event like Ok is certainly a reminder to all of us.Funny how when something like this happens we begin to talk about our lives ending at any moment. Even stranger was how yesterday i had a major attack of vertigo. Followed by a major anxiety attack. Off to ER. All vitals checked out. Blood pressure was a tad high brought on by the stress of the attack. It came down. Met a wonderful nurse in the ER.The whole team was fantastic but the one young lady made a real impression. We managed to get into the topic of death. Two things she said stand out. One is that it’s an unknown and that makes it scary. The last comment she made was that she wasn’t ready. From a nurse. Was surprised. Maybe she had a point. Had to think about it.Maybe she was right about being an unknown [to a certain extent. ] Her 2nd statement concerned me. Such a nice person. I found it hard to believe-a nurse-wasn’t ready. Gives me pause too. Are we ready? Then i read Father Z’s blog. The admonishment-BE ready.

  24. jenne says:

    Maltese you have sworn me off exercise! LOL — seriously, when my husband was deployed we thought of death often and my capacity to rely on Christ and seek out to be prepared was high – especially spiritually. We thought often of our kids and what they need. Living during that time was a blessing and then he came home and the temptation to live as before without memory of the Last Things came back. The temptation of self reliance without God even though I consider myself a strong Catholic.

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