Friday, February 10, 2012

Our Lady of Tornado Alley

If you’ve ever seen a tornado make the inevitable approach to your backyard, you’ll know what a deer facing headlights must feel like.  But of course, you won’t be thinking about deer, train or headlights at that moment. You will think: “Lord, have mercy on us! Our Lady protect us!”
At 3:00 PM on April 12, 2011, the hour of Divine Mercy, when my girls and I stepped inside our storm shelter, the only prayer that was on our lips was the Divine Mercy Chaplet as taught by Jesus to St. Faustina.
The lights fizzed and went out, interrupting our prayers, and letting us know without words, that the tornado was on us.  I expected to hear a train rambling through the walls or the crashing wreck of a roof, but all was quiet –not even the children stirred.
In the darkness, we resumed pleading: “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world” and closed with the Memorare to Our Lady.  When we finished, we cracked the door open and peeked out.
No furniture out of place, no shard of broken glass, no shingle unhinged.  Outside, a sturdy tree hung over our neighbor’s electric pole; several other trees trashed a handful of other houses; and more downed trees demolished barns and chicken coops.   Behind us, a neighbor’s fence had been blown off  into who knows where.   Later, we learned two people died down the street.
We lost fifteen trees to the storm, the most prominent one being our beloved thirty-foot picnic tree.  The high-tail winds had uprooted it’s thick, gnarled roots and toppled it over.  But the two-foot statue of Our Lady of Lourdes that stood next to it remained untouched, unfazed, as peaceful as ever with her hands folded in prayer and eyes still fixed on heaven.  (I took my camera out and posted a photo on FB to tell my friends and family  we were alright and exactly who looked out for us that day.)

There were many stories exchanged about D-day on Cullman Alabama but my favorite was one told by our brick-layer, who witnessed that storm when it passed over our neighborhood. “There were three fingers poking out of that black cloud,”  he said. “Then the three fingers lifted off the ground and disappeared into the cloud overhead.  It moved forward and suddenly, one huge funnel dropped on the ground.”
  When I surveyed that F-4’s wake, I could tell where the funnel crash-landed… a wooded area five houses down from us where twisted trees and a metal bridge were knocked out like broken teeth in the aftermath.
Gratitude, amazement, awe… all these feelings come when you are thisclose to losing everyone you love and everything you have. And when you encounter others who lost all they had and those they love, your heart can’t help but be moved to share, to comfort, to help, and to wonder: why them and not me?
Chickens on the loose!
When we consecrate ourselves to Our Lady, we become hers and she guards us with her mantle as her people, her property and possession.  But far more valuable than bodily and earthly protection, consecration also comes with the promise that when we walk through the valley of death we will fear no evil for Our Lady will guide our souls safely on the path to heaven to her Son’s kingdom.   Even past tornado alleys.

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