A touching and deeply encouraging article from yesterday’s NY Times about the revival of charismatic Catholicism in Haiti (and among Haitian Americans), post-catastrophe. Doubles as something of a Thanksgiving devotion:
The quake, too, is reshaping Haitian religion. It has demanded new resilience — not only from Haitians and Haitian-Americans, who often lay claim to a legendary, divinely inspired endurance, but also from faith itself, suddenly more vulnerable to doubt, disillusion and competition. And it has pumped new life into Haitians’ version of charismatic Catholicism, which seeks direct contact with the Holy Spirit through uninhibited, even raucous prayer. This year, for many Haitians, the movement’s embrace of raw emotion has seemed the only sensible response.
As [Haitian immigrant] Mrs. Mars’s rosary group praised God’s goodness, one woman balked, saying there was “nothing good” about the quake. Mrs. Mars countered, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God — not earthquakes, not anything.”
For months, people packed Masses, sometimes calling out, “Jesus, Haiti is in your hands!” The priests came to feel the congregation was ministering to them, not vice versa. Father Robinson, 66, who is not Haitian, was jolted when people would declare that if God had not watched over the disaster, “maybe it would have been worse.”
In Queens as the anniversary nears, charismatic prayers [of Haitian Americans], always love poems to God, have never sounded so poignant.
“Thank you, Savior,” elderly women sang one Tuesday, swaying to a pulsing Caribbean synthesizer beat. “You give me back the taste of love.”
Hands on heads, they pushed skyward, miming handing burdens to Jesus.
In the basement one Saturday, people prayed and sang at different paces, weaving a background murmur as a young scientist channeled revelations about events in Haiti — a quarrel in a worshiper’s family; a spiritual brawl between Jesus and the gods of voodoo. Others prayed in Creole and French.
“Thank you for saving our lives.”
“Lord, I need you. I need you so much.”
“Come and change our lives.”
The question nags outsiders: How can people draw joy and faith from the earthquake?
“The Haitian community here really feels they are blessed to be alive,” Ms. Benoit explains. Had they been in Haiti, they might have been “called to Jesus”; reprieved, “they’re trying to get ready right now.”’