Here in New York we are hunkering down for Hurricane Irene. It’s a most unusual situation for us. Mayor Bloomberg has decreed the evacuation of parts of the city. All subways and buses will stop running after noon on Saturday. Governor Cuomo announced that if the winds surpass 60 mph, the NY State Thruway and all bridges will close. Additional evacuations and closures are predicted throughout the metropolitan area.
In a press release posted on the website of the Archdiocese of New York, Archbishop Dolan sensibly urged caution. He stated that “Catholics take Sunday mass very seriously, but the Church never asks us to risk our health or safety to get to church on the Lord’s Day. Please be careful! Do not take any chance with your safety and health if things get dangerous.”
It looks like they will. At least one parish has announced the cancellation of its Masses on Sunday altogether, although Saturday evening Vigil Masses will still be celebrated.
In the diocese of Brooklyn, Bishop DiMarzio lifted the obligation to attend Mass in the areas of mandatory evacuation, emphasizing that the obligation stands wherever it seems reasonable to attend.
Farther to the north, the Archdiocese of Boston issued hurricane guidelines earlier in the week. They included what to do with the reserved sacrament and how to keep record books safe. This is interesting because it seems to have been inspired by lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.
New York is home to a sizeable Jewish population. The storm will interfere with the Jewish Sabbath. Hurricane guidelines written by Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, were distributed to Orthodox rabbis who are graduates of the school. They allow observant Jews to listen to the radio on the Sabbath, to stay home from religious services, and to suspend certain prohibitions where life and limb are endangered. He developed these guidelines while living in Florida, where hurricanes are frequent.
These are just a few samples. I’d invite you to add your own. There will no doubt be a lot of stories on the ground as the weekend unfolds. Please do keep in your prayers all those who will be affected by the storm.