Send a donation to aid Chilean earthquake victims

To make a donation to help earthquake victims, send your check, made payable to “Maryland Province Jesuits Fund” to Maryland Province Jesuits Fund,
P.O. Box 64818,
Baltimore, MD 21264

To make a donation online, go to
and click on the Chile Relief Fund link.

Meanwhile, we'll keep posting updates on what's happening to help the victims of this devastating earthquake.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Day When the Earth Shook

Chilean provincial Fr. Eugenio Valenzuela, SJ, has sent two new reports. Below you will find reflections written by Fr. Eduardo Alonso, SJ, written just as the earthquake ended and the realization of what had happened sank in.

A second report about plans for the future will be posted in another blog today.

Finally, Fr. Valenzuela sends his own thanks for the support he and his country have already seen. He says,

"With this opportunity, we also want to thank our friends, provinces, and lay people from many countries for their solidarity, letters, and prayers. Once again thank you for your support, concern, and humanitarian aid that we have received from you in these difficult times where a lot of people are suffering in Chile; all of this solidarity expressed in different ways is a sign of grace and hope for us."

We remain with you in our prayers and our support on this Good Friday.

From Fr. Alonso:
I need to write something in order to exorcise this distress and sense of angst that I have felt since February 27th, 2010 at 3.30 in the morning.
It is connected to the day that the earth shook.  That day I was in a room at the Loyola Retreat House that is located in the Padre Hurtado community and one hour away from Santiago. I was totally involved in the Spiritual Exercises process beginning the contemplation the passion of  Jesus Christ. 

I went to my bed thinking and preparing myself (as St. Ignatius advised) about the next day´s topic:  “Tomorrow early in the morning I will pray with the Gethsemane passage,” I said to myself  before I closed my eyes and put my life in God’s hands.
Suddenly, just like a tremendous and furious storm I was woken up by the thunderous and noisy sound made by the crunching glass of the windows in my room.  My bed was shaking and the furniture was wobbling.  I got up as soon as could. I put on my pants and sandals while the walls and floor were swaying.

I opened the door and saw another fellow who was under the door frame of his room; we went out together. The power was out.  The long dark hallway was a zigzagging tunnel and two floors above were shaking like jelly.  Everything turned fragile and seemed illogical and unreal.  

“It is not a nightmare," I said to myself. “This is happening right now.”

Once in the park – where most of the Jesuit brothers happened to be – I looked up towards the sky while everything was shaking around me with a relentless scream coming from the depths of the earth. I looked up towards the sky and I saw the bright moon and something like stars. The universe seemed to have been indifferent and aloof from what was happening to us. I stayed there along my brothers waiting for it all to stop, waiting for the stillness to return hoping that God remembered us. 

A train near the house blew its horn. Some birds cut through the sky. The trees were still dancing and the ground seemed like the sea.
We continued to wait, looking at each other and observing the world which suddenly became mad, expecting the unexpected during those two minutes that seemed endless.
After the earthquake we have had more than 140 aftershocks and the earth is still groaning.

In Conception, Talcahuano, Maule the situation is bleak. The tsunami waves rolled more than one kilometer into the inner city and they destroyed everything on the way.
Last night I watched many children crying in front of the TV cameras looking for their missing parents.  I also saw a desperate grandfather who had nothing to eat or to give to his grandchildren. He was trying to justify why he stole some bottles of milk from the supermarket.  
I saw a grateful mother with her daughter in her arms, she and her little daughter survived the tragedy.  I also saw a young man who lost his wife and son in the tsunami looking at great piles of debris.   
I saw a fishing boat which was carried by the sea into the main street of a small city. I also saw the remains of a circus devoured by the sea water and its artists explaining how they saw the sea take it all away with a devastating noise.
I saw broken bridges, highways and collapsed building that looked like pieces of papers; I saw the face of a policeman in tears because he could not save the life of a little boy.
I saw so much suffering, so much grief, so much need, so much disaster and I could not hold back my tears. People are hurting and it deeply hurts me and causes me grief and I would like to be there with them.  Maybe I can help them to rebuild their lives and houses, I do not know….. In a couple days I will know where I am going to go in order to support and work with this suffering population.

I still think about the garden of Gethsemane passage where in the middle of the silent and stillness of the night Jesus Christ prayed.
His words are cutting through the dense darkness of these hours.

Sometimes we plan so many things, work so hard to achieve other things; we are overwhelmed with many projects and new challenges. But all such daily worries vanish when you go through a dramatic moment like this.     

The absolute limit of the earth moving beneath  your feet, the power of contingency, the fragility of life,  all these things make us think and reflect deeply about the meaning of our lives, the meaning of our existence.

The day when the earth shook.  That day I was in a room in the Loyola Retreat House, in the Padre Hurtado Community, I was one hour away from Santiago and something like a distant, fictitious and indifferent moon let out its pale light on the world.
-- Eduardo Alonso, SJ

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