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Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors

We Have to Wake Up Jesus in the Boat

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo was stranded at a seminary in the city and couldn’t get to his flock because the roads leading out were flooded. In a state of frustration, he exclaimed to the seminarians, “I think we have to wake up Jesus in the boat!” 

Cardinal DiNardo recounted this moment in an interview with John Allen and Inés San Martin for Crux. When asked what people who aren’t in Texas can do to help, the Cardinal answered, “Presently, pray real hard!”

We’ve all had that sense of frustration Cardinal DiNardo experienced in knowing that people are in need, but feeling unable to help them. When natural disasters, like the recent hurricanes in the gulf coast, put so many people in harm’s way, we wonder what we can do in the face of such devastation. “Praying real hard” is a great starting point because prayer can not only help us realize what to do in a crisis, but it can also be a powerful way to intercede for others.

The Cardinal’s exclamation to the seminarians about waking up Jesus in the boat is an obvious reference to the Gospel story of Jesus calming the storm in the Sea of Galilee. As the Gospel of Mark recounts, Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat as the storm was raging. The disciples woke him up and asked, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” The Gospel then states, “He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:35-41)

Christ’s criticism of the disciples for having too little faith by no means implies that we should not call on Him for help. He wants us to ask for help, but he also wants us to have faith that things will work out when we place our trust in Him. Prayer in desperate circumstances is like waking up Jesus in the boat because it can lead people to find the courage to take action in crisis situations, like the first responders who arrive on the scene to perform rescue missions and provide vital aid to those in distress - and like social service organizations such as Catholic Charities which remain on the scene to bring food, shelter, and emotional support to people in need.

Prayer can also lead people to lend financial support to organizations on the front lines. But for those not called to the front lines and those who cannot afford to donate money, prayer can be a way for them to join their will to the common good. Prayer keeps us connected in spirit to those who are suffering, and we can also offer up our own suffering, uniting whatever pain we have to Christ on the cross and joining Him in asking God to accept our suffering as an offering and solemn request for mercy to be extended to others. 

So when you hear about tragedies taking place in the world, by all means, “Pray real hard!” Those prayers might help to “wake up Jesus in the boat” and make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering a world away.    


For free copies of the Christopher News Note FINDING THE COURAGE WITHIN, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: