Until I really sat here and looked up information regarding earthquakes, I had no idea how frequently they occurred. On Thursday, January 21, 2021, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the Philippines and even more recently on February 13, 2021, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake shook Japan. In fact, by 8:03 am on Wednesday, February 17, 2021, seventeen earthquakes had already been recorded by the United States Geological Survey. The highest of these earthquakes reaching a magnitude of 5.5 and the lowest 2.6, occurring in locations all over the world from Papua New Guinea to Greece to the Democratic Republic of Congo to Oklahoma. Our world is constantly in motion whether we feel it or not. This motion was most certainly felt on February 24th, 1957 when a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan [Formosa]. The three following excerpts are different accounts written by Maryknollers who were missioned throughout Taiwan and all awakened on that very day by the motion of the Earth.
“Never a dull moment on the missions. Time is never weighted down, never drags. Life never becomes blasé. Even Mother Earth contributes to the excitement. One Sunday we had an earthquake which shook the whole island of Formosa and got everybody out of bed at 4.30 A.M., an inconvenient hour, to be sure, but just chuck full of excitement for all concerned.[..]
The first jolt woke me up. Then when the house started to rock, it was like a Keystone Comedy. I never lost so much valuable time getting into my pants. And reaching down for the shoes, I fell flat on my face. My head and legs co-ordinated in doing nothing. After the rocking ceased I moved slowly around checking up. First place was the chapel. Pitch dark! The sanctuary lamp was out. I went up to the altar and felt for it. Still warm! When the house rocked, the little well of wax had swished out the flame. I lit it and thanked God that the world was still on its feet. Going out in back to the catechist’s room, I was alarmed there was no stir. After waking him he switched on the light. He had been sound asleep! ‘Did you feel the quake?’ I asked. ‘It wasn’t very serious’, he replied. When I turned to go out, he started to laugh. I looked at him. ‘Your pants, shen foo’, he said, ‘they’re on backwards.”
~The Clear Water Report, February 1957 – Fr. Francis X. Keelan
“Sunday the 24th, at 4:30 A.M. I was awakened from sleep by a strange bedlam, but it took me only few second[s] to realize what was really happening. The house was dancing under the impulse of an earthquake. It did not last long, luckily, but long enough to send the electric lights swinging like the pendulum of a wall-clock.
So the earth is still young enough to dance, and the worst of it is that we cannot tell when this ball of ours has decided that it wants to dance, and what kind of a dance it will be. Someday we may be tossed about on our earthly dance-hall more than we desire, but that is all in God’s providence, so why worry? But believe it or not, my two month old dog was not going to take any chance. As the door was open he bolted out despite the rain and would not come back till I called him in, and his fur coat was all wet. The God-given instinct of self-preservation in animals seems at time[s] to be wiser than our human wisdom.”
~Nan Chuang Catholic Mission Diary, February 1957 – Fr. Donat W. Chatigny
“Suddenly at 4:26 A.M. on [February 24th] the biggest earthquake here in six years rocked Formosa from its deep slumber.[..]
The weather bureau said that the quake lasted for 40 minutes. Its greatest shock lasted 16.4 seconds. The epicenter of the tremor was in the ocean bed 70 kilometers southeast from the east coast city of Hualien. The intensity of the earthquake at Hualien was registered at fifth grade in the scale of six.
With the exception of Tamsui and Pescadores which were placed at third grade, the rest of Formosa recorded a fourth grade earthquake.[..]
At breakfast that morning, Brother Albert [Staubli] was all smiles. All with great esteem congratulated him for his architecturally shock-resistant masterpieces. For the Center House and all the buildings and Churches he built stood the supreme test of mother earth’s rock n’roll. He had such implicit faith in his own architecture that he chose to stay in bed throughout the earthquake. To the whole of the Prefecture this Swiss genius is truly another Albert der Gros. For his greatness consists in his works which are like peans of praise in God’s Holy sight.”
Taichung Language School Diary, February 1957 – Fr. Rocco P. Franco