This “thank you” goes out to all of the Roman Catholic Military Chaplains around the world.
Thank you for suffering tireless work at the hands of a wartorn “death culture” world. Thank you for getting up before the sun and retiring after the last soldier retreats. Thank you for mustering the added strength needed for dealing with the feminine face of the military, such that it is, in this ever-changing cultural landscape of soldiering. Thank for weathering an adminstration seemingly unsympathetic to the particular needs of Catholics in the military. For those of you out there, and you are many, thank you for risking bullets and bombs to bring spiritual aid and comfort to our troops on the frontlines.
Many will never announce his work done in anonymity and tireless obedience and humility. You are away from your families and friends. Your spiritual needs are placed way behind those of the needs of the soldiers under your care. You have to face day after day of military food or MRE’s in the field, the physical discomfort of wearing armored gear when you are in the field, bugs and weather, and less than pleasant living conditions, little or no time for your own personal worship and study, extended tours, canceled leaves, alienation, and loneliness of the worst kind. It really truly often is just you and God out there.
Bravery seems a small word to describe what soldiers endure for the sake of freedom, multiply that by seven, for what unarmed Military Chaplains endure. You are often the first one to arrive (even before the commander) when the medic is there ministering to a wounded, or dying soldier, and often the last person he or she will ever see in this life.
I mourned the loss of a prayer-life during basic training. I got to go on a Christian retreat at an Evangelical retreat house after the first month of training. There I learned of a military Chaplain whose vested interest it was to hault the activities of the Planned Parenthood located on the base. The evangelicals (knowing I was Catholic) directed me to him urging me to meet him before my time in tradoc ended there. I didn’t know if I could fit it in as we were really tethered to the Drill Sergeants’ scheduled dictates during Basic.
I showed up on his doorstep for confession not realizing this was the priest that they had told me about. My confession was probably the same as the last 100 hundred soldiers that he had seen.
A lot of people don’t know this but the confession lines are long at military bases. I was cross with other trainees, I needed to be more charitable, and to be more Christ-like. These priests don’t lament the fact of an underused Sacrament. This is not a reality for them.
My turn comes up and I moan and groan about not being able to pray. He told me to pray during sit-ups, during push-ups, on KP, in my runs, and during d & c. I did what he said. I relayed that the loss of a ministry to the unborn in pro-life activism weighed heavily on my mind.
I came out of that confessional to be met by a sea of green in the sanctuary. In his homily he invited a volunteer from the laity to relay to the rest what day it was. The military is a conservative entity and the conservatives are more sympathetic to the pro-life movement.
Nobody volunteered. So I got up to tell them that it was the Anniversary of Roe V. Wade. You could hear a pin drop. This was the second cycle of integrated training where both the men and the women trained together so a sea of, not just masculine, but also feminine faces turned to look at me. Wow did I really just get up and say that? The priest was beaming. I went to Communion and there he had for me two Communion wafers. In a death culture industry such that the Military seems to be (though it in reality is not) he persevered to protect life He was the priest they told me about. This humble and obedient man was the one instrumental in getting that Military Base Planned Parenthood closed down. He never let on even once during confession who or what he was to the pro-life movement.
His example there in that particular place in time was evidence of the sort humility that I would unsuccessfully try to exhibit in my own life. I needed to learn obedience that was why God put me there. Obedience is kind of a watchword in the military, more than in any other other form of service, except for vocations. Military Chaplains, therefore, get a double dose. He most certainly did.
I never knew your name.
– Submitted by a pro-life soldier