Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Serving Those Who Serve Our Nation

In my scholarly incarnation, one of my primary interests is the Office of Strategic Services, the World War II predecessor to the CIA, and in particular its actions in Burma. While reading about Detachment 101's approach towards Myitkyina with Merrills' Marauders, I came across this passage:

Father Stuart heard confessions and held special masses for the GIs. He put aside his weapons to don what vestments he still had and gave spiritual comfort to those men who were soon to die. Two soldiers of the 2nd Battalion brought a buddy who wanted to be received into the Church. His buddies had instructed him in the necessary doctrine. In a midnight service Father Stuart baptized him in the cold waters of the Tanai Hka River, and he was received into the Church Militant. This stood out as a most meaningful service by the gallant priest, for this 2nd Battalion was soon to be cut off and besieged in a small Kachin village for thirteen days. Nearly all of the men involved in that ceremony fell and were buried there.

Tom Moon, The Deadliest Colonel, 197-8.

In other circumstances, I might extol the virtues of the OSS or the Kachin tribesmen who fought alongside it. The praise would be due, but instead I would like to affirm an organization of which most Americans have never heard: the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

In times of war, such as our own, those putting their lives in constant danger deserve the utmost spiritual care. Sadly, military chaplains are too often few and far between. If our armed forces and their spiritual well-being are causes near to your heart, you might want to consider contributing in a financial way to their work. And please keep them in your prayers.

For those of you who are not Catholic, consider supporting the Lutheran Ministry to the Armed Forces, the Episcopalian Military Ministries Office or another denomination's work. For those of you on the far side of the Pond, the Bishopric of the Forces attends to the spiritual needs of Her Majesty's forces.

A US Navy chaplain celebrates mass on the island of Saipan in June 1944, offering the mass for those Marines who died in the initial landing.
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