Monday, May 30, 2011

"To These, O Lord": In Memoriam... In Service

Culturally speaking, this last weekend of May might mark the start of summer on these shores... lest we forget, though, our freedom to enjoy it owes itself to the sacrifice of thousands over the centuries -- and, indeed, even into our time.

Their number increased by over 6,000 just in the last decade, in appreciation both of those who gave their lives that the rest of us might have ours, not to mention all those who've risked (and still risk) the same for the good of the rest, between our barbeques and beach-trips over these days, let's pause for a Memorial Day tribute to "The Glorious Dead" -- albeit one borrowed from our friends across the Pond, who set the gold standard for Remembrance....

...and much closer to home, keeping with these pages' longtime custom for civil holidays, here again, the "Prayer for [this] Nation" and its nascent church, written and first delivered in 1791 by the Father of American Catholicism -- John Carroll of Baltimore, the heroic founding shepherd of this faithful on these shores:

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope Benedict, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability. We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance.

To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

* * *
Yet lastly, as ever -- but especially given the campaigns of recent years -- Memorial Day brings into a particular ecclesial focus the work of the DC-based archdiocese for the Military Services, whose global turf encompasses some 1.5 million American Catholics in uniform; a flock upon which "the sun never sets," comprising roughly a quarter of the nation's entire Forces, at home and abroad alike.

Long keeping today's observance for its lead annual gathering as a local church, the AMS has posted the Memorial Mass homily of the Services' chief shepherd, Archbishop Timothy Broglio -- a reflection on the Good Shepherd, with a tribute to a well-known 20th century pastor who wore combat boots: New Orleans' celebrated Archbishop Philip Hannan, a World War II chaplain who (even despite recent health scares) remains the Crescent City's first citizen and "Energizer bunny" ten days into his 99th year.

That said, the Military church faces a dire shortage of Catholic chaplains these days -- some 275 clerics in all for a sprawling five-branch flock... so, along those lines, his well-honed Roman diplomacy stretched to its limit, the Cleveland-born commander made a pointed call for more help to his confreres at last November's USCCB plenary, outlining the unique challenges the AMS and its pastors and people face, and how the quality of its response impacts the wider church:

While Broglio was seeking an improvement in the bench's level of collaboration, for its part, Rome has given a particularly conspicuous vote of confidence in its reinforcements to the Forces' top ecclesial rank of late, providing auxiliaries for the AMS in two separate air-drops over the last year: the down-home Alabaman (via Baltimore) Rick Spencer in September, and Broglio's fellow Clevelander Neil Buckon, a Bronze Star winner who was ordained in February.

Both new auxes hail from the Army chaplain corps.

PHOTOS: Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA(2)