November 12 Thoughts

November 12, 2012 at 13:13 2 comments

As I am sitting here on 12 November, the day when Veterans’ Day is officially observed, trying to get used to the new bump in my chest, it is dawning on me that it is a good day to be both a Veteran and a Priest. In the Army we used to say that every day is a good day to be a Soldier. I have been blessed with many wonderful folks in the Army from whom I have learned so much, and perhaps and hopefully, grown a bit.

Recently through a number of sources, including Facebook and my blogs, and just ordinary happenstances of one sort or another, I very recently have come into contact with a number of folks from my past, both in the Army and in civilian parish ministry, who have for some misguided reasons, expressed appreciation for things they feel I have done that helped them. This has come literally from all over the world, and has made the last few weeks very interesting and unsettling.

In the Army I grew as a priest. The biggest growth spurt I think was in Viet Nam – a whole new way of being a priest. It was the great equalizer. All of us were afraid, and we all took care of each other. I think I have been looking for that again ever since. I definitely found it in the Army, and I hope I contributed something to it. I definitely took a lot away from it. Many of my closest friends had no contact with or interest in religion. We just got along well and got to know each other. This happens easily, it seems, in the Army, but not so easily in the civilian world. At least for me. There were wonderful relationships and experiences I am thankful for and would never give up.

There are exciting things happening in our Church. I feel that because of my experience with the wonderful folks in the Army I might have a perspective on current church happenings that is somewhat different from that of my brother priests back here, although I would be hard-put to define it.  I have had the thrill of working on an equal footing with wonderful women chaplains, with married priests, with chaplains of other faiths and traditions, all of whom have taught me much and enabled me to broaden my horizons. I know beyond doubt that women bring to pastoral ministry a sensitivity and perspective that we celibate males will never have, and that the same is true of married priests, ministers and Imams, and that we all can and need to learn from each other. I have learned what it is to put individual differences aside and focus al together on the accomplishment of a mission. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned that all of us in all traditions have more in common than what divides us, and this is where we need to put our energy. None of us has the only way to God for everybody always and everywhere.

I have learned that there are a number of our folks who live and work in the shadows, so to speak, because this is where our country calls them to serve. They have their own needs, one of which is their need for God who loves them, and perhaps I have been able to help them find this God, an experience for which I am humbly and forever grateful. I have encountered folks of amazing integrity and principles, not to mention courage and dedication, often unappreciated by the general public. The recent fall from grace of one of our renowned public servants points out the challenges inherent in so many situations. The temptations and opportunities to make bad choices are powerfully present. Good folks mess up. God loves and cares. Anybody without can fall. We need to be there for each other, and knock off the judging. BTDT, as have so many of us.

I hope I have learned how unimportant and unnecessary, even perhaps dangerous, it is to judge people by our own standards for anything. None of us has all the answers even for our own daily living, and certainly not for others’ daily living. We don’t know their story or their journey. We do know there is goodness in each of us, so lets focus on that. One of the greatest lessons was spoken by Pope Benedict: “Every one of us is the consequence of a thought in the mind of God; every one of us is important, every one of us is necessary, none of us is an accident”. Serving with so many wonderful in the Army has made this abundantly clear.

I cannot give enough thanks to the folks I served with in the Army. I hope I have learned from and grown with every single one of them. They have truly been gifts of God to me, and this includes the wonderful folks with whom I might not have gotten along.

More on this at

It really is a good day to be a Veteran and a Priest.


Entry filed under: Army, Army Families, Army Wives, Catholic, Chaplain, Church Leadership, Current Church, Forbidden topics, Uncategorized.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. buck cameron  |  November 12, 2012 at 14:18

    Jim, I always thought that bump in your chest was a big heart.

    • 2. phrogge  |  November 12, 2012 at 17:32

      Buck, maybe too big. This bump is an implantable defibrillator. Its good to hear from you.


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