Thursday, December 18, 2008


So, given that this blog is published by a Chaplain, but during a time of dramatic economic and employment downturn, did you think long-O "Job" (as in the-patience-of), or short-O "job" (as in I'm-about-to-lose-mine) as you scanned the title of this post?

Something to think about, I guess.

Because of the tanking of the world-wide economy, my civilian employer's investments have decreased dramatically in value. Not long ago, I received an email from the President of the University, explaining how dire the financial situation had become. A few days later I received an email from the Chair of my Department indicating that they need to reduce expenses by at least 20%, which means a reduction in the workforce in the Department.

This could mean I'll have no job to come back to when I return after my year-long deployment over here Down Range. I wouldn't be the first Reservist to whom this happens, should it eventuate. However, I also wouldn't be out on the streets, as so many military veterans are -- to the inestimable shame of the United States -- were this to come about.

It took some doing for me to end up here in Iraq, wearing the uniform of the United States Army, what with being an old fart with no prior service and all. Chaplains can only serve in the US military if they have a current Endorsement from a recognized endorsing agency. There are eleventy-seven endorsing agents for Protestant Chaplains (I've counted them), but only one for Roman Catholics, the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS).

In order for me to get the endorsement of the AMS, I have to have the permission of my religious superior. For diocesan priests, that permission would come from their bishop, but in my religious order, the person granting permission is my Provincial. It's not clear to me who was more shocked in this process, my Provincial for being asked to consider this request, or myself for submitting it and being given permission to seek a Commission in the Army National Guard.

I'm grateful to Bob for his prayerful discernment, and his openness to being surprised by God's weird sense of humor. However, after granting me permission, first to join the Army, and then to get deployed for this present mission, he sent me a snail-mail letter indicating his skepticism that my being in uniform was an adequate use of my doctorate in molecular neurobiology. (That's probably an understatement!) It was thus his intention that my Endorsement would end upon my redeployment.

I was hoping to come over here and be worked so endlessly doing priest-things that I'd be able to go back and make the case for the pastoral necessity of my staying in the Reserve Component.

Oh well. At least I'm getting outside the wire a lot more lately than was the case for the past two months! If nothing else, this deployment can become an extended exercise in 'practicing being satisfied'.

So now, looming on the horizon could well be a return to the States at the end of this mission to find myself without my civilian job *and* without my military Commission.

Fortunately, when confronted by this sort of scary scenario, I've been taught by my friends who go to AA and Al-Anon meetings to pause, breathe, and ask myself to name ten true things about the present moment. Then, I've learned, I need to do 'the next right thing'.

The next right thing for me to do is to go take a shower.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! (NRSV: Lk 12:22-28)
Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

(I wonder if there are any molecular (neuro)biology teaching slots available at the Army Medical Department Center and School at Fort Sam Houston or at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda....)

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