Friday, January 02, 2009


As the new year gets going, I'm thinking back over some of the new experiences I've had since joining the Army, and certainly since getting deployed Down Range.

Shortly after SFC McG and I began being scheduled to go outside the wire much more often than we'd been doing, we wound up in a small place where we hold mass in a makeshift wooden structure that once served as the PX (Post Exchange = "five-and-dime") for that outpost. There's no table on which to set up for Mass, so I just make do with using the dusty shelving, and wind up saying Mass with my back to the people.

(Lest traditionalists get all excited here, let's remember two things: I'm not facing East when I do this, and as Jaroslav Pelikan once wrote: "Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.")

Worshipers gather on three pew-like benches which have a very odd backward slant to them, almost as if they were about to go under the oral surgeon's knife, all at the same time.

Of course, I've been told that that would be preferable than having to sit through a homily at one of my liturgies....

Anyway, one Friday evening, SFC McG and I were there and praying with us we had a couple of Soldiers whose first language was Spanish, but from different parts of the world, a couple of nondescript midwesterners like myself, a man from Uganda who read the first reading, and a couple of DoD civilians from Pakistan who sang a couple of Psalms in Urdu.

"Catholic" means universal, of course, and that night I had quite a profound sense of the catholicity of the Church, just in that tiny room on a tiny FOB (forward operating base) in a rather remote part of Iraq (relatively speaking).

It was awesome.

6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,

to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,

and to be his servants,

all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,

and hold fast my covenant—

7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,

and make them joyful in my house of prayer;

their burnt offerings and their sacrifices

will be accepted on my altar;

for my house shall be called a house of prayer

for all peoples.

8 Thus says the Lord GOD,

who gathers the outcasts of Israel,

I will gather others to them

besides those already gathered.

(NRSV: Is 56:6-8)

Blessings and peace to one and all on this Eighth Day of Christmas,

Fr. Tim, SJ


Unknown said...

Dear Tim

We are fine here. Weather is sketchy but not too bad. It comes and goes. We think about you often and hope you are not going too far outside the "zone." Afterall, with all due respect, we feel you are taking enough chances just BEING THERE !

I heard that Condi is going back to Stanford. She will be at some guilded Chair or some place that will land her in la la land , now that her constituency (Bushies) have bankrupted the government. I am praying for Obama. He is reving up his engines but I'm not too hopeful because it is only a matter of time before our enemies notice that all the money is GONE.

I wish I could cook for you now. We are praying for you. We saw Lauren in LBK for Christmas. She told us she no longer wants to celebrate Channuka. I guess that is no surprise. It is not easy being a Jew at any age. She remains in Boston. No real job - no boyfriend. We worry... Everytime I look out the window at the lake, I think of you. Please BE CAREFUL! Love, Holly (& Les)

Unknown said...

I'm not quite sure how this works... did you get my note? Hollyb

CAB said...

Hi Fr. Tim thank you for your New Year blessing, description of mass in the old PX and message. It is comforting knowing that you are there administering to our troops. Blessings to you. CAB

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