Lit solely by headlamps, an illuminated fog rolls with every breath the chaplain speaks. Nearly midnight with Christmas approaching, a small group of deployed service members sit on the cold rocks of the helicopter landing pad huddled in a circle to hold a Catholic Mass.
"Mass can be held anytime, anywhere," said Capt. Carl Subler, a Catholic chaplain with the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. "For Catholics, receiving Holy Communion is essential to their faith. Celebrating Mass in the field for the soldiers gives them a chance to do that, when otherwise they would go months without the sacraments."
"It gives them strength to believe that they can hold on. They are going to be here for so long that it's hard to believe, 'Am I going to make it without dying'' . . . especially after you see death around you. It makes you appreciate more what you have to do to make it home safe to your family," he said.
You know, back when I lived in Santa Ana, CA, and attended Mass at St. Joseph Church, I would complain about the heat that we had to endure during the summer months, as the air conditioning was non-working and the poured cement structure basked in the late afternoon sun, becoming a veritable oven inside. Indeed, I recall one hot Saturday afternoon facing Fr. Michael St. Paul in the Confessional, sweat pouring from both of us.
I see pictures like this and realize . . . I got nothing. The next time you stroll into your well air-conditioned or well heated church, think about Capt. Subler and all military chaplains, and about the men and women to whom he ministers. I have heard priests bitch about their living conditions and get pissy when some church function happens to fall on their day off - and I understand and sympathize, to a degree, since it is human nature. But keep it in perspective, Father - at least the stroll to the Sanctuary is not paved by IEDs.
Happy Veterans Day to military chaplains, of all faiths!