“Those who feel most of others, suffer most in war.”
Veterans Mass 11/16/2018
Wilfred Owens, Insensibility, from With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge.
Growing up, I was very close with my father’s mom and dad, “nanny and poppy” as we affectionately knew them. Poppy had an especially joyful spirit. He was generous, had a big heart, and always ready to crack a joke. At a young age, I knew my poppy was a little different from other people in my life, namely, because he had a few less fingers on either hand. It wasn’t until I was older, perhaps even after his passing, that I really understood the story behind his wounds: My poppy served in WWII and lost fingers on both hands due to shrapnel from an explosion, which earned him a Purple Heart. He never spoke about the War. He instead preferred to engage people with that friendly banter that was so characteristic of him. As I have grown and matured, I’ve come to more deeply appreciate my poppy’s sacrifice and service to God and country.
War is hell. We should never seek to glorify its violence, killing, death, or destruction. We should, however, give due honor and respect for the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom, to fight against evil and injustice. Jesus’ message is one of peace, which must always be our goal. War is a last resort. But Jesus also spoke about a spiritual battle. Evil is real. It exists. If we have any doubts about that, we need only to take a closer look at history. So, we need soldiers. We need soldiers on the spiritual plane who seek to lead lives of virtue and goodness. So long as evil has a hand in our world, we also need soldiers, heroic men and women, who will serve in the armed forces and protect our freedoms.
It may be hard to appreciate what Veterans have been through, but it is important that we support them. You know that, when you meet a Veteran, it is an appropriate gesture to thank them for their service. I heard a Veteran once suggest that we should consider adding one more line to that statement of gratitude: “we still need you.” Just because a Veteran’s days on the battlefield are behind him or her, there are new fronts, new battles in our communities, and we need them to continue to lead and serve our nation, our Church, and our families in other ways. Expressing this reminds them of their dignity. Let us pray for all Veterans at this Mass and say to them today, “Thank you for your service…we still need you.”
The Sacrament of Confession: A perspective from the other side of the screen
In his best-selling autobiography, the Trappist monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton recalls his first confession after a radical conversion from a life of decadence to a spiritual journey that would lead to a monastery in Nelson County, Kentucky. Merton remembers kneeling down in the confessional and seeing the outline of the priest on the other side of the screen. As he prepared to confess a lifetime worth of sins he thought “Poor man!” and then began his first confession.
Twice a year, during Advent and Lent, we invite a dozen priests to Bishop Hendricken to hear confessions. I’m always proud of our young men who turn out in good number to take advantage of the opportunity. Confession presents a challenge for many people and raises questions such as, What do I say? Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest? and probably the most common, What will the priest think of me? My life as a priest answered this last question in a surprising fashion. We may approach the confessional like Thomas Merton, thinking our sins will either offend or embarrass or anger the priest. What I have discovered as a confessor is precisely the opposite. When a person comes to me to reveal their heart, my chief sentiment is deep reverence and respect for the penitent. What courage and faith it requires to acknowledge sin and trust in God’s mercy! I have never been surprised, hurt, or angered in the confessional. I have always been humbled. I share this with the hope that those who have any doubts about the presence of God’s mercy in confession might have encouragement through a perspective from the other side of the screen. Thomas Merton relates his feelings after his first confession, “I did not have any time to feel how relieved I was when I came stumbling out…but ever since that day, I have loved confessionals.” May the same be true for you and me.
About Our Chaplain
Fr. Christopher Murphy grew up a parishioner of St. Brendan Parish in Riverside. He graduated from Our Lady of Fatima High School and Providence College, then studied at St. John’s Seminary near Boston.
Father Murphy was ordained a priest in June 2012, at the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul in Providence. In addition to his role at Bishop Hendricken, he served as an Assistant Vocations Director for the Diocese of Providence. Previously, he served as assistant pastor at St. Thomas More Parish in Narragansett.
In April 2018, Father Murphy was appointed Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Providence.
Fr. Christopher Murphy
401.739.3450, ext. 149
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