Photo: Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890)
'Soldiers Hunger for Deeper Meaning'
The Third Luminous Mystery: The Proclamation of the Gospel
by Fr. Donald Van Alstyne, MIC (August 25, 2014)
Eighth of a 20-part series on the Mysteries of the Rosary. Next week: The Transfiguration.
As a Catholic priest in the United Sates Army, my highest priority has been to provide sacramental services to our Catholic soldiers and their families. However, my overall concern is to provide counsel, comfort, and inspiration to all our men and women in uniform. In short, chaplains are to nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the dead.
This is particularly important for our service members who are deployed. They experience a whole array of emotions and high levels of stress that include what the family members they left behind go through. It is during these dangerous and hard times that soldiers start a deep journey within to search for strength that will sustain them and bring them to a higher awareness of the presence of God in their lives.
In the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary introduced to the Church by Pope John Paul ll, we now have a more intimate understanding of the life and mission of Christ. The proclamation of the kingdom of God by Jesus opens the doors of God's mercy to the everyday challenges we face. It is when our soldiers feel helpless and feel the weight of burdens on their shoulders that, as their chaplain, I remind them they are not alone. Rather, they need to turn to God, who is ever present and powerful, who is always at their side, even when they are unaware of Him.
Soldiers who are in harm's way quickly realize that the lure and seductions of the world are no longer important. They truly hunger for deeper meaning when they face evil and the fear of death every day. In Jesus' proclamation of the kingdom of God, He conveys unconditional love as He lifts up to the Father their pain and suffering, hope and aspirations, joy and thanksgiving.
A soldier shared his feelings with me when we came back from our deployment from Afghanistan last fall. This soldier and his buddies experienced sheer horror while engaged in a fierce firefight with the enemy. He said that after that encounter, his faith took a deeper and more personal perspective. All his buddies had felt the protective hand of God in the midst of the chaos. "We returned to our forward operating base physically unscathed," he said.
"For my remaining tour in Afghanistan, I began to rely heavily on my constant communication with God. Praying without ceasing became, for me, as natural as breathing. For now I know God's abiding presence, the forgiveness of my sins, and God's unconditional love for as long as I walk the face of the earth."
He went on to say, "Finally, we redeployed back to Fort Bliss, and during our welcoming home ceremony when the National Anthem played over the loud speakers celebrating our arrival, I felt the tears I had been unable to cry for months stinging my eyes. I thought of my love for God and our wonderful country, the safety of my military family that had just replaced us in Afghanistan, the loss of those I had known, and my beautiful wife and children waiting in the stands to greet me."
For this soldier and for so many men and women in uniform, the proclamation of the kingdom of God is not just a devotional sentiment but a reality that will define their pilgrim journey on earth. The treasure of God's grace in the kingdom of God in our midst is a gift open to us all. Jesus' vision of the kingdom of God among us emphasizes our human interdependence on God's mercy and forgiveness.
Father (Major) Donald Van Alstyne MIC, has served as a U.S. Army chaplain in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and in South Korea. He is currently the Catholic Military Community Pastor at Joint Base Ft. Eustis, Va.
1. The Annunciation
2. The Visitation
3. The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus
4. The Presentation in the Temple
5. The Finding in the Temple
1. The Baptism of Jesus
2. The Wedding at Cana
3. The Proclamation of the Gospel
4. The Transfiguration
5. The Institution of the Eucharist
1. The Agony in the Garden
2. The Scourging at the Pillar
3. The Crowning with Thorns
4. The Carrying of the Cross
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus
1. The Resurrection
2. The Ascension
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit
4. The Assumption
5. The Coronation