As the nation comes together on Nov. 11 to honor all those who served in the armed services on Veterans Day, we would like to draw attention to the role of military chaplains.
Military chaplains are called to be spiritual guides and to minister to so many members of our Armed Forces. These women and men, representing all faiths, have a daunting task — to ask a force to be mindful of the presence of God, who is a God of peace, not war, in the midst of conflicts.
This is especially true concerning our Catholic priest chaplains, who minister daily to the needs of not only the Catholic population in the military, but also servicemembers of all faiths.
Military chaplains have increasingly played a key role in promoting peaceful resolutions in hostile environments.
While their primary mission across the service branches is pastoral care — leading religious services, providing counsel, and offering spiritual guidance, for example — military chaplains have also, at times, served as liaisons and bridge-builders with local religious leaders in foreign lands.
The priest who serves as a chaplain has a role, according to Pope Francis, to instruct his charges that amid war, the opposing side is not meant to be an “enemy to be destroyed” but a fellow human being who is created in the image and the likeness of Almighty God.
The Holy Father stated in his address to military chaplains on October 31, 2019, the following: “Respect for the dignity and physical integrity of the human person, in fact, cannot depend upon the actions they have done, but it is a moral duty to which every person and every authority is called.”
A priest chaplain is called to be a “servant of Christ in the military world” and as a visible witness to the fact “that universal love brings one person closer to another, no matter what the other’s race, nationality, culture or religion may be.”
Catholic priest-chaplains serve on loan to the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services from their home diocese or religious order and are released for a term of military service.
Once a priest receives the endorsement and the subsequent faculties of the military archdiocese, he becomes a commissioned military officer of the United States. The Office of the Chief of Chaplains of each respective branch of the U.S. military provides a priest’s assignment.
Five military chaplains, all of them Catholic, have received the Medal of Honor since the Civil War. Two of them — Father Vincent Capodanno and Father Emil Joseph Kapaun, who died in 1951 in a North Korean prisoner-of-war camp — are on the path to sainthood as their stories of bravery have touched people the world over.
This Veterans Day, we should all spend some time praying for all of the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America, and for the priests around the world who serve or had served as military chaplains.
Also, may we all pray for peace around the world through the intercession of Our Lady, Queen of Peace.