The Year of Faith: Seek Peace
WASHINGTON, D.C.—His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, has issued a pastoral letter on the Year of Faith,declared by Pope Benedict XVI from October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013. Here follows the text of the letter:
Pursuing peace is a vital role that those pledged to service support through their daily commitment to a rigorous discipline. It is an elusive gift sought with eager longing. All people of good will seek peace, pray for peace, and hope for peace in the midst of challenging and undesirable situations. You, the men and women of our military, have been intimately engaged in moving toward such peace with over a decade of deployments. You and your families know better than most that the effects of war have taken their toll. Over time, through the experiences of being deployed and supporting those who have deployed, the desire for personal peace travels the long journey through physical, psychological, and spiritual healing. As faithful Catholics we know that the source of all healing and peace is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Our ongoing conversion, an ever-deepening relationship with the Lord, also demands a daily commitment to a discipline of prayer that is profoundly rooted in humility.
Through prayer in Christ we come to know the Father’s will for our life. We better understand the trappings of power along with the things or choices that hold us back from being our true selves. We can, through prayer, come to realize that our will is not necessarily the will of the Creator. Faith-filled lives rooted in the Eucharist and daily prayer help us to discern more closely how we are being called each day to the mission as a disciple of Jesus Christ. With Blessed Ildefonso Schuster, “we consider prayer as the beginning of our future state of blessedness.” This year the Catholic Church offers each of us an opportunity to focus on the mission that matters most – living out our call as baptized Catholics by knowing and loving the faith, which empowers us to serve those in need and leads to life without end.
The Year of Faith
During the Year of Faith (October 11, 2012 – November 24, 2013) the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has encouraged all Catholics to rediscover the faith:
Reflection on the faith will have to be intensified, so as to help all believers in Christ to acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel, especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing.(BENEDICT XVI,Porta Fidei, n. 8.)
Throughout this year of reflection there are also special anniversaries in the life of the Church to recall. First of all, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (11 October 1962) that Blessed Pope John XXIII called. The Holy Father wanted “to transmit doctrine, pure and whole, without attenuations or misrepresentations,” in such a way that “this sure and immutable teaching, which must be respected faithfully, is elaborated and presented in a way which corresponds to the needs of our time.” (JOHN XXIII, Address of the solemn opening of the Ecumenical Vatican Council II, 11 October 1962.) Secondly, the faithful recall the twentieth anniversary of the promulgation of theCatechism of the Catholic Church, given to the Church by Blessed Pope John Paul II (11 October 1992). TheCatechism, a fruit of the Second Vatican Council, includes “the new and the old (cfr. Mt 13:52), because the faith is always the same yet the source of ever new light.” (JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Constitution,Fidei depositum, 11 October 1992, n. 2.)
To all of you whose pastoral care is assured by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA I issue a warm word of encouragement to study these documents. Each, in a particular way, recognizes the primary call to discipleship lived in the world today. Each also recognizes the unique vocation of service in the military as agents of security and freedom on behalf of the people of our nation in the pursuit of peace. For those of you who now experience the ministry of this archdiocese in Veterans’ Administration Medical Centers, your pursuit of peace is through healing or acceptance, as well as your contribution to the communities in which you live. In this way, each of us commits valuable time to that which is most important and that which has the power to transform all of our interactions – a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
As a 12 year old I visited Europe for the first time with my family. I was assured that I would not be able to appreciate the vastness of the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, because the elaborate red damask draped seats were not taken down between the sessions of the Council. The tiers of seats made an impression. In a few years I would begin to read the documents that were debated in those glamorous bleachers. They may have disguised the vastness of the basilica, but they demonstrated a community of faith at work. Our life is not always ideal.
Yet the less than desirable situations of conflict that you endure have not dampened your ongoing commitment to defend the nation in its noble cause. This cause may at times make you feel lonely and misunderstood. Often a certain experience of being set apart occurs upon returning home only to find people who do not fully comprehend, or even bother to contemplate, the sacrifices that you and your family members have endured. In those unsettling experiences you must rely on the relationships of the community of faith found in the Catholic Church. In those occasions of loneliness or feelings of abandonment you are never really all alone.
As your Shepherd, I want to encourage you in your vocation, help you to see how the Church values your service, and challenge you to deepen your relationship and devotion to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Your unique circumstances do not dispense you from profiting from the Year of Faith. Every day men and women of the armed forces, along with U.S. government employees serving outside of the borders of the United States, are dedicated to pursuing peace around the world. Veterans are a constant reminder of the price paid for that pursuit. In this non-territorial archdiocese over which the sun never sets, prayers are being offered at every moment of the day. We gather together in prayer and through the celebration of the Eucharist in a way that we never can physically gather. In these profound moments of prayer we recognize that we are together in Christ Jesus, and we celebrate His powerful presence. It is from this unique vantage point that the Church encourages each one of us in our service.
We remember that in two specific places the documents of the Second Vatican Council recognize the importance of the pastoral needs of those who serve in the military. The first is found in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,Gaudium et Spes. Part II of this constitution focuses on “Some Problems of Special Urgency” of which the council fathers desired to consider “in the light of the gospel and of human experience.” (CONC. ECUM. VAT. II, Dogmatic Constitution,Gaudium Et Spes, n. 46.) These included marriage and the family; human culture; life in its economic; social, and political dimensions; the bonds between the family of nations; and peace.
In the Chapter titled, “The Fostering of Peace and the Promotion of a Community of Nations,” a great deal of energy is expended to explain the nature of peace, the avoidance of war, the just defense of people, the arms race, the need for international organizations, and cooperation as contrasted to the horror and perversity of war including scientific weapons that can create massive and indiscriminate destruction. In recognition of the proper role of the militaryGaudium et Spesnotes, “As long as they (military personnel) fulfill this role properly, they are making a genuine contribution to the establishment of peace.” (CONC.ECUM. VAT. II, Dogmatic Constitution,Gaudium Et Spes, n. 80.)
Your presence and your efforts in the military are contributing toward the desire of peace. Your deep respect for the dignity of the human person means that you endeavor to save rather than to take lives. Often, the daily task lists, meetings, reports, and trainings can be wearisome. The repetition can cause one to forget that each of these tasks in pursuit of the mission of peace is both important and valued.
The second notation concerning the armed forces is found in the Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the Church, Chapter three, Section three. Here it is written that, “Because of the special conditions of the way of life of military personnel, their spiritual care requires extraordinary consideration.” (CONC. ECUM. VAT. II, Decree, Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the Church, Christus Dominus n. 43.) In this decree the uniqueness of military service is recognized from the previous experience of Military Ordinaries (bishops tasked with the pastoral care of those in the military). As such, the desire to establish a military vicariate in every nation was expressed. The need for dioceses to send a sufficient number of priests qualified to serve this serious work was also clearly articulated. Finally, the need to promote the spiritual welfare of those serving in the military was included.
Spirituali Militum Curae
This particular emphasis on the pastoral and spiritual needs of those in the military mobilized the Church to consider more appropriate ways in which to meet those needs. Therefore, Blessed John Paul II promulgated the Apostolic ConstitutionSpirituali Militum Curaein 1986. This document, also a fruit of Vatican II, notes, “the Church has always desired to provide with praiseworthy concern, and in a manner suited to the various needs, for the spiritual care of military people.” (JOHN PAUL II, Spirituali Militum Curae, 21 April 1986, introduction.)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
TheCatechism of the Catholic Churcharticulates the teaching of the Church especially in her desire to avoid war and specifically the intentional destruction of human life. All citizens and all governments are obliged to avoid war. (CCC 2308.)TheCatechismfurther states,
Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace. (CCC 2310.)
Those who serve the common good are necessarily rooted in Christ Jesus. For this reason I want to draw your attention to the way that you respond to the gift of peace.
Lord I Am Not Worthy – A Reflection for Soldiers
At every celebration of the Eucharist there is an opportunity to identify with a soldier who comes before the Lord asking for help. In the new translation of the third edition of theRoman Missal,the words we pray have changed. In particular, the words we pray prior to receiving Holy Communion can provide a beautiful theological reflection that puts our true mission into focus. After the Lamb of God, the priest elevates the consecrated host. Recognizing the presence of Christ the priest says:
Behold the Lamb of God,
behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.
Together the priest and people say,
Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
(Roman Missal, Third Edition for use in the United States of America, The Communion Rite,
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC, 2011, p. 669.)
This beautiful prayer comes from the Sacred Scriptures. It is found in the Gospel of Matthew. (Mt 8:5-11.) In this pericope we find that as Jesus enters Capernaum a centurion approaches Him. A centurion is a soldier who commands 100 troops. Like a good commanding officer he is concerned with the welfare of all of his soldiers. In this particular instance, a subordinate (a servant or one he commands) is paralyzed and suffering dreadfully.
With great humility and recognizing the power of the Lord, the centurion seeks Jesus and tells Him that his servant is suffering. Jesus says, “I will come and cure him.” Immediately, though the centurion utters the words we are now familiar with prior to receiving communion:
Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it. (Mt 8:8-9.)
When Jesus hears this He is amazed and says out loud to those following Him,
Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mt 8:5-11.)
As the centurion seeks the healing of his servant, it could actually be his son that he is speaking of since the Greek word “pais” could either mean “servant” or “boy.” When Jesus says He will come and heal his servant the centurion shows not only politeness, but also recognition of the law with a profound sense of humility. The centurion states that he commands others, but he realizes and articulates that Jesus has more authority and has greater command than he as a soldier will ever have. The centurion recognizes himself as a servant leader who is subject to the authority of Almighty God.
The centurion also realizes that Jewish law would discourage Jesus from entering his house since he is a Gentile. Jews at the time observing the law knew that such an act would ritually defile them. In order to prevent that the soldier humbly provides Jesus with a “way out” by saying “only say the word and my servant will be healed.” This humbleness amazes Jesus who recognizes the centurion not as a great commander but as a man of great faith. In the Gospel of Matthew much of the text is written to a community that shows a lack of faith. Examples of faithful citizens were needed in order that others might grow in faith.
Remember the centurion is speaking in the presence of others. He is a known figure. He is not afraid to make manifest his faith and is not worried about his position. His clear, public statement of personal belief attracted the attention of the Lord Jesus, but also of those around him. His soldiers must have marveled and wondered, “Who is this in whom my commanding officer has so much confidence?”
Finally, the centurion believes in and relies on grace in the presence of Jesus. By admitting that he is not worthy he announces to Jesus and all around him that what he really wants is what God wants. He recognizes that, although he does have power and authority it is not the sort that can direct all things. In other words, through his prayer he has come to seek God’s will, not his own will. He presents the need and then openly accepts wherever it is that God leads him.
We know that the primitive Church was filled with soldier saints, many of whom were martyred for their fidelity to the faith. Others, as they marched with the Roman troops, brought the faith to the cities and towns they visited. They helped advance the “good news” about Jesus Christ throughout the Roman Empire.
In today’s military there is a definite need for pleading so that our souls may be healed. The experiences of war can include encounters of the loss of life and the challenges of accepting the unknown in an unsecure setting. As overwhelming as these experiences are God the Father seeks peace for us too. While those who serve daily defend peace they may do so humbly by recognizing Jesus and responding to Him in the same way the centurion did.
Each celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass provides an opportunity for us to reflect on that reality prayerfully prior to receiving the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eucharist. This moment of recognition, acceptance, and response provides an interior thanksgiving that informs our daily lives, the way we serve, and the way we treat one another. Next time you are at Mass remember that your vocation in service of our nation is something that the Church understands. Remember that healing comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Remember also that our lived faith is not just a personal experience. Just as the centurion risked sharing what he believed in front of others, so we also must go and do the same.
Indeed we are charged at the end of every celebration of the Eucharist to go forth and announce the Gospel we have heard. It is so important to invite others to experience this healing presence of the Lord and His word, which saves. Yours may be the only witness that another experiences! You may be the only “evangelist” (bearer of the Gospel) that he or she meets!
Through the celebrations of the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist we begin to come to terms with the real healing that our souls need. We cannot do that on our own. In our sinfulness we must cry out to God to plead for help. We must recognize that we alone cannot solve all the challenges that affect us. We must rely on the presence of Christ who enters our very being to help us recognize in ourselves, and in others, God responding to us. The response to this prayerful relationship helps one grow as a disciple who understands that his or her main mission in life is the pursuit of peace while always pointing toward the Heavenly Banquet.
We find our inspiration in the example of our Mother, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. She teaches us, in the words of St. Luke, to keep all these things which we have been considering regarding our faith in our hearts (Lk 2:51b)and to bear Christ to others. She began immediately after the Annunciation when she went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth. (Cf. Lk 1:39ff.) Our faith is indeed a great gift, which we must deepen, but also share, because we know that it brings serenity and joy. The Council teaches us that Mary was the first Christian, because she bore the Christ in her womb. We also bear Christ as our identification. His is the Name impressed on the dog tags of our soul. We bring Him to others in our faithful witness, our joyful proclamation, our enduring hope, and our practice of charity.
When Jesus died on the Cross a centurion present said, “Truly, this is the Son of God.” (Mk 15:39b.)Throughout this Year of Faith the faithful of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA are called to know their faith more deeply through the study of Catholicism. All are called to pray fervently and be open to making their prayer lives a daily priority. Each one of us is called to serve one another thereby helping Christ to be made known in the world. Each of us is charged to echo the profession of faith of the centurion in everything we say or do. These soul-healing actions bring about the peace of the Kingdom of Heaven.
You might make as one goal this year the memorization of the Nicene Creed, which we recite together at every Sunday Mass. Would it not also be useful to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church or Youcat? This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflections and rediscovery of the faith. (Cf.Porta Fidei, n. 4.)
Be assured of my daily prayers for you as your Shepherd especially during this wonderful opportunity to celebrate the Year of Faith and make our way to the fullness of life in the Kingdom of God.
(Most Reverend) Timothy P. Broglio
Archbishop for the Military Services
11 October 2012