May 26, 2019 – A View From the Rectory Window

To many of the members of our ‘extended parish family’ it is my joy to say “Welcome home” and “You were missed!” The parish family of Saint Maximilian Kolbe is enriched by your prayer, your presence and your expressions of faith.

As we all know, Memorial Day is the traditional kickoff of summer marked by family getaways, cookouts, picnics, parades and the beach. At the same time, I believe it is always important to put time aside for the events for which this day was created; such as wreath-laying ceremonies, prayer services and visits to war memorials. I believe that as Catholics, we are best disposed to be attuned to these moments.

To give expression to this idea, I share with you an image that captured my attention at a young age:

This picture hung on the walls of the seminary where I was studying for the priesthood. It was a picture of a Catholic U.S. Navy Chaplain’s Field Mass with servicemen during combat operations at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

This picture captures a priest standing on a heavily sloped hill wearing simple vestments draped over his military fatigues. He is seen administering the Eucharist to a marine who was kneeling on a rocky and combat torn hill. Behind the priest was a hasty altar and canopy. Around this battle sanctuary were a dozen or so marines and sailors. They appear captivated by the simple reception of Holy Communion seen at the center of the frame. The photograph is equally strange, mysterious and mystical.

It is strange because of the setting of a battleground that is still being hotly contested. The photo is mysterious because it communicates the singular focus on the Eucharist by the battle-weary men. They have come to pray with a poignant air of grace about them despite the apprehension of the scene. Mystical because in the Eucharist, Jesus is truly present in his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. He is the mercy of God expressed in the saving action of the Eucharist.

Each time we gather for Mass, we encounter the same God who humbled Himself (Phil 2:6) by coming to these servicemen who possess both the desire and need of God. Jesus seeks these combatants in the real and terrible contradiction of conflict and violence and his Love (1 John 4:16). He is the gentle master who comes seeking them to console their hearts. He is the One who can give them rest (Mt. 8:18).

May we see this Memorial Day as an opportunity to honor the great sacrifices of those who gave their all so that we may know the blessings we now enjoy. May it also be a day to restore our assurance of God’s presence in every circumstance of our lives,

Fr. Pete