A Memorial Day thought, especially for the clergy

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 29, 2006

If you're an American priest, or,
If you're an American man considering the priesthood, or
If you're a American bishop, with priests under your pastoral care, or
If you're a priest in another country, who might visit the US,
I hope someday you have the chance to visit our nation's capital.

While you're there, be sure to make time for a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, and watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Take some time to learn about the soldiers who, after intense competition, are chosen for that duty.

  • They observe a rigorous standard of personal conduct for the duration of their tenure, including their off-duty time.
  • They carry out a ritual that is minutely detailed, allowing no variations whatsoever.
  • They perform this ritual again and again, in good and bad weather, no matter how they feel.
  • They surrender their individuality, rightly confident that the ritual is more eloquent than any words they could speak, any gestures they could make, on their own.
  • They do it all because they want to do it; their duty is considered an honor.

These soldiers are like priests, in a way. But how many priests have the same attitude toward the dignity of their ministry, and the inherent power of the Eucharistic ritual?

And much as we honor the Unknown Soldier-- especially today!-- he did not rise from the dead.

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  • Posted by: - May. 31, 2006 9:26 PM ET USA

    We murder our unborn and helplessly ill. Since when are we a sane society?

  • Posted by: - May. 31, 2006 6:49 AM ET USA

    Spread this message far and wide! Thank you Di.

  • Posted by: Clorox - May. 30, 2006 7:07 PM ET USA

    Why do Americans now deliberately expose their women to combat? A sane society does its best to protect women (and children) from harm.

  • Posted by: Quadratus - May. 30, 2006 5:30 PM ET USA

    You touced the heart of the matter. We need our semminaries to be as demanding, tough and challenging as a military academy or boot camp. We need our priests and bishops to see themselves as soldiers for Christ. Once in a faraway time all Christians were called to be soldiers for Christ. The Jusuit order was modeled by its founder as a military organization. We need discipline, order, respect, integrity. Sadly you have to go the the SSPX to see that today. An exsoldier and former marine.

  • Posted by: - May. 30, 2006 2:48 PM ET USA

    Yes! I stand corrected. There was a change in requirements from my service days. The tomb soldiers can now come from any Military Occupation Specialty and can be as short at 5'10'. That opens it up to women, though they must be members of the 3rd Infantry. Female guards will be rare since the number of slots that women can fill will be few in an infantry unit, not to mention the height requirement. A very welcome change as women are regularly exposed to combat conditions these days.

  • Posted by: - May. 30, 2006 1:47 PM ET USA

    According to the website, the guards don't have to be male.

  • Posted by: - May. 30, 2006 1:20 PM ET USA

    From this family of soldiers, I thank you so much. Your intent was to make a point about priestly formation, but you did a great service to the rest of us in your letter.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - May. 30, 2006 12:59 PM ET USA

    As a priest, I cannot thank you enough, Diogenes, for this great analogy. Would you give me permission to copy your posting, frame it, and place it in every sacristy where I serve as pastor...? And use this as a reference in a homily about reverence? (When President Reagan died, I spoke of the reverence that many people showed for him -- from their attire to their actions.... & then I said: "Now he was just a man; how much more we should show for Our Lord in the Eucharist!") Semper Fidelis.

  • Posted by: shrink - May. 30, 2006 7:50 AM ET USA

    From the guards' creed: When ever a Tomb Guard salutes a commissioned officer, they always say in a loud voice: "Line Six, Sir!" See line six here:

  • Posted by: - May. 30, 2006 2:58 AM ET USA

    Yep, discipline and disciple are one and the same thing. Reminds me of the hymn I sang as an Anglican: "Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the Cross of Jesus, going on before..."

  • Posted by: - May. 29, 2006 11:18 PM ET USA

    Juxtaposed with the pictures in the post below of the LA Religious Ed Conference is a true masterstroke, Di.

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - May. 29, 2006 10:04 PM ET USA

    a very good and very interesting meditation! God rest the souls of those who have laid down their lives in service to our Nation... and may the souls of all faithful departed Priests rest in peace.

  • Posted by: - May. 29, 2006 9:54 PM ET USA

    Good Lord, Diogenes. You have smote my heart. God be with you.

  • Posted by: - May. 29, 2006 9:50 PM ET USA

    Requirements to become a Tomb Guard: * No military or civilian convictions of law * Score a minimum of 250 on the Army Physical Fitness Test * Be within 5'11" - 6'4" * Have a 30 inch waist * Present a soldierly appearance in the Army Blue Uniform. * Male (must be an infantry soldier - males only) Hmmm... seems it isn't just the Catholic priesthood that has strict requirements for entry. At least the Old Guard strictly observes their requirements.