Here on my desk is a prayer from Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA. It begins:There's much more to the article, provocative as always. Read more >>Almighty God and Father, look with love upon our men and women in uniform and protect them in their time of need. Give them health and stability and allow them to return to their loved ones whole and unshaken. Be with their families and sustain them in these uncertain times.The prayer is somehow off key, peaceable and tender to a fault. In their time of need. We could say the same thing about anyone at any time, and in the grip of any of life’s difficulties or sorrows. Health and stability. How does that translate on the battlefield? It is a nebulous pairing that veils the agonies, terrors, and deformations of war. Unshaken. In regard to what?
There is not a word here about victory, about defeating an enemy, or gaining dominion over the forces that threaten soldiers’ lives and ours. The prayer displays no gratitude for the heroic generosity and idealism that prompts young men and women to gamble their lives and the future of their families on the missions assigned to them.
What does it mean to be sustained in uncertain times? Uncertainty bedevils all times. There can be no sustenance without confidence that there exists something worth sustaining, worth the dreaded risk of death or disfigurement. Worth confronting the unspeakable. That fragile and perishable something is not hard to name: our Constitutional freedoms, the concept of human rights, the rule of law. The tragedy of our volunteer military is that their own leaders—and pastors—exhibit uncertainty themselves. They exhibit a kind of morose embarrassment at the reality that Western democracies have to be vigorously and effectively armed against the forces of tyranny.
[Hat tip to JM]