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military Catholics

Military Catholics @ MassIn the July edition of the Knights of Columbus monthy Columbia magazine, I found an article profiling Catholic American soldiers.  There are an estimated 300,000 Catholic in the U.S. armed forces, most of them age 18-29.  While the number of baptized Catholics in the military (28%) reflects the general population — only about 5% of them are regular churchgoers.

Military life entails peculiar demands.  Many are away from home for the first time — preparing for action or stationed in a war zone.  They face increased responsibilities and family pressures unlike any in civilian life.  Changes in deployment happen at a moment’s notice.  Young married couples often face the strain of long-term separations.  They often have little contact with chaplains, whose small numbers (only 8% of all chaplains) cannot meet ministerial demands. 

In ALL of the U.S., Catholic young adults ages 18-30 attend Mass more — 21% every week, 35% at least once a month, 28% a few times a year, and 15% rarely or never.  At first, I thought that during wartime, a soldier seeking a refuge from battle would pursue a hunger for faith & spirituality even more than a civilian.  But after considering all the pressures they face, I can understand the difference in the numbers.

soldier with crucifixIn response to these number, the Military Archdiocese of the U.S., led by Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, initiated a program called Catholics Seeking Christ (CSC).  The 1 year old program, funded by the Knights of Columbus, uses small groups and peer ministers to strengthen the Catholic identity of military personnel.  They use extensive resources, including DVDs and CDs.  I pray for the success of their efforts and for ALL our troops.  — it sounds like a program I’d like to be part of.

military prayers

military Catholic prayerbookIn the July edition of the Knights of Columbus monthy Columbia magazine, I found a 64-page Catholic prayer booklet called, “Armed with the Faith: A Catholic Handbook for Military Personnel.”  It features traditional prayers, devotions, hymns, catechism and more.  The military version is a 5×7-inch waterproof and tearproof booklet.  The civilian version is on paper and can be downloaded here in Acrobat pdf format (333 KB).  It’s available directly from the Knights.  I also found it available for only $1 at an online Catholic store called GodSpace.biz.  I might just have to get these for our Confirmation kids next year.  — but I want one first!