May 30, 2016
I am not often drawn to an image as I once was while studying in the Seminary for the priesthood. It was a simple picture of a Catholic U.S. Navy Chaplain's Field Mass with servicemen during combat operations at the Battle of Iwo Jima. The men are marines and sailors in the midst of the sad reality of combat.
It hung along the wall in one of the hallways at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception. I remember that when I saw it I was immediately drawn into the scene.
In the picture there is 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. Apparently they had little regard for the enemy that lay hidden somewhere nearby. The photograph is equally strange, mysterious and mystical.
It is strange because of the setting of a battleground that is still being hotly contested. It 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 anxiety of the scene.