With summer comes warm days, ice tea, vacations and the inevitable move for military families. Saying goodbye to close friends is a routine and expected part of a military community. However, even with this knowledge, we are left feeling a familiar emptiness when one realizes their friends are no longer right next door.
A strong faith community creates relationships that cross thousands of miles and sometimes goes deeper than blood. The faith community of a military chapel builds upon common knowledge and experiences. We all know that one day we'll have to say goodbye to a dear friend, that we'll share the most precious of events with our faith families and support one another through the most difficult of times. Times unique to military families; times that perhaps “normal” (or civilians) will never know and can never completely comprehend.
Often military families live far away from their biological families. We don't get to experience running over to Grandma's when we need advice or an old family recipe. So a new kind of family is created. It is a family of common ground; families created out of a sort of necessity. We come to Church with the hope of finding a faith community where we feel welcomed, where a smiling face awaits us, with the hope of new friendships yearning to grow.
The faith community of a military chapel is different than any other I've experienced. These military faith communities welcome you with open arms, they understand the struggles of being a military family and they embrace you and your children with the warm love of God.
The faith and devotion found in military chapels, all over the world, is amazing. Beside the fact that almost every military chapel is pretty much an exact replica of the next; you'll find the familiar feeling of being welcomed home. There are noticeable differences between a military chapel and a civilian Catholic church. For one, in a military chapel it stands primarily in a neutral appearance. However, when it's time for Mass nothing is compromised. The Crucifix hangs behind the altar. The altar is prepared just as it would be in a civilian parish and in our case we share our statue of the Virgin Mary. The setting for Mass is very similar to that of a civilian Catholic church. A major difference is that we have a room called the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Normally the Blessed Sacrament would be within view of the parishioners. In order to keep the Chapel neutral we have a special room that is devoted strictly to our Catholic faith. Here we have Jesus awaiting us in the Tabernacle. We have daily Mass and Baptisms in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel is a special place. Often I find myself called to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. In this special place, I find peace; happiness and a special connection with God and my military community.
Within the walls of our military chapel, friendships develop as we grow in our faith and love of God. Being a part of a military chapel allows one opportunities that are unique to a military community. We share in the common knowledge and struggles of military life and we hold firm to one another and to our faith in God.
Copyright 2012 Lorrie Lane Dyer
About the Author
Lorrie Lane Dyer is a facilitator for the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation with the University of Dayton as well as religious education and parish coordinator. She is working on her Masters of Leadership Development, with a focus in Military Chapel programs at St. Mary of the Woods College. Her faith provides her with inspiration for many of her poetry collections, columns and short stories.