This article is the sixth in a series called, “The U.S. Military and the Catholic Faith: A Comparison”, which examines the comparisons between the U.S. Army and Catholicism. Throughout my articles, I use the word ‘military’ loosely. I focus on the Army because I am a soldier and grew up through the ranks of the enlisted side. In fact, when I get to Heaven Saint Peter’s going to say, “How’d you earn your living boy?” and I’m going to say… “Army Cadence” and reference Matt 16:19:
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
The Catholic Church and the U.S. military have similarities in their doctrines, authority, traditions and customs, hierarchy, and specific training. In my last article I discussed a summary of persecution and suffering, here I would like to focus in on more of the similarities.
Everyone goes through a form of suffering and persecution but especially those who are in the military. For one thing, hazing still occurs. People are belittled, harassed and picked on for all many different reasons. These types of actions lead to the kind of suffering which can lead to suicide. Often those in the military experience a loss of close friends and even relationships between family members can become strained. Hard times arise simply from fulfilling military duties which can lead to family problems and divorce.
The suffering experienced by those in the military is much like with the early Church; when Jesus and His Apostles initially started to spread the gospel, they were persecuted for believing in something they knew to be true. Similarily, servicemen and women can even be persecuted by our own family and friends for serving our own country.
Sufferings also can include finances and a lack of peer support. Money is a need for some things and when dealing with certain groups of people who are better off, we often are embarrassed if we are caught with a lower class. In the past and even today some people have little to nothing; they may have just enough money to get their basic needs, and though they are striving, they are content. These people do not allow making bad choices cloud their judgment, which is based on their moral and value beliefs.
However, poor choices often are the result of difficult circumstances. We can see this throughout history. An example is Benedict Arnold , ‘America’s famous traitor’, who switched sides during the American Revolutionary war. Judas Iscariot was he was one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus but he betrayed Jesus. Both of these individuals wanted to join with the side which seemed the most powerful so they would not be ridiculed or even put to death.
History of the Military
History, not a favorite topic among many, but if we are not aware of our history as the saying goes “history can repeat itself.” This saying is true when we do not understand what the facts of our history actually mean.
In the United States and even before the revolution, there were fighting forces- the militia. Then, on June 14, 1775, the U.S. Army was enacted. Even though there were other countries that had their own fighting forces, ours fought and won our independence for what they believed in, for freedom. Similarly, the Church can trace its roots to Christ around A.D. 32. There were other religions around that time but those were the religions of the Jews and Greeks as well as other pagan religions. Christ and the Church he founded embarked on a new way of life based on freedom and truth.
People living in America were called colonist before being called Americans. This can be seen similar to how the Church was referred to as the ‘Way’ before the first announcements of being called ‘Christians’ in Acts of the Apostles 11:26. Then it wasn’t until around A.D. 107, St Ignatius of Antioch used the word “Catholic Church’ in his letter. Which implies to the whole universal Church. There were no major denominations at that time, much like the American military having first their militia then forming branches that all break off from now the Department of Defense.
There are flaws in the Catholic Church and the Army because imperfect people lead and can make bad judgement calls. This is true for any organization, even though their core values and beliefs are good. Many people will say they don’t like it but truthfully it’s not the organization but rather it is the people that are running it that triggers distasteful images.
Another similarity between the Church and the Military is that people from different backgrounds joined together to become one. Think of our founding fathers; George Washington, the General of the Continental Army, turned to outsiders like the Prussian Officer Friedrich von Steuben to help him win. This too is similar to how the Catholic Church was formed. People from different nationalities joined to become one by overlooking differences. Initially, Peter felt Gentiles had to follow Jewish Laws before they could become Christian but God showed him that the Holy Spirit could unify people from all backgrounds to become the Body of Christ.The Church today is completely different from the early Christians who worshipped in the synagogues. Similarly, the military is different today than it was in 1775. Yet the core values remain the same with both organizations, much like if we look at our own baby pictures and see ourselves when we are in our 70s, 80s, and 90s. Even though it is kind of hard to tell that a baby in the photo is the same as a grown man, the original DNA or building blocks are the exact same.
The Church today is completely different from the early Christians who worshipped in the synagogues. Similarly, the military is different today than it was in 1775. Yet the core values remain the same with both organizations, much like if we look at our own baby pictures and see ourselves when we are in our 70s, 80s, and 90s. Even though it is kind of hard to tell that a baby in the photo is the same as a grown man, the original DNA or building blocks are the exact same.