Cardinal’s message to those in the military, their families and chaplains

As Thanksgiving and the Christmas Season is upon us, I have given much thought to, and have prayed for, our brothers and sisters from the Archdiocese of Boston now serving in the military, overseas and in the United States, their families and to the many priests and religious who serve as military chaplains and serve to attend to the spiritual and religious needs of those in the armed forces.

I encourage everyone in the archdiocese to be mindful of your circumstances and service and to pray for you each and every day, not just when we read the news online, pick up a newspaper or watch television.

To our brothers and sisters serving in the military:

While our country navigates its way through the murky waters of war and international conflict in the name of freedom and peace, we thank you and pray for you each and every day, especially during this time of year when so many of you are away from home and separated from your families.

The heavy burden of ensuring, maintaining and fostering peace and freedom falls on your shoulders here on earth. That indeed is a heavy burden. Your service is often heroic. Throughout the history of our country, we have witnessed the sacrifices of the men and women who protect and serve our nation to ensure that we may enjoy the privilege of freedom, including the religious freedom that brings us hope, strength and personal peace in our lives. We are grateful for your many sacrifices.

We are mindful of those who have given their lives and for those who continue to serve our country so valiantly. We also pray for the many servicemen and servicewomen who have returned home from distant lands after suffering physical or psychological harm. Our chaplains have told me that our present conflict has resulted in a very high number of amputees. May God grant you courage and strength.

Though you may be far from home and even serving in dangerous circumstances, please know that we are with you in mind and spirit. Each Sunday when I visit parishes throughout the archdiocese I hear petitions for your safety in the Prayers of the Faithful. Know that everyone at home is praying for your speedy and safe return and an end to the conflict.

To the families of those who are serving in the military:

I can only imagine the feelings of anxiety and stress that you feel while your loved ones are serving our country. It must be particularly difficult for you during the holidays. Your sacrifice has been immeasurable. We hope that you may take comfort in knowing that our thoughts and prayers are with you, as is our immense gratitude.

Many of our brothers and sisters, your sons, daughters, husbands and wives, have made the ultimate sacrifice on earth and have given their lives while serving our country. To those who have lost a loved one, please know our prayers are with you. Your tears are our tears. Your loss is our loss. While it is never easy to lose someone close to you, we pray that you will find comfort in your faith and in Jesus Christ. As the Mass prayers remind us, “Life is changed, not ended.”

To military chaplains and priests and religious who serve to attend to the spiritual and religious needs of our brothers and sisters in the military:

We are grateful for your tireless efforts and good work. Thank you for your vocation. In addition, you make the sacraments present to our soldiers in their greatest moment of need. The kindness, comfort, counsel and support that you provide to those in the military, regardless of their faith or religion, and to their families, is invaluable.

In Boston we are proud of the tradition of our local Church in sending chaplains to the armed forces. We pray that those who are serving now remain strong, for our troops depend on your unique vocation. You and your families have also made great sacrifices, for which we are grateful. We hope that you and your families may also find comfort in our thoughts and prayers, especially during the holiday season. Thank you for all that you do.

May God watch over all of our military servicemen and servicewomen from the Archdiocese of Boston, your families, and our military chaplains. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we thank God for you. I remain,

Devotedly yours in Christ,

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley