Father Deehan said that 15 priests from the archdiocese are currently serving as chaplains in the armed services -- 13 in the Army, Navy, and Air Force combined, with one serving at a local Veterans’ Affairs hospital and another as the director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Military Services.
However, despite the hardships, service in Iraq has provided the Pilot reporter with unforgettable spiritual memories.
Just prior to returning to the Boston area for a two-week leave, McCabe recalled a unique Rite of Sprinkling. At Mass, the priest put some salt in a bottle of water, blessed it, and walked among the congregation sprinkling the water from his palm.
“He didn’t stop until he was sure every single one of us had been hit,” McCabe recalled.
“There was something tactile about the water coming directly from his own hand. It was so unceremonial. It was pure, actual,” McCabe added. “It was the love and protection he felt for us.”
At another time, the Bishop of Bosra offered a Mass in Aramaic, the language Christ spoke, at McCabe’s base. There, a seminarian offered responses on behalf of the congregation, similar to the altar boy’s role in the Tridentine rite, the norm before Vatican II.
“It’s pre-Tridentine,” McCabe said. “We participated in a Mass that was said in the same language as the first Mass in the land of Abraham.”
“In military life, there are unique sacrifices and hardships and literally life threatening dangers, yet you also have opportunities to witness things and participate in things you could never have dreamed you would be a part of,” he said.
“For all my experiences so far, this is the highlight of my deployment -- to have been in that chapel for that Mass.”
McCabe is currently deployed as a military historian, documenting the field experiences of soldiers in his division.
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