At mass this Sunday, our pastor called up two young men from our parish to receive a special blessing. They are brothers who are leaving for Army basic training this week. As he announced this and invited all of us to bless them with our prayers, my nearly six-year-old son David asked me what was going on. I told him, "Mrs. Jones's sons are going into the army." He looked at me in horror and said "But they are going to die!" I told him I hoped not and we joined in the prayer. Every mother in the Church, however, including me, was sharing in that mother's pain and fear. The woman in front of me with a teenage boy of her own just kept shaking her head. My eyes welled up with tears. To think about giving one child over to the armed services is hard enough to accept. The thought of giving two at the same time is almost too much to comprehend.
Yes, we need brave men and women to defend our country. My nephew Jeff is in the Navy and has just finished his first year of service. He has been enjoying it very much and is even considering becoming a "lifer." Yet I know how hard it is on his mother. At some level, all mothers know that their children could die at any time. Accidents happen. People, even children, sometimes get sick. But it is different to have them purposely put themselves in harm's way, no matter how noble the cause. What an act of faith to entrust them to God's care and to accept that whatever happens, God can bring some good out of it.
Unfortunately, during this time of war, the blessings for our parishioners going off to fight are becoming more and more common. We sent off one soldier to Iraq just a few weeks ago with his fiance standing by his side. Our pastor indicated we had another young man leaving in May. Every time it is heartbraking. Every time you feel for the loved ones left behind.
There is a bronze plaque in the sacristy of our Church listing the men of our parish who died in World War II. There are about 25 names listed, preserved forever in cold metal. But it was the inscription at the bottom that made me catch my breath - "Holy Name Moms." This plaque had been put up by the mothers who had lost the children they had given birth to and nursed and cared for and tucked into bed at night. They had lost their little boys. I imagine most of those mothers are long since deceased and reunited with their children up in heaven. Yet, here we still are, over sixty years later, still giving over the children of our parish to the horrors of war. When will this insanity end? When will our prayers for peace be answered so that no mother will ever have to make that sacrifice again?