Sunday in Paradise

Wednesday, March 11, AD 2009


Lieutenant j.g. Aloysius Schmitt had just finished morning mass aboard the USS Oklahoma.  Acting chaplain of the Okie, a Sunday meant a busy day for him, a relaxed day for almost everyone else on board the ship.  Since they were in port and the country was at peace a Sunday was a day of rest.  Besides,  the port was a tropical paradise.  Life was good for the crew of the Okie.

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The First

Monday, March 9, AD 2009


James K. Polk, President of the United States, had a problem.  The year was 1846 and the US was at war with Mexico, a Catholic nation.  A large fraction of the American army was Catholic, usually fairly recent Irish immigrants.  Mexican propaganda portrayed the war as a wicked onlslaught by Protestants against a Catholic people and appealed to Catholics in the US army to desert to them, promising them land and a position in the Mexican army.  Some troops took them up on their offer, with deserters eventually forming the San Patricios Battalion and fighting for Mexico during the war.  To stem such desertions, Polk wanted to appoint Catholic chaplains to the US Army.  Although Catholic chaplains had served informally in prior American wars, none had served officially in that capacity.  To remedy that, Polk had a quiet private meeting with Archbishop John Hughes of New York.  While Dagger John suspected Polk’s political motivations, he agreed to recommend two priests to serve as chaplains:  Father Anthony Rey, vice-president of Georgetown and a Jesuit, and Father John McElroy, also a Jesuit, who went on to found Boston College and who will be the subject of a future post.

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6 Responses to The First

  • Thank God for folks like that.

  • What would Ignatius, the former soldier who gave it all up, have to say about the choice of ‘his’ men for such an expedition?

  • Probably nothing since Jesuits were serving as military chaplains during the lifetime of Saint Ignatius. Google Nicholas Bobadilla and James Lainez.

  • Oh, and although I can’t find it online, Saint Ignatius wrote a long letter of advice to Emperor Charles V in which he encouraged him to launch a naval offensive against the Turks in order to stop their raids on the costs of Christian nations.

  • By the Catholic Encyclopedia, it seems he approached the life of a saint as a logical extension of his life as an officer.

    So far Ignatius had shown none but the ordinary virtues of the Spanish officer. His dangers and sufferings has doubtless done much to purge his soul, but there was no idea yet of remodelling his life on any higher ideals. Then, in order to divert the weary hours of convalescence, he asked for the romances of chivalry, his favourite reading, but there were none in the castle, and instead they brought him the lives of Christ and of the saints, and he read them in the same quasi-competitive spirit with which he read the achievements of knights and warriors. “Suppose I were to rival this saint in fasting, that one in endurance, that other in pilgrimages.” He would then wander off into thoughts of chivalry, and service to fair ladies, especially to one of high rank, whose name is unknown. Then all of a sudden, he became conscious that the after-effect of these dreams was to make him dry and dissatisfied, while the ideas of falling into rank among the saints braced and strengthened him, and left him full of joy and peace. Next it dawned on him that the former ideas were of the world, the latter God-sent; finally, worldly thoughts began to lose their hold, while heavenly ones grew clearer and dearer. One night as he lay awake, pondering these new lights, “he saw clearly”, so says his autobiography, “the image of Our Lady with the Holy Child Jesus”, at whose sight for a notable time he felt a reassuring sweetness, which eventually left him with such a loathing of his past sins, and especially for those of the flesh, that every unclean imagination seemed blotted out from his soul, and never again was there the least consent to any carnal thought. His conversion was now complete. Everyone noticed that he would speak of nothing but spiritual things, and his elder brother begged him not to take any rash or extreme resolution, which might compromise the honour of their family.

    Please pardon the extensive cut-and-paste!

  • Betsy,

    not to pile on, but, the mission of those priests was not military but spiritual.

Ladder to Heaven

Sunday, March 1, AD 2009


Joseph Verbis Lafleur was born into a large Cajun family in Ville Platte Louisiana on January 24, 1912.  From early childhood his ambition was to be a priest.  Entering Saint Joseph’s Minor Seminary in Saint Benedict, Louisiana he quickly became noted for his good humor, quick wit and athletic prowess.  He also had a marked interest in French military history and would recite the last words of Marshal Michel Ney before his execution by the restored Bourbons after the Hundred Days:  “Come see how a soldier dies in battle, but he dies not.”

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Father Duffy and the Fighting 69th

Wednesday, October 15, AD 2008







When Father Francis P. Duffy, pastor of Our Savior parish in the Bronx, was appointed chaplain of the 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York National Guard in 1914, he was already an old hand at being a military chaplain, having served as one in 1898 during the Spanish American War, although he never saw  duty overseas during that brief conflict.

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4 Responses to Father Duffy and the Fighting 69th

  • Pingback: The Divine Lamp » Blog Archive » Armistice Day, Veteran’s Day, Rememberance Day, Poppy Day
  • Pingback: The Irish Brigade at Fredericksburg « The American Catholic
  • The first husband of my grandmother, Alice Cregan, was Charlie Chambers (otherwise Joseph Chambers). I understand that he was killed in the first world war when fighting with the fighting 69th. Where can I get any information on his involvement with the fighting 69th?

  • Dear Paul, If you would be so kind as to wait a couple of weeks, i will forward to you what information I can with regard to Charlie/Joseph Chambers. I am the grand nephew of George Patrick McKeon, who sailed off to france as a member of the 165th NY Infantry (Old 69th) and was KIA at the second battle of the Marne on July 16, 1918. I have done a great deal of research on the men of the 69th and should be able to tell you something once i consult with volumes of source material and records. Presently my computer died, but I will try to get back to you as soon as i can. Please give me your e mail address so that i can forward to you what i have. -michael

Father Emery

Thursday, October 9, AD 2008

Destiny attended Emmeran Bliemel at his birth on the feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel, patron saint of soldiers, in 1831 in Bavaria.  From his early boyhood his burning desire was to be a missionary to German Catholics in far off America.  Joining a Benedictine Abbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1851, he was ordained a priest in 1856.

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Dominus Noster Jesus Christus Vos Absolvat

Tuesday, October 7, AD 2008

If you travel to Gettysburg you will see a statue to a Catholic priest, and here is why this statue was erected.  One of the crack units in the Union Army during the Civil War was the Irish Brigade.  On July 2, 1863, the 530 men of the Irish Brigade, survivors of the 2500 who originally enlisted to fight under the Stars and Stripes and the green shamrock banner of the brigade, were about to be sent into the Wheat Field.  Brigade Chaplain Father William Corby addressed the troops.

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5 Responses to Dominus Noster Jesus Christus Vos Absolvat