The Most Difficult Conversation I Had On Independence Day

One of my good friends recently got accepted into Texas A&M’s nursing school (whoop!), so her family threw a going-away party for her. A substantial handful of fellow friends, catechists, and people from my parish came to celebrate. Even one of our priests participated in the celebration! This party was dual-purpose because it also happened to be on July 4th.  Obviously there was launching of fireworks! I found out our priest really, really likes fireworks…

#PyroPriests #RomanCollar #RomanCannons

At some point during the evening, I was catching up with the husband of one of my fellow adult volunteers with a good seminarian friend. For this blog post, let the husband’s name be Alfonso. I haven’t really interacted with him beyond brief small talk in the past, usually in youth ministry/parish event contexts. Because he knows of my involvement at the parish, I think it was natural for Alfonso to ask about my non-church life. Ya know, life and work. I started talking about work because of his questions. Obviously, talking about aerospace-related things oftentimes lead to military talk. I mentioned something about news regarding the Marines.

Now, Alfonso has a son who is in the Marines so the conversation went that direction. His son was indirectly one of my youth in the youth group as well as a peer of my seminarian friend. I naturally had to ask Alfonso how his son is doing and where he’s stationed now. He started giving updates. Alfonso then mentioned that he should be home for Christmas after being gone for a long while!

…before he’s shipped off to Iraq in January.

When Alfonso was describing how his son will be deployed to Iraq, I could begin to sense the fear in his voice. With everything going on in the Middle East right now, it’s understandable and a hard reality to face. All three of us dwelled on the inherent dangers and the reality of death. We had some awkward silence, which I broke by mentioning how his son’s faith, or at least caring about his faith, increased when he went into the Marines. Back in high school, he was one of those punk kids that treated his Catholic faith in a superficial way. But that seemed to have changed somewhat since becoming a marine as I learned from talking to his mom every so often.

Alfonso mentioned that Marine culture isn’t very conducive to cultivate one’s faith. Despite that, his son seems to hang onto his faith better compared to his Marine buddies. In our conversations about the reality of death, Alfonso mentioned that when it comes down to it, “there are no atheists in the trenches.” Alfonso, my seminarian bro, and I all recognized the notion of the importance of what’s next after passing away.

When we were talking about the very real possibility that his son may be killed in action, Alfonso started tearing up. That was the most difficult part of this conversation. I nearly started tearing up myself seeing Alfonso’s great love for his son and very real fear of the very real notion of his son’s death.

Through the awkward silences, wetting of the eyes, and dwelling on the thought, I ended the conversation by offering to pray for his son and his family. Likewise, the seminarian did as well.

Praise God that all three of us are Catholic (and the Marine, too). Because of our Catholic faith, I know that we’re equipped to handle the reality of death. It absolutely sucks to confront, it’s difficult to come to terms with it, but it is a reality we all must face one day.

Please pray for Alfonso and his family and for the protection of their Marine in body and soul—St. Michael the Archangel, our defender in battle and protection against the devil, pray for us!

One of my favorite Instagrams for #100picsofbeauty

St. Martin of Tours, patron saint of soldiers and bishop of Tours, pray for us!

-JD

St. Martin splitting his cloak for a beggar // Sacred Art Series Blog