The first priest is Father Tim Vakoc, recently deceased,the first military chaplain seriously injured in the Iraq war. I did not know Father Vakoc personally, but was touched by words he said before he was wounded in 2004 at age 45, "The safest place for me to be is in the center of God's will, and if that is in the line of fire, that is where I will be." Father suffered five long years of medical emergencies and setbacks, tedious therapy, slow rehabilitation progress, difficulty communicating--all this for a formerly active, vibrant young man. Only he and God know the full extent of his mental, physical, and spiritual sufferings. What we do know is that Fr. Vakoc was an inspiration and good example for many as he bravely carried his cross. May he rest in peace, Lord, enjoying his eternal reward with you!
The second priest is Father Brian Stanley who served ten years as pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Coldwater, Michigan. As a summer visitor to his parish, I was always inspired by his faithful proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and by his clear instruction on the teaching of the Catholic Church. Not concerned with personal popularity, but with saving the souls of the people entrusted to him, he wasn't afraid to present hard truths. He is an outstanding preacher with a special gift for presenting truths of the faith clearly, courageously, and always in an interesting way. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to doze off when he is speaking--he is a dynamic preacher, truly gifted by the Holy Spirit.
Now, Father Stanley is preparing to become a military chaplain, most likely in Iraq or Afghanistan. He and his Bishop believe God is calling him to this ministry. I can't say I'm surprised. Father Stanley's special prayers, love, respect, concern, and interest in our nation's military personnel was clearly evident. They will be extremely blessed to have him. I have no doubt that he will be well accepted and loved by them, as they can't help but recognize his genuine love for them. He will be missed in Coldwater, but God's plan is always best. I would expect Father Stanley to be as courageous in the military as he was in the pulpit. He is a brave and holy priest, a good shepherd following The Good Shepherd as best he can. Lord, please bless and keep Father Stanley safe, and may his ministry bear much good fruit for Your glory and the good of souls!
Father Stanley wrote in a letter to his parishioners that the Army in which he will serve has only 92 priests to serve over 250,000 Catholics! He hopes to be number 93 after he completes a three month Basic Officers' Leadership Course which he will start in September. He said, "Please pray for all in the military and those in the chaplaincy who seek to serve the spiritual needs of the Armed Forces."
For all priest military chaplains and all military chaplains--
Lord, bless them with safe and fruitful ministry!
For all our Armed Forces-- Lord, bless, protect, and guide!
Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest, Mother of all priests, and our Mother, help us respond generously to the Holy Spirit's request, through the voice of His Church, to offer up to God Eucharistic adoration for priests. Amen.