A priest’s recollections of Pearl Harbor

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The late Father Eugene Morin grew up in Quincy, Mass., but was serving as a priest at Our Lady of Peace Cathedral on December 7, 1941 and shared his recollection of the “day that shall live in infamy” in a letter he wrote in 1978. Fr. Morin died in 1986.

The letter begins by recounting the facts of the day, the toll of the dead and the ships sunk, and how the US responded to the sneak attack. But then he gives his own personal account, how he celebrated the early Mass that day and how another Mass was interrupted by the sounds and then the news. How they waited for news of what was happening in those days before the Internet and 24-hours TV news. How the priests were called to the makeshift hospitals set up in a Catholic high school and a convent school to provide Extreme Unction to the injured and dying.

One thing I must say and I say this with a great deal of admiration for our young servicemen. Every one died a hero’s death. Strange as it may seem when death approaches we always think of those we love most. Those perhaps we may in our youth and forgetfulness have neglected. The thoughts and memories of all the young men I prepared for death, I am proud to say were about their dear parents. They wanted them to know how much they loved them and what they meant to them while they were growing up but could not express in words due to shyness the love, kindness and understanding they had in their young hearts.

In all my priestly life I have never heard such sincere, thoughtful and prayerful confessions. All of those I attended during the thirty-four hours I worked at Sacred Hearts Convent School went to meet their heavenly Creator well prepared to merit an eternal reward. It is an act of heroic sacrifice to give one’s life for one’s country. During my stay at this temporary hospital I took care of more than 500 young men. Many of them I gently closed their eyes in death, while some I had to leave, leaving this duty to others.

When other priests took their places in the hospital, they returned to the cathedral and, after a short rest, spent day and night hearing confessions of the people who flocked to the church for solace in an uncertain time, especially the servicemen preparing to face their new enemy. Remember, most of these people had no idea if a Japanese invasion of the islands was imminent.

He also recalls that under martial law, gatherings of more than 10 people were not allowed and so there very few public Masses, even on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. He also tells that tale of having dinner with Admiral Chester Nimitz and Bishop James Sweeney when the admiral received the call that the Battle for Midway had begun. While swearing them to secrecy, he asked the bishop to call all rectories and convents and ask for special prayers, without saying what the prayers were for. Fr. Morin ends with another tale of heroism:

Regarding the USS Arizona I have mentioned it on the first page of this article. However, I would like to mention that the Chaplain, Father Schmidt, was a very dear friend of mine. He and I had dinner together the night before the attack. To be exact it was December 6th, 1941.

Father Schmidt was vesting for Mass in one of the mess rooms when the attack began. As the ship began to sink after so many direct hits he helped many of the young men to escape through the port holes of the ship but when it came his turn to leave he told other young men to go ahead of him. He was not able to escape and thus he lies with the other young men who were trapped in the ship when it sank.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Photo credit: Public domain.

To Whom Much is Given: Surviving the Massacre in Mumbai

Peter O’Malley, a Catholic American living in Hong Kong but who was visiting Mumbai, India, last month, recounts his experience of the terrorist attacks in the Taj Hotel, how he barely escaped with his life, how his faith sustained him as he thought he was about to die, and the lessons he’s learned.

Just then a very loud bomb detonated and small arms fire rang out in one of the stairwells. I assumed the end was near.

I hurried off an email to my Mom and Dad, thanking them for my life and everything else they’d given me. Then I emailed my dear wife and sons: “Thank you, Celeste, for being my best friend and soul-mate. I love you!” I wracked my mind and heart for a few pearls of wisdom to leave my three small boys that would edify and sustain them in a life without their father. Asking the Holy Spirit for guidance, I explained to them that life was a gift, and that they should do their best to enjoy that gift. I urged them to take care of their mother, each other, and their community – and not to be afraid to discern their vocations. I counseled them to keep a daily prayer life and live the norms of piety we’d taught them. “Live life to the fullest, boys, and stay in a state of grace.”

How would I react in such a situation? I pray that I never have to find out. I hope I would react similarly, with courage, conviction, and abandonment to Divine Providence. Like the people who died on 9/11. Like Cassie Bernall at Columbine. Like the sailors, Marines, and soldiers at Pearl Harbor, 67 years ago today. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can one do so, like the martyrs throughout Church history.

 

John Michael Talbot’s monastery destroyed by fire

Catholic musician John Michael Talbot and his community of lay monastics suffered a great loss this week:

 

The home of The Brothers and Sisters of Charity founded by Dove Award-winning musician John Michael Talbot suffered a swift and vicious fire close to midnight on April 29. There was no loss of life, although members of the community, including Talbot, are suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.

 

The fire began in the chapel and spread to the community’s Common Center which housed the kitchen, offices, library, classrooms and dining space. All are a total loss. It is unknown how the fire started, but has been declared “no fault” by the fire inspector, says Talbot. Various awards melted in the heat or were burned along with the community archives, inventory and tour equipment. Living areas, studio and instruments were unharmed.

 

Talbot said that he was up late recording and heard some odd popping noises before noticing a glow in the windows of his hermitage home facing the chapel. He and his wife, Viola, ran to the chapel and found the hoses insufficient to fight the fire, already reaching high into the sky. Talbot said he pounded and screamed at the doors of the other hermitages. Some in the community went into the fire in an attempt to save valuables. Talbot said the smoke was thick and blinding and that all he could see was “black.” When it became clear that the battle was lost, the brothers, sisters and families of the community watched the buildings burn while waiting for the fire department. Talbot says that the fire department put all of their resources into aggressively fighting the fire, but could not save the building. The wood construction contributed to the speed of the fire which burned the chapel to the ground in an hour.

 

At the wish of the community, Talbot’s Canadian Tour will continue as planned beginning in Great Falls, Montana with a number of stops in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Tour dates and information may be found at his website, http://www.johnmichaeltalbot.com. Founder, Spiritual Father and General Minister of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity since 1980, Talbot credits monastic life in the community as key for the Christian worship songs he writes and records.

 

While the damage is covered by insurance, donations are helping bridge the financial gap as the community awaits, reorganizes and prepares to rebuild, “this time in stone,” says Talbot. Little Portion Hermitage is located in Berryville, in the Ozark Mountains in Northwest Arkansas. For more information about the community, see http://www.littleportion.org .

[From a Christian Newswire press release]

 

The “invisible” homeless

Workers at a local homeless shelter spread throughout the city recently to count the homeless—you know, the hordes who only show up (at least on the media’s radar) when a Republican is in the White House— but they hit a slight snag.

BEVERLY – They looked in the woods by Dane Street Beach, in the lobby of the post office on Rantoul Street, even inside a Dumpster on the waterfront.

Staff members from the River House shelter spent two hours last night searching for homeless people around the city as part of a statewide “street count” of the homeless.

The search came up empty, but shelter director Kate Benashski said that should not be interpreted as a sign that homelessness is not a problem in the city.

 

Typical. Who are you going to believe? Them or your lying eyes? I’m not saying there isn’t a single homeless person in Beverly, but they way they tell it, what should be good news is just hidden bad news. It always is.

 

Airline pilot cries, screams, wants to see “Lost” season premiere

Here’s a weird one: The co-pilot of an Air Canada flight had a crying, screaming emotional breakdown over the Atlantic.

Yelling, crying and invoking God, the co-pilot of an Air Canada flight from Toronto to London had to be forcibly removed from the cockpit of his jetliner after suffering an emotional collapse as the plane flew over the Atlantic.

Shackled by the wrists and ankles, the shoeless first officer had to be restrained by crew members with the help of a traveller who was a member of the Canadian Forces.

Apparently, he kept yelling, “Leave Britney alone!” (And did he take off his own shoes or did they do it for him?)

“When they tried to put his shoes on later, for example, he swore and threatened people. … He was … very, very distressed.”

Looks like he took his own shoes off. Sounds like Isabella sometimes.

“At no time was safety compromised,” Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said.

Well, except for that brief time when he was still at the controls and started his freakout. But after that everything was peachy.

 

Only in Salem

This would only happen in Salem. Two Wiccans have been arrested for mutilating raccoon corpses and leaving gthem on the doorsteps of two fortunetellers who they felt were charlatans. Yeah, pot, kettle, black.

Now the lone witness, a former roommate, had his apartment broken into and ransacked.

The lead witness in Salem’s raccoon mutilation case returned home yesterday afternoon to find his apartment ransacked, with valuables – including his crystal balls – gone.

You know what they say: People with crystal balls shouldn’t throw stones.

P.S. I love the fact that in this article, we get the equivalent of the “religion of peace” meme, but about Wicca this time.

“There’s probably some internal issues within the Wiccan community,” Sean Wynne [the lawyer for one of the suspects] said. “I can tell you that based on research, that the Wiccan community does not condone any blood sacrifice or the harming of anyone else. I would say this is probably not related to that. There may be a bastardization of it.”

Sure thing. Right.

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