This past Friday, as I was distributing Holy Communion at the school Mass, I was pleased to notice two of our parishioners and parents in their Army uniforms. I thought they simply had come for one of the many occasions we have for the parents to join the school kids for Mass, going from there straight to work.
Then a little further down the line I saw one of our dads in his Navy uniform. Oh good, I thought – equal time and all that. Then I saw the police and fire uniforms, too. I was very pleased. It was only later that I realized it was Career Day in the school, and these folks were part of the program. I knew all these people served us in this way, but I was particularly glad that our kids got to see it.
I know the Marine Corps and Coast Guard are also represented in our parish, as well as other uniformed services. I don’t blame people for not wearing their uniforms to church most of the time. They are their work clothes, after all, and they are not eager to wear them when they are on their own time.
But I am very glad when they do wear them to Mass, and especially when our kids get to see them. Police, firefighters, and military personnel are prominent at public events and on the news, and it is great for our kids to realize that these important people in our community and in our nation come from communities like our own. Look, there’s an Army officer, just like Bobby’s dad!
Sometimes I hear that people think that their uniforms are somehow inappropriate for church and worship, but I hasten to point out that the Church does not think so at all. Their role of service – whether military or more local – is an important part of their identity not only among us, but before God as well. Therefore it is right and just for them to offer their prayers and praise dressed and equipped the same way as when they serve.
Those uniforms are signs of strength and discipline, worthy of our respect. To see the people in uniform offer prayer and worship to God is an important reminder to our kids – and to us all – of Him Who the source of all strength, and Who is worthy of respect and reverence from everyone.
Everyone expects to see my uniform in church, but maybe not so much in the grocery store. It’s nice to surprise folks there, and remind that priests exist, and maybe some young boys even realize that they might be priests themselves someday.
But I am always particularly glad when the men and women who wear the uniform of their service come into our church, to offer worship to God and receive His help that they need for their vital and generous work. It is a reminder to us all that the people who do this work that we count on everyday come from among us. They encourage our young people to picture themselves growing up to offer lives of service, and to offer fidelity and prayer to God.