Chaplain travels with Uncle Sam


By Fr Bill Kneemiller
For The Catholic Messenger

I am now in my third deployment to the Middle East and blessed to be able to continue to serve as a military chaplain. I’ve had mobilization training in Fort Dix and in the country of Kuwait. As I write this, I am now on my way to yet another country, where the U.S. has an important, but low-key presence. Once again, the shortage of Catholic chaplains in the military comes to mind. There are only about 100 Catholic chaplains in the U.S. Army and worldwide. This is hardly enough for one per country (outside the U.S) considering the far-flung activities of the U.S. military.

Fr. Kneemiller

Discipline of Prayer — Through this discipline I experience the treasuries of our Catholic faith. The Liturgy of the Hours and the rosary both make the Scriptures personable and come to life; they’re like a companion keeping me company and giving inspiration. The day before getting the go-ahead for travel to my new assignment, the Monday morning prayer psalm was Psalm 42, “Hope in God I will praise him still … as I think of you, from the country of Mount Hermon.” I realize that I am very close to this actual location. The morning and evening psalms consecrate time as Pope Paul VI once described the value of the Liturgy of the Hours.

At my mobilization training at Fort Dix there was a waiting room where a TV had sound just loud enough to hear — a different sort of “companion.” I wonder about our need for constant media chatter. I recently posed this question to my niece, Catie, who joined an order of religious sisters, the Martyrs of St. George, in Illinois. Catie said, “Maybe people are not comfortable with silence, with their conscience or with the possibility of God speaking to them.”


I find as I am deployed and have no car I walk more — to the chow hall, to training meetings and have more slices of time for a prayer walk. Blessed Teresa taught her missionaries to count distances by the number of rosaries that could be prayed on the way.

Stopover in Germany — On my way to Kuwait, after a long and cramped flight, I took about a half-hour to do a “walking rosary.” Afterwards, I talked to a civilian who’s in MI — Military Intelligence — going to Afghanistan. He’s a sharp cookie and was trying to figure out what I was doing with my prayer walk, so he asked: “Were you pacing?” I replied: “I was just doing a simple rosary walk.” I have prayed the rosary every day for years and I believe that when we pray we invite Mary’s presence to lead us to the heart of Jesus Christ.

“Discipline is for Disciples — It’s no coincidence that these two words are closely connected.

Every adult Christian should have a strong Discipline of Prayer and I’d suggest praying daily at least one mystery of the rosary and one or two of the times of prayer of Liturgy of the Hours, which is the official prayer of the Catholic Church. I’d recommend adult Chris­tians to have a prayer discipline similar to deacons who pray Liturgy of the Hours for Morning Prayer and Night prayer. Every family should have a copy of “Shorter Christian Prayer” which contains Morning, Evening and Night Prayer of Liturgy of the Hours. This softback book fits in my back pocket, and is with me every moment of my waking day. This prayer time fits well with the First Commandment to love God above all things. Prayer can be integrated into activities such as walking, driving and menial tasks. A focus on prayer may have to involve some sacrifices, such as unplugging a TV or radio. But try it and see what happens when prayer is placed as an essential part of the day and a companion on your spiritual journey.

(Fr. Kneemiller is a priest of the Diocese of Davenport currently serving in the chaplain in the Army Reserves overseas.)

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