U.S. Military Catholic Trivia
The U.S.S. Constitution or “Old Ironsides” made famous by her naval victories in the War of 1812 was the first time a Pope set foot on American territory. Pope Pius IX visited the ship in 1849 and since law saw any naval ship the same as American soil this would be the first visit to U.S. territory. The first time is usually recognized as 1965 when Pope Paul VI visited the United Nations in New York. The Pope visited all parts of the ship and gave a blessing to the Catholic crew. Later the Pope sent a gift of rosaries for the Catholic sailors on board. The ships surgeon also treated the Pontiff for sea sickness.
Saint Christopher is the patron saint of travelers and according to Catholic tradition transported the Christ child on his back across a stream. It is fitting that distinguished member’s of the U.S. Army Transportation Corps are honored with the Military Order of St. Christopher award.
Saint Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier who while in Gaul (France) gave half of his cloak to a poorly clothed beggar. Tradition says that in thanksgiving Jesus later appeared to St. Martin in a dream wearing in the cloak he provided to the beggar. The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps distinguished members award is the Military Order of Saint Martin. This is fitting considering how St. Martin “supplied” the beggar with needed clothing. St Marin is also the patron saint for soldiers with a feast day of 11 Nov quite fitting for Veterans Day!
Saint Barbara was an early Roman martyr who suffered terrible torture while remaining true to the Catholic faith. She was eventually beheaded by her own father who was himself subsequently consumed by lightening. The lightening association has made her the patron saint of artillery. The U.S. Army established the Order of Saint Barbara which offers recognition to distinguished members of the U.S. Army Field Artillery or Air Defense Artillery
St. Elizabeth Seton was a convert and became a religious after she was widowed. Two of her sons from her marriage served in the U.S. Navy. One son Richard Seton died and was buried at sea off Africa in June 1823. Soon after her canonization in 1975 Saint Elizabeth Seton was named Patroness of the Sea Services (Navy, Coast Guard, Merchant marine, and U.S. Marine Corps).
St. Michael the Archangel is honored as the patron saint of U.S. Army Airborne and often depicted on airborne unit medallions. Since St. Michael led heavenly forces to victory over Satan and his rebels it is fitting St. Michael would be the patron saint of airborne. The Order of St Michael is also an award given to distinguished member of the U.S. Army Aviation branch.
Gen Longstreet the well known Confederate general of the Civil War was a convert to Catholicism after the war and died a devout Catholic.
Saint Maurice- Was a soldier and martyr from the famed Theban Legion that was martyred during the Roman era. Distinguished members of the U.S. Army Infantry are awarded the Order of Saint Maurice.
St. George was mounted on a horse when he defeated a dragon. Modern “mounted” soldiers of the U.S. Army armor and cavalry who distinguish themselves can earn the Order of Saint George Medal.
The famous 1944 prayer requested by Gen George Patton for better weather to reverse the situation of American forces in the Battle of the Bulge was written by his Catholic Third Army Chief Chaplain Msgr. (COL) James H. O’Neill. The bad weather the Germans planned to use in order to mitigate American air power during their massive offensive suddenly lifted enough days for American bombers to pound German forces. Without airpower the outcome could have been different. Msgr. O’Neill later became a Brigadier General himself in the Chaplain Corps. I recommend reading the attached link from the Patton Society which provides insight into Patton’s belief in prayer for any victory, and the true story of the prayer by Msgr. O’Neill himself in 1971 a year before he died.
Inside andoutside of the Catholic Blessed Sacrament Chapel of St. Bakhita
Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Africa where author currently is deployed
with the U.S. Army Reserve.