By Joe Fitzgerald
Bob sounded defensive at the beginning of his call.
“Look, I’m not a guy who normally picks up the phone to call someone like you.”
He identified himself as a former Marine, 60, intensely proud that one of his sons, a Marine sergeant, has completed two tours in Iraq.
Patriotism means a lot to him, and so does his faith.
“I want to be a good American,” he said. “And I want to be a good Catholic. But I feel I’m being told, ‘Make up your mind, Bob; which do you want to be?’ Lately I’ve been walking out of Mass so frustrated, and last Sunday was the worst.
“I grew up in Roxbury, OK? St. Patrick’s parish! My faith has always been important to me, so the last thing I want to do is beat up on the church. But I’m so upset; I’ve got to tell somebody.”
He was in the pews of a prominent Boston parish last Sunday morning, the day after 30 American troops were killed when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.
“I kept waiting for the priest to make some reference to it,” he said. “But I didn’t hear a word. This is nothing new. My wife and I travel around to different parishes and I’ve often asked priests why they don’t pray for our military. One claimed he does, but parishioners I know there told me, ‘We’ve never heard him do it.’
“So when I went to him again, telling him what they told me, he said, ‘Don’t be causing a controversy; I’m trying to get people in here, trying to build up the parish.’ And I said, ‘Father, that’s a disgraceful answer.’ ”
If it was just an issue of homiletics, Bob explained, he wouldn’t be going to the mat over this.
“But I feel the church is almost apologetic about our military. I know my politics are different from many others sitting there, but, out of respect, I’ve bowed my head lots of times when asked to pray about things that I found troubling, like gay rights.
“Yet the military gets neglected. When our Navy SEALS took out (Osama) bin Laden, I never heard a thing about it.
“What is it that makes them bite their tongues when it comes to praising the greatest nation on earth? One reason we go to church is to be consoled, so how can people who are called to dispense consolation have nothing to say the morning after 30 Americans are killed defending freedom?”
That’s what Bob asked the priest who remained mum last Sunday.
“It was the 9 o’clock Mass. He said, ‘Perhaps we can mention it at 11.’
“And that’s why I called. I think it’s worth more than a ‘mention at 11,’ don’t you?”