June 24, 2009

Name: Chaplain CPT Dr. Father Tim 
Posting date: 6/24/09
Stationed in: Iraq
Milblog: Curmudgeon: An Unlikely Army Chaplain

You know, pronounced "Koal-Bare".

So there SFC McG and I were, on our way into a palace to say Mass. It happens quite a lot for us. It was our fourth Mass of the day, and it was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (again, still, already), so it might as well be in a palace, nicht Wahr?

We saw lots of military types lined up, as if cattle, according to last name presumably, as we neared the rather impressive entrance to the edifice. (But do cattle have last names?) We avoided them as if they had the anthrax.

Whipping out our ID badges that permit us entrance into the place (unlike those hoi polloi, who needed to get "Visitor" badges -- oh the shame of it!), we strode imperiously past the armed guards, who smile deferentially. As they should.

Inside, the normally quiet and mostly deserted space had been enclosed and transformed into a television studio, with Stephen Colbert minions milling about, ant-like, doing whatever Stephen Colbert minions do. Himself was at a large, almost circular desk in the center of the raised platform that serves as the stage. (The desk-top, seen from above, is revealed to be a large letter "C.")

SFC McG and I proceeded upstairs, though via a different route from that which we normally take, as the Stephen Colbert minions had blocked our path with television studio equipment. Or just because they could, I suppose. The racket made by all those civilians and their military handlers drowned out the sound of the musicians practicing for Mass (which we can usually hear upon entering the palace's central rotunda).

I had somewhat expected to be accosted by someone demanding to know why SFC McG and I were there, but we just sailed on through. It turns out we got there two hours before 'show time'. The military personnel who'd been herded into long lines outside the building began to enter the audience's portion of the 'studio' just after SFC McG and I arrived.

The noise grew louder.

Mass started promptly at 1730, and although we were 90 minutes out from the start of the show downstairs, the sounds from down there intruded rather noticeably, even with both doors of our upper room closed. The building is actually rather sepulchral on Sunday evenings, normally, so this was quite distracting.

Now, I've said Mass in some interesting situations over here Down Range before, accompanied by some rather odd sights and sounds. I'm reminded of one tiny patrol base we visited (so tiny that only one helicopter could land at a time; the other would remain airborne, circling) where we set up for Mass in an MWR (morale, welfare, recreation) room separated only by a thin wall from the power-lifting gym.

I had never said Mass before to the sounds of such grunts and groans and profanity. Quite an experience for me, but didn't seem to phase the congregants in the least....

About mid-way through the palace Mass yesterday, so an hour out from the beginning of the show, they seemed to begin the warm-up entertainment, which increased the noise factor considerably.

We just soldiered on in our celebration of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

I must admit there was something very incarnational about doing Mass in the midst of that mess!

Afterward, SFC McG and I just grabbed folding chairs from the video conference room where our faithful remnant had been praying, and watched the festivities below from the second floor. Again to my surprise, no one gave us a hard time about that, to include the couple of full-bird colonels who wound up standing beside me and to my left as they watched the show, too.

The show was quite funny, as it turned out.

Now, Stephen Colbert has often mentioned his Catholicism on air, I'm told. So why didn't you come to Mass yesterday, Stephen?

Huh? Huh?

Framed Chaplain Colbert bigger  

In this photo (by Moises Saman for the New York Times), if one looks very, very closely (and practices a healthy modicum of willing suspension of disbelief, I suppose), one can see my bald pate, as I'm seated at the railing of the second-floor gallery. SFC McG, or at least part of his upper body, can be seen standing next to the wall near one of the pillars.

Blessings and peace to one and all.


Great to see you posted on Sandbox. You're hitting the big time with your bald pate in the NYT and the blog hitting the Sandbox! So did Colbert ever show up for Mass? You say enough of them every weekend, I'm sure he might have squeezed one into his busy schedule. Or even hung out w/ you and McG in the Palace for Mass there. Take care, you and McG.

Thank you for the post. I watched the Colbert shows from Iraq, not at eleven-thirty at night though. You had a good seat for the show.

Stephen the man and Stephen the character are a bit different from one another, but I'm sure you know that. Thank you for your service. Be safe.

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