In and out of the United States Navy since 1967, I have seen a few changes in the sea services, in the country, in the Church, indeed, in the world along the way. However, in a world where suffering is ever-present, an abiding need for hope has remained constant through the decades. Inspired by the Lord, we in Holy Cross aspire to move without awkwardness among those who suffer, as men with hope to bring (Const 8:118).
These days find me in a relatively subdued setting in Washington, DC where I care for grieving families and honor the dead at Arlington National Cemetery, and attend to a small congregation at a Chapel in the historic Navy Yard. While Capitol Hill, standing between the Cemetery and the Chapel, is confronted with a fresh crisis every week, there is a reasonably quiet cadence in my work at the altar and at the graveside insulating me from the commotion that keeps this city in motion.
However, recently a lone-gunman at the Navy Yard who killed 12 people (just a stones-throw from the Chapel and a few steps from where I live) brought the storm near and reawakened me to our call. The senseless terror of the moment raised soul-searching questions within the community, and the enduring horror still stirs inconsolable grief. Colleagues and communicants on the small campus continue to wander and wonder. Amid the suffering, not without awkwardness, I return to the altar and the graveside each day uttering the words we habitually say: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done….” Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” repeated over and over again throughout our lives building upon trust: - Trusting that the love of God lives now – here drawing us beyond ourselves into His purpose; - Trusting that the love of God lives on ushering us beyond death into His promise of life.
As we Holy Cross citizens of the earth who are called to help inspire and inform citizens of heaven do our duty, “Thy kingdom come” echoes a refrain – a renewed commitment to self-sacrifice that becomes daily bread. “Thy will be done” establishes a rhythm and routine – like the air we breathe and the beat of our hearts – touching the mystery of life; refreshing our own hope and reengaging us in the Lord’s mission.
Amid all of the changes over the course of the decades, as a Holy Cross religious and Navy Chaplain, I have never pursued distress. But, whether we seek it out or not, suffering confronts us – part of the human condition. In both our personal and our collective experience humanity suffers and longs for better days. From the individual sailor struggling with the “why” of his circumstances or the “where to go” from here, to an institution’s efforts to navigate the unique challenge of the day (e.g. Desert Storm, tsunami relief in Japan, Navy Yard shooting), we with hope to bear must be there praying with the faithful, reading and reflecting upon the Word, breaking the bread, trusting that the hand of God is at work in our lives. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” – the Cross – our hope, the current we trust to carry us home.
Rev. William Dorwart, C.S.C., is a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, serving as a Roman Catholic chaplain for Naval District Washington at Arlington National Cemetery. Fr. Dorwart, C.S.C. professed Final Vows to the Congregation of Holy Cross on September 15, 1978 and was ordained to the priesthood on April 12, 1980.