Praying for the Emperor: Catholic Education and Military Service

Although it is a tenet whose popularity has been mercurial at best, I have steadfastly been a believer in the greatness of our country. This is just one of the reasons I believe Catholic education should and does play a big role in the training of the United States’ military officers’ corps.

In fact, just about 10 percent of all Catholic priests have a military background themselves. Twenty percent of those come from military families. As for the brass, every member of the Joint Chiefs except for Marine Corps Commandant Gen. John Amos is a practicing Catholic, according to the Archdiocese for Military Services.

The Davin Brothers: Joseph (Class of 2009), James (Class of 2011), Jason (Class of 2015) and John (Class of 2017), upon graduation from Kennedy Catholic, were all commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps
The Davin Brothers: Joseph (Class of 2009), James (Class of 2011), Jason (Class of 2015) and John (Class of 2017), upon graduation from Kennedy Catholic, were all commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps. (Photo by Rick Davin)

Jesus said, “Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” Saint Paul always said, “Pray for the emperor.” All of which is to say, there is nothing in our Christian tradition and heritage which places us at odds with being an active part of civil society and the community in general. When you look at the military, it’s not that they are “war hawks” or out there to wreak carnage and havoc. Here in the United States, we view the military as the first arm of defense for our citizenry and protectors of our way of life.

We’re a great country, built on the principles of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Both of these documents resonate strongly with our Catholic faith, and Christianity in general. Our Judaeo-Christian roots are foundational to our country. In a Catholic school, I think civic pride, love of country, character, and virtue formation all feed into that.

Kennedy Catholic High School has an extraordinary track record as far as Academy acceptances go. We have had a U.S. military Academy acceptance from Kennedy every year since 2010. Five midshipmen from the Annapolis class of 2015 were from Kennedy. Last year we sent a man to West Point, and we sent two to the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point.

President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy leave Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown, Washington, April 29, 1962, after attending Mass. Mrs. Kennedy wears a while mantilla to cover her head. (AP Photo/William J. Smith)

When asked about his time serving on PT 109, no less famous a Catholic and statesman than President John F. Kennedy remarked, “I can imagine a no more rewarding career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.'”

There is something in our formation, and in the Kennedy experience that generates a lot of enthusiasm for this type of life. When you look at the Kennedy students who go on to the service academies you note that they are principled people, they have a desire to serve. They also have a lot of focus, and their act together. They anticipate, early on, the markers that they must meet in order to get to this acceptance. The selection process is highly competitive.

If I sound like a bit of a cheerleader, maybe it’s because all this hits a bit close. I was in the Chaplain Corps in the U.S. Navy. Part of the job of the Chaplain Corps is to say to the men and women serving, “You’re doing a good thing! You’re serving your country, and God is pleased.”