The Catholic Defender: A Gym Re-conversion in Iraq


It was a hot dry morning in July at Joint Security Station Sadr City Iraq. I had spent the morning ensuring that Sick Call ran smoothly and all our contemporary missions were being maintained.

I made the decision to run by the gym to do some "military press" lifting about 180 pounds 25 times over my head.

As I arrived into the workout area there was another Soldier from A Company who was already doing some bench work. I struck up a conversation with him talking about work out measures, cross-fit was becoming more and more the most popular workout that people were doing.

I asked him if he goes to Mass thinking this would be another great conversation but he said no, he hadn't been to Mass in about 5 years. He told me that he was actually a convert to the Catholic faith but his wife divorced him and that whole situation caused him to lose faith.

This situation became an opportunity as I shared with him the importance of practicing our faith even there in Iraq. Especially now when every time we go outside the wire, we are at risk. After about 10 minutes, this Soldier made the decision to go to Mass and join the Rosary Patrol.

What was it that made the Soldier change his mind? Was it the evidence of the foundation of the Catholic Church? No, he understood Jesus founded the Catholic Church. Was it because he thought all Catholics were upstanding people? No, his former wife showed him that was not so. Was it because he thought that the Catholic Church was the most philosophical sound institution? No, he thought the Church made the most sense compared to other churches. Well, what was it that ultimately I was able to get through to him?

It began with the Sacraments. I reminded him of the importance of going to Confession that washes us from sin, especially Mortal sin. I shared that the Confessional was the "Mercy Seat" of God. It is here that a transaction is made, the Ministry of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) begins with:

(1) Making the decision to go to Confession, walking into the Confessional and beginning with the Sign of the Cross. “Bless me father, for I have sinned. It has been (state how many days, weeks, months, or years) since my last confession. These are my sins.”

(2) Confess your sins briefly and clearly. I've used the 10 Commandments as a good way to check my examination of Conscience. Go from the worst sins to the least that you can remember. I always ask for forgiveness for the things I am not aware of and for the things I did not do that I should have done. Main thing is not to purposely conceal sin. At the end of your Confession, voice from the heart that you are truly sorry for offending God.

(3) Listen intently for what the priest gives for advice and encouragement. He will give some direction that can help you.

(4) Father will give you a penance, most of the time is will be prayer, I've yet had a priest tell me to low crawl around the Church. Sometimes they might have you do a good work if it is applicable, but most the time is will be prayers.

(5) Father will ask for an "Act of Contrition" which if you have not memorized one, Father will help you with that. I use this one from memory: O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.

(6) At this point Father will give you the prayer of absolution: God, the Father of Mercies, Through the death and resurrection of his Son,Has reconciled the world to himself And sent the Holy Spirit among us For the forgiveness of sins;Through the ministry of the Church May God give you pardon and peace, And I absolve you from your sin In the name of the Father, of of the Son,And of the Holy Spirit, Amen

With the completed penance given, we can trust that your sins are gone. At the Judgement seat when we face Jesus in Judgement, these Confessions will be with you. As Jesus forgives through the action of the priest, he will forgive you at that moment. Provided you didn't rebel and die in rebellion.

The Soldier took this information to heart and this showed him that God really does love us to provide such a means for forgiveness. And then to be restored to the "Table of Plenty" and receive the Eucharist.

The Soldier made good his promise as he joined the Rosary Patrol and was faithful going to Mass. This is an important message to convey, as the Soldier I spoke with had been out on his own for years, Like him, there are many out there on their own who has been cast into darkness, when we find it, I pray that these examples will inspire others to help the wounded along the roadway.

O MY GOD, I firmly believe that Thou art one God in Three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I believe that Thy Divine Son became Man, and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen

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