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Duty, Death, Dads, Day Games and Details

I seem to be getting ever more creative in my tiredness.  Today has been and still continues to be pretty busy.  I swapped duty with another Chaplain and have spent the day here at the Medical Center.  It has been busy and at times sporty.  It has also been a day where I have had my own struggles.  This is the first Father’s Day that I have not been able to talk to my dad whose condition  continues to slowly worsen from end stage Alzheimer’s disease at a nursing facility. I have been going strong most of the day with a lull during the afternoon which I was able to take advantage of for some self care.  Tonight between rounds as well as patient and staff care I have not stopped.  It is getting close to midnight, I know we have another coming to the ICU, so I decided to sit down, and write.

I took the duty and no sooner had the chaplain that I relieved left my office the pager went off.  It was a call to go to our Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit or NICU.  There was a 6 day old baby dying.  I had met mom and grandmother the day after the child was delivered.  She was a beautiful child but had genetic abnormalities that most expected that she would die from shortly after birth.  She was a tough little kid, but finally gave up the ghost today.  I was there and mom asked if I would baptize her, which I did and then commended her to the Lord as she passed away in her mother’s arms. While there I was told about another very sick baby who might not live long.

Sunday duty also entails doing the Protestant worship service if you are not a Roman Catholic Chaplain.   Chaplains do the service from their faith tradition.  Since my church is more on the catholic side of Anglican I use the rite out of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as we have these on hand at our chaplain and the rite is our provisional liturgy.  I have come to like it over the years.  Our congregation is primarily military retirees and sailors or civilian workers who are on Sunday duty as well as patients who come down.  The service is broadcasted on the closed circuit television system to patient rooms.  Today we had a decent crowd and it was a good service, expect for the time my pager went off in the middle of my homily and I had to dig it out from underneath my Alb, Stole and Chasuble.  My organist took it to the duty RP (Religious Programs Specialist) who contacted the caller while I finished the homily and the Eucharist.

The caller happened to be our Labor and Delivery Unit who needed me to come up and pray with a young mother to be and her parents as she got ready for a C-section.  This went well and I found out later as I rounded this evening that everything went very smooth and that mother and baby are doing fine.  After checking around the hospital I was able to go over to Harbor Park as it is within the 30 minute response time required of our chaplain duty on weekends.  Weekdays we spend the night, weekends staying in house is optional if you live under 30 minutes away.  I live on the cusp of this and on the wrong side of a bridge tunnel so I remain in house during the weekend.

Since I ave my season ticket I went to the ballpark in my cargo shorts and replica Tides orange jersey and black cap which sport’s the Tides away logo.  The Tides as I noted yesterday have been in the “June Swoon.”  Thankfully their closest competitor, the Durham Bulls have been doing even worse.  Today against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the AAA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Lehigh Valley had taken the first two games of the series.  Today though was different, the Tides got a lead and held it.  The players seemed both more relaxed and focused than they have been lately.  Troy Patton, Chris Ray, Bob McCrory and Jim Miller combined for the victory, Patton getting the win and Miller getting the save.  Jeff Fiorentino hit his 5th home run as well as a ground rule double and a single scoring all four Tides runs.  Most of the game I spend talking life and baseball with Elliott the usher.

As soon as the game was over I raced back to the hospital changed back into uniform and began rounds.  These were long and extended as there were still a number of staff who needed to discuss the events that have shaken us here the past couple of weeks as well as a number of calls to either take care of staff members or patients.  Most of these have not been simple “will you pray for me” kind of stuff but major life and death, emotional or spiritual crisis involving staff, family and patients.  Thus I am pretty tired but please that I can be around.  We’ll see how the rest of the night goes.  I do hope to catch a bit of sleep.

This was also Father’s Day.  As I said it is the first that I have not been able to talk with my dad since 2002 when deployed to the Persian Gulf and off Pakistan.  I have mentioned my Dad’s Alzheimer’s disease before and he does continue to worsen, but keep hanging in there.  Dealing with the family of a retired Navy Chief in the ICU brought back memories of dad tonight.

And now to details.  I was told that the Navy Times scandal sheet had published an article on Admiral Baker not getting his second star, something that I wrote about in the last section of last night’s post.  The article gives details from the Inspector General report.  The link to the article is here:

http://www.navytimes.com/news/2009/06/navy_chaplain_061909w/

This is a sad time for the Navy Chaplain Corps and for Admiral Baker and his family.  His long and distinguished career has been tainted by what was discovered in the report. Please pray for him and the Chaplain Corps as we navigate these difficult times.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, healthcare, Loose thoughts and musings, Military, philosophy

Kira Gets Married, the June Swoon and the Rise and Fall of Stars

kira 1Kira Arriving escorted by her Proud Dad Tony

After having to deal with what has seemed like and unending series a series of memorial services, funerals and family medical crisis’ I finally something to celebrate.  Judy and I are going to the wedding of Kira.  Kira goes to the same church as Judy whose mother sings in the same choir.  Kira is a choir child and occasionally will sing with them. We first met Kira when she had just graduated from high school.  Even then she was a joy.  She was and is one of the sweetest girls we have ever known.  Of course Judy knew Kira and her family at church.  I was on the road frequently and only occasionally attended the church.  I got to know her better over at Gordon Biersch where she worked when Judy and I first started going there.  The first time I actually met her Judy told me “THIS IS KIRA AND YOU WILL OVERTIP HER.”  I did so but never regetted it, Kira always earned it.  If things were not too busy and even if they were busy Kira would pull up a chair by us and just talk.  Sometimes it was life, sometimes church, school or relationships but the conversation between us and Kira was something that we looked forward to every time we went to Biersch.  Now we know all of the bartenders and quite a few of the servers at the restaurant, and we love them all and we pretty much overtip them as well.  Kira however was something special.  As she completes college I know that she will do great things.   Her soon to be husband is a lucky man and is advised to take good care of Kira.

Kira is also a beautiful girl.  She comes from Irish and Italian stock, but you would think that she came direct from directly from Erin.  Her personal and physical beauty must have attracted guys like flies.  She seems to have stepped out of an Andrew Greely Bishop Blackie mystery as the sweet and beautiful heroine who helps Blackie solve the mystery.   If we had a daughter, we would want her to be Kira.

Kira will be married in the yard of her parent’s home.  Her and our Priest, Fr Jim will perform the ceremony.   The location is because some people attending are decidedly anti-Catholic and will not enter a Catholic church.  This means of course that I will be in my clericals tonight and maybe even wear a big pectoral cross or crucifix.  I seldom wear these even though my church says priests should wear silver pectoral crosses.  I personally find them a bit pretentious, but in this case to help draw fire from Fr Jim and make the anti-Catholics uncomfortable I will wear this and ingratiate myself to them.  Now, this will be a sacrifice for me as it will be hot and humid tonight.  Today happens to be the hottest day that we have had this year the temperature will be in the mid to high 90s with a heat index of over 100 degrees.  I will likely be sweating like a Boiler Technician on a World War Two cruiser in the South Pacific, probably off of Guadalcanal.  I hate humidity.  However tonight the cause is worthy of suffering for Jesus and I’m sure that the Deity Herself will approve.  When Judy and I were married we had temps in the high 90s but we were married in California with NO HUMIDITY thank you God.  There is the possibility that we could get storms so I am praying hard that at least for the duration of the ceremony that the heavens do not open as this is an open ceremony.  Now I do this kind of thing a lot with the Tides with varying degrees of success.  I do pray that the Deity Herself will smile upon Kira’s wedding.

kira 2Kira and Nate

A practical implication for Kira and her very soon to be husband is that the Roman Catholic Church will not recognize tonight’s ceremony because it is not being done in a church building.  The Commonwealth of Virginia will recognize this, but the church will not.  So tomorrow they will have the rite done in the small chapel in the church proper.  It is kind of a two step way of doing this and thankfully for the bride she has a wonderful priest who will work with her.  The inside the building requirement is because of an understanding that since marriage is a Sacrament of the Church that the wedding is to be performed in a religious setting among the faithful.  Complicating the situation was that Kira’s family’s home is in the boundary of another far more conservative parish that would have had to okay it, no chance of that. I do understand this requiement under Canon Law and try to follow it myself though I am not Roman; however as a Navy Chaplain sometimes I make exception to this.  However I also have theological questions about the necessity of getting married in the church building.  If the church is present where the Bishop is and by extension where the Priest is; and the Sacrament is performed in accordance with the Marriage Rite and proper intent of it being a Sacrament  conducted by a validly ordained Priest, how can it not be valid?  It seems to me that the same Holy Trinity which sanctifies the Rite conducted by the Priest is capable of doing this outside as well as inside of the church building.  I’m sure that the early Catholic Church could not do this, neither the Celtic Catholic missionaries who converted much of Western Europe.  They simply did not have the facilities.  Likewise, the underground churches in China or Islamic nations. The Bishop or Priest was present with the faithful and that ensured the validity of the sacraments, not the location.  I’m sure to get a barrage of theological criticism from the Ultra Montanes Canon Law Nazis but what do I care?

kira 3Presentation of the Newly Married Couple

A SHAMELESSS PLUG AND FREE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE ABBY NORMAL ABBESS: Judy contributed her part for the wedding doing a beautiful Celtic design for the bulletin covers.  I saw her working on these and the detail that she puts into her work and the beauty of the finished product is simply amazing.  If you need digital artwork done for almost anything, or for that matter religious statues restored or custom clergy vestments she is incredible. Some of my posts about our Wiener Dogs display her work.  These are drawings and not photos if you have any questions.  Contact her through the like to the Abby Normal Abbess on the blog role link on right column of this page.

Speaking of the Norfolk Tides, they are emulating the old San Francisco Giants and are experiencing a “June Swoon.”  This has not been a good month for the home team.  The Orioles gutted our fearsome batting order bringing Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters and Oscar Salazar to the big team where they are all doing well.  Our hitting has died, thankfully the pitching staff is still holding together.  Even more importantly our closest competitor the Durham Bulls are doing even worse this month and we remain a game up in the International League South.  I must redouble my prayers for the team and perhaps ask Tides General Manager Dave Rosenfeld if I can bless the bats.  After all it was Yogi Berra who once said: “I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?”  Since Master Yogi has made this pronouncement I am sure that something has happened to the bats and that an exorcism might be due.

Finally some stars are rising and falling this week in the Navy.  First the rising star:  Captain Frank Morneau, my first Commodore at EOD Group Two was selected for the rank of Rear Admiral Lower Half.  This is the same rank as a Army, Marine Corps or Air Force Brigadier General.  There are not many EOD Officers who have risen to this rank.  Captain Morneau is the second.  He was great to work for and is a dynamic and energetic officer.  I remember him most as being a baseball fan, actually a Yankees fan that carried a game used bat to staff meetings.  Since I only carry a baseball in my digital camouflage uniform and get some looks as I toss up and down as I walk our corridors I can imagine the looks that Rear Admiral Select Morneau will get at the Pentagon or Congressional hearings on EOD issues.

The falling star is Rear Admiral Alan Blues Baker, the Deputy Navy Chief of Chaplains and Chaplain of the Marine Corps.  Admiral Baker is a graduate of the Naval Academy and former Surface Warfare Officer.  He was investigated by the Navy Inspector General (why we don’t have an Inspector Admiral I will never know) for an allegation of retribution and violation of the Military Whistle Blower Protection Act in regard to the FY 2008 Chaplain Captain selection board.  I do not know Admiral Baker but as a career officer and chaplain in both the Army and Navy see his forced retirement and failure to become our Chief of Chaplains as yet another stain on our Corps.  I wish this had never happened and will keep him and his family in my prayers even as I pray for the future leadership of the Chaplain Corps.  Admiral Bob Burt who was scheduled to retire will remain in office for another year and Rear-Admiral Select Mark Tidd will assume the office as the Deputy and Chaplain of the Marine Corps as scheduled.

This issue grieves me.  I remember when my Brigade Executive Officer and later acting commander Colonel Jim Wigger tell me that the Chaplain Corps in the Army was far more political and had no Ruths, being so ruthless in comparison with the Army Medical Department.  The Army Medical Department was a pretty ruthless organization, so when Colonel Wigger told me that I was somewhat skeptical.  He told me that I was jumping from the “frying pan into the fire” and he was right.  The thing about chaplains regardless of denominational affiliation, theological background or rank is that we are expected to be above the board and exemplify integrity.  If we even give the impression that we are somehow unethical or lacking in integrity then what we say means nothing because people will either not believe us or discount what we say.  It creates a problem for those who are doing good things because some people will lump us all in with the wrong doer. When a chaplain falls it can create a crisis of faith in the community. It is the same as when a civilian minister falls from grace.  The Catholic pedophile priests, pastors of Evangelical Mega-Churches or large ministries who are accused of financial or sexual misconduct created the same problem for civilian ministers as well as military chaplains.  Admiral Baker’s fall comes on the heels of a young Chaplain named Dillman who was convicted of a number of sexual assault and improper conduct charges a couple of weeks ago.  This young man once named as a Military Chaplain Association of America  “Chaplain of the Year is going to Leavenworth for 10 years.  A couple of years ago we had a priest who was convicted of a number of sexual assault charges by having sex with other men and not telling them that he was HIV positive.  This chaplain was a “poster boy” for the Chaplain Corps and the Roman Catholic Church Military Archdiocese.  Another Chaplain named Klingenschmitt was convicted of disobeying lawful orders after having engaged in a prolonged period of protest against the Navy.  Klingenschmitt, who I have written about on this website before made an absolute ass out of himself by protesting the Navy in front of the White House, making spurious allegations against multiple commanding officers and lying through his teeth about “not being allowed to pray in Jesus Name.”  When I was at Camp LeJeune I had to relieve two Chaplains who were kicked out of the Navy for sexual misconduct, one Protestant and one Catholic.  When I was at Headquarters Battalion 2nd Marine Division I was given charge over several chaplains who had not acquitted themselves well in order to try to help them become successful.   I also saw Army Chaplains conduct themselves in less than exemplary fashion.

Of course chaplains and ministers are human and we all are flawed, as the Apostle Paul wrote “All have fouled up and fallen short of the Glory of God.”  This being said chaplains and ministers while being human and free to make mistakes need to be sure that those mistakes are not those which compromise our integrity.  When I was a young Army Chaplain we were told that SAM, Sex, Alcohol and Money were the three biggest issues that put chaplains out of the service in jail.   Let’s add retribution to that list.  It is a sad day for the Chaplain Corps.  Please pray for us as individuals as well as a Corps as we walk through this valley and keep Admiral Baker in your prayers.

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: The wedding went off well, the promise of the Deity Herself to hold back the rain materizlized as she had promised.  Howver it was hot and humid and though I look good in them was regretting wearing my clericals.  The June Swoon con tinues for the Tides and the Bulls but the Gwinnett Braves are sneaking up and are within two games of the Tides and one of the Bulls.  We have been getting some runs but need to have things come together and fast.  Harbor Park is withing my resposne time to the medical center so if there is nothing critical going on tomorrow afternoon I will head over and watch the game.  So for selfish reason if nothing else I pray for the good health of all tomorrow.

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