By Fr. Bill Kneemiller
For The Catholic Messenger
Here in Fort Knox, Ky., at the Summer ROTC Academy, or Officer Boot Camp, I serve with 10 other chaplains and chaplain candidates who are still in seminary. I am the only Catholic chaplain doing field services and am surrounded by a majority of the chaplains here who are Baptist, Evangelical Christians or non-denominational Christians. My daily work with these chaplains is the ultimate ecumenical experience.
One surprise at the beginning of the duty this summer occurred during Meet & Greet on the first day. I mentioned my favorite travel prayer book, the gold-leafed version of “Shorter Christian Prayer” which is the official prayer of the Catholic Church. The next day at our initial briefings, the head chaplain mentioned the importance of daily prayer. He referenced my mention of the Liturgy of the Hours and the unbroken tradition of praying the psalms and canticles in the morning, mid-day and evening. As a good Evangelical Christian, he quoted the Scriptures from both the Old Testament and New Testament that supports prayer at key points during the day.
Following our chaplain meeting, I walked out with our resident chaplain rabbi and asked him about Jewish people praying the Liturgy of the Hours. The rabbi said that in Reformed Judaism, every adult has an obligation to pray the psalms three times a day. Then, in the next week, five Protestant chaplains told me they wanted to purchase the “Shorter Christian Prayer” book. One of the Baptist chaplains began to offer “Morning Prayers with the Psalms” using this Catholic Liturgy of the Hours book. At first I was surprised that Protestant chaplains and cadets were responding so positively to a Catholic liturgy book. But it makes sense that any Christian can use the official prayer of the Catholic Church, which has profound roots in the psalms being prayed in the Temple in Jerusalem.
I also continue to get positive feedback every week from both civilians and military personnel using the “Shorter Christian Prayer” book. Farmers from Iowa call me and tell me that they are regularly praying Night Prayer with their families. Recently, someone in the military informed me that one of the canticles in Evening Prayer was having a very powerful effect to help break an addiction. The canticle verse is from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, Chapter 1: 13-14.
You can share this with someone struggling with any type of addiction. Paul’s canticle begins by giving thanks to the Father who “made you worthy to share in the lot of the saints in light…” The next two verses are the heart of the Lord’s healing power: “He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son. Through him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.”(“Shorter Christian Prayer, page 301.)
My experience with the “Shorter Christian Prayer” continues to deepen. In my last deployment in Jordan, the book was like a companion. I felt that Jesus was closer to me as the Incarnate Word, the Word made Flesh. That’s why I continue to offer a complimentary gold-leafed “Shorter Christian Prayer” to any mom in the Davenport Diocese with six children or more. I believe that a mom has made a lot of sacrifices to raise a half-dozen kids, so I can make a little sacrifice to donate a book. Email me for a complimentary book at firstname.lastname@example.org. My prayer for you is that this liturgy book will help you to continue to give birth to God’s word in your family life!
In my ministry offering Mass for the soldiers here, I continue to meet the officer college cadets who are re-discovering their faith or deepening their faith life. I am convinced that individuals and parishes that promote the Liturgy of the Hours and the use of “Shorter Christian Prayer” among the lay folk will continue to see many good fruits and blessings.
(Father Bill Kneemiller is a chaplain at the Kahl Home and parochial vicar at St. Paul the Apostle Parish, both in Davenport.)
Practical tips for promoting the prayer of the church
• Place a display for Liturgy of the Hours in the back of the church with copies of the Shorter Christian Prayer book available for purchase.
• Place an 8-1/2 by 11 inch poster that reads: Official Prayer of the Catholic Church.
• Books also are available at Religious Supply Center in Davenport (www.religioussupply.com).