Fr. Mark Mastin, SCJ, is a chaplain with the US Army, stationed in Afghanistan. Here, he writes with an update on his ministry, as well as Christmas greetings:
Merry Christmas. I pray all are well. For over a month I lead a Christmas planning group of several Coalition Catholic and Protestant chaplains. My counterparts wanted me to head this planning project of religious services and concert events not because they wanted to avoid the work but because they viewed me as the key NATO leader; English is considered to be the main language we are to speak here and therefore I got the short straw, in a nice way of course. The experience was very good. It gave me a small taste of what all of our men experience, particularly our SCJ superiors, when they meet in Rome for general assemblies or other international gatherings.
It was interesting to listen to and to participate in the sing-a-longs in another language. I certainly did my share of butchering the pronunciations of a view Croation and German songs. One of the songs that got people on their feet was Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad.” Everyone became Hispanic on that song.
We had a true midnight mass. Again, I felt like I was back in my childhood when my family and I went to mass at this time. The chapel was packed and soldiers and civilians were standing out in the cold. There were three priests: a German, Croation and me. I put a book together of the mass prayers in all three languages, as well as assorted songs. We each preached for 3 minutes even though I joked with my German friend that he spoke for 5 minutes and therefore I should get six. Overall, the mass went well and people were very grateful for the experience. I am a litte worn out from all of the events in the past week. However, my spirits feel uplifted from the experiences.