Living the Catholic Faith in the U.S. Military

By Anna Smith

I, Anna Smith, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States… so help me God.

To put it lightly, my life looks different now than it did in college. After graduating, I went straight into the Army and am currently working at a military hospital while getting my master’s degree in nutrition. Despite this being the biggest life transition I have had to make, I assumed living out my Catholic faith would look the same as it had previously. But I was wrong.

Throughout college, my faith looked like being involved in the Newman Center, giving talks on retreats, going to mass every day, surrounding myself with a lot of future saints, and being best friends with the campus minister and campus priest. I had wholeheartedly decided to give my life to God and His plan for me. I felt fully alive. All things Catholic were at my fingertips. I was able to live my faith freely and was surrounded by deep friendships rooted in Christ.

A couple months after graduation, I packed up all my things, moved across the country for four months of Army training where I was lucky if I even got to go to Mass on Sunday, let alone have a few quiet moments to pray. Since then, I have completed a 9-month master’s degree program and moved again across the country to complete my clinical rotations. The life I lead now looks SO different from my life in college. My schedule completely changed from a few classes a day to a full day of work after morning physical training at 6 a.m.

In the beginning, I froze. I didn’t know how to live out my faith in this new life of mine. I kept thinking—oh, my faith life will go back to normal soon—maybe at my next duty station. Soon I’ll have more time to pray; soon I’ll be able to make it to mass every day again; soon I’ll be surrounded by likeminded people who love to discuss the faith. I was paralyzed. The only ways I knew how to live out my faith were simply not feasible.

My schedule still doesn’t allow me to go to mass very often during the week, my friends still don’t live near me, and my deep discussions of the faith have been lacking, but I realized that my life looks completely different from my college life, so how could I expect my faith life to be the same?

I knew I needed to change some things. While this is still a work in progress, I have since managed to come up with a few ways to live out my faith that complement my new life in the military.

I have had to introduce myself to the many parish priests. I have prayed a lot of rosaries over the phone with my college friends. And I have had to seek out friends in the military and in new cities.

With all of these daily changes in my life, I found a new appreciation for the virtue of obedience. I have to practice this virtue in my professional life every single day. My military training has taught me a lot about following commands. This has made me reflect on my obedience in my faith. Am I obedient at following the commands of our Heavenly Father?

Sometimes I find it easier to be obedient in the military than being obedient to God. However, just because I have a duty to my country does not replace or diminish my duty of obedience to God the Father. In fact, it is the opposite. It is God who has led me to this vocation in the military, and He is forming me and walking with me throughout this experience.

You may not find yourself joining the military, but no one is immune to the effects of big life transitions. It’s okay that your faith doesn’t look the same as it did a few years ago, or even a few days ago. God gives us different seasons of our life to help us grow—not only in our careers or our relationships—but in our faith too.