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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Mass on board ship off coast of Iwo Jima 1945



The priest and the congregation sway back and forth with the motion of the ship as Mass is celebrated just off the coast of Iwo Jima in 1945. Thanks be to God that these men were so well prepared for what was a fiercely fought battle with 28,000 US casualties and 6,800 dead. There were 22,060 Japanese soldiers in heavily fortified positions; 21,844 died either from fighting or by committing suicide in order not to be taken prisoner. This is a reminder to us that codes of honour, customs, and personal conscience can be gravely erroneous. Their suicide may well not be imputed to them by Almighty God and therefore we should pray for the repose of their souls as well as those of the Americans who died.

As well as the crucial spiritual benefit of this Mass for the troops, watching vintage footage of the celebration of Mass is always of interest. Those of us who were children when the Mass was substantially changed from about 1964 onwards have tried assiduously to be faithful to the rubrics and customs of celebrating the old Mass. It is consoling for me to see that the gestures and movements are basically the same, but there are always little differences that are noticeable.

In this video, the priest gives Holy Communion from a large pyx. He does not make the sign of the cross with the sacred host before each communicant. I wonder whether this was simply a precaution because of the effects of the swell or whether the custom was simply not universal.

Here is a link to another clip (commercial so I can't embed it) of a US Military Chaplain celebrating Mass on the pier at Weymouth harbour three days before D-Day. Interesting to think that my dad was probably not too far away somewhere on the South coast with others preparing tanks. He went across on 8 June.
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