GUEST POST: “si fuerint peccata vestra ut coccinum…”

The great Roman Fabrizio sent me a photo of Marines on Iwo Jima’s Mt. Suribachi at Mass,  His commentary follows.

It’s so harrrrd to kneel for Holy Communion, especially if the air-conditioning isn’t working at the “Eucharistic gathering” during the diocesan “event”.

My first thought looking at these brave Marines was for the Angels who saw this happening and how they must have celebrated around the Throne. Admittedly we’re just human beings and everything we do for the Lord looks pathetic if compared to His Glory. And yet, I can’t think of many other things that must appeal to the Heart of Jesus as much as a man like that, in the middle of a veritable hell, possibly a few minutes from death, kneeling on the scorched ground of Mount Suribachi because that’s how you receive your Savior! The Holy Angels must have thought “maybe that’s why He loves them so much, why he said to them:

si fuerint peccata vestra ut coccinum...”

I would like all Catholic men to just think of this picture every time they hear arguments against traditional reverence for the Sacred Species, every time when – looking to the presbyterium from the communion line – they notice one of those gorgeous, no longer used altar rails in some of those churches left to us by our forbears, in Rome or New York, Vienna or Montreal. And every time they happen to receive in a Church that has no altar rail at all because it was never there or was irresponsibly, impiously demolished, they should think of that Marine, and how we decided that in our “adult faith”, in our “meaningfulness” we could do without those “ritualistic trappings”. Well those guys couldn’t, in February ’45, atop Mount Suribachi.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Supertradmum says:

    What a fantastic photo. These men were facing eternity. God bless them. I do not mind kneeling, which I do on hard floors, having a hard time getting up after a knee operation years ago. I do it. What bothers me is the criticism I get for doing this, from the laity. No priest has ever said anything, but the laity seem to be upset by someone who does not conform to the normal way of doing things–Still, I shall continue kneeling every time I receive Communion. I have been told I am eccentric by one priest I think for wearing a hat. I encourage everyone to kneel, despite criticisms. I just offer up the criticisms for my many sins.

  2. Tina in Ashburn says:

    What a stunning and sweet picture. And back when fighting men had priests to support them, the most important kind of spiritual support full of hope and trust in God. May they all rest in peace for their sacrifices.

  3. trad catholic mom says:

    That picture literally brought tears to my eyes.

  4. Pax--tecum says:

    Bring back the altar rails! We need them. Cardinal Arinze said that those who wish to receive Communion kneeling and on the tongue should be free to do so and that they should be left in peace! Well, without altar rails, those who wish to receive in the way our ancestors did are not as free as those who choose to stand. They’ve made it difficult to kneel by removing the altar rails. And with all those EMHC’s they have made it difficult to receive on the tongue. My hands are not consecrated, so I am not allowed to touch the Sacred Species. Yet, by Communion in the hand, the laity are touching the Sacred Host! And by in practice abolishing the Communion plate, thousands of crumbs fall on the floor. These crumbs are no longer bread: for by the words of Consecration they have become the Body of Christ! Thus the Lord is on the floor and is trodden upon by all who are in the church!

    I would like to share this video clip I found on Youtube: <a href="; title="Jesus is on the Floor"

  5. jaykay says:

    Beautiful photograph. Truly awesome, in the proper sense of that much-abused adjective.

    At choir practice last night we happened to be going over a hymn for communion, containing the lines: “to eat this manna from above, with joy and holy fear”. The holy fear of the Lord demands a proper posture, and we are a church of Tradition and our Tradition has always been… ? Nuff said. I really have had it up to here with all the blather from certain sectors about it being “a relic of slave mentality from late-Roman/Byzantine/Medieval (choose according to prejudice) times” – that level of wilful ignorance is not deserving of reply.

    Anyway, I bet those guys on Iwo Jima had experienced more than a little of ordinary fear as well! Still, their instinct and training as Catholics was to adopt a proper posture before the Lord. And yet, only 20 years later the push to abandon it all was gathering momentum. Sad to say, led by many of that same generation…

  6. John Nolan says:

    And the priest was at pains to be properly vested, as were the priests who celebrated clandestine Masses in Elizabethan England. I have seen photographs of priests saying Mass in war zones – the American Civil War, World War I, World War II – and they didn’t think attention to detail was fussy or irrelevant. Yet in comfortable parish settings in the 21st century they think it’s of no importance.

  7. BigRed says:

    And how many, steeped in the Faith, were compelled to ask their priest confessor if it was a sin to kill, even in a just war? More than a few, I’m sure.

  8. Acanthaster says:

    This picture just showed up on a Lighthouse Catholic Media CD about Father Goldmann, who was drafted into Hitler’s army as a young seminarian. Quite a wonderful story! The CD was excerpts from his book “The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM.” Now I’m not sure if the priest in the picture is Fr Goldmann or not!

    Pax-Tecum – That reminds me of a family I met a few months ago at daily Mass…they told me they often play “find the priest” at Communion, often jumping lines to make sure they receive from him. :)

  9. Dennis Martin says:

    Acathanster, the photo is not of Gereon Goldmann. He was a seminarian when drafted. It’s been several years since I read the book, which I recommend highly. I don’t think he was ordained during the war but rather served others as best he could–largely clandestinely–as a seminarian. That’s my vague memory from reading the book.

    This photo is very definitely of American Marines at Iwo Jima.

  10. Acanthaster says:

    Good to know about the picture! Thank you :)

    From the CD, which again was just excerpts from the book, it does mention that during the course of the war, the Pope gave him special permission to be ordained a Franciscan priest. Since I listened to it while driving, details may be fuzzy in my mind, but I think after the war, he was then required to go back and finish all the official training/coursework.

    A friend recently recommend the book as well, so I think I’m going to take a look at it!

  11. Andy Lucy says:


    Since Fr Z didn’t say it, I felt it needed to be said.

    That photo does put one’s personal situation, whatever it may be, into perspective. Of the 20 men in that photo, statistically, 6 of them would have been dead or wounded before the island was pacified. Somehow, that makes my daily irritations and annoyances seem quite tiny by comparison. The sand itself was hot, and had steam rising, due to the unseasonably wet February in 1944, the air was full of the overwhelming stench of sulfur, corpses lay littered all over the area….. sounds like a good head start on Hell. And these men humbly knelt, on the sharp edges of volcanic rock, blasted loose by naval bombardment, and received the Body of our Lord in the midst of all of this carnage. Seems so little to ask to receive while kneeling in a nice air conditioned church, huh? But for some, it is just too much to ask, it would seem.

  12. jarhead462 says:

    That says it all. Thank you for posting it, Father.
    It has special meaning for me, for obvious reasons.

    Semper Fi!

  13. Supertradmum says:

    John Nolan, I love your point. Thanks for making it. Those priests who care that they are offering the Sacrifice of the Mass and realize Who is Present, dress according to their honor.

  14. New Sister says:

    Yes, God bless our Marines and the priests who bravely went ashore with them. I read a great story in Latin Mass magazine years ago, about a Catholic chaplain who snuck his way into amphibious assault crafts he wasn’t supposed to be in, to stay forward with the men who needed him the most during WWII. (and would beg them to stop cursing, even whilst bullets were flying by!)

  15. slater says:

    The priest administering Holy Communion at Iwo Jima is the late Fr. Charles Suver, S.J. (ORE). He told the soldiers “you raise the flag and I’ll say Mass.”

    May he rest in peace.

  16. Kerry says:

    We stand on those men’s shoulders, and forget it at our peril.

  17. Rellis says:

    When I receive in an Ordinary Form or without a rail, I use a genuflection move I saw a Nigerian student using one time. If you cross your fingers and lean your left arm on your left thigh, it seems to balance you just right. No more awkward getting up from a full kneel.

  18. StJude says:

    Beautiful photo. Its humbling to me.

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  20. I love that picture and all it represents. It really serves to illustrate the understanding of those men as to where they fit in the grand scheme of things.

    Also worth thinking about is the rest of the scene -not just the communicant. Notice the two marines holing the camouflage sheets to shield the altar from the wind, as well as the one squatting down to hold down the altar cloth. It’s also a safe bet that at least some of the marines in that picture were not Catholic – but I bet that they knew EXACTLY what was happening. If that is not Catholic Identity, I don’t know what is.

  21. Peter in Canberra says:

    great and moving image – a real witness.

    Reminds me of former WWII chaplain and later Australian Military Ordinariate Bp Aloysius Morgan (RIP) and his account of saying Mass on the bank of a creek in New Guinea – in order to have a platform for the ‘altar’ on the bank he celebrated standing in the creek.

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