Preparing the Warrior Spirit
by Chris Antal
It is the middle of the night and my unit has landed at Bangor International Airport, in Maine, for a short stopover before we leave American soil for Afghanistan. We will not be home for many months. We hope we will all come home alive, but in war, as in life, there are risks, there is uncertainty, there is the real possibility of death.
Before we left our mobilization site in Texas I brought a self-selecting group of my soldiers on retreat—a Spiritual Fitness Retreat. We did this to prepare our souls for war, drawing from the wisdom of warrior cultures in earlier times and adopting and adapting spiritual disciplines, rituals, and rites of passage, to serve the needs of the soul.
War is a Rite of Passage—I have learned this from my mentor Ed Tick—and this rite in history has included several key components: time apart in a sacred space, guidance by elders, trials that recreate the war experience, blessing and gifts from the community in whose name the warrior serves, and initiation into the warrior path. At our retreat we did all these things, and in some mysterious and beautiful way the community came together around us.
Ascension Mena, who established the Holy Trinity Retreat Center in eastern El Paso, hosted our gathering; local ministers, including Sabine Green and Sarah Heartsong, lead the gathering in a drumming circle and Warrior Rite; Hugh Scanlen, a purple heart recipient from two combat tours in Vietnam and elder mentor on the Warrior Path, offered wisdom and guidance; Mahonri Telles and Matt Hopper, both Iraq combat veterans, drew from Native American and Nordic traditions respectively to teach us to activate our shadow with the “warrior cry” and create meaning with Norse Rune symbols; others too many to name came and provided healing through Reiki and gifts of medicine pouches for us each to carry.
Now is the time to depart, but we leave with the blessing of the community, our souls cared for by the ancient wisdom rituals and rites of warrior cultures in earlier times.
The Rev. Chris J. Antal is a Community Minister with the Church of the Larger Fellowship. He is married with five children and his family resides in the Hudson Valley of New York.
Disclaimer: All entries to CLF/Quest Military Ministries page reflect the personal views of the contributor. The views expressed here are in no way to be construed as an individual or individuals speaking in their official capacities for the agencies, departments, or service branches they serve in. This is not an official publication of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, any government agency, or any other organization.
What do you think?
Hi Rev. Chris, May your journey through the Rite of Passage of war be safe and fruitful. We look forward to your return to Rock Tavern.
Thanks you for sharing this. May these bonds you have consecrated be strengthened knowing we at home hold you all in the light and pray for your safety.
God speed my brother ... blessings and prayers coming your way until you're safely home and beyond. All chaplains have heard of our SH model by now, but you're the first practicing it in theater. Thanks for there with your charge of souls. JWF