Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
I can't sing this without tears right now. I'm thinking of my oldest nephew, Ryan, who left home two days ago, before the ink on his high school diploma had a chance to dry, to start basic training in the Army. He chose (with great enthusiasm, to his parents' consternation) to train in artillary. And so, barring a miracle, it is very likely that he will get to experience far more "action" than ever he counted on.
Last Christmas I gave him a St. Michael's medal (my sister's family isn't Catholic, yet), and Chris says he wears it always. I also gave him the Fulton Sheen's prayer book for soldiers. It was the only time I saw Ryan smile for the three days we spent with his family. "Wear it to remind you of all of us -- seen and unseen -- who are praying for your safety."
"... Then conquer we must, when our cause is just..." To my ears, this line of Francis Scott Key's magnum opus is not about the just cause of the war that sends a soldier off to fight. Not entirely. Like every other soldier who chooses to serve his (or her) country, Ryan is choosing a certain path of adult formation that will stay with him for life. He is choosing to lay down his childhood, and take up manhood. He is choosing to conquer self-centeredness, and sloth, and adolescent impulses, and become more fully the man God created him to be.
A just cause, indeed.
Of course, Ryan's choosing is forcing all of us who love him along a different path: a path of detachment and of trust. Moment by moment, we place the little boy who would swing a bat hard enough to knock himself over, back into the hands of the One who entrusted him to us in the first place. And we wait, secure in the knowledge that nothing catches our Heavenly Father by surprise, and that His love for Ryan exceeds our own.
Today as you cut into your watermelon and sit back to enjoy the sparklers, please pray for Ryan, and for all of our military families who are so very proud of our soldiers ... and who cannot make it through the national anthem without tears in our eyes. Pray that we will find the courage to stand bravely in the days ahead, for in God do we trust.