Early History of Chaplaincy

Chaplaincy has had many forms especially early on in its infancy stages, but the idea of building morale of the troops through spiritual encouragement has always remained true. Doris L. Bergen’s book The Sword of the Lord, eloquently crafts the early time period of military chaplains from the Roman imperial period from 27 BC to AD 500. It is important to note that religion was a severe matter for the soldiers of the Roman army, and the fact remained that there was not a separation between church and state during that time period. As pontifer maximus, or chief priest, the emperor had supreme responsibility for maintaining the pax deorum (peace of the gods) and ensuring that the gods who oversaw the welfare of the state continued to do so. ” Regardless of what our individual belief is concerning God and religion we can understand why this would be important to the army being the most prominent organization in Rome at the time. This would appear to be the beginning of the chaplaincy position. There arose a strong need for having military personnel conducting religious ceremonies and carrying out spiritual responsibilities for the troops.

EMPERORS, PRIESTS, AND BISHOPS A great early emperor that used religion a great deal through symbols and inspiration for his troops is that of Constantine. Constantine had his soldiers place the symbol of chi and rho on their shields for battle. “These were the two Greek letters indicating the name of Christ. ” “It is clear that Constantine connected his commitment to the new God with this subsequent military successes; that commitment launched the Christianization of the empire as a whole, and the Roman army in particular. A great early example of someone performing in a chaplain like role is Eusebius. He was under the rule of Constantine. He would often have a tent set up in the midst of the desert to allow the soldiers to worship. This is a clear and precise example of a church leader catering to the spiritual needs of the Roman soldiers during a time of war. LITURGY OF WAR FROM AINTIQUITY TO THE CRUSADES Liturgical practices for times of battle would become prevalent during the medieval times. During the time period of antiquity to the crusade we can see how liturgy of war is evident for soldiers. ”I have analyzed elsewhere how the old Carolingian liturgical customs converged with homesickness, mental habit, fear, and religious (and physical) delirium, radical alienation, and pilgrimage to fuse the old rites into the new phenomenon of the Crusade in the course of the extraordinary events of 1098 and 1099. ” These are a plethora of issues that really defines what a modern day chaplain still encounters today. So we can see that the basics needs of a soldier have remained the same throughout history, and certainly spiritual needs being at the top of that needs list.

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Thus even during this time period there was a strong need for someone to be able to address these common issues during time of war. Then there was the First Crusade, and the success from these events would change how battles were fought. “Their victory gave birth to a new kind of war, a crusade, and with it, the liturgical rites that appeared to have stood the warriors of God in such a good stead. ” Religion is obviously intertwined in the battle with the Crusaders.

CONCLUSSION Clearly from the second chapter of the Sword of the Lord, we can see the importance of spiritual rituals and it’s place in early combat. This is an introduction to the established role in military we see today in chaplains. The First Crusade was a great example of this marriage of ritual and combat. The role of the early emperors, priests, bishops, and both medieval religious and military leaders was in fact to boost, as well as build the soldier’s morale. The fulfillment of these needs of the troops through pastoral care was the job of a chaplain.

We can identify that the role of a chaplain was designed for a person to serve in several categories. The greatest of which was aiding the troops with their spiritual needs during times of war. The history and roots of the position of chaplain can be traced all the way back to the Roman imperial period, and I believe most likely even earlier than that, as the basic needs of men have not changed. These needs become more prevalent during time of war, and there will always be a need for someone to serve in the chaplain role. BIBLIOGRAPHY Bergen, Doris, L. The Sword of the Lord: Military Chaplains from the First to the Twenty-First Century, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004. Eusebius, Life of Constantine (Vita Constantini), Bieber Publishing. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Bergen, Doris, L. , The Sword of the Lord: Military Chaplains from the First to the Twenty-First Century, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004, 29-30. [ 2 ]. Eusebius, Life of Constantine (Vita Constantini), Bieber Publishing, 25. [ 3 ]. Bergen, Doris, L. , The Sword of the Lord, 48. [ 4 ]. Ibid. , 53. [ 5 ]. Ibid. , 53.

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