Father Joe’s Last Words

  • I was an infantryman in General George S. Patton’s 3rd Army as it raced across southern Germany.
  • As a priest, I should have believed Jesus’ words with stronger faith:”Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who persecute you.” However, I felt his counsel could be set aside for a greater good as our country fought to stop communism in Asia.
  • Your sons and daughters having returned from Iraq and Afghanistan might be missing an arm or a leg. Perhaps they suffer from permanent emotional wounds. War is not the answer.
  • Today we have three principal military academies-Army, Navy, and Air Force. Why not a Peace Academy?

“Dear Faithful Family and Steadfast Friends,

For some time I have considered writing you a letter when I died. God has called me. I died Sunday, March 3, 2013. I invite you to gravely consider that Jesus was serious when he said:

“Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other as well.” Luke 6, 27-30, Matthew 5, 43-45

These are solemn admonitions. Only recently have I come to believe that Jesus was truly speaking these words to me.

I am Father Michael Joseph Rogers, born July 11, 1925, in Ottumwa, Iowa. My parents were Michael J. Rogers and Josephine M. Wilbert. My sister, Jeanne, married Charles Davis. Upon graduating from Ottumwa High School in 1943, during World War II, I was an infantryman in General George S. Patton’s 3rd Army as it raced across southern Germany.

After the war I attended St. Louis University, St. Louis, St. Ambrose College, Davenport, and St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. I was ordained a priest for Diocese of Davenport by Bishop Ralph Hayes on June 5, 1954.

A year later my father died. To support my mother I asked Bishop Hayes if I could be an army chaplain. He agreed.

As a priest, I should have believed Jesus’ words with stronger faith:”Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who persecute you.” However, I felt his counsel could be set aside for a greater good as our country fought to stop communism in Asia. From 1965-66, I was a Catholic chaplain with the 1st Air Cavalry Division, fighting in the Central Highland of Vietnam. In the jungle areas of Vietnam, the Viet Cong easily moved soldiers and supplies under cover of the heavy foliage.

“Our planes sprayed a chemical, dioxin, called Agent Orange, to destroy the vegetation. Some 10 million gallons of the chemical were sprayed from 1962-71. An estimated 5 million Vietnamese were exposed to the lethal poison. Today 150,000 children are terribly deformed. The chemical will continue its deadly effects for generations to come. The United States accepts no responsibility, maintaining no direct connection exists between the dioxin and the children’s deformities.” World Focus, 1/16/09

Your sons and daughters having returned from Iraq and Afghanistan might be missing an arm or a leg. Perhaps they suffer from permanent emotional wounds. War is not the answer.

Widespread poverty encourages young men to join the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

What if years ago, Peace Corps Volunteers were sent to increase their crops of barley and corn? Improve livestock?

Currently Peace Corps workers help poor people to be better farmers, build needed schools, and bring clean water to remote villages.

Today we have three principal military academies-Army, Navy, and Air Force. Why not a Peace Academy? Students would study foreign languages, world cultures, and traditions. They could generate programs to market native crafts and begin small businesses.

Love of enemies can begin with developing a personal relationship with Jesus as found in the Sunday Gospels. Early in the week read next Sunday’s Gospel. The Gospel reference can be found in The Catholic Messenger or in your parish Sunday missalette. After reading the Gospel, question yourself, “What is Jesus saying to me?” Jesus might be healing the sick. Ask yourself, “Who do I know who is sick physically, mentally, or spiritually? How can I help him or her? Ask a member of your family or a friend to join you to share a better understanding of the life and teachings of Jesus as found in the four Gospels.

Until we meet in heaven….Fr. Joe Rogers

What My Month of Thanksgiving Has Taught Me

From my mission trip to Cambodia–Cambodia Poverty

It’s ironic that these days are full of sales that tend to draw our attention to what we don’t have, instead of appreciating what we do have. My hope is that while we love all the new technology and fun new items out on the market, we also take time to be thankful for our most basic blessings: our God, our country and servicepeople/veterans, our health, our family, our homes and modern conveniences, our pets, the people in our lives who have made a positive influence, and the people, who through their leadership, who have taught us that there are big rewards that come from caring for others. I pray we aren’t forced to lose what we take for granted before we realize how precious these people and things are to us. Indeed, those of us in the middle class are being squeezed hard by the economy. My guess is our God is watching how we handle it. Will we fall into the rich bracket and become like those we despise who abuse their wealth and power? Or will we fall into the depths of poverty and have to rely on handouts from others? Or will we be successful and become the next Bill Gates? Perhaps which way we go will depend upon if we appreciate what we have and whether we are willing to share what little gifts of love, time and/or resources we have left. Despite our rough times, there are still people out there who every day wonder where their next meal will come from. There are those who don’t have a roof over their head. There are those who can’t afford their much needed medications. And there are many, many in the world living in dreadful conditions: violence, unsanitary conditions, no basic human neccessities-such as food, shoes, clean water, safety. Perhaps we can’t relate to that and choose to ignore it. However, take note of this- nothing is scarier than not being able to provide for your loved ones or facing health crisises without healthcare. Certainly we can relate to that. Let’s not let those who misuse charity overshadow the millions of people who struggle everyday. Remember those that are in prisons, those with mental illness  and those who are lonely or going through family problems this season too, because this is a extremely painful rather than a joyous time for them. Finally, I’m thankful for the freedom to express these views in a public forum. What a blessing that is, also. I thank God for all my blessings. I hope you thank your God, too.