This article was co-authored by Deacon David P., Society of Jesus, who will be ordained as a Jesuit priest in the summer of 2018.  Deacon David attended Fordham and Santa Clara University, where he received degrees in psychology, philosophy, and theology.  David also happens to be the first cousin of Frumentarius, which, per Catholic doctrine, secures Fru’s place in heaven.  At least, Fru is pretty sure that’s how it works… more research might be needed.

March 19, 1945.  The USS Franklin is conducting offensive operations off the coast of Japan in the waning days of the Second World War.  The Navy vessel comes under withering attack by Japanese aircraft, including a kamikaze attack which inflicts a devastating and direct hit on the warship.  Lieutenant Commander Joseph Timothy O’Callahan, military chaplain and Catholic Jesuit priest, begins to grope his way through smoke-filled passageways to the flight deck above.  In the midst of exploding armaments, and with the ship hit by incessant explosions, O’Callahan ministers to the wounded and dying, “comforting and encouraging men of all faiths,” according to the citation that would result in the Jesuit priest receiving the Medal of Honor.

Realizing there was more to be done beyond his spiritual duties, O’Callahan then “organized and led firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck.”  He directed the sailors to jettison live ammunition and to flood the magazine in which live ordinance risked being detonated. 

O’Callahan personally manned a firehose to put cooling water on hot, armed bombs rolling hazardously back and forth on the deck of the listing naval vessel.  According to his citation, Lt. Cmdr. O’Callahan “inspired the gallant officers and men of the Franklin to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port.”

O’Callahan was the first chaplain of any denomination and within any branch of the U.S. military to receive the nation’s highest military award for valor.  It was not because he was a Jesuit priest that O’Callahan showed such courage and clear-headedness in the face of such terrifying conditions, but that fact no doubt played a significant part in influencing the priest’s actions on that day.

The Society of Jesus

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a Basque born in Spain, founded the Jesuit order (officially known as the Society of Jesus) following the time he spent in service to the military of the kingdom of Castile.  While leading an infantry company in the Battle of Pamplona, Ignatius was wounded in the leg by a cannon ball and would walk with a limp for the rest of his life.  During his long and painful recovery, as he lay in a bed nursing his injuries, Ignatius reportedly had a religious experience which ultimately led him to found the Jesuit order. 

Not only did his military experience directly lead to his founding the Jesuits, it also influenced Ignatius’ vision for the organization of the order.  In the 16th century document which serves as a sort of “warning order” for would-be Jesuits, Ignatius wrote: