December 15, 2005-- La Canada Valley Sun


By Anita Susan Brenner

Our family, like many others in America, is multi cultural. We are also interfaith, with the emphasis on "faith." When our kids were little, we constantly made choices. Nothing was a given. Nothing was assumed. Extended family members often gave unsolicited advice and our parents fretted. Not an easy path, by any means.

I often wondered where we fit in. Saying grace at Thanksgiving required great diplomatic skill. Would the "holidays" bring us closer together or move us apart? How would our kids fit in? There were not a whole lot of Chicano-Catholic-Jewish-Marine Corps veteran families living in La Caņada. We blundered along. Somehow, our kids turned out to be nice people, a quality that we consider to be more important than grades, SATs or wealth. Like they say, mission accomplished.

But there were still days when we felt ...well ...a little different.

It all came together one rainy week at the Navy hospital in Bethesda, where we began to encounter chaplains of several different faiths. The on duty chaplain would go room-to-room, bed-to-bed. He or she would ask, "Would you like to pray?" And we did. It was always meaningful. It always gave us strength.

It is a given that military chaplains will render pastoral care to servicemen and women from many different faith backgrounds. On deployment, in battle, or at a hospital, there may not be a chaplain from the serviceman or woman's own faith. So it is important that all the chaplains be able to pray with and respect people of different faith backgrounds.

Army Chaplain Abdul Rasheed-Mohammed once explained, "Most people will initially accept a chaplain of any faith, particularly when the chaplain projects sincerity and a willingness to meet patients on their own sacred ground. My personal belief has always been, with faith in God, all things are possible."

After several weeks at Bethesda, praying with various chaplains, one day we ran into all of them at once. We were walking back from the cafeteria, down a long hallway. Outside, it was raining. There they were, a rabbi, a Catholic priest, an Episcopalian priest and a Protestant minister. At one point or another, each of the chaplains had met with us, prayed with us, and counseled us. But we had never been together, all of us, in one place.

The priest tried to introduce us to the others, but stopped mid-sentence and asked the rabbi, "Do you know them?" They began to joke about which chaplain we "belonged" to. Who had the right to claim our family as one of theirs?

It's nice to be wanted.

The rabbi and priest obviously had strong claims. The Episcopalian just smiled. But then the Protestant minister pointed out that his own wife was an Israeli and that their children spoke Hebrew at home. Perhaps he had the stronger claim? One of us, I forget who, said "We need all of you." The chaplains seemed to like that idea.

"Wow," I thought, "we really fit in."

This week, I was reminded of that rainy day at Bethesda when I read about Jacob's dream. When he woke from his dream in the wilderness, Jacob said, "I did not know that God was here, here in this place."

Bethesda. La Caņada. The United States Marine Corps. We each belong. Our faiths sustain us. "Here, here in this place."

Feedback to

copyright December 15, 2005 Anita Brenner, Los Angeles Times La Canada Valley Sun