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Curtana: Sword of Mercy

The following article explains the choice of the name for this professional journal. It appeared in Curtana: Sword of Mercy 1.1. (October 2009): 5-6. The current issue of the journal is available here.


Whence Cometh Curtana?

Robert C. Stroud

Named swords are the stuff of legends. Charlemagne had Joyeuse; his paladin Roland bore Durendal; Arthur wielded Excalibur. And the even more “legendary” Andúril was forged from the shattered remnants of Narsil for King Aragorn.

Among the crown jewels of the United Kingdom rests a precious weapon. Curtana is its name. She is prized neither because she is adorned with gems, nor because she is lovely to behold. Curtana is, in fact, a broken sword. Its once sharp tip has been sheared away, and the blunted weapon has been transformed into a new symbol, the “Sword of Mercy.” Curtana, also known as Edward the Confessor’s sword, plays a formal role during the coronation of royalty. Quite fittingly, Curtana is carried between the Sword of Temporal Justice and the Sword of Spiritual Justice. A profound truth. In our world, spoken into existence by a loving Creator, both temporal and spiritual justice have their role. And yet, ever present to temper both, remains divine mercy.

This weapon once forged for battle, has become a visible reminder of the power of forgiveness. It hearkens back to the Messianic promises of the Hebrew scriptures that spears will one day be beaten into pruning hooks, and swords hammered into plowshares. Due to God’s grace, his mercy has tempered his demand for perfect holiness and justice. This is good news—espoused, albeit in different manners, by all of the so-called monotheistic faith traditions.

The dichotomy between justice and mercy bears some resemblance to the dual role of chaplains within the armed forces. In varying degrees, chaplains have found themselves viewed either primarily as clergy, or as a special class of warriors. In our current age, the Geneva Conventions formally recognized chaplains as “noncombatants,” a term which has surprisingly proven open to shaded interpretations. Onto this stage, where chaplains are officers but not soldiers—in the military, so to speak, without being of the military—arrives a new professional journal for religious leaders called to this unique vocation.

Curtana: Sword of Mercy will explore the history of the chaplaincy. We will honor the praiseworthy in that legacy, and censure that which falls short of the trust our fellow citizens and our nations place in us. Although the journal is intended primarily for chaplains, its contents will be of value to all who are interested in the relationship between religion and the military. Suggestions and submissions are warmly invited, but please visit our website before writing:

It has been many years since the military chaplaincy has known an independent forum for its reflections and conversations. Curtana’s birth is long overdue. As we ponder the challenges of balancing our vows to God and to nation, we hope that this humble journal will contribute to promoting both integrity and fidelity.

© 2009 by Robert C. Stroud

Robert C. Stroud is editor of Curtana † Sword of Mercy. He retired from the United States Air Force Chaplain Service as a lieutenant colonel, having received medals from the Army and Navy as well as USAF and joint decorations. While a civilian pastor he earned a Master of Theology degree in Patristics. Since his retirement from active duty, he has earned a Doctor of Ministry degree.

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