Fr. Kapaun is someone to get to know, as his life is an inspiring testimony to how it is possible for everyone--not just the few--to achieve sainthood by living the gospel with the assistance of God's grace.
Born into a farming family in Pilsen, Kansas in 1916, Fr. Kapaun was ordained for the Diocese of Wichita in June 1940. Kapaun enlisted in the U.S. Army chaplaincy and served from 1944-1946, re-enlisting in 1948. In July 1950, Fr. Kapaun was deployed to Korea where he distinguished himself for his service with the U.S. Army's Eighth Cavalry regiment.
Beyond what is expected of a Catholic military chaplain--celebrating the sacraments, hear confessions, and say Mass--Fr. Kapaun:
- would stay up at night to write letters home on behalf of wounded soldiers;
- captured by Chinese soldiers at Unsan in North Korea, he carried a fellow prisoner, Herbert Miller, on his shoulders for 30 miles, even though the man weighed 20 pounds more than he; and,
- would share his food and wash the clothes of prisoners as well as pick lice from the clothes.
Interred in a POW camp, Fr. Kapaun helped his fellow prisoners solve problems, keep up morale, and survive the harsh winter of 1950. For those who did not survive, he assisted in burying them. His presence in a hut, his fellow prisoners testified, transformed it into a cathedral.
While a POW, Fr. Kapaun developed a blood clot in his leg and fell ill with dysentery and pneumonia. He died May 23, 1951, and was buried in a mass grave on the Yalu River.
In April 2013, President Obama posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor--the United States' highest military honor--upon Fr. Kapaun: Kansas farm boy, priest, Army chaplain, and American hero.
On June 21, consultants for the Congregation evaluated the documents in Fr. Kapaun's case for completeness and accuracy, finding that he was motivated by a profound charity towards his neighbor, and practiced the virtues in an exemplary manner and with heroism. Approving the documents, the consultants sent them for review to the Congregation's theological consultants who will now evaluate whether Fr. Kapaun's writings and teachings conform with Catholic doctrine and teaching. Approval at this level would result in Fr. Kapaun's case being sent to a panel of the Congregation’s cardinals and bishops. If the panel's members vote to approve the case, it will then be sent to Pope Francis for final approval. Fr. Kapaun would then be called "Venerable Emil J. Kapaun."
Meanwhile, medical consultants are examining evidence of alleged miracles that have been attributed to the Fr. Kapaun's intervention. One miracle must be approved for beatification ("Blessed Emil J. Kapaun") and a second for canonization (Saint Emil J. Kapaun).
Sancto subito! Fr. Kapaun would be the first U.S. military chaplain to be elevated to the honors of the altar.
Let the discussion begin...
To read the Catholic News Agency article, click on the following link: