Thursday 29 June 2017

The Miracle of Father Kapaun: Priest, Soldier and Korean War Hero - Roy Wenzl and Travis Heying

The Miracle of Father Kapaun: Priest, Soldier and Korean War Hero
Roy Wenzl
Travis Heying
Ignatius Press
ISBN 9781586177799

This was the second book about Father Kapaun that I have read. It is very different from A Shepherd in Combat Boots: Chaplain Emil Kapaun of the 1st Cavalry Division by William Maher, that book went into a lot of details about his youth, his time in school, and the service. This book focuses on his time it Korea, his death, and the process of the cause of his canonization and the process of awarding him posthumously the Congressional Medal of Honor. The introduction states: "Emil Kapaun is a rare man. The Vatican is considering whether the priest deserves to be canonized a saint, and the president of the United States is pondering whether the soldier is worthy of the congressional Medal of Honor." It should be noted Pope John Paul II in 1993 declared him a Servant of God the first step towards canonization, and that he was awarded the Medal of Honour in 2013.

In the forward Bishop of Wichita Michael O. Jackels states:

"Why all the knowledge of and interest in Father Kapaun? The best answer I can think of is the attraction of his qualities of character. 
Father Kapaun was brave. He mocked the Communist indoctrination lectures in the PoW camp, calmly refuting their attacks on religion. 
Father Kapaun was generous. He literally carried a wounded soldier on a long, torturous forced march to the prison camp. 
Father Kapaun was good-natured. He worked at lifting the spirits of the POWs and at giving them hope. "Have faith, have faith", Father Kapaun told them. "Don't give up. We'll get out of here someday." 
Father Kapaun was caring. He would wash the clothes and bodies of sick POWs. He would scrounge for extra food to give them, sometimes giving them something from his meager share. 
Father Kapaun was self-sacrificing. He was captured because he would not leave the wounded GIs, even though he had the opportunity to do so. He died on May 23, 1951, his death hastened by harsh treatment from his captors and by a lack of food and clothing, for he had given to other POWs much of what he had."
And it is some of those characteristics that drew me back to him. In many ways reading about Emil Kapaun is like reading about Damien of Molokai. Both men lived to serve, both stood against injustices and authorities. Both men served until they could give no more, and died because of how much of themselves they outpoured. The stories in this book will amazing. They will inspire and they will challenge.  Jackels then goes on to say:
"Father Kapaun, just like every human being, including those already canonized by the Catholic Church, was not perfect. For example, he expressed the desire upon being liberated to treat a particularly nasty prison commander to a kick in the bohunkus. But it is his qualities of character, seen together with his humanness, that explain why everyone is interested in and touched by the story of Father Kapaun. These are manly, even heroic qualities of character, and the POWs with him, whether Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims or nonbelievers, found them to be attractive. 
There is, however, another layer to Father Kapaun: his motivation, that is, why he acted so bravely, generously, cheerfully, thoughtfully, sacrificially. This can be explained by one word: Jesus."
For a man to have lived in the POW camps and lived such an example that Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and non-believers were all inspired by him. For him to have served all, and raised many to be the best version of themselves. Is truly an inspiration.

I have been married 15 years, in that time my wife has seen me cry maybe twice. I was brought to tears twice while reading this book. What the men live through in the POW camps, I can hardly imagine. How Father Kapaun took that situation and served the men, served God, and brought light and hope into that situation really is the grace of God and miraculous.

The second half of this book is about miracles attributed to Kapaun  and the process of canonization that is under way.

This book in some ways is easier to read than A Shepherd in Combat Boots, but only because it does not go into nearly as many details about the time on forced marches, or as a POW. But it is hard to read some of the stories of miracles, as a father, as a brother, reading some of these stories and picturing my son or daughter, and it is hard not to, is very hard.

The monument to Kapaun in his home town has the saying engraved "all man, all priest" And he truly lived a life that will inspire and challenge us. What an incredible story!  Father Kapaun pray for us!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Reviews of other books by and about Father Emil Kapaun:

No comments: