Saturday 20 October 2018

Armed with Faith The Life of Father Vincent R. Capodanno - Stephen M. Digiovanni

Armed with Faith: 
The Life of Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM
Capodanno Guild
Stephen M. Digiovanni
ISBN 9781983237171

Over the last few years I have read several books about military chaplains. This is the second on father Vincent Capodanno that I have read. And it is an incredible read. It goes into a lot of details. Especially about his early years as a missionary priest. It gives us a very clear picture of the man, the priest and his life, that has now opened the cause for his canonization. Father Capodanno is currently classified as a Servant of God, he was priest, missionary, and chaplain to the United States Marine Corps. But he was also a brother, son, and friend. The author of this book has written a biography. He does not shy away from some of Vincent’s rougher edges or present just a super holy hagiography. 

In the introduction it is stated that: 

“Several years ago I asked Msgr. DiGiovanni to serve as the chairman of the Historical Commission in the Cause for the recognition of the sanctity of this hero.  He carefully studied the documentation available and spoke to those who knew Father Capodanno during his life.  This book offers the results of that study and is being published to help others learn about the priest who gave his life to minister to “his Marines.” 

While you will certainly appreciate the careful research and the literary talents of the pastor of the Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist in Stamford, CT, my hope is that you are also captured by the virtues of the pilgrim whose example has inspired so many.”

That theme of pilgrimage is expressed in the introduction and throughout the book. Part of what we see in this life is a man, an average man, who spent his like seeking for God, seeking God’s will, seeking to serve God, and through that to serve others. In the tradition of all Spiritual Quester’s he life was a journey, but not just spiritually, for Vincent, it ended up being a physical journey, half way around the world.

The chapters in this volume are:

Vincent Robert 
Formosa and Language School 
The Missions in Tunglo and Miaoli 
Hong Kong and Hawaii 
Training and Vietnam, 1966 
Vietnam, 1967 
September 4, 1967 
Epilogue Mission Diaries, 1958-1959 
Some Reflections on Adaptation to the Orient, Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM, November 
Biographical Timeline of Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM  1929-1967 Bibliography

I stated earlier that Vincent was average, he was of average build, maybe leaning towards stocky. He was an average student. And according to parts of this text was average as a missionary, at least to one of his superiors. But that is what is so incredible about this story. Vincent was an average man, and he became a chaplain at an older age. He was a little older than many of the soldiers he served with. But with his age, and his maturity he brought a calm to the soldiers around him. Especially in battle. 

From the accounts in this book and other works about Capodanno, we see a man who excelled in courage, who excelled under pressure. A man who was committed to serving the best he could. In some ways this is an easier military biography to read. Vincent did not suffer in the concentration camps as others tried to strip his humanity. Or he was not a prisoner in China, and forced on a death march, beaten, and abused. What he did was live heroically. He had many medals for valor and courage. And in the end, he used his own body to shield an injured corpsman. That battle, and Vincent’s final hours has been pieced together from the testimony of the men he served and served with. I do not know how you could read this book and not be inspired and challenged in your own faith. 

One of the great things in this book is the publication of excerpts of Vincent’s missionary diaries. And also, a copy of his piece ‘Some Reflections on Adaptation to the Orient’. 

I am sure that as time goes on, and prayerfully the cause of Vincent moves forward to the stages of blessed and saint, that other books and future scholarship into the life and impact of Father Vincent Capodanno will take place. But this most recent book about his life is masterfully done and written with impeccable research and dedication to seeking the facts.

This is truly a book about a man whose life appeared average but was truly a great man. And this book is a great read about him. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan

Reviews of other books about Military Chaplains:
The Miracle of Father Kapaun: Priest, Soldier and Korean War Hero - Roy Wenzl and Travis Heying
A Shepherd in Combat Boots: Chaplain Emil Kapaun of the 1st Cavalry Division - William Maher
The Grunt Padre: Father Vincent Robert Capodanno Vietnam 1966-1967 - Daniel L. Mode
The Priest Barracks Dachau 1938-1945 - Guillaume Zeller
Blessings from the Battlefield - Edited by Thomas R. O'Brien

Heroic Catholic Chaplains: Stories of the Brave and Holy Men Who Dodged Bullets While Saving Souls
Fr Willie Doyle & World War I: A Chaplain's Story - K.V. Turley
Armed with Faith The Life of Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM - Stephen M. Digiovanni

For all reviews and articles about Military Chaplains click here.

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