“Knowing who we are in God’s eyes can give us a tremendous sense of inner peace and strength.”
Father Vincent Capodanno
Father Vincent Capodanno, a Maryknoll Missionary, served as a marine chaplain during the Vietnam War. Lt. Joseph E. Pilon, MD, gives us an eyewitness account of “the grunt padre’s” last day as a chaplain.
“Over here [Vietnam] there is a written policy that if you get three Purple Hearts you go home within 48 hours. On Labor Day, our battalion ran into a world of trouble- when Father C. (Capodanno) arrived on the scene; it was 500 Marines against 2500 North Vietnamese Army Regulars. Needless to say, we were constantly on the verge of being completely overrun and the Marines on several occasions had to advance in a retrograde movement. This left the dead and wounded outside the perimeter as the Marines slowly withdrew. Casualties were running high and Father C. had his work cut out for him. Early in the day, he was shot through the right hand which all but shattered his hand. One corpsman patched him up and tried to med evac him, but Father C declined, saying he had work to do. A few hours later, a mortar landed near him and left his right arm in shreds hanging from his side. Once again, he was patched up and once again he refused evacuation. There he was, moving slowly from wounded to dead to wounded using his left arm to support his right as he gave absolution or Last Rites, when he suddenly spied a corpsman get knocked down by the burst of an automatic weapon. The corpsman was shot in the leg and couldn’t move and understandably panicked. Fr. C. ran out to him and positioned himself between the injured boy and the automatic weapon. Suddenly, the weapon opened up again and this time riddled Father C. from the back of his head to the base of his spine- and with his third Purple Heart of the day- Father C. went home.”
“Father C.” knew that to live as a Christian is to live a life that is constantly moving and active, a life of faith based on what God has taught us, and a life based on the knowledge that we will one day be called to account for ourselves. This is the life of a pilgrim.
Who Are You?
Knowing who we are in God’s eyes can give us a tremendous sense of inner peace and strength. This allows us to be faithful to the work God has sent us here to do, no matter how hard it gets.
We live here as strangers and guests, seeking a homeland that is beyond our present experience. But in receiving Christ we have been given a glimpse of our heavenly homeland, we know it is there and we know that one day we will reach it.
This is a truth of Christian life. We are immortal and what we do in this life will matter very much in the life to come.
God does not leave us in uncertainty. Although we may be severely tested in our faith, God has given us assurances of our final destination. If we are attentive, God provides us with signs to let us know that we are on the right path. But even so we do not put our faith in signs and miracles, but on the faithfulness of God who always keeps His promises.
And along the way we are given missions and assignments based on our gifts. We carry out these assignments best when we never lose sight of the fact that we may be called to account for ourselves at any time, when we live every moment with our eyes fixed on the light of eternity.
We can only maintain our sense of justice and righteousness if we look beyond this passing temporal world, to the eternal embodiment of those ideas, the Living Lord, Jesus Christ.
Not all of us will experience the horrors and trials of war, but every one of us faces challenges and temptations and hardships. Each of us has a mission to accomplish in this life, in spite of the difficulties we encounter.
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
May God who has offered healing and strength through the hands of the His only Son, Our Lord, and through Christ’s many servants, grant me the favor of His healing hand through the intercession of His servant, Father Vincent Capodanno, priest, missionary, and chaplain, who always sought to heal and comfort the wounded and dying on the field of battle. May I be granted this request on my own field of battle I pray in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
More information for Father Capodanno’s Cause for Canonization may be found at www.Capodannoguild.org
crossposted at www.DeaconLawrence.org
© Lawrence Klimecki
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com