On my YouTube playlist are videos of Fr Capodanno. Often on my way to and from work, I listen to them as a way to set the tone of my mind for the day.
Father was a Roman Catholic priest, a Maryknoll missionary and an United States Navy chaplain who served with the Marines in the Vietnam War. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on 4 September 1967.
That day, a platoon of Marines was outnumbered in heavy contact with North Vietnamese Communists and were in danger of being overrun. Father rushed from the company command post to the beleaguered platoon. Amid heavy automatic weapons and mortar fire, he moved about the battlefield; administering the Sacraments, giving medical aid and giving calm vigor and encouragement by word and example to wounded and dying Marines and Sailors.
He refused medical evacuation after himself being wounded three times, saying: “ I need to be where my Marines need me most. “
Father died, shot 27 times by a Communist machine gun; when he went to a wounded corpsman ( A Navy Sailor serving as a combat medic with the Marines ) Anointing the Sailor with the Anointing of the Sick Sacrament.
He’s been declared a Servant of God by the Catholic Church and the cause for his canonization as an officially declared Saint is currently open.
I often think of his example on the battlefield that day.
I first came across Father’s story back in 2017; one year after I was received into the Church. I was immediately impressed by his heroic actions. He’s the kind of Catholic that I want to be: Moving across the battlefields of life; helping people by word and example to keep the Faith.
I also saw that love can be heroic. That love isn’t just a feminine thing. Love can also be a masculine thing.
Another thing I draw from him is a rediscovery of the imagery of temptations and stress being like the gunfire and explosions of combat. Just keep trucking and doing what’s right and good despite all the interior and exterior forces that work on a soul in everyday life. Just act on my Faith and love the men and women next to me through all the struggles, frustrations and temptations of life; while helping shore up their souls in their own struggles against the interior and exterior darkness.
I also learned that being a man of faith isn’t just being in the cloister practicing my devotions. I learned how to be a man of faith in the world of everyday life. Bringing faith and encouragement into the world.
In my personal library is a copy of Fr Daniel Mode’s The Grunt Padre; a biography of Fr Capodanno.
In it, I learned how to do ecumenical dialogue in Father’s chaplain ministry to Catholic and non Catholic Marines as Father never pushed his Faith to the detriment of the other faiths of the Marines in his pastoral work. He simply talked faith.
When I was Michael16 on the Catholic Answers Forum, my approach to apologetics sucked.
With the Protestant apologists on the site; I had developed bad habits as they, the other Catholic apologists and I would end up having nasty arguments rather than reasoned debates. In this environment, I learned to be aggressive and harsh in my approach. Learning from Fr Capodanno’s example, ( And from Father Emil Kapaun; but that’s for another post ) I learned not to go there anymore in my talks with defenders of Protestantism and the Left.
Later on, thanks be to God; I learned charity in my apologetics approach and that bore good fruit.
I had learned, ( Again also from Fr Kapaun ) how moral authority and encouragement is much more effective in interpersonal relationships and leadership than hierarchical authority.
From Father’s example in how he ministered to his Marines, I learned how to be a better father to my sons. Leading by example, sacrificing with and for them and encouraging them to follow me by moral authority; not my hierarchical authority as their father.
I am blessed to have heard of and read about Fr Capodanno. I’m a better Catholic, a better father and a better man for it.
One day after Mass, one of the ladies approached me to compliment me on how I handled my autistic son with calm and charity. I said thank you, but it’s the grace of God and Fr Capodanno’s example that got me there.
One of the things about Fr Capodanno is how he’s an example of a Catholic who didn’t fit the negative stereotype and lived a beautiful witness to Christ. Thanks for allowing me to share his witness with you.