There are so many things I want to share with you guys in this little space, blog ideas abound. Despite the disorganized, dysfunctional life and the lack of time to write, in honor of Veteran's Day being this past week, I thought it would be a perfect time for me to squeeze in a little 7 Quick Takes about a beautiful excursion I took with the boys a few weeks ago to Pilsen, Kansas, home of Father Emil Kapaun, a chaplain of the Korean War, who died a POW in 1951.
A few years ago, my sister, Sara, and I were chatting on the phone and she couldn't wait to tell me about this wonderful little town, a quaint Czech community just north of Wichita, called Pilsen. She shared with me the story of Father Emil Kapaun, whose cause for sainthood is currently under investigation. I was so touched by his story and, after reading "A Shepherd in Combat Boots" (very much worth your time), I couldn't wait to visit Pilsen myself.
I don't know why it took so long for me to make the journey to Father Kapaun's shrine, but I can honestly thank my son, Benedict, for getting me there. He came home after school about a month ago and told me that his class would be making a pilgrimage to Pilsen. I was overjoyed with the news and knew that our whole family had to go.
Before the news of the pilgrimage, I had been saying a novena to Father Kapaun for two intentions which were very close to my heart. Now, I felt as though I could truly unite my prayers to him in a very concrete way. The timing was perfect. Don't you love Providence?!
It's an understatement to say that our family was changed by the trip to Pilsen. From their earliest years, we have taught the boys that the saints, whom we ask often to pray for us, show us, above all, the face of Christ. They encourage us to choose Christ and to love Him, to seek him out in all circumstances, in all situations. That truth sunk in deep during our trip to Pilsen.
The boys were able to connect with Father Kapaun in so many honest, yet profound ways. Even Charlie, who stayed with me while I fed Joseph in the cry room during the presentation, didn't speak above a whisper while we were in the church. All of his orneriness shines right through that grin, though!
Father Kapaun, no doubt, will soon be canonized a saint.
Here are just 7 (of so many) reasons why our boys have come to admire this heroic soul:
1. He was a small town farm boy, just like our boys. The rolling tree-lined hills that flank the little community of Pilsen are picturesque. Visiting there is like going back in time, it seems as though not much has changed since Father Kapaun lived there. I am sure that the physically demanding work and dedication that the farm demanded during his youth were of great benefit to him during his military service.
2. He led by example. Many individuals have come forward with stories about Father Kapaun, and none of them talk about how he preached this our that, but rather how he loved and led by example, always encouraging and looking out for others before himself.
Inside the beautiful, historic St. John Nepomucene Cathlic Church
3. He was a model of humility. When we arrived at St. John Nepomucene church we spent the first part of the tour listening to a brief history of Father's life, a life full of details shared by a very warm and articulate woman, whom I could see truly loves Father. She told story after story of how Father Kapaun saved many POW's from death by caring for their wounds, preserving their dignity by helping them bathe in the river, sharing his rations and praying with them and for them.
4. He smoked a pipe. On the outside, it seems to be a thing of little significance, but I think what it really points to is how very natural, how very human Father was, and those who served with him were drawn to this naturalness. They were ultimately drawn to the person of Christ.
5. He is the most decorated military chaplain in history. Story after story is told of Father's bravery on the battle field, risking his life time and time again to attend to the needs of other soldiers. He was known to run through enemy fire dashing between foxholes to deliver food, water, consolation and prayers to the men in the heat of battle.
6. He was recently awarded the Medal of Honor, the most distinguished honor to be bestowed upon any soldier, living or deceased. On the Medal of Honor brochure that was given to us on the pilgrimage, the following was written about Father Kapaun:
As Chinese Communist forces encircled the battalion, Kapaun moved
fearlessly from foxhole to foxhole under direct enemy fire in order to provide
comfort and reassurance to the outnumbered soldiers. He repeatedly crawled to
wounded men and either dragged them back to the safety of the American lines,
or dug shallow trenches to shield them from enemy fire. As Chinese forces closed in,
Kapaun rejected several chances to escape, instead volunteering to stay behind
and care for the wounded.
(Of all the memorabilia we were able to experience in the little museum, Father Kapaun's priestly garments were my most favorite. Seeing them brought tears to my eyes.)
7. The three miracles that have been attributed to Father Kapaun thus far have all occurred in the lives of young athletes, a soccer player, a pole vaulter, and a marathon runner. I don't believe that this is a coincidence. Their stories really had a great impact on the boys, especially Andrew.
Three fantastic books on the life of Father Kapaun are:
A Saint Among Us (great for kids)
If you really want to make a pilgrimage to Father Kapaun's shrine, our diocese hosts a 70 mile hike from Wichita to Pilsen every spring. I am hoping to make at least part of the journey this fall with the older boys. You can learn more about it here.
Have a wonderful weekend, friends.
Father Kapaun, pray for us!!