The battles of our time
This month we reflect on the service of our many members in the Armed Forces. First, thank you for your service! As a veteran myself, I always feel a sense of deference and humility when I receive these thanks for my service, because I did not pay the ultimate price. But I recognize how important it is to show appreciation to our veterans and their families for the many sacrifices, even those “smaller” ones, made for our freedom.
When I think of our veterans, I have a special appreciation for the chaplains. The vocation to be a priest and a chaplain is truly a daunting one. During my time in the Marine Corps, I had many chaplains, and all of them were great mentors to me. It is hard to think about chaplains in the Marine Corps without thinking about Fr. Vincent Capodanno, the Grunt Padre. Fr. Vincent was a heroic chaplain from the Archdiocese of NYC, who earned the Medal of Honor while attached to a Marine infantry unit in Vietnam.
Fr. Vincent was part of Operation Swift in the Que Son Valley, when the battalion of Marines to which he was attached encountered a large contingent of the North Vietnamese army. When he heard about Company M taking casualties and that they were about to be overrun, Fr. Vincent went to those Marines and Corpsmen to give them last rites. Unfortunately, with those Marines pinned down by an enemy machine gun, Chaplain Capodanno also perished in the firefight.
Fr. Vincent is now a Servant of God on his way to canonization.
In our own chapters, we have chaplains. They are not necessarily running into physical enemy fire like Fr. Vincent did, but the daily spiritual battle can be as fierce as enemy fire. Our priests are heroic men who constantly engage in battle for us. The chaplain in various ways reminds members not to be like the ship “which has made many voyages, escaped many storms, only to run on a rock in the very harbor, with all its lost overboard.” (St. John Chrysostom: Homily on Evangelical Perfection)
The local chaplain serves each chapter as its spiritual father. Chaplains ensure chapters are reciting the rosary, encourage members to take advantage of Confession, offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, ensure speakers are orthodox, and are available to guide members in spiritual direction. Our chaplains are willing to be there when we need them most, by our side in our own everyday battles. The role of the chaplain is so important in the life of our individual members and chapters; we must not overlook their importance.
In closing, join me in seeking the intercession of Fr. Vincent Capodanno’s protection of all our service members, past and present. Let us also use this opportunity to thank our own chaplains for their service and pray that Fr. Vincent will intercede to protect them, who seek to protect us in the battles of everyday life. Fr. Vincent Capodanno: Pray for us!
You can read more about Fr. Vincent Capodanno in his life story written by Fr. Daniel L. Mode, The Grunt Padre.
STEPHEN HENLEY is Legatus’ executive director.