“We have to go where the suffering and dying are” | Jim Graves | Catholic World Report
Military chaplains bring the light of Christ to some of the world’s darkest places.
On September 4, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA honored one of its outstanding military chaplains, Vietnam War hero and Medal of Honor recipient Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM, with a special memorial Mass in Washington, DC. Dubbed “the Grunt Padre,” Father Capodanno was killed on a Vietnam battlefield in 1967 while administering to wounded and dying US Marines; he was officially proclaimed a “Servant of God” in 2006 and his cause for beatification has been initiated. Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy P. Broglio was the main celebrant of the memorial Mass, which was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. During his homily he called on those present to remember Father Capodanno’s sacrifice and to “continue his Maryknoll missionary spirit, his Marine courage, and his absolute fidelity to his ministry as a priest in service to all.”
As evidenced by the example of Father Capodanno, military chaplains play a vital role in attending to the spiritual needs of a unique community that often finds itself in adverse circumstances. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI described the role of a military chaplain as bringing about “renewed adhesion to Christ,” setting the bar of “holiness as the high measure of Christian life in response to the new pastoral challenges.”
Catholic chaplains must do their work despite dwindling numbers; in the last decade the number of Catholic military chaplains has fallen from 400 to 260. CWR recently spoke with four military chaplains, both active and retired, about their service.