Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Servant of God and War Hero: The Miracle of Father Kapaun


by Roy Wenzl and Travis Heying

This book grew out of newspaper articles written by Wenzl and Heying about Father Emil Kapaun, a man maybe little known outside of Kansas, but someone who has inspired the local Catholic population.

Emil Kapaun grew up in Pilsen, a small town in rural Kansas, became a priest, served as a chaplain in World War II and Korea. He died in a prisoner of war camp after inspiring hundreds of men, bolstering their hope and their chances of survival.

Mater Amabilis™recommends in Level 4 a saint biography for each term, one focused on a twentieth century saint to correspond to the literature and history recommendations. Though Father Kapaun is not on the list, as he is not yet a saint, he seemed a natural and really necessary choice for our son growing up in Kansas.

This particular book focuses on Father Kapaun's ministry in Korea, incorporating interviews with surviving POWs and people in his home diocese. Additionally, it describes the actions of those campaigning for Father Kapaun's receipt of the Congressional Medal of Honor (awarded in 2013) and the cause of his sainthood.

Materials have been submitted to the Vatican and many in Kansas pray daily for Father Kapaun's beatification. He has already been named a Servant of God and Vatican has placed him on the expedited list for consideration because he would be the first saint from his diocese. (Expedited for the Vatican means something like seven years to consider the cause rather than fifteen.) Wenzl and Heying describe some of the purported miracles attributed to Father Kapaun's intercession.

The authors are not Catholic; they are journalists. The actions of Father Kapaun in the war and the miracles are often presented with an air of detached amazement. They do not discount the miracles, however.

I did find it a little annoying how the book is often written in snippets, as they try to present multiple storylines simultaneously.

I enjoyed reading the book. The stories of Father Kapaun's courage and hope in the prisoner of war camp are inspiring and reveal what such places are often like. The later chapters about the Medal of Honor and canonization provide information on what those processes can look like, something usually neglected in saint biographies. However, it's not really a proper biography of Father Kapaun. It moves very quickly over his boyhood in Kansas and even his service in World War II. While I would like First Son to read this book, I'm not entirely sure it's the one I'd like to assign. So...off to read another book!

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