Anonymous photo of Fr. Kapaun
Try to imagine yourself in this scenario: You're taken prisoner by enemy forces and forced to walk 80 miles to a prison camp at the beginning of winter. You don't have cold-weather gear and when you get to your final destination, you're fed barely enough food to survive. You watch helplessly as your fellow soldiers die around you each day. I think anyone will agree that's a horrific situation.
Now imagine the same scenario, only this time, you're the chaplain of your fellow prisoners. In a life-or-death situation like this one was, it would have been very easy for the chaplain to worry about keeping himself alive and letting the rest fend for themselves.
Fr. Emil Kapaun, a Catholic priest from Kansas, was a chaplain in the Korean War in late 1950 and found himself in this very situation. But instead of trying to keep himself alive, he rose above the conditions and continued to support his troops. He traded his watch for a blanket and cut it into socks for the soldiers. He gave away his food, and stole food to keep his fellow prisoners alive. He could have escaped with the able-bodied soldiers before he was captured, but chose to stay with the wounded. He never returned from the POW camp, but his actions and leadership helped keep many alive.
Yesterday, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism. I encourage you to read the entire story from the Washington Post. It's truly amazing. I've also included the link to the book written about him; I plan to buy it myself.
These days it's way too easy to villify spiritual leaders of every faith. With all of the negative things you can find about them to look at on the Internet, I feel like Fr. Kapaun deserves a moment of your precious time. He's the kind of spiritual leader that all of us should expect, and those of us who are spiritual leaders can learn a lot from his example of sacrifice and selfless service. I truly hope the Catholic church decides to make him a saint one day.
Thanks for tuning in! Come back tomorrow for my "L" post!