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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Story of Chaplain Kapaun

Arthur Tonne

published by
Didde Publishers
Emporia, KS, 1954

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 1

 p7  Introduction

Mine is a proud privilege to write this preamble to the "Story of Father Kapaun." Captain Emil Joseph Kapaun, priest of the Wichita Diocese in Kansas, died a prisoner of war in a Chinese Communist hospital in Korea, May 23, 1951. Thirty-five at death — a priest ten years — how quickly fled both life and career — yet he emerged as one of the great heroes of the Korean Conflict.

As his Bishop, I remember well his resolute character, his lustrous career as a parish priest. His fellow soldiers recount his extraordinary bravery on the field of battle — for it was their unanimous testimony which prompted the United States Government to confer upon Chaplain Kapaun (in absentia), the Bronze Star and Distinguished Service Cross.

But it was in a loathsome Communist prison camp somewhere along the Yalu River that the character, courage and constancy of Father Kapaun burgeoned into full maturity.

His correspondence during active combat has been recorded herein, without comment, but even the casual reader can hardly fail to discern his steady growth in the spiritual life, In his Epistle to the Romans, Chapter VIII, St. Paul describes the undeclared war which exists in every soul, a continuous battle, usually for life, between the spirit and the flesh for supremacy.

That inner conflict in the soul of Father Kapaun had been resolved and its dissolution gave him a wonderful internal peace and an unusual external serenity. Father Kapaun, according to the testimony of grateful comrades, went all out for God and his fellowmen, and forgot himself completely. This young soldier, although he never  p8 expressed it, knew that peace of soul "which surpasseth all understanding." Somehow God told him that he had walked, steadfastly, to the summit of his priesthood.

Such was his impact upon his fellow soldiers in fierce, bloody encounters that they called him "Christ on the Battlefield." Such was his impress on his fellow prisoners in the grim compounds of Korea, that they called him "More than a man — a Saint". Sick, emaciated, in extreme pain — waiting in the very vestibule of death, this young priest smiled to his comrades as he was removed to a 'hospital' which the soldiers knew was a morgue. Like our Lord in His agony on the cross, he whispered, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Father Kapaun had comforted, assisted thousands of men of all faiths in their journey to eternity. He himself, however, was forsaken in his extremity. In his final lonely hours on this earth, he was separated from his sobbing fellow prisoners — he had not been able to say Mass for seven months; there was no one to say the prayers for the dying over him, no one to anoint him at the last. Father Kapaun died as did his Master on Calvary, amid human filth and awful blasphemy. Of such gigantic stature do "little souls" become through the grace of God.

May all of us who read this book about Father Kapaun be granted, through the grace of God, the "Shibboleth" which will betray us both in word and action as followers of the divine Master.

Mark K. Carroll
Bishop of Wichita

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Page updated: 24 Dec 13