This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 23 -- Feast of Father Emil Kapuan

Fr. Kapuan celebrating Mass with a Jeep hood for an altar
I have put forward the notion of the American Canon of Secular Saints before.  This is not an official list like the Roman Martyrology, but rather it is a vague but general sense that some folks are worthy of exaltation and emulation for their service to the USA.  The British have their orders of knighthood and nobility.  The Japanese have their living national treasures.  Americans have postage stamps and coins (cf. Servants of God and venerables),  monuments, and geographic names.  Like the Christian saints, some of those in the Secular American Canon (SAC) are regional, e.g. the men carved into Stone Mountain, Georgia; others are plainly national, like the men carved onto Mount Rushmore. 

The one indisputable and official element of the SAC is the list of those who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  On April 11, 2013, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor, the USA's highest military award, to Father Emil Kapuan, an army chaplain serving in the Korean War.  You can read the President's remarks here

Father Kapuan, the son of Kansas farmers, felt a strong vocation to the priesthood.  He became a military chaplain during World War II and was eventually assigned to the Burma Theater.  Although discharged (at the rank of captain) from the Army in 1946, he rejoined in 1948; in 1950, he was stationed near Mount Fuji, Japan.  Then the Reds rolled south and he was deployed to Korea. 

A front-line chaplain, he performed many acts of valor and was awarded the Bronze Star.  Soldiers testified to his inspirational faith and demonstrations of both courage and kindness.  In November 1950, his unit was overrun by enemy forces.  He chose to stay behind, helping the wounded, rather than making a quick retreat.  He and the other prisoners marched eighty-seven miles to a prison camp.  The brutality of the march killed many of the wounded; the guards that shot stragglers killed more, and the inhumane conditions of the camp killed still more.  Father Kapuan fell into the latter group, though not before inspiring fellow prisoners with help, prayer and Mass. 

During the march, he refused to stay in ranks when he saw a wounded soldier on the roadside.  Defying guards, he picked the man up and carried him as far as he could.  Then he draped the wounded man over him and helped him limp the rest of the way.  In the camp, he worked to patch clothes and implements and even people.  He worked himself to exhaustion and then, when a bloodclot in his leg led to pneumonia, he was sent to the death house, a building where guards abandoned those they deemed terminally ill. 

The Catholic Church has declared Father Kapuan a servant of God, the first step in the process of canonization.  I reckon they will at least qualify him for venerable; since there is one miracle attributed to him that is being investigated, he stands a fair chance of being recognized as beatus. 

The process in my canon is much simpler.  The Feast of Saint Emil Kapuan is celebrated today. 

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