3 Military Chaplains Who Risked Everything for Love
Before you head to the beach or fire up the grill this Memorial Day, I encourage you to take a few moments to ponder the sacrifices made by the many men and women who have served our country in the military. On this day, we remember and pray for these souls who died so that we may live in freedom.
In a special way, we acknowledge military chaplains who willingly step onto the battlefield in order to bring Christ to war-torn places and provide the sacraments to soldiers who otherwise couldn't access them. Today on the blog, we highlight three heroic military chaplains who gave a witness of unwavering faith, hope, and love:
Fr. Francis Patrick Duffy
This Canadian-American priest began his service as a U.S. Army chaplain in the Spanish-American War. When World War I broke out in 1914, Fr. Duffy became the senior chaplain of the 42nd Division, and provided spiritual support and the Sacraments to his soldiers fighting in France. Many tell of Duffy's willingness to be on the front lines hearing confessions, celebrating Mass, and caring for the wounded. One man described the long lines of soldiers that would wait for Fr. Duffy to hear their confessions. For his service, Fr. Duffy received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguisged Service Medal. Upon returning to the U.S. after the War, Duffy became pastor of Holy Cross Church near Times Square. He wrote a book about his experiences as an Army Chaplain and died in 1932.
Fr. Joseph O'Callahan
Fr. O'Callahan served as a U.S. Navy chaplain during World War II. While aboard the USS Franklin, the ship was bombed by a Japanese aircraft which set off numerous explosions on deck. Although he himself was injured, Fr. O'Callahan stayed amidst the chaos administering last rites to his dying brethren and helping firefighting crews manage the blaze. He was awarded the Medal of Honor with a citation reading: "Serving with courage, fortitude, and deep spiritual strength, Lt. Cmdr. O'Callahan inspired the gallant officers and men of the Franklin to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port."
Fr. Emil Kapaun
Already recognized as a Servant of God, this U.S. Army chaplain left a legacy of love and heroism that continues to inspire people today. In July 1950, Fr. Kapaun's unit was sent to South Korea to fight the Communist North Korean forces. There Fr. Kapaun became known for his bravery and unwavering willingness to administer the sacraments on the front lines. He never hesitated to risk his life to be with his men. When Fr. Kapaun's unit was captured by the enemy and taken to a prsion camp, he spent the next 7 months encouraging the prisoners to pray, stealing food for them to eat, cleaning their clothing, caring for the wounded, and refuting the anti-Christian doctrine that the communists attempted to propogate. In addition to administering the sacraments, he held prayer services for men of all faiths. Eventually Fr. Kapaun contracted pneumonia and was moved to a so-called hospital where he received no care and was left to die. Despite the cruelty of his captors, he forgave them and encouraged the other prisoners to do the same.
These three men are just a few of the many military chaplains who have brought Christ into the darkest most violent places. Let's thank God for their example, and ask for the grace to live with the same faith and love.