Sunday, April 21, 2013
This Morning I was able to watch the Ordination in Rome of 10 new Priests …
This Morning I was able to watch the Ordination in Rome of 10 new Priests by our Holy Father Pope Francis. In his homily, prior to the Rite of Ordination, Pope Francis spoke to them. One of the things he said to them was to “Be merciful Pastors, not functionaries.” How true are the words of our Holy Father. As Priests we are truly called to be merciful Pastors above all. Not just fulfilling a role, but constantly reaching out to others with the compassion and love of Christ. I am reminded of this as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vocation Sunday. Personally, there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not truly grateful that our Lord called me, his very unworthy servant to serve him and his people as a Priest, Fire Chaplain and Police Chaplain.
As we celebrate today, I think of the lived priesthood of Father Emil Kapaun. Father Emil was ordained for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas at the age of 28. He served most of his priesthood as an Army Chaplain in the United States, and assigned stateside, to Burma, to Japan and Korea. I would certainly invite you to read his whole story, as my own reflection will prove somewhat inadequate for the inherent goodness of this priest. In his own service he mirrored the words spoken today by Pope Francis. He was truly a merciful Pastor, and not just a functionary. When faced in battle time situations he was heroic. He moved amongst the men in battle, caring for the wounded, caring for the dying and administering last rites under fire, In one particular recorded event, he ran under enemy fire to carry back a wounded soldier.
At the age of 35 he, along with others, were captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp. He was known as the “good thief” because at night he would sneak out and collect whatever scraps he could to feed those who had nothing. To help others he cleaned latrines and washed the clothing of the sick. Ignoring his own health, he nursed the sick and the wounded until a blood clot prevented his daily rounds. He was moved to a “prisoner of war hospital” but like others was denied treatment. He died on May 23, 1951
To me Father Kapaun is a great model of what the priesthood should be. In fact I have kept a picture of Father Kapaun in my office for many years. Posthumously, his family received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Obama a few weeks ago. I would ask you to please remember him on May 23rd, the date of his death. May the heroic actions of this wonderful 35 year old priest continue to influence us all.
Strive to be saints! Fr. Brad