Laying Down Your Life

When times are difficult we especially need examples of great leadership; we need examples of great love. Jesus tells us that “ greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.(John 15:13) These acts of great love can help us to rise up ourselves and love greatly.

Captain Emil J. Kapaun was a  chaplain in the U.S. Army in World War II and Korea. He grew up on a farm in Kansas…. ordained in 1940, he served as a parish pastor, and became a U.S. Army chaplain… first serving in the Burma Theater of World War II, then later ministering during the Korean War. During the Battle of Unsan, Kapaun was serving with the 3rd Battalion of the 8th Cavalry Regiment when he was taken a prisoner. 

Father Kapaun

During various battles, it’s reported that Fr. Capaun moved fearlessly from foxhole to foxhole under direct enemy fire in order to provide comfort and reassurance to the outnumbered Soldiersrepeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire to recover wounded men, dragging them to safety.  Kapaun rejected several chances to escape, instead volunteering to stay behind and care for the wounded. He was taken as a prisoner of war by Chinese forces on Nov. 2, 1950. The men suffered severe injuries and bitter cold during a force march, with dozens falling behind, left to freeze to death along the way. But throughout this torture, Father Kapaun did not lose his compassion and concern for his men: The BBC reports that “Survivors said that Kapaun, even as he was suffering frostbite on his feet, helped carry wounded men in litters hundreds of miles. At the camp,  Kapaun snuck around the camp stealing food from the Chinese stores, and even fed others from his own rations. He tended the sick and wounded, bathing them, washing their clothes, and picking off lice, all while ignoring his own ill health. When the chips were down, he  proved himself to be the greatest example of manhood I’ve ever seen in my life.” 

As Father Kapaun’s health grew worse, his captors took him to the “hospital,” a place in the camp where he was left to die of malnutrition and pneumonia. Yet his indomitable spirit and faith in God persisted to the last. Another survivor of the camp, Felix McCool, recalled Father Kapaun’s last words: “In his last hour he heard my confession. Father Kapaun said: ‘As you see, I am crying too, not tears of pain but tears of joy, because I’ll be with my God in a short time.’” 

The Diocese of Wichita is promoting his cause for canonization, and in 1993 St. John Paul II declared him a Servant of God. Fr. Kapaun was awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for valor.

Fr. Kapaun pray for us that we might have the love and courage to lay down our life for our friends.

2 thoughts on “Laying Down Your Life

  1. Party of me thinks that it’d be easier to lay down my life in big ways, like going to war, but as I think on it, I imagine he had a lifetime of laying his life down in the little ways that prepared him for the big ones. Emil, please pray for us.


  2. Fathers and mothers deny themselves everyday in countless ways. Fr Kapaun was detached from himself and kept putting the other first. Lord Jesus keep us always putting the other first with a happy heart🙏😊💗


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