“I know and swear there are living chapels in Vince’s name. ‘Those grunts’ saw Christ when they saw Vince. This may appear like pious rhetoric but I have been a priest too long not to comprehend how people react when sentences are used to tell people the happening of an event. When those ‘grunts’ learned of Vince’s death, it was pathetic to watch their reactions. A lump came to my throat, Pauline, and I know I’m a tough man emotionally.”
The above quote was from a letter Chaplain Thomas J. Woolton wrote to the sister of Fr. Vincent Capodanno, a navy chaplain who was killed in Vietnam. This book is a brief biography of Father Capodanno’s life, how he requested mission work overseas, and how he eventually martyred himself in service to the marines sent to fight in Vietnam.
Most of the book reads like a short (and slightly boring) history book. I found that the best narrators of Father Vincent’s life proved to be the quotes from those who knew him. Such subtlety of peace and holiness is truly difficult to describe. I think Corporal Ray Harton’s testimony is the most powerful:
When I opened my eyes, he looked directly at me. It was Father Capodanno. Everything got still: no noise, no firing no screaming. A peace came over me that is unexplainable to this day. In a quiet and calm voice, he cupped the back of my head and said “Stay quiet, Marine. You will be OK. Someone will be here to help you soon. God is with us all this day.”
And while this book is just so-so as far as literature goes, Father Capodanno’s story is very moving. I mentioned this book to a friend and she commented because of time passing, it must be okay to talk about Vietnam now. But this really isn’t about a person’s feelings about this war. Father Vincent Capodanno understood that the ‘grunts’ were being sent to hell, but God intended for them experience love. In service, Father Vincent was able to give them that.
2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2000