Delivers homily at memorial Mass for military chaplain killed in the line of duty
WASHINGTON, DC – His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, called on believers to follow the example of American war hero and Catholic military Chaplain, Father Vincent Capodanno, MM, in pursuing a Christian vocation of service to society. The Archbishop delivered his remarks Tuesday night during a homily at the fourth annual memorial Mass for Father Capodanno in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Father Capodanno, a Maryknoll priest, was killed at the age of 38 on a battlefield in Vietnam on September 4, 1967 as he gave physical and spiritual assistance to the dying Marines of the 1st Marine Division. Father Capodanno was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, and in May 2006 the Catholic Church officially proclaimed him a Servant of God formally initiating his cause for Sainthood.
More than 60 Catholic military chaplains and other priests concelebrated the 6:30 p.m. Mass, which was attended by a vast congregation largely composed of veterans and ranking military officers, including Assistant Secretary of the Navy Juan Garcia and the Chief of Navy Chaplains, Rear Admiral Mark L. Tidd.
Here follows the text of Archbishop Broglio’s homily, which followed a reading of the Gospel (Lk 6:12-19), recounting how Jesus chose the Twelve Apostles:
“Listening to this passage about the selection of the Apostles, I am always reminded of hearing it in Matthew’s version some ten years ago just a few days after learning that I was chosen as an Archbishop. The text took on a new meaning: “successor of the Apostles”—me? It cannot be! Yet, when we think of it, Almighty God has chosen each of us, given us a vocation to holiness, and invited us to communion of life with Him.
“St. Paul puts it very concretely: Walk in Christ Jesus, be rooted in Him and built upon Him and established in the faith you were taught. We gather in prayer this evening in the desire to walk in Christ and to be faithful to our vocation.
“St. Paul speaks often in terms of the abundance of grace. In baptism we became a new creation. The Christian lives the newness of his life and is constantly ready to give the reason for our hope. Therefore, we have many opportunities to respond, many avenues to make the effects of that grace, that divine life within us evident. The challenge is making that commitment to Christ evident and easy for others to perceive. That means that everything we do must reflect our Christian identity. It is a bit more than 14-year-old Vincent Capodanno’s application of the Boy Scout motto “to do a good turn daily.” Indeed no one can limit the vibrancy of the faith to a few minutes each week or the times when we are gathered in a church.
“It cannot be denied that vibrancy in the faith like that is not always easy. We live at a time which is filled with distractions and a pressure to embrace the mediocre and what is relative. The hunger for material goods can make us blind to more lasting values. Time is so precious that sometimes we cannot even spare a moment. Who can give back a minute from yesterday? Who can restore the years gone by? Yet the Lord passed the night in dialogue with the Father, because it was important. What is important to me?
“We are gathered tonight, because we want to walk in Christ. We want to be faithful to our vocation. We look for good teachers who show us the way by their example. Father Capodanno shows us a path.
“When he entered Maryknoll in 1949, I doubt that he considered the possibility that congregations, including the Chief of Navy Chaplains, would gather 62 years later in Gaeta, Staten Island, and Washington, DC to pray for him and to consider his example. He merely listened to the Lord’s call and followed His invitation.
“However, Father Capodanno did understand that his specific vocation also included a mission. As for the Twelve Apostles and as for each one of us, the call, the vocation brings with it a mission. Otherwise, a vocation would be merely a job; a vocation without a mission would be an incomplete action.
“After his time as a Maryknoll missionary in Taiwan, Father Capodanno decided to follow in the footsteps of his brothers who had served in the Army and Marine Corps during World War II. The same missionary spirit that inspired his activities in Taiwan and Hong Kong fired his service to the Marines.
“He knew that as a Catholic priest he brought something to his troops that a chaplain of another denomination could not. He ministered to them “in persona Christi,” celebrating the sacraments, nourishing them with the Body and Blood of the Lord, and reconciling them to the Lord in the sacrament of Penance. His was a very specific service and it energized his commitment to his Marines. If he refused to fall back it was because he knew he offered those dying Marines in Vietnam something no one else was capable of bringing.
“At the same time he brought consolation, encouragement, and even physical support to all of the Marines, regardless of their faith group. He was there for all of them, even in the moments of the most intense fighting and the greatest danger.
“Yet, I am certain that he was convinced that he was only doing his duty, realizing his apostolate, and serving those most in need. We honor him so as to cultivate within ourselves that same spirit of devotion and fidelity. Putting into practice his example would be the highest form of praise.
“Indeed, the process for his canonization continues, but not because it will do something for him, but because it will do something for us. Sometimes I fear that canonization is viewed as an honor, a Meritorious Service Medal or a campaign badge. It is nothing like that. It does nothing for him. It is merely the determination that the Servant of God Vincent Capodanno enjoys the homeland for which we are all on a pilgrimage. It is a declaration by the Church to say that this man is indeed worthy of imitation. He will show the path to life everlasting as he did while he walked this earth. The canonization is for us.
“Paul and Jesus speak about the vocation of service to society. They teach us how to meet Christ in the needy. The Gospels are filled with these special moments when Christ gives of Himself so that others might have eternal life. They inspired Father Capodanno and serve to liven our response to the graces received in baptism.
“That guides us to a final point. More than anything else, this evening we are gathered in the most perfect prayer. We celebrate the Eucharist for the repose of Father Capodanno and we remember those for whom he gave his life: all of those deployed and for all of those who are lost. At the same time we beg for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, especially to the chaplaincy.
“St. Paul invites us to give thanks without ceasing. Therefore, we have come to this magnificent Basilica this evening, because we recognize the importance of our prayer, the key to a vocation to new life.
“The Evangelist tells us that Jesus passed the night in prayer before selecting His Apostles. This intimate dialogue with the Father was necessary before He chose His closest co-workers. We see Jesus at prayer in so many of the most crucial moments of His life. His union with the Father is constant and He teaches us the way to make decisions. We cannot make good decisions without entering into communion with God. With Him nothing is impossible; without Him nothing can be done.
“Prayer is the key that opens the door to vocation. We all have that Christian vocation which Paul describes so eloquently in the first reading: ‘As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted in Him and built upon Him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.’
“The Apostles show us the power of a vocation and the effect of the action of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The majority of them were simple fishermen from Galilee, with no real education or specific talents. However, the Lord loved them, called them, and filled them with the Holy Spirit. They knew how to avail themselves of that grace and evangelize the known world. They received the vocation to transmit their responsibilities to future generations, assuring in that way the apostolicity of the Church.
“In the office of the Apostles, there is one aspect that cannot be transmitted: to be the chosen witnesses of the Lord’s Resurrection and so the foundation stones of the Church. But their office also has a permanent aspect. Christ promised to remain with them always. The divine mission entrusted by Jesus to them ‘will continue to the end of time, since the Gospel they handed on is the lasting source of all life for the Church. Therefore, . . . the apostles took care to appoint successors (LG 20).’
“So the Church is born in this way: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. She is built on a lasting foundation: ‘the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Rev 21:14).’ She is indestructible (cf. Mt 16:18). She is upheld infallibly in the truth: Christ governs her through Peter and the other Apostles, who are present in their successors, the Pope and the college of bishops.
“That is what Christ did in selecting the apostles. They were His foundation stones for the community of faith. Their successors transmitted to Father Capodanno what he needed in order to serve the people of God in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and in Vietnam. As we remember his legacy this evening, we cannot fail to hear the Lord’s voice who calls you and me to life with Him. We cannot ask, “Who, me?” We cannot fail to remember the lessons that Vincent Capodanno taught us. We ask him to show us the way to the Father.”