Father Capodanno’s Year of Mercy Message

(photo: U.S. Navy)

During this Year of Mercy, the faithful have been reminded of their sacred role in living out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. As we consider all that is involved in meeting the physical and spiritual needs of others, we can find inspiration in the legacies of those who have gone before us, including Father Vincent Capodanno.

In 1929, Father Capodanno was born into a large Italian-Catholic family in Staten Island, N.Y. He became a Maryknoll priest and missionary and served in Taiwan and Hong Kong. While there, he taught, offered the sacraments and distributed food and medicine.

In 1965, he became a Navy chaplain and arrived in Vietnam during Holy Week of 1966. In this isolated world of violence and death, Father Capodanno would become a friend, counselor, teacher and sacramental guide to the thousands of Marines serving in the Vietnam War. He was there for them in their greatest hour of need, often staying with the wounded and dying on the battlefield and reciting the Lord’s Prayer while offering hope, comfort and encouragement, at the risk of his own life.

On Sept. 4, 1967, he stayed with his men during a harrowing and bloody battle. The priest, unarmed and wounded, refused medical help and ran from one injured or dying man to another, offering prayers and consolation.

“God is with us all this day,” he would say to one, and to another: “God is here with us, Marine, and help is on the way.”

Finally, in one last act of heroism, he ran to shield another Marine from gunfire. In so doing, he saved the Marine’s life and lost his own.

It has been said by many that his mere presence inspired them. Many recall his somber, calm, reflective eyes that seemed supernatural. He was seen as the true presence of God, known always as the “Grunt Padre” and a man who lived to serve others. Perhaps without even realizing it, and without reservation, this priest was offering the works of mercy in everything he did for these young and brave men who were so far from their homeland and families.

In January 1969, Father Capodanno was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. On May 21, 2006, he was publicly declared a “Servant of God.” The Father Vincent Capodanno Guild was created in 2013 to promote his cause for canonization. The guild is now producing an EWTN documentary.

Most of us will never find ourselves in such dangerous and life-threatening situations as Father Capodanno did. However, even on the most ordinary days, there will always be an opportunity to offer the works of mercy to someone in need.

Father Capodanno found a way, and we all can, too: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit prisoners, bury the dead and give alms to the poor; counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the sorrowful, forgive injuries and pray for the living and the dead.

Cynthia Ruff writes from

Toledo, Ohio.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services image

Servant of God Father Vincent Capodanno died shielding a fellow Marine. He died from 27 bullet wounds.

Sainthood Cause for Father Vincent Capodanno Sees Setback

The ‘Grunt Padre’ died on a Vietnam battlefield as a military chaplain to U.S. Marines. Theological consultants recently voted to recommend to Vatican dicastery that the cause be suspended. But supporters remain hopeful that an appeal will resume the efforts.