I just finished the book “Grunt Padre,” written by Fr. Daniel Mode, about the life and death of Fr. Vincent Capodanno. Fr. Capodanno was a military chaplain during the Vietnam War; he gave his life in 1967 while trying to save a wounded soldier. While the story of his wartime service was fascinating, I found the recollections of his youth more interesting, for instance, at age 10, on his birthday, Fr. Capodanno’s father died; Fr. Mode wrote:
“New heroes emerged for young Vincent Capodanno – and there were plenty to go around. He saw his own big brothers in uniform: two served in the Army and one, James, in the Marine Corps. He waited anxiously with the family for letters from them; he watched the newspapers and listened to the radio for events in faraway places that could have serious repercussions for the family. He stood on sidewalks watching parades of crisply marching men about to embark or returning with honor…He followed the movements of great commanders: Eisenhower, Patton and MacArthur. His imagination was fired with stories of Medal of Honor winners like Audie Murphy, one of the most decorated soldiers in American military history…”
Unlike many young men, especially in our modern culture of metro-sexuality, Fr. Capodanno was not left to flounder as a fatherless boy. His own tight-knit Italian family, and society at large, offered him numerous moral masculine role models. I particularly like Fr. Mode’s mentioning of Audie Murphy: the World War II Army man who became a movie star and American icon to countless schoolchildren. Dying at the age of 45, in a tragic 1971 plane crash, Murphy was one of the last male pop-culture heroes; his death coming at a time when the American anti-hero emerged as the new paradigm: Peter Fonda, Dustin Hoffman, and the “Chicago Eight.” Later, the overly pampered and blow-dried celebrities, initiated by John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever,” and surviving in the likes of Justin Bieber, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Seacrest, became the epitome of an emasculated ideal.
Of Fr. Capodanno’s decision to become a Catholic priest, and a missionary priest, Fr. Mode wrote:
“There was hardly a Catholic in the United States who did not know the name of the The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, or more popularly, Maryknoll, and most read the Society’s inspiring and adventurous publication “The Field Afar.” This popular monthly magazine astounded its audience with stories of daring priests at work for the Lord in previously unimaginable lands…As Vincent himself wrote in his application in response to the question, ‘Why do you want to become a Maryknoll missioner?’
I first heard of the Maryknoll through ‘Field Afar.’ I became acquainted with the kind of work they do and the lives they lead. I admired them for it…and decided that that was what I wanted to do.”
Friends and contemporaries described the young Capodanno as unassuming, fastidious, with a penchant for extreme neatness, and not very athletic. With this in mind, and after the death of his father, Fr. Capodanno’s life could have gone in several different directions: not all of them good. But, instead, because of the still Christian moral foundations which the country stubbornly hung onto, and because of the Catholic faith of the still intact Capodanno family, the young boy developed into a stalwart, brave, and yes – heroic man. Unlike myself, who grew up admiring The Village People, Jack Tripper, and Hugh Hefner, Capodanno had many role models in which to form his masculinity. As in the priests he so admired, from the missionary magazines, they were men of faith and religion who were manly in their strength and virility, but also humble in their obedience to the Church and to their vows. In the post Vatican II era of experimentation, that would all change – the new clerical superstars were the overly intellectual and sedate: Hans Kung, Thomas Merton, and Edward Schillebeeckx. The priestly image became older, egg-headed, and anemic. Yet, like the Cure of Ars, and Louie Marie DeMonfort, Fr. Capodanno was not an extraordinary student in either high school or while at the seminary; what he was: was a man of intense Faith, bravery, and action.
For those reasons, I would like to propose Fr. Capodanno has an ideal intercessor for men suffering from same sex attraction. As I believe that Father is an exemplary model of manly virtue for all young boys and men who lack a male standard of Catholic sanctity, purity, and manliness. Father epitomized allegiance to his Church, its teachings, and a manifest desire to reach out towards those in need: even if it cost him his own life. We are currently all in a battle, call on Fr. Capodanno, and I am sure he will come to your aid.
Prayer to Obtain a Favor Though the Intercession of the Servant of God Father Vincent Capodanno:
Father in heaven,
you give us every blessing
and shower us with your grace
through our savior Jesus Christ,
and the working of the Holy Spirit.
If it be according to your will,
glorify your servant Vincent Capodanno
by granting the favor I now request
through his prayerful intercession:
(Mention your request.)
I make this prayer confidently
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.