WASHINGTON, D.C.— Slain Vietnam War hero and Servant of God Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM, CHC, LT, USN (1929-1967), gave witness to what Christ taught: that “the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies teaches us to die to ourselves and helps us to understand the very mystery of death,” which is “the only threshold that opens into eternal life. It is a necessary passage.” That message was delivered on the evening of Tuesday, September 6, 2022, by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA.
Archbishop Broglio preached the homily at the live televised annual Memorial Mass for Father Capodanno of Staten Island, NY, a Maryknoll Catholic priest, U.S. Navy chaplain, and posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor, in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Approximately 350 participated, including members of Father Capodanno’s family, some with whom he served, and dozens of Midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy. Among those in the Congregation were Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Chaplain Carey Hall Cash, RADM, USN, Chaplain of the Marine Corps; and Col. James P. McDonough, USMC, Commandant of Midshipmen.
The Mass is celebrated annually around the anniversary of Father Capodanno’s death—this year marks the 55th—from multiple gunshots on a Vietnam battlefield. Father Capodanno died at the age of 38 on Sept. 4, 1967, as he scrambled to aid outnumbered U.S. Marines under ambush in Vietnam’s Quế Sơn Valley while they carried out “Operation Swift” against the North Vietnamese Army. The Holy See’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints is in the process of considering Father Capodanno’s Cause for Canonization.
In a recent holdup, an advisory commission of theological consultants to the dicastery recommended suspension of the cause pending further investigation. Archbishop Broglio pointed out the panel “only makes a recommendation” to the dicastery, and said the postulator has already presented a supplement of information to respond to the concerns raised by the theologians. In opening remarks at the Memorial Mass, His Excellency noted: “We might have hoped to gather this evening with thoughts of an up-coming beatification ceremony, but that is not yet the case. We are, however, a people of hope and we believe that the Lord is in charge and whatever He has in store for us is better than we could plan or imagine.”
In his homily, Archbishop Broglio preached in part:
“Christ is the seed fallen into our dry earth. ‘No life is possible without fruit, and no fruit is possible without the death of the seed.’ His death to self leads to the glorification and the manifestation of His love for us. That is not a message particularly attractive to our society. We want our gratification now. We are not patient and we find looking ahead to eternal life very difficult.
“Here we treat the very mystery of the mission of Jesus Christ and thus our salvation. ‘The vitality of the buried seed is prodigious,’ wrote an Italian Abbess. ‘The law of the seed is to die so as to multiply: there is no other meaning and no other function other than to offer service to [everlasting] life. The same is true for the self-emptying of Christ: the origin of life buried in the earth. For Jesus, to love is to serve and service is disappearing in the life of others, to die so as to give life.’
“Father Capodanno obviously understood that truth. He knew the risks when he in ‘persona Christi’ brought the anointing of the sick, heard confessions, and offered that profound consolation to men facing death. How many of them chose to be there? Were they drafted? His was ministry to men in need, anxious, and uncertain about what the future held. He chose to be there! Only a man who firmly believed in eternal life could face a hail of bullets unarmed with no other purpose than to serve. Only a man profoundly committed to a life for others would have been there.
“For this reason we honor his memory, but more importantly we want to make his unique contribution of giving his life for others known. The long process involved with his Cause for Canonization adds nothing to his reward, but it is useful for others. It is a vivid testimony to the truth about eternal life. It shows us what it means to give life. It was the response of a faithful missionary disciple who put himself where others needed him—regardless of the cost.”
Go here to read the full text of Archbishop Broglio’s homily.
Dozens of Catholic U.S. Military chaplains and AMS priests concelebrated the Mass, including Auxiliary Bishops F. Richard Spencer and Joseph L. Coffey; Monsignor Jeffrey G. Laible, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia; Father Mark Rutherford, J.C.L., Judicial Vicar; Father Robert R. Cannon, J.C.L., Chancellor; Father S. Matthew Gray, Director of Vocations; Father Curtiss P. Dwyer, CHC, LCDR, USN, Catholic chaplain at the U.S. Naval Academy; and Msgr. Frank Pugliese, Episcopal Delegate for the Cause. The Rev. Mr. Charles Wilton and Deacon Tim Wolfkill served as deacons of the Mass.
After Mass, Gen. Milley shook hands and chatted with Archbishop Broglio. Commenting on the significance of the Mass, Gen. Milley said, “I think it’s really important to hold up examples of great human beings and selfless servants of the Nation and selfless servants of God and I think Father Capodanno is one of those. So it was my privilege and honor to be here and pay my respects to his heroism and service.”
The Father Capodanno Guild has been established by Archbishop Broglio to promote awareness of the Servant of God and to raise funds in support of his Cause. The Catholic Church requires at least one miracle attributed to a sainthood candidate in order for the candidate to be beatified. So far the Discastery for the Causes of Saints has documented at least one possible miracle in the case of Father Capodanno. Anyone with information on Father Capodanno, including accounts of favors received through intercessory prayer, is asked to contact the Guild at capodannoguild.org or Ms. Mary Preece at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations for the Cause are gratefully accepted at https://donate.capodannoguild.org/page/83748/donate/1.