Inspired to sanctity by a real-life battlefield hero

Our cover story this week tells the story of heroism of Father Vincent Capodanno, the Vietnam War chaplain known affectionately as the "Grunt Padre" because of his dedication to the welfare of the Marines he served with, up to and including his death on a battlefield by using his body to shield a downed soldier from automatic weapons fire (see story, Page 4).

The story is gripping and relevant for many reasons.

First, in this Year for Priests, it is important to remind ourselves of the true heroism --not always sung as widely as Father Capodanno's -- of many priests in the care of their flocks, whether on an overseas battlefield, in an inner-city parish or in far-flung rural territories. And he can serve as an inspiring example of priestly self-sacrifice for all priests, wherever the Lord calls them to serve.

Second, it reminds us of the important ongoing work of military chaplains in spiritually supporting the millions of Catholic American servicemen and women around the world, especially in war zones.

You may be surprised to learn there are only 285 active-duty Catholic chaplains serving the needs of 1.4 million Catholic servicemen and women and their families from each of the five branches of service around the world.

Our Sunday Visitor is trying to help their cause through our long-standing program of providing military chaplains free subscriptions to this newsweekly. Reading OSV is a good way for Catholics in whatever walk of life, but especially those uprooted from their normal routines and families, to remain rooted in their faith, stay on top of important Catholic news and draw nourishment for the ongoing faith formation that all of us are called to pursue.

(If you know a Catholic in the military without access to OSV, have them get their chaplain -- Catholic or not -- to contact us for free subscriptions at 800-348-2440 ext. 2576 or

Third, Father Capodanno's life and death reminds us that heroic holiness is not something that only was practiced in the early Church. The courage and depth of self-sacrifice that makes that sort of sanctity possible is available to all of us.

Father Capodanno's cause for sainthood is still in the information-gathering stage, but even so he remains an inspiration and a role model -- whatever battlefield we are called to, as his cause's prayer card says.

Last, he serves as a reminder to us to keep our military personnel in our prayers. Many of them are willingly risking their lives for our protection and often for the noblest of causes -- peace, security and authentic development for all peoples. At a bare minimum, they deserve our prayers.

I look forward to hearing from you at