Two weeks ago, on September 29, 2021, I had the absolute privilege to attend the funeral Mass of Servant of God, Fr. Emil Kapaun, a priest from our Wichita diocese.
(For those of you that do not know Fr. Kapaun, you need to.
Fr. Kapaun’s Story from Kapaun Mt. Carmel’s Catholic High School Site.
Fr. Kapaun’s Story from Catholic Diocese of Wichita website.)
I actually didn’t think about attending until a good friend of mine more or less told me I was going. I love friends like that.
Being at that funeral Mass was something that I will never ever forget.
It was actually more of an experience than anything else. And I found that I actually couldn’t speak about it for a couple of days. Every time I tried, I just cried. It was big and beautiful and transformative.
Many people have written about Fr. Kapaun and that is as it should be. But I thought I would add my perspective: I am a mom of eight in the Wichita diocese. I love my life. I love my people. And I want them to live with heroic virtue. Without even thinking, I more or less equate heroic virtue with The Avengers.
And I guess what struck me the most about Fr. Kapaun’s story is that he was raised in Pilsen, Kansas. His family were Bohemian settlers.
I know all about that. My ancestors were Czechoslovakian settlers. Hard-working, God-fearing people.
Emil Kapaun was one of us! Isn’t that almost MORE inspiring than if he had been born with a ton of special gifts? I mean, what this priest did was simply live out his vocation. Now, of course, his circumstances as a chaplain in a concentration camp were not normal. Yet. He did not do big things. Not really. He did many, many little things with great love, courage and devotion. And that is what I find most inspiring about the life of Fr. Kapaun. He laughed with his men and spent time tending to them. He lifted their spirits. He gave them hope. And coffee.
The Funeral Mass was absolutely gorgeous. As the days have gone by, these are the things I am still thinking about:
The recessional procession was gorgeous, as the Honor Guard carefully carried Fr. Kapaun, followed by the clergy, while the faithful sang with one voice: America the Beautiful. I was with my family, surrounded by good friends and total strangers, all singing our hearts out.
It’s a moment that is still changing me.
And friends, this is what I have been thinking about the most: Father Emil Kapaun lived in a concentration camp. Yet he was free.
He was surrounded by death. Yet he spoke life.
And friends, that is our call, too. Our world is in turmoil right now. There is division. Strive. Anxiety. Stress.
May we learn from Fr. Kapaun, a Kansas farm boy. The world doesn’t need a superhero. It just needs you, living with your eyes on Christ, giving hope to those around you.
You, yes you, are known and seen. And needed.
P.S. If you are a mother in the Wichita area and if you like to think deeply about topics that matter, then come, come: MOTHER RETREAT
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