Please note: St. Anthony Catholic Church is the only church celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass (EFLR) in the Wichita area. Though this blog is loosely centered around this parish and it's members, Venite Missa Est! is by no means, in any way an official voice of, or for, St. Anthony Parish or the Diocese of Wichita. Venite Missa Est! is strictly a private layman's endeavor.
On Easter morning, March 25, 1951, the Catholic priest mounted the steps of a partially destroyed church, and turned to face his congregation, some 60 men–gaunt, foul-smelling, in tattered clothing. Fr. Emil Kapaun raised a small, homemade, wooden cross to begin a prayer service, led the men in the Rosary, heard the confessions of the Catholics, and performed a Baptism. Then, he wept because there was no bread or wine to consecrate so that the men could receive the Eucharist. The U.S. Army chaplain, with a patch covering his injured eye and supported by a crudely-made cane, may have been broken in body, but was strong in spirit.
The following Sunday, Father Kapaun collapsed. His condition was serious–a blood clot, severe vein inflammation, malnutrition–but the Chinese guards in the North Korean prison camp would allow no medical treatment, not even painkillers. After languishing for several weeks, he died on May 23 and was buried in a mass grave.
Emil Kapaun was born on April 16, 1916 to a poor, but faith-filled farm family on the prairies of eastern Kansas. Life was hard and even children had to learn to be resourceful as mechanics and carpenters and to care for the animals during bitter winters and brutally hot summers. With a strong desire to become a priest, he attended Benedictine Conception Abbey to complete high school and college, continued his studies at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, and was ordained in 1940.
When the United States entered World War II, he asked to become a military chaplain. His bishop initially refused, but later relented. Father Kapaun enlisted in 1944 in the Army, served for two years in Burma and India, then returned to civilian life. Two years later, he reenlisted and was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in Japan.
In June 1950, a North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel, and advanced quickly toward Seoul, South Korea. The U.S. intervened militarily, with the 1st Cavalry Division executing an amphibious landing to block the advancing army. The enemy onslaught was severe and the U.S. units soon were in retreat. Fighting was intense. Father Kapaun, with his soldier-parishioners in danger, was tireless. He moved among the GIs, ignoring enemy fire, comforting the wounded, administering the last rites, burying the dead, and offering Mass whenever and wherever he could. On one occasion, he went in front of the U.S. lines, in spite of intense fire, to rescue a wounded soldier.
By August, the U.S. troops had been pushed to the southern end of Korea, near the port of Pusan. Then, on September 15, 1950, the war took a radical turn when U.S. troops landed at Inchon behind the invading army. The North Korean forces fled northward, with the Americans in pursuit. Within a few weeks, the 1st Cavalry Division had crossed the 38th parallel. Unknown to them, China, which had secretly moved a huge army into North Korea, was about to enter the war.
Fearless in Danger
The night of November 1 was quiet. Father Kapaun's battalion, having suffered some 400 casualties among its roster of 700 soldiers, was placed in a reserve position. Chinese troops, however, had infiltrated to within a short distance of them. Suddenly, just before midnight, there was a cacophony of bugles, horns and whistles, as the enemy attacked from all sides.
Fr. Emil Kapaun scrambled among foxholes, sharing a prayer with one soldier, saying a comforting word to another. He assembled many wounded in an abandoned log dugout. All the next day, he scanned the battlefield and, some 15 times, when he spotted a wounded soldier would crawl out and drag the man back to the battalion's position. By day's end, the defensive perimeter was drawn so tightly that the log hut and the wounded it contained were outside of it. As evening came and another attack was imminent, the chaplain left the main force for the shelter so that he could be with the wounded. It was soon overrun, and Father Kapaun pleaded for the safety of the injured. Approximately three-quarters of the men in the battalion had been killed or captured.
Hundreds of U.S. prisoners were marched northward over snow-covered crests. Whenever the column paused, Father Kapaun hurried up and down the line, encouraging the men to pray, exhorting them not to give up. When a man had to be carried or be left to die, Father Kapaun, although suffering from frostbite himself, set the example by helping to carry a makeshift stretcher. Finally, they reached their destination, a frigid, mountainous area near the Chinese border. The poorly dressed prisoners were given so little to eat that they were starving to death.
For the men to survive they would have to steal food from their captors. So, praying to Saint Dismas, the "Good Thief," Father Kapaun would sneak out of his hut in the middle of the night, often coming back with a sack of grain, potatoes or corn. He volunteered for details to gather wood because the route passed the compound where the enlisted men were kept, and he could encourage them with a prayer, and sometimes slip out of line to visit the sick and wounded. He also undertook tasks that repulsed others, such as cleaning latrines and washing the soiled clothing of men with dysentery.
Father Kapaun's faith never wavered. While he was willing to forgive the failings of prisoners toward their captors, he allowed no leeway in regard to the doctrines of the Church. He continually reminded prisoners to pray, assuring them that in spite of their difficulties, Our Lord would take care of them. As a result of his example, some 15 of his fellow prisoners converted to the Catholic Faith.
Fr. Emil Kapaun's practice of sharing his meager rations with others who were weaker, lowered his resistance to disease, and eventually led to his death. For his heroic behavior, he received many posthumous honors, including the Distinguished Service Cross and Legion of Merit, had buildings, chapels, a high school, and several Knights of Columbus councils named in his honor, and is currently being considered for the Medal of Honor. In 1993, the Pope declared Father Kapaun a "Servant of God," and his cause for canonization is pending.
About the Author: Lawrence P. Grayson is a Visiting Scholar in the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America; he also serves as State Director for Pro-Life Activities, Knights of Columbus, Maryland.
Catholic Military Chaplains: America's Forgotten Heroes
Fr. Joseph O'Callahan: The Bravest Man
For Further Reading:
The Story of Chaplain Kapaun, Fr. Arthur Tonne , Didde Publishers, Emporia KS, 1954.
A Shepherd in Combat Boots, William L. Maher, Burd Street Press, Shippensburg, PA, 1997.
A Saint Among Us, The Father Kapaun Guild, Hillsboro Free Press, Hillsboro, KS, 2006.
The use of altar-cloths goes back to the early centuries of the Church. St. Optatus of Mileve says that in the fourth century every Christian knew that during the celebration of the Mysteries the altar is covered with a cloth (bk. VI). Later it became a law, which, according to Gavantus, was promulgated by Boniface III in the seventh century.
The custom of using three altar-cloths began probably in the ninth century, but at present it is of strict obligation for the licit celebration of Mass (Rubr. Gen. Miss., tit. xx: De Defectibus, tit. x, 1). The reason of this prescription of the Church is that if the Precious Blood should by accident be spilt it might be absorbed by the altar-cloths before it reached the altar-stone. All authors hold it to be a grievous offence to celebrate without an altar-cloth, except in case of grave necessity, e.g. of according to the faithful the opportunity of assisting at Sunday Mass, or of giving Viaticum to a dying person. To celebrate without necessity on two altar-cloths, or on one folded in such manner that it covers the altar twice, would probably constitute a venial sin (St. Lig., bk. VI, n. 375) since the rubric is prescriptive.
Formally the altar-cloths were made of gold and silver cloth inlaid with precious stones silk, and other material, but at present they must be made of either linen or hemp. No other material may be used, even if it be equivalent to, or better than, linen or hemp for cleanliness, whiteness, or firmness (Cong. Sac. Rit., 15 May, 1819). The two lower cloths must cover the whole surface of the table (mensa) of the altar, in length and width (Caerem. Episc., I, xii, II) whether it be a portable or a consecrated fixed altar (Ephem. Lit., 1893, VII, 234). It is not necessary that there be two distinct pieces.
One piece folded in such manner as to cover the altar twice from the epistle to the gospel end will answer (Rubr. Miss., tit. XX). The top altar-cloth must be single and extend regularly to the predella on both sides (ibid.). If the table of the altar rests on columns, or if the altar is made after the fashion of a tomb or sepulchre, and is not ornamented with an antipendium, the top cloth need only cover the table without extending over the edge at the sides (Ephem. Lit., 1893, VII, 234). The edges at the front and two ends may be ornamented with a border of linen or hempen lace in which figures of the cross, ostensorium, chalice. and host, and the like may appear (Cong. Sac. Rit ., December, 1868), and a piece of coloured material may be placed under the border to set forth these figures. This is deduced from a decree (Cong. Sac. Rit., 12 July, 1892) which allows such material to be placed under the lace of the alb's cuff. This border must not rest on the table of the altar.
Sometimes, instead of attaching this border to the upper cloth, a piece of lace is fastened to the front edge of the altar. Although this is not prescribed, yet it is not contrary to the rubrics. Great care should be taken that these cloths be scrupulously clean. There should be on hand at least a duplicate of the two lower cloths. The top piece should be changed more frequently according to the solemnity of the feast, and therefore several covers, more or less fine in texture, should be constantly kept ready for this purpose. When, during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, candles are placed on the table of the altar, another clean white cloth should be placed over the altar-cloths to prevent their being stained or soiled (De Herdt, I, n. 179). We may note here that thecorporal and the cere-cloth cannot take the place of the altar-cloths.
The three altar-cloths must be blessed by the bishop or someone who has the faculty before they can be used for the celebration of Mass. In the United States the faculty is granted by the ordinary to priests in general (Facultates, Form. I, n. 13). The formula or this blessing is found in the "Rituale Romanum", tit viii, cap. xxi, and in the "Missale Romanum" among the "Benedictiones Diversae". Symbolically the altar-cloths signify the members of Christ, that is, God's faithful, by whom the Lord is encompassed (Pontificale Rom., De ordinat. subdiaconi); or the linens in which the body of Christ was wrapped, when it was laid in thesepulchre; or the purity and the devotion of the faithful: "For the fine linen are the justifications of saints" (Revelation 19:8).
Besides the three altar-cloths there is another linen cloth, waxed on one side, which is called the chrismale (cere-cloth), and with which the table of the consecrated altar (even if part of it be made of bricks or other material, and does not form a part of the consecrated altar) should be completely covered (Caerem. Episc., De altaris consecratione). It must be of the exact size of the table of the altar, and it is placed under the linen cloths, the waxed side being turned towards the table. Its purpose is not only to prevent the altar-cloths from being stained by the oil used at the consecration, but also to keep the cloths dry. Hence it is advisable to have such a wax cloth on all altars in churches which may be, accessible to dampness.
According to the rubrics, this cloth is removed once a year, that is, during the stripping of the altars on Maundy Thursday; but it may be changed as often as the altar is washed. The cere-cloth is not blessed. It cannot take the place of one of the three rubrical linen cloths. To procure cere-cloths, melt the remnants of wax candles in a small vessel. When the wax is in a boiling condition, skim off the impurities that remain from the soiled stumps of candles. Dip into this wax the linen intended for the cere-cloth, and when well saturated hang it on a clothes-line, allowing the surplus wax to drop off. When the wax cloth has hardened place it between two unwaxed sheets of linen of like dimensions. Iron thoroughly with a well heated flat iron, thus securing three wax cloths. The table on which the cloths are ironed should be covered with an old cloth or thick paper to receive the superfluous wax when melted by the iron. It should be remembered that unwashed linen when dipped in wax shrinks considerably, hence before the cloths are waxed they should be much larger than the size of the altar for which they are intended.