Saints in Wartime:

Fr. Emil Kapaun and Jeheanne, the Maid

By David P. Rundle


War, we know, can make heroes but can it make saints? Christ answered that in John 15:13 when he said "Greater love has no man than to give his life for his friends." That happens very often in every war and makes the man who dies for his comrades a hero. But if a warrior not only sacrifices himself so his fellow soldiers can live but also affirms that Christ is Lord, he is indeed a saint. So as ironic as it is, sinful, sickening wars can produce heroes who are also saints.

On May 30, 1431, the English burned Jehanne 'The Maid' in Rouen, Normandy, France.

On May 23, 1951, Father Emil Kapaun died in a North Korean POW camp.

The people of France, especially those who live in Orleans, the city she helped free, have always called her a hero.

On Thursday, April 11, 2013 President Oboma, is scheduled to give the "Congressional Medal of Honor," (our nationís highest military award) to Father Kapaun posthumously , in the name of the people of the United States.

(The timing is almost eerie, because as I write this, the North Koreans are once again loudly beating their war drums. I am sure that the North Korean government will not be pleased with this gesture!)

The cause for Fr. Kapaunís sainthood is still before the Vatican. We can only hope and pray that one day, GOD will guide the prelates of the Catholic Church to call him saint, so that, we will have a military figure to be our SAINT AND HERO TOO.

The similarities donít end there. The Maid grew up in a small village, Domremy, in Lorraine, France. Fr. Kapaun hailed from Pilsen, a small farming community in south central Kansas, northeast of Wichita.

Both grew up amidst livestock and crops. Both were also known for their faith in God and in their Church and their willingness to serve others. Yet, although both felt called by God as teens, Fr. Kapaunís call was not out of the ordinary, while the Maid's call was extraordinary and is still being debated today.

As far as we know, Father Kapaun did not have any mystical experiences as The Maid did. Yet he listened to that small still voice of God, which caused him to want to become a priest.

He went through seminary, received Holy Orders, and became a parish priest just before Pearl Harbor thrust America into World War 2. Father Kapaun responded by immediately joining the US Army as a Catholic Chaplain, where he served in Burma. After the war ended, he returned to serve the farming families of Kansas as their parish priest.

But in the late 1940's his heart led him to rejoin the US Army.

At first, the Army sent him to Japan but when the Korean War broke out, he was transferred to the battlefield where he spiritually strengthened his brothers in arms.

Unfortunately for them all, the Chinese captured their entire unit. The camp they ended up in, was to put it mildly, a disgusting and dreadful place. The GIs suffered starvation and disease. Despite the great physical risk to his person, Father Kapaun willingly stole food and medical supplies for his buddies. When the Chinese sought to indoctrinate their captives, Father Kapaun told his comrades to resist the communists efforts by not listening to their lies.

Eventually, Father Kapaun grew very ill. The GIs in the camp tried to hide this fact from their captors but to no avail. He was taken to what the Chinese called a 'hospital' but the Americans more accurately called it 'the death house,' never to be seen again.

Recently, several Catholics have received cures from God, through his intercession. The Vatican is investigating his cause for sainthood. Thus to receive the Medal of Honor as well as to be named a saint would be to, say the least, unique!

Yet in his life, there was nothing mystical about Kapaun. He had no visions, performed no miracles, he uttered no prophecies. He was just a Kansas farm boy who became a priest who helped his comrades and was killed for doing so. He was heroic yet humble, never claiming to have knowledge others did not. Had he not been captured, he would have died unknown by most.

Now, as remarkable as these facts are, what amazes me ever more is THE SOURCE of these historical facts, the left leaning paper, 'The Wichita Eagle.'

Beginning in 2009, one of its best writers, Roy Wenzel and journalist, Travis Heying, have written many articles about Fr. Kapaun. They even made a documentary about him as well as writing a book about this amazing priest.

The publicationís own 'opinion pages' have not publicly said: 'The Eagle' wants Kapaun canonized'; but nevertheless, those running it have done everything possible to promote his fame, by utilizing their paper, website and other media outlets.

I find it extraordinary, that a non-religious publication would unquestionably promote the cause of Father Kapaun for sainthood.

(A Catholic high school that bears his name was built with funds raised by survivors of the POW camp; it is located in Wichita.)

Several videos and articles about Father Kapaun are found on the following website:

Also there are a number of videos on Search for Fr. Kapaun

Catholic News Agency article about Fr. Kapaun: Heroic Korean War priest remembered by prison-mate

And the website devoted to his canonization is

Articles about Father Kapaun receiving the Medal of Honor: Fox News: Chaplain gets Medal of Honor 62 years after death



"Father Emil Kapaun gave glory to GOD by following His call to the priesthood and thus serving the people of Kansas and those in the military. Father Kapaun, I ask your intercession not only for these needs which I mention now ----but that I too may follow your example of service to God and my neighbor. For the gift of courage in battle and perseverance of Faith. We give You thanks, O Lord.

(in addition please recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be) "The Father Kapaun Guild"


The Maidís life is legendary and controversial. To her believers, she was inspired by saints and angels or unknown forces not of this world. To her critics, she was deluded, mad woman. There can be no doubt, however, that from late April, 1429, to mid-July of that year, she had great success on the battlefield and changed the course of the Hundred Yearsí War, paving the way for the victory of the French over the English. That part of her story is fascinating. But here is not to place to retell it.

It is my purpose to discuss her experience as a prisoner of the English and her trial by clerics for heresy, witchcraft, idolatry and other crimes. As a prisoner of humble origins, she has much in common with Emil Kapaun. She died, like him, as a captive but unlike him, her death was quite public. But I am anticipating too much.

Let me begin with her capture.

After spending most of the winter of 1429-30 with the French court, Joan struck out on her own as a commander of a small band of warriors in April. Around that time, she later claimed her saints, Margaret, Catherine and Michael, told her she would be captured by June 24 (St. John the Baptistís Nativity). Nonetheless, she arrived at Compiegne, a besieged town loyal to King Charles, on May 19, 1430. Four days later, she led a sortie out of the townís walls around 5 PM. The Burgundians, allies of the English, overpowered her party which quickly retreated across the drawbridge. But the bridge was raised before the Maid could cross it and she became a prisoner.

For several months, she lived with the Count of Luxemburg, a vassal of the Duke of Burgundy. She lived among his female relatives and the group grew fond of her. However, the Count was trying to ransom her. The French King made him no offer so he negotiated solely with Duke of Bedford, leader of the English in France. By fall, a deal was reached and the Maid was transferred to the English. In November, she jumped from a high tower in an escape attempt, even though her saints denied their permission. This should have killed her, but not one of her bones was broken! She was just knocked her out. The next month, she was moved to Rouen in Normandy. Here, she went before a church court. Her conduct during the trial matched if not exceeded her battlefield exploits.

Bishop Pierre Cauchon conducted the trial because the Maid was captured in his diocese. He promised Bedford "a beautiful trial" but the Maid wouldnít cooperate. Cauchon began the preliminary proceedings in public on February 1, 1431. The Maid was so good at countering the courtís attempts to trap her into admitting she wasnít a good Catholic that Cauchon stopped the public sessions. After March 1, the court met in the Maidís cell.

Eventually, Cauchon drew up an indictment of seventy articles, which eventually got whittled down to twelve. The trial took many more twists and turns before the Maid heard a public sermon and abjured the voices and agreed to stop wearing menís clothes. However, she thought she would be taken to a church and be guarded by women. Instead, she was taken back to her cell where she was guarded by English soldiers. The Maid felt betrayed.

Likewise Bedford also felt betrayed because he wanted her dead. So the guards took away her dress and made her put on her menís clothes. This caused another 'short' trial to take place. At this proceeding, Maid said she was wrong to deny her voices. The Court Clerk noted in his notes, "fatal answer." And it was for this she was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431.

She was posthumously rehabilitated by another church court in 1456.

In 1920, The Maid became an official Catholic saint!

In Summary

Kapaunís career in the U.S. Army raised no eyebrows. He did not stand out until his capture. He claimed no special mission from God or any mystical experiences. He was a chaplain, one of many in the armed forces. He was content to minister to GIs, both Catholics and non-Catholics. An ordinary priest he was. Yet, certain aspects of being a priestócelibacy comes to mindóare unique but - Kapaun himself was not 'unique' until events he could not help shape, made him so.

The Maid always has and always will stand apart. As Mary Gordon has said, "there is no one like her." At seventeen, this illiterate peasant girl convinced the future King Charles VII to dispatch her to Orleans where she helped lift the siege of that city. For two months after, the Maid had spectacular success on the battlefield even though she had no military training before April, 1429, and the little she received before Orleans did not include tactics or strategy. At her trial, she displayed wisdom, wit and grit. How do we account for this?

Men and women, historians and novelists, prelates and pedants have debated that question for six centuries now. At present, I will not. For now, I want to say that, unlike Kapaun, the Maid shaped events. No, thatís only partially what I believe. Through her, God shaped events.

God unites the Maid and Kapaun. Kapaun may not have understood her Mysticism but he surely understood her faith in the Triune God of her Church because her faith was his. Kapaun, like the Maid, surrendered his life and his will to God's will!

I imagine if they met where we could listen, they would have much to talk about. They might begin with discussing camp life. They might share funny stories about bad food, quirky comrades and being unwashed for weeks. Then they might move on to the horrors of combat and captivity. Inevitably, their faith in and their gratitude to God would come up.

Gratitude to God? How could they have gratitude towards God when they lost their lives serving HIM?

Christ predicted many would die physically for His name so they knew the potential price they would pay should they answer His call. Yet they also knew His promised eternal life. So believing in His promise, they gave their lives for the glory of His name.

That faith led them to sacrifice their lives for others just as Christ gave His LIFE for us. They became Christ, united in His passion in the firm belief they would also share His reward. It is that faith that unites Kapaun and the Maid.

IT IS THAT SAME FAITH that calls us to follow them, even to the point of having to lay down our lives for others, in the sure hope of being forever united WITH CHRIST!

This may sound very unappealing. We may think pursuing our own selfish wills and desires is a better way to happiness. This notion is foolish. Even thought I have been a Catholic my entire life, it is only after turning fifty that I began to turn my life completely over to Christ. I havenít totally done so but with each day, I try to. I pray and I ask these two GREAT SAINTS to pray for me.

I believe that if you will follow their lead, youíll be happier as well.

But our own happiness and comfort is not with what I will finish this. I want to put Kapaun and the Maid into the context of contemporary events and views.

First, let me discuss the Maid and sexual purity. The Maid did not chase boys or feel incomplete without a lover. On the contrary, she was a virgin for Christ. Today, it seems to me, being a virgin past eighteen has become the unpardonable secular sin of our age. Yet, as a virgin myself, one who has finally embraced my lot completely, I can honestly say I am more at peace and closer to God than I have been since entering puberty. The Maid has both taught me how to fight for justice without maliceóthough I sometimes forget thisóand how to cherish my vocation. For the latter, I am especially grateful.

As parents, godparents and others of the faith in a position to influence Catholic youth, we need to promote devotion to the Maid. This is a challenge. This is a hard task. WHY? Because our culture especially entertainment media mocks virgins and chastity.

However, virginity produces no fatherless babies, spreads no illness and causes no economic burdens. We need to point this out. We need to make sexual purity valued again.

Father Emil Kapaun died in the Korean War. Communists killed him. Communists still rule North Korea and they are making threats and behaving provocatively as I write on April 5, 2013.

Yet our country, especially the far left, needs to be shown how evil communism is in a very concrete way. I donít want another war, but communism is evil and we need to stand up to it.

Father Kapaun did this, without his firing a single shot and because of him, many lives were saved.

We must once more stand up against the real threat of sexual license, Communism, Islam and all the other destructive systems that want to rob our children of THEIR GOD GIVEN freedom and dignity! Not only for us, but for our children and their children's children!

And WITH THE HELP OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST and these two beloved saints;