As soon as one arrives in Staten Island from the Brooklyn side of the Bridge, one immediately finds oneself on Father Vincent Capodanno Boulevard.
Some of us never look up for whom some of these streets are named, but in the case of Father Capodanno, one would no doubt be edified and inspired.
Father Capodanno was born and raised in an Italian-American family on Staten Island, and he felt the call to become a priest and a missionary. He joined the Maryknoll Missionaries, and, after his ordination to the priesthood by Cardinal Francis Spellman, the Archbishop of New York, Father Capodanno went to Taiwan and Hong Kong to spread the Gospel message.
Later on, in 1965, Father Capodanno saw the need for priests to serve with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marines in the Vietnam War. During a battle called “Operation Swift,” U.S. Marine Lieutenant Father Vincent Capodan- no was severely injured — losing fingers on his right hand — by a mortar shell while offering medical care to wounded Marines.
His heroism led him to not leave the field of combat to tend to his own injuries until all of his Marine brothers were evacuated. While he was caring for the wounded Marines, Father Capodanno put his own body in front of an injured young man, and the priest died after being shot 26 times by an enemy machine gunner.
After his death, Father Capodanno was awarded several military honors, including the Medal Of Honor, and, perhaps most important, the Archdiocese of Military Services opened the cause of Father Capodanno’s heroic sanctity. In 2006, the Vatican named Father Vincent Capodanno a Servant of God, the first step towards becoming a canonized saint.
This past month, the Vatican’s Dicastery of the Causes of Saints suspended the canonization of Father Vincent Capodanno and asked the promoters of his cause for canonization to examine some more areas of his life and to answer some specific questions:
First, was his “meticulous appearance” — which was documented often — a form of vanity? No, he was a U.S. Military Officer, and that is how he was trained to appear.
Second, why hasn’t his own community, the Maryknoll Missionaries, promoted his cause? They are now, along with the Archdiocese of Military Service.
Third and finally, why don’t we have any knowledge of his heroic virtues except in the last moments of his life? One can’t come to a death like Father Capodanno unless one lived a life that led him to make his decision.
Was Father Capodanno a martyr? Did he die for the Christian faith? Or did he die because he was a soldier do- ing his duty? The answer is both.
Father Capodanno was able to see Christ in the Marines to whom he ministered, and that image and likeness recognition led to the offering of his very life for a fellow Marine.
Father Capodanno is a local hero. Although his cause for canonization is currently suspended, perhaps we should view this as a setback, not a failure.
To use a military concept, the battle is lost, but not the cause for sainthood.