Heroic Catholic Chaplains

‘Heroic Catholic Chaplains’ by Thomas J. Craughwell

Tan Books USA (Published in 2018) - 195 pages - MRP: ₹1,872 - ISBN: 978-1-5051-0965-8 - Available on Amazon, Tan Books, and at Pauline Book and Media Centre Mumbai.

We have acquainted with priests at different stages of our lives. They have assisted the community in different ways i.e. administering sacraments, blessing of our homes, healing of the sick members of the community, guiding the seminarians and also in building the youth community all over. BUT, have you ever met a priest who has spent most of his ministry work on a battle field i.e. in the midst of war, in a place ravaged by war and in action during terrorist attacks? If you haven’t, then read this book which presents a different kind of priestly ministry, which is equivalent to being a soldier of the cause. However, instead of being armed with a gun or any deadly weapon, these extraordinary priests are only armed with divine sacraments, and hey . . . don’t you think those are better weapons against people in war than guns, AK47 rifles, mustard gas, poison gas, mines, et al?

Welcome to the real world of Thomas J. Craughwell’s amazing book Heroic Catholic Chaplains which narrates the story of American priests and other religious, who as he says “dodged bullets while saving souls.” These are real stories of priests armed, not with weapons, but with only the sacraments they can administer to dying soldiers on the battle field and to the gravely wounded from both camps. All they can do is give a general absolution to a whole battalion of soldiers going into the war zone who are most likely to be killed. In Heroic Catholic Chaplains, you will learn about priests who drag the wounded soldiers to safety from the line of fire, priests being dismembered by shrapnel but yet listening to a dying soldier’s last confession, celebration of mass on hoods of army jeeps, celebration of Easter mass in death camps and lastly about daring priests parachuting from air force planes along with the soldiers into Vietnam, Iraq, North Korea, with only the crucifix as their shield to administer the sacraments and anoint those who are about to fight an even more death-defying battle. This book also highlights the praiseworthy deeds of religious sisters who dedicate years of disciplined service to nurse the wounded in army makeshift hospitals.

The amazing aspect of this book is that the priests and nuns voluntarily choose to minister to men and women in battle. This is a different side of a Catholic priestly life which has been caricatured in a brilliant manner by Craughwell.

The wars and battles covered in this book goes as follows: The American War of Independence, The American Civil War, World War I and II, The Vietnam War, The North Korean War, The War in Iraq, and much more, though the focus is more on the ministry provided by US Catholic Chaplains.

The book is a quick read, inspirational and fast paced. It keeps you on the edge of the seat and can make you emotional at times looking at the dedication of these brave hearts with Host and Chalice. The author Craughwell adroitly brings to life the stories of these heroic priests. I was especially moved by the words of one of the heroic priests, Fr. Kapaun. He was ministering in Korean War and was in a death march. He was told, “Don’t ask God for your daily bread, ask Mao Tse-Tung. He’s the one who supplies your daily bread.” To which, Fr. Kapaun replied: “If this is an example of God’s daily bread, then God must be a terrible baker.”

I highly recommend this book as it is penned so beautifully by Thomas J. Craughwell. This book is an inspirational book for everyone right from a priest who wants to serve Jesus and the sacraments in the line of fire to lay people who want to be inspired and motivated to serve the community as a whole. All history lovers out there, Heroic Catholic Chaplains should definitely be on your reading list. And lastly, if you really want to know what makes a priest voluntarily decide from childhood to serve his ministry in the army then please read this book and pray very specially for these priests.

God bless our priests in the line of fire! Happy reading and do support this little book!

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Fiza Pathan is an accomplished author of twelve award-winning books and has won a number of international awards. She lives with her maternal family in Bandra and blogs on insaneowl.com. She reviews and researches books for The Examiner.