Have You Heard the One about the Comedian and the Priest?

In a wonderful way, it isn't a joke. I know many of you saw the words that comedian, Patton Oswalt, posted on Facebook after the Boston Marathon bombing (and before any information on suspects had been released). For those who didn't have that opportunity, the normally very funny man, wrote a very poignant piece on facing the evil and darkness that the act represented. I'll share just a few of the thoughts he wrote:

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity." But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem -- one human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths. But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet...every once in a while, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness...But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evildoers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation...So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."

I must admit that I was completely taken aback by the depth of beauty and thoughtfulness Mr. Oswalt's post revealed. I love his comedy (check out his tweets for Downton Abbey, or his "Parks & Recreation" improv on YouTube). But I had not expected such inspiring words from the same person.

And it reminded me of the purpose I intended for this blog - to share "glimpses of God's beauty and grace in a messy world." Mr. Oswalt did that for me, and many others, at a bleak time. Further, as my last blog was a bit outside my stated purview, Mr. Oswalt prompted my to get back to my preference. Specifically, his thought that there are many in this world who fight against evil and attempt to bring light into darkness brought to mind the story of a person who was recently awarded the Medal of Honor for actions he took in the Korean War. Ironically, the Medal honored only the smaller portion of the good he did during that conflict.

Just two weeks ago, on April 11, 2013, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to the relatives of the Rev. Emil Kapaun. In a quirky move, since the Medal is awarded only for bravery "in combat," Rev. Kapaun officially received the honor for actions he took at the Battle of Unsan, on Nov. 1 and 2, 1950. As quoted from an article written by Stan Finger of the Wichita Eagle:

[Kapaun's] 8th Cavalry regiment was overrun by Chinese forces. He helped aid those wounded in battle with no regard for his safety. Witnesses said Kapaun ran 200 to 300 yards outside a shrinking defensive perimeter to rescue wounded U.S. soldiers despite enemy fire.

Such action is worthy of recognition and honor, certainly; yet, it was his actions after the battle that are truly remarkable. As Finger points out, "[Rev. Kapaun] also stayed behind and let himself be captured by the Chinese forces so he could care for wounded U.S. soldiers" (the italics are my addition). One of those who was interred in the same prison camp through the winter of 1950-1951,Mike Dowd, 85, witnessed Rev. Kapaun's truly heroic work:

He's personally responsible for saving hundreds of lives, and probably contributed to saving thousands of lives that winter.

Having interviewed many of those present at the ceremony who had served with Rev. Kapaun in either combat or in the prison camp, the reporter, Stan Finger, relays that, "...the only things keeping them alive were handfuls of birdseed or stolen food, and the spiritual and emotional nourishment offered by the priest from Kansas." Specifically, Finger writes:

After his capture at Unsan, Kapaun kept rescuing soldiers on the march to prison, persuading able-bodied soldiers to help carry wounded comrades. In prison, he...picked lice off the sick, washed the clothes of the wounded soldiers and with others stole bags of food while other POWs deliberately started fights to distract the guards.

The Rev. Kapaun himself died in captivity.

In addition to wanting to share an inspiring story illustrating the truth that Patton Oswalt was affirming in the aftermath of the horrible events in Boston, I have tried as well to emphasize the fact the Rev. Emil Kapaun was, specifically, a Roman Catholic priest. Part of what Mr. Oswalt was after in his post, was putting the bombing into the context of a much larger story and proclaiming the truth that there is far more to this world than the horror we witness. As rightful as it has been to condemn the horrific crimes perpetrated by Catholic priests through the years, and clergy in general, the truth is that there are far more who are doing good than bad. Therefore, rather than "giving up on humanity" entirely, or clergy specifically, I hope all of us might be able to confront the horrific acts of human beings - whether Muslim, Catholic or Presbyterian! - and know, the good outnumbers the bad, and will win in the end.