New Birth

 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you." - 1 Peter 1:3-4

Just a month ago I was able to travel to North and South Carolina to interview Bill Richardson and William Funchess.  Both were Korean War POWs.  Bill knew Fr. Kapaun from fighting in the same battalion, but was separated from him in the prison camp.  William did not fight with Fr. Kapaun, but met him in the prison camp and ended up sleeping next to him and caring for him the last few weeks of his life.  

Both had remarkable and gut-wrenching stories from their time in the camp.  After a couple of hours of discussing the brutalities of both the war and the prison camp, I was feeling bad for making them relive their sufferings.  I wanted to end with a positive note, so I asked them what it was like when they were finally freed.  Both had different but incredible answers.

Bill Richardson, who described himself to me as agnostic when it came to religion, said very clearly that the experience was like being born again.  I could tell that although he may not have realized it himself, he seemed to recognize that there was something spiritual about being given a new chance at life.  I was also able to meet his wife Claire, and you could tell that they had an amazing love and devotion to each other, as well as their kids, none of which they would have had if he had given up hope in the camp.

William Funchess didn't sum it up so succinctly, but he did tell a tear-jerker of a story.  Going through ROTC at Clemson, he married his wife Sybil before the war began.  I asked what she did during the three years while he was imprisoned, and he said that she taught school, saved up money, and alternated living with her parents and his parents.  When his plane arrived home in South Carolina after his captivity was over, she was waiting, wearing a red dress so that he could spot her.  Today Sybil is suffering from dementia and is living in an assisted living facility, but William goes to visit her everyday.  What love, faithfulness and devotion both of them showed!

It was inspiring to see these men and to hear their stories.  Oftentimes in the camp it didn't seem like there was reason to hope, but somehow they hung on.  Our faith is like that too: we often don't see the outcome, but we know for a fact that something good is in store for us, because Jesus rose from the dead.  This is what allowed Fr. Kapaun to tell his boys not to worry about him when the guards came to take him away.  He had a true and certain hope: an imperishable, undefiled and unfading inheritance in heaven.  May he teach us to have the same hope for our new life waiting for us in heaven!

PS Don't forget that the Church celebrates Easter as an Octave, meaning that every day through next Sunday is really Easter and a great opportunity to celebrate and give thanks to God!

Father Kapaun, Pray for Us!

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