What would you call a man who picked lice from his fellow prisoners of war? A man who would wash their filthy clothes, tend to their frostbitten limbs, steal food for their starving bodies, and dig their graves in frozen ground. He was a man of hope, faith and endless charity. Their Chinese captors called Father Emil Kapaun trouble, but his men called him a saint.
Undoubtedly, Father Kapaun’s heroic actions in the Korean War were saintlike. Will the Catholic Church canonize this former Kansas farm boy from the tiny town of Pilsen to Sainthood? As Joe Drape explains in The Saint Makers, the road to Catholic Sainthood is long – an average of 181 years! The effort also requires money, dedicated advocates, knowledge of canonical law, reams of evidence and a miracle or two doesn’t hurt. (I jest. Two miracles are required.)
Saint-making is a byzantine business yet Drape, the author of the popular Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen, admirably makes the process accessible to the lay reader. His appreciation for both Father Kapaun and those who have dedicated themselves to Father Kapaun’s bid for sainthood is sincere. Perhaps the most touching part of The Saint Makers is how the story of Father Kapaun expanded and deepened Draper’s own faith.