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Catholic Review of: The Grunt Padre

Item Details

Author:  Fr. Daniel Mode

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This item received 4 stars overall. (06/14/2009)

Orthodoxy: Completely orthodox.
Reading Level: Easy

 Tiber RiverBy Tiber River (CO) - See all my reviews


A beautiful and moving story about a holy priest.

Evaluator Comments

In A Nutshell

The Grunt Padre chronicles the sacrificial life and heroic death of Fr. Vincent Capodanno, a Maryknoll missionary who served the United States Marine Corps in Vietnam. The story of Fr. Capodanno is the story of a hero and a saint. Capodanno served his marines with more than a Sunday sermon and administration of the sacraments. With an unwavering dedication, he lived among them and suffered alongside them, taking on their hardships as his own, and serving them in every way his means afforded him. In this way, Capodanno modeled the life of Christ for the marines and won the friendship of all, regardless of rank or creed. The marines loved Capodanno and affectionately called him their "Padre." On September 4, 1967, Capodanno gave his life attempting to rescue a wounded corpsman. He died as he had lived, in prayer to God and in selfless service to his fellow man. We owe many thanks to Fr. Daniel L. Mode for preserving the inspiring story of Fr. Vincent Capodanno.


Based on nearly one hundred interviews, the personal correspondence of Capodanno himself, and extensive research conducted over a period of several years, Fr. Daniel L. Mode recounts the life and death of Fr. Vincent Capodanno. Mode, with keen spiritual insight and careful documentation, produces a clear image of the interior and exterior life of the Maryknoll priest, beginning with his ancestral roots in Italy and ending with his heroic death in Vietnam.

Among the historical details in The Grunt Padre, Mode writes about the founding of the Maryknoll order of missionaries to which Capodanno belonged. He includes the stories of some of the heroes and martyrs that the order has produced over the years and that were held up before Capodanno as role models.

In conjunction with the events that surround Capodanno's life and death, Mode draws a continuing parallel to the stages of spiritual development as described in Radiating Christ: An Appeal to Militant Catholics by the French Jesuit, Raoul Plus, himself a military chaplain. This particular book was given to Capodanno as an ordination gift and seems to reveal many of his motives and inspirations.

The Grunt Padre closes with an account of the numerous memorials and honors that Capodanno received posthumously. In the last chapters are also found the beginnings of an account of how the life of this one man has moved and encouraged so many others.


The Grunt Padre is not only a good story, it is also well told. Mode writes with a reverence for his subject that knows when to provide commentary, and when to let the facts speak for themselves. Also, this book is thoroughly researched, well documented, and complete with photographs.

The Grunt Padre was originally a master's thesis by the same title.

Evaluator Comments

The Grunt Padre is a beautiful and moving story. It is a treasure for the Church, a tribute to the Maryknoll order and to the United States Navy Chaplain Corps, and a fantastic read for everyone regardless of creed. I highly recommend this book.

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