The best gifts often come in a humble box.
At Pilsen’s St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church a locked, wooden coffer dedicated to Father Emil Kapaun holds the prayer requests of petitioners — many of whom are hoping for a miracle.
Their faith has been the ultimate Christmas present in a season of COVID-19 fears that have spurred a spike in petitions, volunteer Harriet Bina said.
“The prayers they are putting in there are so beautiful and heartfelt,” she said. “They are waiting for that box to be opened and their prayers to be answered.”
In just one day, Bina slipped 17 requests in the chest. It was nearly filled by the end of the week.
In 1951, Kapaun, an army chaplain, died in a prisoner-of-war camp in Korea. His heroic efforts to save fellow soldiers inspired many and led some to claim they were healed after someone prayed for his intercession on their behalf.
The Vatican has designated Kapaun a servant of God, the first step toward beatification. His case was set for an important vote March 10 before COVID-19 shut down the Vatican. The Congregation of Saints is still reviewing documents about his life.
Bina fields a steady stream of calls and texts from petitioners seeking the Pilsen-raised priest’s intercession. Others are placed in the box by visitors to the museum and from prayer groups.
Emails from all over the globe have hit Kapaun Guild coordinator Scott Carter’s inbox even as Kapaun’s case has progressed.
“We have had a prayer request from Czechoslovakia, a prayer request from India, and a request from a lady who said she was a princess from Africa,” said Bina.
Parishioners of the historic Pilsen church pray for everyone seeking Kapaun’s aid during Mass.
Bina is stunned by the pain in many requests for prayers.
Many pleas are for healing from COVID-19, but also from cancer and chronic illnesses suffered by their loved ones and children.
Quite a few are praying chronically ill loved ones will survive the worst of COVID-19 so they can gather their families for a proper funeral.
A woman stricken with brain cancer recently asked for someone to pray for her to live long enough to find a guardian for her children.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “It almost overwhelms me how much pain and suffering is going on.”
Praying for those who have reached out for support and strength, and maybe a miracle puts the holidays in perspective, Bina said.
“These people simply want their child to live, or their husband or wife,” she said. “Money can’t buy these things.”