A Native American by birth, he was born around harvest time on the plains of north central Kansas in Concordia, a township of roughly 6,200 hearty souls some 60 miles due north of Salina, Kansas on Route 81. September 26, 1944 was truly a harvest for his parents for they brought into the world a child who would grow to harvest countless souls for Jesus and love the Church as Our Lord did. Young Charles attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Grade School in Concordia and then, feeling the pull to be a diocesan priest, entered St. Francis Seminary Prep in Victoria, Kansas for the Diocese of Salina. There is a saying, "Go west, young man" and truly this was the direction he would take gradually throughout his life. Victoria is where the great Cathedral of the Plains is located and not far from where Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant (the 77th selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY). During his prep years young Charles studied the life of St. Francis and, as he tells it, "fell in love with the Franciscan lifestyle and vocation."
After graduating high school, he enrolled in St. Fidelis College, a Capuchin seminary in Herman, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh in the Pennsylvania or Saint Augustine Province of the Capuchin branch of the Franciscans. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy in 1967, he entered the Capuchin Novitiate of St. Conrad in Annapolis, Maryland where, upon completion, he took his first Perpetual Vows on July 14, 1968. From there it was on to Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. where he took studies in Psychology and then the Capuchin College in the nation's capital where he received his Masters in Religious Education in 1970.
For young Charles, now 26, the greatest moment of his life came on August 29, 1970 when he was ordained a Capuchin priest. After ordination, he once again headed west, this time the Bay Area and the University of San Francisco where yesterday's 18th selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. would return to teach Systematic and Spiritual Theology four years later. Father Chaput obtained his Masters in Theology in 1971 and was assigned Instructor of Theology and Spiritual Director at his alma mater St. Fidelis College Seminary in Pennsylvania until 1974 when he was elected Executive Secretary and Director of Communications for the Capuchin Province of St. Augustine headquartered in Pittsburgh.
In 1977 he was elected Vicar Provincial of the Capuchin Province of Mid-America which had just been formed. Prior to that the Mid-America area stretched from the Kansas-Colorado border to the East Coast, covering approximately 1,500 miles. On April 12, 1977 the Province of Pennsylvania was dissolved and renamed St. Augustine while the new one, headquartered in Hays, Kansas was called St. Conrad Province. So once again Father Chaput was headed west, serving the dual role as Vicar Provincial and Pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Thornton, Colorado, a suburb due north of Denver off I-25. Little did he realize he would once again return here twenty years later as the archdiocese's shepherd. He has fond memories of his first duty as a pastor there, "Holy Cross Parish is where I learned to be a pastor. Many of my favorite memories spring from that parish community and the very good people there."
In 1980 the Province's headquarters were moved to Kansas City and he was made Provincial Secretary and Treasurer of the St. Conrad Province and a year later Director of Postulants and Vocation Director for the Province. That same year he traveled to Rome where he was the official representative for the Province at the 4th Plenary Council of the North American Capuchin Conference in late February and early March 1981 and representative of the NACC to the Hispanic Friars Conference of North America from 1982 to 1985. In 1983 he was chosen Provincial Minister and Chief Executive Officer of the Capuchin Province with the headquarters being moved from Kansas City to St. Elizabeth Friary in downtown Denver. Once again he was being called back to Colorado. Here he remained for five years gaining a great perspective of the entire archdiocese and being reelected to a second three-year term as Provincial Minister on April 2, 1986.
But he would not finish out his second term for Pope John Paul II could see great potential in this young Capuchin. The Holy Father named him Bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota on April 11, 1988. He was chosen to succeed Bishop Harold J. Dimmerling who had died on December 13,1987. Bishop Chaput was consecrated to the episcopal ranks and installed as Rapid City's seventh shepherd on July 25, 1988. This see covers over 42,000 square miles comprising most of the western section of the sprawling area of South Dakota. He placed an emphasis on reaching out to all God's children, not just Catholics. But his main concern were his Catholic sheep and he realized the importance of Catholic education. "I am a strong supporter of Catholic schools - they are expensive, but they work." Even in a rural diocese. He was able to build a Catholic High School in Rapid City.
With his elevation to the episcopal ranks, he was introduced to another organization - the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and he threw himself into it with all the gusto and fervor he could. In 1988 he became a member of the Priestly Life and Ministry Committee and the Liturgy Committee for the NCCB as well as being a Board Member for the Denver Indian Health Board and National Tekakwitha Conference. From 1989 to 1995 he served on the Board of Trustees for the Rapid City Regional Hospital and Black Hills Rehabilitation Hospital while Co-chairing the National Conference for Interracial Justice from 1991 to 1992. In addition, he served as Episcopal Moderator for the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry and the NCCB Ad Hoc Committees on Native American Catholics, Permanent Diaconate, Shrines, and World Youth Day which, of course took place in Denver in August 1993. Once again the Mountains and the Pope beckoned and west he came. His nine years as Bishop of Rapid City and own Native American blood helped him deepen his roots of the Church among the various Native American tribes including the Lakota Tribe. He always stressed the common denominators in Native American spirituality as "a reverence for nature, an awareness of the presence of God, a deep sense of humility and the need for close communal bonds of love and relationship." The Bishop also added, "Their gifts are unique and beautiful, and the Church could not exist without them."
He was appointed to various boards over the years and Ad Hoc Committees including Pro-Life, Science and Human Values, Youth, and the Board of Directors for Mother Angelica's EWTN in 1995. Mother could see great things ahead from this young Native American Capuchin prelate and three years later the Holy Father confirmed it by surprising all the pundits and choosing Bishop Chaput to head the vast and influential Archdiocese of Denver. He had called Archbishop James Francis Stafford (the 27th selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY) to Rome in August 1997 to begin in November as the new President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. After Archbishop Stafford's masterful handling of World Youth Day, the Vicar of Christ realized he had an excellent man to head one of his special curial offices. The Holy Father also realized a darkhorse in his replacement and Archbishop Chaput has proved the Pope a wise, discerning Pontiff.
He was officially named Archbishop Stafford's replacement on February 18, 1988 though he had known since February 8th and kept it, as he calls it, a "Pontifical Secret" until the appointed day. He was returning back to Colorado - heading west again. Cardinal Stafford has great admiration for his successor, stating "I have known him since 1986." The head of the Laity further added, "I trust his judgment, value his counsel and know him as a son of St. Francis Assisi. Upon hearing of his appointment, I went immediately to pray in the room visited by St. Francis here in the Trastevere section of Rome. Bishop Chaput and I have prayed there together in the past. Like St. Francis, he has courage and clarity of purpose. He has a deep affection for people and loves our mountains and plains." He finished his praise with, "He will serve the people very well, building upon the past and bringing a whole new energy to the proclamation of the Gospel as we approach the new millennium of the Incarnation."
Archbishop Chaput was installed as Denver's seventh shepherd on April 11, 1988. His first announcement was that, "I don't have plans, except to do all I can to proclaim Christ Jesus to the people of northern Colorado."
That he has done and more. He has received a warm and rousing reception wherever he goes and his status in Denver also catapulted him into the national limelight with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops where he has become a reputable force for Orthodoxism and loyalty to all the Pope proclaims. He has been one of the leaders of the growing conservative movement within the body of bishops that has shown in recent years that the pendulum is swinging back from the liberal agenda of a few years ago. Archbishop Chaput is a major player in this, having served on various critical committees such as Pro-Life Activities and the Forum on the Principles of Translation. This week he is finishing up activities at the final NCCB conference of the millennium and the results of this final confab of American Bishops for the 20th century shows great hope for the future of the Church in America and Rome has to be encouraged.
In his own see, Archbishop Chaput has been a hands-on active shepherd to all his flock, getting involved in civic as well as spiritual aspects of the community. He writes a regular pastoral letter in the Denver Catholic Register and they can also be found on the Archdiocese's official website at www.archden.org He was a rock in healing hearts after the devastating catastrophe at Columbine High School in Littleton, offering a special Mass for the victims and taking part in various ecumenical services. He stays on top of everything coming out of Rome and, unlike some other bishops, he is quick to communicate the Holy Father's words and meaning to his people. He also doesn't shun the modern ways as he clarifies the Assisi mystique, "The great thing about Francis wasn't so much his poverty, but rather his desire to be a brother to everyone, and really, to be a brother to all creation. He wanted to be poor and prayerful so that he could be a brother to Jesus, and through Him, a brother to all men. Even in his love for nature he had a sense that he wasn't above it, but somehow related to it through love as a brother. So I hope to be a brother-bishop. I know that my role as bishop is to be a bishop, but that means exercising my ministry in fraternity."
That was one of the main things he emphasized to the clergy when he met with them after his appointment, and in that unarming manner won over the entire clerical community just as he has with the laity. He disarms all with his loving logic, "We are one; we just need to act like we're one. In doing so, we become one, by acting out who we are." Even those dissidents such as Call To Action and We Are Church are having a hard time making him a foe. When they make their demands he is gentle and logical saying, "I am open to dialogue. These are members of the Church who I love and I want to have a relationship with them. I will be their bishop. I am happy to be their bishop." But he clarified there is a place where compromise can go no further, "I can't give away what I can't give away. I believe our faith is a gift given to us by God and I cannot negotiate that. Some of the issues that 'We Are Church' is pushing in petitions are issues at the level of faith and morals - issues that cannot be changed by the Church."
In the Consistory of February 21, 1998 Archbishop Chaput's predecessor was received into the Sacred Conclave of Cardinals along with Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI who was the 22nd selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY. Cardinal Stafford's elevation to the cardinalate made him the first archbishop of Denver to ever achieve the ranks of the Sacred Conclave. Could Archbishop Chaput be next? Many speculate that his rapid rise from Rapid City to Denver, his youth, his unarming manner, his orthodox presence in the NCCB and many other attributes point to him being promoted to higher sees in the future. Several good bishops will soon be retiring including Cardinal John O'Connor in New York, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua in Philadelphia, Cardinal James Hickey in Washington, D.C. We wouldn't be surprised if the Holy Father pulls another surprise and appoints Archbishop Chaput to one of these sees which will pave the way for him eventually becoming a member of the College of Cardinals. We're sure His Excellency wouldn't mind going back to College! It might come as a surprise to many if that happens, but not to us or his former flock in Rapid City and his present flock in Denver. This is a man with special talents fashioned in the mold of St. Francis.
We're speaking of course of Jesus Christ, King of kings. He has remained the only constant among all royalty because, as He says in John 18: 36, "My kingdom is not of this world" as Pat Ludwa wrote about in Thursday's issue. From the gifts of the Three Kings at Bethlehem to the triumphant entry into Jerusalem to the mocking of Him as King of the Jews, Christ was always considered a King. And well He should for none of the earthly kings can provide a kingdom today. Only Our Lord has the words of eternal life, of an everlasting kingdom. No one else can even barely measure up. And yet, sadly, so many kings who overestimated their own worth and power are today reaping their just rewards in not recognizing the True King, going so far as to persecute His subjects. Woe be unto them!
That is why it's important, on the final Solemnity of Christ the King in this millennium on Sunday, to reconsecrate our unyielding loyalty and obedience to the only King Who can help us. Yet even with all this evidence, democracy has muscled in today and demoted and denigrated the concept of an eternal monarchy. His loyal subjects are subjected to ridicule and suppressed from expressing fidelity to Him in places like China, Africa and, yes, even in America where the King's rules are not allowed to be posted. We offer as exhibit "A" the recent court decisions that bar the Ten Commandments from being posted on outfield fences at high school baseball games, praying to their King at high school football games, or exhibiting the list of Commandments in schools because it might be too traumatic and offend someone! No wonder our public school system is in such disarray!
But our school system no longer is the chief educator. That has been usurped by the media, television, radio, and the movies. An example of this is the wrestling phenomena where there are no holds-barred when it comes to morality and violence and the mesmerizing lure of TV programs from lurid sit-coms to shock-talk shows. This is not lost on the movie magnates who concoct campaigns to suck suckers in. And we're all suckers in this respect for if we put down one dime toward these we've been had. We admit we're as guilty as the next person. We imagine there are numerous parents out there, like us, who are so frustrated with the pull of their children's peers and the overwhelming thrust to disobey authority and parents by what they see on film. Separating virtual from reality has become an invisible line. Kids today not only can't see the difference, but don't want to. There's an old song that goes, "How you going to keep them down on the farm, after they've seen Paree?" Let's face it, we've all spoiled our kids because we love them. We can plead ignorance before the King, but we'll still have to answer for going along with the flow without standing up and speaking out, without exercising more "tough love" when it was needed most...by saying "No" and "Enough!" more often.
We bring this up because millions of parents are being barraged by their own kids this week to take them to see "Pokemon: The First Movie" or buy the next card or give-away at Burger King or some other tie-in promotion. Figures don't lie and the Japanese creation has already raked in more than fifty million dollars nationwide in just one week for the movie! On the surface it would seem a harmless cartoon. After all, how many of us went bonkers over Davy Crockett, or the yo-yo craze, even hula-hoops, slinkies, any Disney movie, the Pac Man craze, Cabbage Patch dolls, the Power Rangers, beanie babies, Barney, the Teletubbies, and now Pokemon? The difference with the final entry into this maddening mix is the subliminal message being sent. This creation derives its name from "pocket monster" with the emphasis on monster; as in monster sales that foment greed among the youth who clamor for more, more, more. They have to collect them all. It is the mob-mentality and keeping-up-with-the-Jones wrapped together. They talk about alcohol or tobacco being addictive, but if you have boys between six and twelve, you'll truly see addiction! And it's all orchestrated by the promoters of this craze, the same organizers who, with a bit of research, reveal ulterior motives and methods. You see, they also own the majority of Dungeons & Dragons games and merchandize. We've already seen the new-age danger of the latter, leading even to death in some instances. On top of this, the characters possess magic powers that reak of new-ageism and the occult. The whole message is humanism and that through these "things" we can attain happiness and defeat evil. One wonders if Pokemon didn't have deep pockets for those ill-informed judges who ruled against the Ten Commandments for there are several of those God-given rules that would offend, and rightfully so, the promoters of Pokemon. One is "Thou shalt not have false gods before Me" and another is "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods." Check in on a covey of boys trading and conniving and you'll see what we mean. They can be just that - mean! A few years ago Pokemon had to be taken off the air in Japan for a few weeks because one episode was so mesmerizing that collectively kids not only were getting headaches from the pop wizardry of special effects conveyed through the tube, but acting more aggressive than ever. But this is exactly what the promoters of Pokemon want - wild crazed kids who will cajole and intimidate their parents into buying more, and more, and still more. There is no end in sight.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen spoke about greed in attaining happiness, writing "The secret of a happy life is the moderation of our pleasures in exchange for an increase of joy. But several contemporary practices make this difficult for us. One of these is the type of merchandizing which tries to increase our desires in order that we shall buy more goods. Allied with this is the 'spoiled child' psychology of modern man, which tells him that he is entitled to get anything he wants, that the world owes everyone the satisfaction of his whims." We know Archbishop Sheen was a visionary for Catholicism and modern society and perhaps he was given a glimpse of 1999 and this ridiculous phenomena that has consumed kids and haunted parents today. It's time to stand up, fellow parents, and say "No! No more!" Though we have relented more often than not, we've always told our sons that we will always strive to provide everything that they need, but not everything they want!
The problem with today's generation is that they "expect" things without the concept of earning them. Our modern technology that has made us soft and lazy lends to this malaise. Unless they still live on a farm or in the country, kids no longer see their parents working by the sweat of their brow. Everything is 'too convenient' today for all of us. Walking to the store is practically a thing of the past and if we don't find a parking place within 100 feet of the entrance to the store, we're upset and convey that attitude to others we come in contact with through our demeanor in the store. But how many, with little kids, have caved to their temper tantrums for fear of being further embarassed in the middle of the store? Don't all raise your hands at once!
We have become subjects to the new king - merchandizing and it overwhelms us. Two-thirds of America is in debt. They're in debt because of spending beyond their means. They're in debt because they didn't have their priorities in order; worried over their financial woes while continuing to spend. They have not realized that their King will take care of them as He said in Matthew 10: 30-31, "But as for you, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows." Finally Our Lord follows this with the charge to be loyal to their King, as He asserts in Matthew 11: 32-33: "Therefore, everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge him before My Father in Heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I in turn will disown him before My Father in Heaven." It's the only way to get out of debt. Hear ye! Hear ye! The King has spoken! All hear and heed the King!