The USCCB just voted, minutes ago as I write this, to advance the cause for canonization of Leonard LaRue.
He has one of the most amazing stories you've probably never heard.
LaRue was the captain of a ship during the Korean war, the SS Meredith Victory. In late December, the city of Hungnam was to serve as an evacuation point for the troops fighting for South Korea. Some 100,000. Tens of thousands of civilians turned up hoping to be evacuated as well.
Captain LaRue, in what I can only describe as both an act of heroism, and sheer faith in Divine Providence, unloaded practically *all* his weapons and supplies from the ship in order to make as much space as possible for the Korean refugees. They were in the middle of a war zone, and just scuttled their means of defense.
I wonder what went through the heads of the 47 crew members as they did this? And what must have been their thoughts as they considered the available space on their ship? They all would have known precisely how many passengers the ship was designed for: 12. A dozen souls. That was what the ship's designers had intended, anyway.
I'm not sure who named the ship SS Meredith Victory. I don't know if they knew the name "Meredith" is a traditional Welsh name that used to be given, normally, to boys. They may not have not known the name translates as "Mighty Lord."
"For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace."
The ship's name then is "The Mighty Lord's Victory." The Prince of Peace, Our Mighty Lord, was born over 1900 years earlier. In a stable of course because there was no room in the inn.
Capt. LaRue, of course, knew the Christmas story well. He was a man of deep faith. So, on this Christmas, 1950, Capt. LaRue responded to those in need, "we do have room." That is how, on a ship designed for 12 passengers, Capt. LaRue found room for 14,000.
14,000 souls. They would need to travel nearly some 500 miles to safety without supplies, weapons, and barely any food or water. But this was meant to be the victory of the Mighty Lord. Against all odds, on December 26th, the ship arrived in port, safely, without a single injury or casualty. All 14,000 souls, safe and accounted for. Or rather, make that 14,0005. Five babies were born during the trip. It was Christmas.
The journey became known as "The Ship of Miracles." It is the largest humanitarian operation by a single ship in the history of the world. The United States government declared it "the greatest rescue in the history of mankind."
Capt. LaRue would later say "I think often of that voyage. I think of how such a small vessel was able to hold so many persons and surmount endless perils without harm to a soul. And, as I think, the clear, unmistakable message comes to me that on that Christmastide, in the bleak and bitter waters off the shores of Korea, God's own hand was at the helm of my ship."
Capt. LaRue is to this day beloved by the Korean people. There are an estimated 1 million descendants from the Ship of Miracles. One of those descendants is Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea; his parents were passengers.
Captain LaRue stayed in command of the Meredith Victory until 1952. In 1954, Captain LaRue, or, should we say Brother Marinus, became a Benedictine monk of St. Paul's Abbey in NJ. He would spend his life as a humble monk, until his death, almost 50 years later in 2001.
Today, if you go to St. Paul's Abbey, where Brother Marinus lived for so many decades, don't be surprised if you hear Korean being spoken. You see, many of the monks there are of Korean descent. In fact, it is actually run by the monks from Waegwan Abbey. Waegwan Abbey, Seoul, South Korea.
The Christmas story is often thought of as an event that once happened long ago, but which we do not participate as players. But I think the Christmas story goes on. Many times in our lives we will have the opportunity to see the Christ Child looking for shelter. One Christmas, in 1950, one man saw the Christ Child and said to Him, "we have room."