Wednesday, February 14, 2018

(132) Capt. Guy Gruters: Highlights of the 2017 Steubenville Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal


The 2017 Steubenville Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal at St. Stephen’s Church in Caldwell, Ohio on March 18 opened with a formal Holy Hour with Benediction.   The Penance Service followed the first talk.

Capt. Guy Gruters’ two talks to 258 men went over very well as reflected by the long standing ovation he received and their written evaluations at the end of the day.  Some of the men shared the day with their sons.

Bishop Jeffrey Monforton presided at the Mass.  In his homily he asserted that the “Prodigal Son” is often called the greatest short story ever.  He notes that the father deals with compassion towards both of his sons since he loved them equally.  In allowing the younger son to leave with the inheritance, the father took the risk that he may never see his son again, but he had to let go.  When the prodigal son returned to a party of happy welcome despite the protest of the older son, he showed mercy and compassion to both of them.  God the Father is similar.  We also must be men of faith and mercy.  The Bishop remembered the patron of our Conference and urged the men; “Go to Joseph”.

Capt. Guy Gruters
Capt. Guy Gruters, the featured speaker of the day, related how faith, trust in God, and prayer got him through the ordeal of over five years in POW camps in North Vietnam, including the notorious “Hanoi Hilton”.  In retrospect, he looks upon the POW experience as the greatest thing that ever happened to him.  As a Forward Air Controller (FAC), he directed air strikes, acquired intelligence through reconnaissance for the airborne infantry, and helped with search and rescue.  His chaplain was a combat man, which was great for morale.  Gruters went to daily Mass on base and received general absolution daily.

   He was inspired by George Washington, who read the Bible for an hour at 4 am and again in the evening.  General Dwight Eisenhower memorized both the old and new testaments.

    Gruters was shot down twice.  There were no lights on the ground.  The best chance of being rescued was within a few hours of being shot down.  Capt. Gruters was rescued the first time, but the second time he was captured.  It was rough riding in a 2 ½ ton truck on torn up roads.  If captured, the American soldiers were instructed to reveal only their name, rank, serial number, and date of birth, nothing more even if tortured.
The Hardships.  The men received daily doses and more of torture to force them to cooperate with communist propaganda with signed statements or videotaped “testimonies” for the world.  A kick in the groin was common.  The guards were diabolically ingenious at making up different kinds of tortures such as the “hot box”, where the soldier was enclosed in a box under the hot sun. The food was stale, moldy, and wormy. There was no water with which to wash.  Thus the odds were against making it through all that.  Of 3500 POWs, only 472 made it back…….one in seven.  The rest died due to the conditions and simply giving up by not eating anything.

Solitude was another hardship, but Gruters took advantage of it.  Since there were no distractions, one could think and meditate, watch the spiders and the rats.  Watching nature will bring you to God.  Silence can be a virtue.

A building in one of the POW camps in North Vietnam.  Capt. Gruters 
was shifted from camp to camp, including the notorious “Hanoi Hilton”.

 Temptations in the camp.  Common was bitterness and hating the captors.  Suicidal thoughts entered the mind of Capt. Gruters, but he remembered what the nuns taught him many years before.  They drilled into the minds of the kids that suicide is wrong and a sin.  Guy Gruters realized that he began to hate and be bitter, both of which destroy the person.  Thus he prayed for six months for the grace to forgive.   He soon realized that God is love and hate is from the devil.  Guy prayed all 15 decades of the rosary daily and it kept him busy.

The men in his camp did their best not to complain because griping takes the heart out of their buddy, who then gives up and dies.  Much better is a laugh and a smile to raise the spirits.
Teamwork. To survive and to resist the enemy as instructed, the men had to work together as a team.  Gruterse tried to feed weak comrades.  He pulled out a vomited two foot long parasite from one of the men.  Usually the men were isolated from one another, but they developed a code for communicating with each other.  They did this by tapping upon the wall to the guy next door.  They even developed a prayer service on Sundays.  Through their communication system, the men could agree on answering all the questions of their captors in the same way.
When things got tough, one would have to turn to God for strength and perseverance.  Guy Gruters drew upon his Catholic upbringing.  His faith told him that God was in control, no matter what.  He realized that the Catholic Church is right whether one believes in it or not.  He said the rosary everyday.  He prayed all the time.  That brought him close to God.  He examined his conscience every week and made a confession to Him.  When in the hot box, Gruters went on his knees and thanked God for everything.
Capt. Gruters believes that it was God who got him through all of that.  During the last 3 ½ years of his ordeal Guy Gruters says that he received the greatest peace and joy of his life.  He trusted in the Lord, followed His will, and returned home with honor. The prayers of his wife and family together with their heroic love for each other had a lot to do with it.  God will also get you through rough times as well if you go on your knees and pray and trust in Him, especially during this Lenten season.  

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