As I’m writing this the State of Oklahoma could be executing Julius Young.
Tonight I went to my first ever execution vigil. No, it wasn’t down at the state capital. It was in our little Daily Mass Chapel at my parish. The prayer vigil was scheduled to begin at 5:30 which would bring things to a conclusion at 6 p.m. – just around when the execution was supposed to take place.
Everyone took turns reading from Scripture: the story of Cain and Abel, an eye for an eye, how many times must I forgive my brother? The lone candle in the center of the room was extinguished; there was one less light of Christ in the world. We concluded by singing “Amazing Grace”. Although we were a small group, one man had the most incredible voice. His could have been the voice we silenced, I mused.
Afterwards our little group lingered ... as if we didn’t want to leave the comfort of each other’s companionship. We all complimented the man with the incredible voice. Another man spoke up about his experience as the spiritual director for someone on Death Row. He and his wife had literally lived there for the last few months of a man’s life. We listened and learned about that person’s final few minutes on this earth; he was praying.
As I left the chapel I recalled a gift I’d received earlier in the day from my Confirmation saint, St. Thérèse. It’s been awhile since I’ve asked her for a rose but I needed one today and she gave me one, a very special and beautiful rose. I wasn’t expecting two.
Our book club is currently reading her autobiography, The Story of a Soul. In Chapter 5 of Story, Thérèse relates an incident about an impenitent murderer who she prayed for, begging God’s mercy in response to Jesus’ cry from the Cross, “I thirst” for souls. In response, the man gave a sign at the last moment which allowed her to know he had repented his sins. This increased Thérèse’s desire to bring more souls to her Jesus.
I saw her hand in my being at the prayer vigil. Please St. Thérèse, continue to rain your shower of roses down on us. And beg God’s mercy on us all! We are so much in need of it.