August 16, 2006

The experience of the priest who ministered to Timothy McVeigh on death row

[Excerpt from an August 15, 2006, Catholic News Service article.]

When he ministered to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, Divine Word Father Charles Smith found that his faith, instilled in him by loving parents despite the childhood pain of discrimination, enabled him to be Christ's representative even as the inmate verbally assaulted him. "When I first came in (to see him) I thought 'God is the owner of my life,' and I went to him and he threw his feces on me and called me all types of names and said, 'You can't be a priest because I've never seen a you-know-what as a priest,'" Father Smith said Aug. 5. "The devil was messin' with me." He made the comments in a workshop he led during the 2006 Interregional African-American Catholic Evangelization Conference, which was held Aug. 4-6 in Atlanta. Other priests and Southern Baptist ministers had previously worked— unsuccessfully— with the man found guilty of bombing the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 and murdering the 168 people who died from the blast. But Father Smith persevered in his ministry to McVeigh and the convicted murderer, who was a baptized Catholic, began to repent. "He did a lot of things, but in the end we had confession, reconciliation. In the end he asked me a question a lot of people ask me. He asked, 'Father Charles, can I still get to heaven?'"

The priest said he responded, "I am not your judge," but reminded McVeigh that he had told him, "You must submit your will and ask God for true forgiveness.... You knew there were a lot of innocent people and children in that building."

McVeigh asked Father Smith to walk with him to his June 11, 2001, execution. "And the tears came running down. He was crying, I was crying because he did something that changed my life, too.

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Catholic News Service has the complete article online.
Click HERE for it.


Anonymous Zarba said...

Words fail me.

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God is good....all the time.

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Clare said...

What a wonderful priest is Fr Smith, how we need more like him. An edifying story, thank you!

3:09 PM  

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