Skip to comments.Priest who ministered to McVeigh speaks of God's transforming grace
Posted on 08/26/2006 4:47:43 PM PDT by COBOL2Java
ATLANTA (CNS) -- 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.
"As a man it's hard to ask but for him to ask for God's love and God's grace, that did something to me," he recalled, reflecting on how God's grace can transform even the worst evil.
As he walked with McVeigh, Father Smith remembered how, when he was a child, a porter in an Illinois train told his light-skinned parents that he couldn't serve their "wicked children," who had darker skin, and how Mississippi restaurants refused to serve them.
"I remember my mom and dad say, 'Just be patient. God is going to make a way. God is going to change you. God is going to rise, and you're going to be raised up. Your life will be redeemed and your people (will be).' ... I remembered all of that, being with Timothy McVeigh."
Father Smith and his brother, Divine Word Father Chester Smith, were the first black Catholic twins to be ordained priests. Both priests are in residence at St. Rita's Parish in Indianapolis.
In his workshop presentation, Father Charles Smith encouraged people to speak the truth in love and humility, never pressuring anyone to join the church and avoiding a superior attitude to anyone.
"I know if God can call two little black boys from the South Side of Chicago to live 16-17 years in an international religious order, to go around the world and to come back home to be with his people to teach and to preach and be free in the Spirit, I have nothing to fear," he said. "I'm not worried about what any man says. And my eyes are on the sparrow. God is with me, and I know God is with you and we shall be free forevermore."
He encouraged his audience to be bold but gentle as they speak up for what they believe is right, even if it's controversial. But "don't be afraid to use prophetic dialogue ... in teaching us how to live, ... in ministry, catechism, Bible study. Use what is there to speak the truth."
He prescribed for them "old-school spirituality" of morning, noon and evening private prayer, recalling how, when he was told as a youth that he couldn't learn and shouldn't go to college, his grandmother would say, "Child, you just pray and God will make a way." He went on to graduate from college as valedictorian.
"You are a child of God. If you give your all to God he'll give his all to you so we've got to be people of prayer," he said. "Pray for God's perfect timing in your life. He's going to give you the revelation that you need."
Thought the folks on your ping lists might be interested in this story...
Gods Grace and Will is a thing unstoppable. I pray that McVeigh is changed, and though it is totally distasteful to my mortal, sinful self, I pray God takes him home. If there is hope for Timothy there is hope for us all.
(If you would like to be on/off my Catholic Ring List, please send a Freepmail.)
There was another thread on this story in recent days. Some of the posts made to the thread cast some doubt on the veracity of this account.
Thanks for the ping.
Well, one thing though -- McVeigh did have contacts with Islamofascists. At least to the extent that his co-conspirator Nichols had contacts in the Philippines. Even Richard Clarke suggested that Nichols got instructions in bomb making in the Philippines.
Obviously you are not a Catholic. Catholic teaching is that if you confess your sins, even MORTAL ones, like killing, and you are TRULY sorry, you will go to heaven AFTER you atone for your sins in purgatory. That's what Jesus came to earth for...to DIE to redeem US!! It's the miracle of all miracles...there IS HOPE and their is LIFE after death if we are truly sorry for our sins!!!
Thanks for your insight. My "Ring" was merely a reflex to a Catholic related topic, not an endorsement of it's content, etc.
What about repentance?
I probably should replied directly to the first post. I didn't mean to imply your endorsement.
No Problem. It was a pleasure to hear from you.
Awesome story, already posted last week but worth reposting.
From one Ramsey Yousef (WTC '93 bomber with the blind sheik, Rachman). Who had an Iraqi passport, and trained (among other places), at Salman Pak.
Sorry to get off topic.
Could you give me the chapter and verse in the Bible that indicates the '...AFTER you atone for you sins in purgatory' part of your earlier post? Thanks.
"If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
And where in this passage do you see a reference to purgatory?
But in that scripture isn't man still saved?
And not only that, the fire referred to in the 1 Corinthians passage has nothing to do with hell.