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.
Not claiming to know everything but does it have to do with repentence?
Revelation 21:27 tells us that "nothing unclean shall enter" into Heaven. So there must be a point at which sins and impurities -- even the little silly ones like fussing at your kids or gossiping at work -- are cleansed so that we are fit to stand before God. For some, it's probably the work of a moment. For others, it will take more time.
And of course there's also 2nd Maccabees 12:43-45: "In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the dead to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin." (This clear reference to Purgatory was removed from the Bible by the Protestant Reformation, even though it was in the Scriptures used by Christ himself, the Septuagint.)
Paul wasn't talking about anything unclean going into Heaven.
and "2nd Maccabees" is pre Christ
Not to hijack the thread, but can you give us chapter and verse for 'sola scriptura'?
Why not? He says that every man's works will be made manifest at "the day" - i.e. the Judgment. A man's works may be destroyed, but the man himself saved, "yet as by fire." That's pretty plain speaking.
And its plain speaking, and guess what? They're still saved.
If you're in Purgatory, you're headed to Heaven, even if you have to suffer a period of purification. So the souls in Purgatory look forward with joyful hope.
The best explanation I've heard is by Scott Hahn, who used to be a Presbyterian. You've been invited to a wonderful party, you've accepted . . . but you've been cleaning the yard or the septic tank and you're a mess! Your host kindly gives you a place to bathe and shave and put on your wedding garments before you come to the party.
Or, as C.S. Lewis said:
I believe in purgatory.... Our souls demand purgatory, don't they? Would it not beak the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleansed first.' 'It may hurt, you know.' 'Even so, sir.'
That's not what I get out of the passage at all. If you're saved, you're in heaven period.
Well, that's your personal interpretation. I prefer the more traditional interpretation, myself, backed by a couple of thousand years of teaching. There wasn't any substantial disagreement about the doctrine of Purgatory until after the Reformation.
Either you're saved or you aren't.
"I prefer the more traditional interpretation, myself, backed by a couple of thousand years of teaching."
I prefer reading the Word of God and listening to Holy Spirit myself.
You know, the leaders of the Episcopal Church are currently insisting that THEY are listening to the Holy Spirit and reading the Word of God correctly . . . and if personal interpretation is the benchmark, who is to say them nay?
2 Peter 1:20
BTW, I'm not the only one in the thread that believes what I've posted.
"You know, the leaders of the Episcopal Church are currently insisting that THEY are listening to the Holy Spirit and reading the Word of God correctly ..."
And that makes them different from any other organized religion how?
But, after all, it's "their personal interpretation of Scripture" . . . and without the guidelines established by 2,000 years of church teaching and tradition (including that period when the Bible was not yet compiled -- and St. Paul mentions word of mouth teaching as well as his epistles), how can one gainsay their interpretation?
But we are also warned that false prophets will arise. How O how to tell the difference?
I always get sobered up when Mt 18 comes up as the Gospel reading:
32 His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
33 Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?'
34 Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.
35 24 So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."
And there's also the king's banquet where he ends up sending out his servants to bring in anyone off the streets because the invited guests declined. And one guy walks in not dressed appropriately and gets the boot.
If the wedding banquet is an image of heaven, maybe purgatory is like the dressing room where you get spruced up before meeting everyone.
I guess you can believe that I'm a false prophet.
BTW, the article says nothing about purgatory.
" ... and without the guidelines established by 2,000 years of church teaching and tradition ..."
Man, man, man. Where is God?
As for the article, why should it mention Purgatory if it didn't happen to come up? Or what if it did, and the reporter left it out because it would create controversy? I maintain skepticism towards all news accounts from whatever source, because every single time I've had anything to do with a story that hit the news, the media got most of the facts wrong.
So it's not "man, man, man" but God acting through man -- as He has from all ages. (After all, if the Holy Spirit is speaking through the prophets, there's man again. And God Himself became a man . . . there's man again. You just can't get away from it.
"As for the article, why should it mention Purgatory if it didn't happen to come up?"
Then why give a scripture which you believes supports it when it doesn't?
Exactly, see post 28.
I was responding to SuzyQuzy's post re Purgatory, and a question in response to that post. Not the article.
"God gave the Keys to Peter and promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church that he put into Peter's care."
I disagree. I believe that scripture says that Peter was the first to confess that JC was God. It wasn't Peter who was the foundation of the Church but Jesus.
Are you saying you disagree with that poster?
No, I agree with SuzyQuzy.
"Simple parallel reading shows that Christ was referring to Peter, not to Himself."
"It was not Peter, the man, who would be the foundation, for, as we have said, petra is feminine, and must refer to a feminine noun expressed or implied. That noun could hardly be any other than homologia, which means a confession; and it was Peter's confession that was the subject of the Father's revelation and the Son's confirmation."
Quoted from The Companion Bible.
There are several early scholars who agree with this, they being: the origen's Commentary AD 186-253, which is older than any extant Greek manuscript. Also Augustine in A.D. 378 and Jerome in A.D. 305.