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Reflection and Prayer for an Execution

Note: This is the reflection the Congregation offered on Sunday, July 12, during a prayer vigil for three men scheduled to be executed at the Terre Haute Federal Prison on July 13, 15 and 17, 2020. It was adapted from “A Prayer Vigil for an Execution,” published by the Catholic Mobilizing Network.

Sister Paula Damiano speaks to media during a press conference prior to the initial execution date of Daniel Lewis Lee. Holding the Congregation’s Love Mercy Justice sign are Arthur Feinsod and Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp while Karen Burkhart stands behind.

Forgiveness is a vital part of our faith; it is something we are called to do every day and something we ask of and receive unconditionally from God.

Forgiveness played a central role in Jesus’ ministry, and it is central as well to our call to discipleship. For the forgiveness that Jesus offered on the cross was not only for the penitent thief or for those who crucified him. We, too, are recipients of that forgiveness received from the cross, and that forgiveness can be understood as profoundly unique.

Jesus asked our all-loving God to “forgive them, for they know now what they do.” So tonight, we ask ourselves, “What is it that we “know not what (we) do?” What act is so important to our human nature, so inescapable, that Jesus must take the time to intercede for us from the cross?

What if, rather than seen as a pardon for our many acts of violence or wrongdoings, Jesus was forgiving us for those times when we do not have the strength to be people of forgiveness? In this act from the cross, Jesus can be seen as forgiving beyond the human capacity. What if our Provident God, in that moment, provided forgiveness for the unforgivable?

Victims of grave harm need healing and mercy. We must not gloss over tragedy and loss, violence and harm. Mourning and lament are journeys that all who experience violence must walk. Yet in forgiving us – all of us – on the cross, Jesus created space for those who seem beyond the task of forgiving and of being forgiven. This act allows us to feel without blame the fullness of our human emotion.* From the cross, from the point of death, Jesus creates for us a space to both feel and forgive. May we not forget this gift. May we find the space and the strength to feel our gravest wounds and yet live with mercy towards all human life.

From Prayer Vigil for an Execution

Catholic Mobilizing Network.

*Sonia David MDiv, “Luke 23:33-34” Lecture.

The Paulist Center’s Seven Last Words Ecumenical Service.

Boston, MA, April 14, 2017.

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Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp

Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp has been a Sister of Providence since 1975. She currently serves on the Congregation leadership team. Previously she ministered as a teacher and administrator at the secondary and university levels.

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3 Comments

  1. JeanneKenny, S.P. on July 15, 2020 at 7:28 am

    Thank you, Jeanne.
    Your comment was so well said. Those people who choose not to forgive remain victims. Pay it forward with forgiveness as Jesus did. True forgiveness is a heart, soul, and a mindful choice.

  2. Jenny Nowalk, PA on July 15, 2020 at 9:19 am

    This beautiful reflection could serve us very well when we discuss Racism. What I find the most challenging thought regarding Racism…..and there are so many!…..is how does the Cross and Racism intersect? The book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree by. James Cone, took me even deeper into this journey. As the above reflection Jesus must take the time to intercede for us from the cross. The tree was used to lynch black men, women and children, as the instrument of death, of white supremacy, publicly viewed and celebrated, as was the crucifixion of Jesus. Then glorious in the mystery of Providence……this cross becomes our salvation…..OUR forgiveness…..I don’t think we will ever fully understand any of this……but we can begin to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying by not looking away…….Paradoxically and ironically as the reflection above states, the tree becomes “forgiveness for the unforgivable”. A mystery so profound, beautiful, strange, painful, yet life giving could only come from Providence.

  3. NANCY KREMER on July 16, 2020 at 12:36 am

    Love this reflection. It so captured in other words the Charism of the SPs.
    Thanks, Jeanne for reminding us of Our provident, living and forgiving God.

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