The Little Flower and the Big Weed

In all the discussion of how terrible (or not) the execution of Saddam was, maybe we didn’t pray enough. Remember the story of Therese of Lisieux’s answer to prayer with the murderer Pranzini. If she was a human little flower he was a most noxious weed.

Here’s the story:

In the early summer of 1887 Pranzini, was convicted of the murder of two women and a child. He was sentenced to the guillotine. The convicted man, according to police reports, showed no inclination to repent. Therese immediately stormed heaven for Pranzini’s conversion. She prayed for weeks and had Mass offered for him. There was still no change in the attitude of the condemned man. The newspaper La Croix, in describing Pranzini’s execution, noted the man had refused to go to confession. Then on September 1, 1887, as the executioner was about to put his head onto the guillotine block, the unfortunate criminal seized the crucifix a priest offered him and, the newspaper noted, “kissed the Sacred Wounds three times.”

Prayer is the foundation for all God’s work in our lives. With prayer we can change the world. Without prayer we cannot even change ourselves.

I wonder what would have happened if, instead of getting all self righteous about how wicked Saddam was, we would have had the courage to pray our guts out for his repentance. What if we spent more time praying for conversions rather than griping and groaning about how terrible Islam is? What if we spent more time praying for our own continual conversion?

For that matter, what if we all just spent the same amount of time on our knees as most Muslims do?

Nuff preaching. Time for some 2007 resolutions.

Here’s An article I wrote some time ago. It discusses Therese of Lisieux’s method of evangelisation based on a life of prayer.

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  • As a convert myself, and a native Texan, I must admit to having been a rather strident advocate of the death penalty. I still struggle with that but it is something I am trying very hard to submit over. That said, I have found that God is changing my heart on this issue, at least somewhat. As this year has passed since my confirmation, my views on Saddam have mellowed radically and I found myself praying for him in the days before his death, asking God to have mercy on him. Genuinely wishing him no ill will, but instead feeling pity and sorrow for the state in which he goes to God.I don’t know how much good my prayers did for Mr. Hussein… but God has taught me a great deal in the process.

  • You can stick to preaching, as far as I’m concerned. Good one!

  • W.

    Recently found your site and am enjoying it immensely. Glad to have you as a priest in our Church.

  • Father,I ran across a comment on another site in which a person said that this is exactly why they oppose the death penalty, they don’t want the people who commit capital crimes to be brought to conversion and then sent to Jesus before them. While I am somewhat shocked and saddened by the attitude displayed, it did bring to mind something I had previously heard which was that it was Puritan types in England that lobbied for an expanded use of the death penalty exactly because it forced the criminal to face the hereafter immediately. Thus the possibility of conversion was viewed as in fact justifying the death penalty.Let me suggest a counterfactual: Pranzini is sentenced to life in prison; Therese of Lisieux doesn’t storm heaven with her prayers, exactly because she is not moved by the urgent need. Pranzini later dies unrepentant in a prison riot. My point being that while Therese’s prayers influenced Pranzini’s apparent conversion, was the death penalty the necessary link?I am not asking this as an advocate of the death penalty. I am at best ambivalent about the death penalty. While I have had no problem with the idea that death was an appropriate punishment for some crimes, I am immensely bothered by the racism imbued in how that penalty is applied in the US, as well as the awful finality in the punishment if ever misapplied to the wrong person.And now, while I have no doubt that Saddam got what he deserved, that small quite voice inside suggests that if we all got what we deserved, we’d all end up in hell.FWIW, I have more disquieting information on the Saddam execution here.