Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Jonathan Wayne Nobles

     The Story of Jonathan Nobles by Simon Roche OP -- 

·         Father Simon Roche, O.P. is the Promoter of Lay Dominicans in Cork, Ireland.  He relates the story of a “cloistered brother.”  This is the story of one of them, Jonathan Wayne Nobles.  On the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, 7th of October 1998, Jonathan was executed by lethal injection at Huntsville prison, Texas. Jon was a Lay Dominican trying to follow Jesus in the spirit of St Dominic. In 1986, high on drugs Jonathan, then 25 years of age, stabbed two young women to death and seriously injured Ron Ross; a horrific crime for which he was sentenced to death. He was convicted almost entirely on the strength of his own confession. He never took the stand during his trial. He sat impassively as the guilty verdict was read out and only flinched slightly when the judge sentenced him to death. When he arrived at the prison he quickly alienated himself from the guards and most of the prisoners.
·            Somehow, in what is among the most inhumane environments in the civilised world Jonathan began to change. In Huntsville prison, Jonathan underwent a conversion and entered the Church. A group of eleven young men present at the time of his admission to the Church were members of the St Martin de Porres Lay Dominican Chapter. Through them he became interested in the Dominicans and was received into their Chapter in 1989. In 1991 he made his final commitment and was instrumental in introducing other prisoners to the Lay Dominicans. He developed a deep devotion to the Rosary and to St Catherine of Siena. For eight years Jonathan was a spiritual leader on death row bringing the Good News to those who themselves faced the same sentence.
·            He stood as godfather at the baptism of Cliff Boggess, a fellow inmate. He later helped officiate at the Mass celebrated the night before Cliff Boggess was executed. He encouraged his companions to experience God's word in the Scriptures and invited others to attend the celebration of the Eucharist. He loved the Eucharist and taught non-Catholics to present themselves to receive a blessing at the time of Communion.
·            He accompanied all who wished, asking them if they would like him to pray with them, talking with them through his own brokenness, his conversion, his coming to the faith. Isn't it amazing that Jonathan could be missioned out of that brokenness. He was free, interiorly to do this.
·           For ten years Steve Earle, the country musician, corresponded with Jon who asked him to be a witness at his execution. Ten days before [He spoke of] his fire ‘for preaching and work for the conversion of others. When asked what he would like for his last meal he said he would like the Eucharist. Steve came to visit Jonathan. Jonathan sought forgiveness and reconciliation with those he had injured and whose lives he had taken. He suffered the pain of not being able to be reconciled to all.
·             Three months before his death he appeared on Tv and donated his kidneys: 'I want to do something good before I die.' Five days before his execution fr Chris Eggleton visited Jonathan. 'He came out in shackles but was not the slightest bit upset about it. He seemed so at peace.' They prayed and talked together for several hours. Jonathan told his story and shared some of his poetry, spoke of his love of Mary, the Rosary and St Dominic, his 'fire' for preaching and work for the conversion of others. He was so grateful that he could preach like Dominic. 'Look at this I can accompany others maybe help them to change their lives, letting them know about Christ. It wasn't always successful but I felt that if someone was going to be executed God could work through whatever relationship we had.'
·             'Jonathan was a very positive guy. There was no superficiality about this man.'' Jonathan placed his hands flat up against the Plexiglas divide which separated us and I placed my hands up against his ... He helped me to pray. Then alternating we prayed. I was so grateful that he accepted me to visit.
·             'Jonathan met Bishop Carmody when he celebrated Mass for the inmates. He asked the bishop to be one of the witnesses at his execution.' I said I would be there with him, and a promise made is a debt unpaid... I made sure I would keep my promise.' He fasted on his last day. When asked what he would like for his last meal he said he would like the Eucharist. He called it 'spiritual food for the journey home.
·            ‘The funeral Mass was held at St. Thomas an hour after Jonathan was pronounced dead. He was laid out in the Dominican habit; Bishop Carmody celebrated the Mass with others. Jonathan had chosen the readings and the hymns. A few days after his death Chris Eggleton received a letter Jon wrote the night before he died:' I pray that Our Lord bless you that his Spirit rest upon you; filling you with true peace and joy. I am very sorry that I do not have the ability to share in greater length with you here on earth or even in this letter. However be assured that I shall pray for you in heaven with Dominic, Mary and all of our Dominican Family. 'Jonathan had great devotion to Saint Catherine of Siena, famously known for befriending a young man, who like himself, had been condemned to death. His name was Nicolo di Toldo. Catherine describes what happened :(continued on p.30)Spirituality... Men and women cry out for an experience of hope in a world which has lost direction ..."Stay with me and do not leave me and then I cannot but be well and will die content. "... We can be largely unaware that he actually loves each of us personally. ..Women cry out for an experience of hope in a world which has lost direction- in the teaching of Duns Scotus, Franciscan Spirituality has within its hand that hope-filled experience and the end of that longing. For if God willed the Incarnation from all eternity, then it was always his intention to become part of sinful creation - sin determines the manner of that becoming, but it does not determine the fact that it was going to be. The Incarnational thought of Duns Scotus needs a broader hearing, for it is pertinent to all Christians and the world, not just the Catholic tradition. The Incarnation is of God, not man. Scotus is indeed in the tradition of Francis and his Incarnational theology is not complex- it is utterly simple: God is love and all that has been, is and ever will be is because God is love and is among us in Jesus who is ever present.*****(continued from p.9)
·             'I went to visit him ...he was consoled and made his confession ... He made me promise that for the love of God I would be with him at the time of his execution. In the morning before the bell tolled I went to him .. .I took him to Mass and he received the Eucharist ... there remained a fear that he would not be brave at the last moment ... "Stay with me and do not leave me and then I cannot but be well and will die content." I will wait for you at the place of execution and I think his heart lost all fear ... I waited at the place of execution in continual prayer ... seeing me he laughed and asked me to make the sign of the cross over him ... He knelt and stretched out his neck and I bent down over him ... he kept repeating 'Jesus and Catherine' and as he said the words I received his head into my hands ... '*****(continued from p.19)
·           It is possible to see Jesus as an utterly loving person who has done wonderful things for us and for all people, and yet be largely unaware that he actually loves each of us personally, and dearly wants to be loved by each of us. Our experience of deep and faithful love inhuman relationships in the course of our lives gives us a glimpse of what the love of Jesus is like. Meditating prayerfully on the Eucharist we may recognise that love. St Albert experienced it. He wrote about the Eucharist: 'It is as if Christ said: "I have loved them so greatly, and they me, that I desire to be eaten by them: they have desired to receive me within them, to be embodied in me as my members. In no deeper way, or one more consonant to nature, can they be in me and I in them." 'What Jesus began on Holy Thursday, he continues into our own day: in every celebration of the Eucharist he shows the full extent of his love.

This story is a true story published in "Spirituality" magazine of Ireland January -February, 2012.

Country musician, Steve Earle corresponded with Jonathan Nobles and was a witness to his execution.  His story is riveting.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2001/jan/22/features11.g2 

The victim's mother meets with Jonathan.  http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-18559_162-31506.html

Why is this story important to me?  It is because when my prison chapter was trying to be admitted as a bona fide  Lay Dominican Chapter, we were having a hard time, until the President of LFSD, Laurie Biszko read about Jonathan Wayne Nobles.  

Mr. Jonathan Wayne Nobles, O.P., wasn't the only one who was changed.

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