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Header-Conversion on Death Row

by A. F. Philips 

 

In 1943, twenty-year-old Claude Newman was awaiting execution in a Mississippi prison for shooting Sid Cook, his beloved grandmother’s abusive second husband. One day, Claude noticed a medal hanging around the neck of a fellow prisoner, and asked the young man what it was. The latter responded by casting the medal to the ground with a curse and said, “take it.”  Unbeknownst to him, the curious pendant was a Miraculous Medal. Even though he knew nothing about it or who it represented, Claude picked up the trinket and hung it around his neck. He had no idea how that simple action would change his life.

 

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Visions

Man prayingDuring the night, Claude was awakened by a glowing vision, which he later described as “the most beautiful woman that God ever created.” The vision calmed the frightened man and said, “If you would like me to be your mother, and you my child, send for a priest of the Catholic Church.

And she disappeared. “A ghost, a ghost!” screamed Claude, clamoring for a priest. The next morning, Fr. Robert O’Leary (who later recorded the story) was summoned.  After listening to the extraordinary account and speaking with him, the priest discovered Claude to be a very simple, illiterate soul who knew very little about religion.

The priest proceeded to teach the young man about Catholicism, and soon the catechism lessons grew to include four other inmates who were deeply impressed by Claude’s vision.  Several weeks later, Father introduced the Sacrament of Confession, and Claude volunteered, 

"Oh, I know about that! The Lady told me that when we go to confession we are kneeling down not before a priest, but before the Cross of Her Son. And that when we are truly sorry for our sins, and we confess our sins, the Blood He shed flows down over us and washes us free from all sins."  The others were stunned at this new revelation. Seeing their surprise, Claude apologized, “Oh, don’t be angry, don’t be angry, I didn’t mean to blurt it out!”

 

Revelation

Assuring him that he was far from angry, Fr. O’Leary asked Claude if he had seen the lady again. Taking the priest aside, the young man said, "she told me that if you doubted me or showed hesitancy, I was to remind you that lying in a ditch in Holland in 1940, you made a vow to her which She's still waiting for you to keep.”  This revelation fully convinced him of Claude’s claims. During the war, Fr. O’Leary had promised to erect a church in honor of the Immaculate Conception if he survived. He fulfilled the promise in 1947, and the church still stands in Clarksdale, Mississippi. As Father and Claude returned to the class on Confession, Claude told his friends, “You should not be afraid of Confession. You’re really telling God your sins, not the priest. You know, the Lady said that Confession is something like a telephone. We talk through the priest to Immaculate Conception Church, Clarksdale MSGod, and God talks back to us through the priest.”

Finally, the catechumens were received into the Church. In the baptismal records of St. Mary’s parish in Vicksburg, MS, Claude’s baptism is registered on January 16, 1944, four days before his scheduled execution. As the day neared, the Sheriff asked Claude if he had a last request.

“Well, all my friends are all shook up. The jailer is all shook up. But you don’t understand. I’m not going to die; only this body is. I’m going to be with her. So, then, I would like to have a party.”  

The Sheriff was shocked, but consented, and even allowed Claude’s fellow inmates to attend.  

 

 

Execution

On the morning of execution, Claude was full of joy. As he mentally prepared himself with Fr. O’Leary, the Sheriff rushed in shouting that the Governor had granted a two-week reprieve. To his amazement, the young man broke down in sobs, inconsolable. 

But you don’t understand! If you ever saw her face, and looked into her eyes, you wouldn't want to live another day! ...What have I done wrong these past weeks that God would refuse me my going home? …Why, Father?  Why must I still remain here for two weeks?”   

Suddenly, Fr. O’Leary had an inspiration. James Hughs, a fellow prisoner on death row, harbored a particular hate for Claude and all things religious despite having been raised a Catholic. Fr. O’Leary suggested that Claude offer his disappointment for Hughs’ conversion, and the final two weeks of the young man’s life were spent praying for the salvation of his fellow inmate.

Claude was finally executed on February 4, 1944. Fr. O’Leary testified: “ I've never seen anyone go to his death as joyfully and as happily. Even the official witnesses and the newspaper reporters were amazed. They said they couldn't understand how anyone could sit in the electric chair beaming with happiness."

 

To heaven, but not alone

Claude Newman and the Virgin Mary the Teacher IconWhen the time came for James Hughs to be executed, he violently refused all spiritual assistance, cursing and blaspheming even while seated on the electric chair. Suddenly, looking intently towards a corner of the room, a look of surprise came over his face, quickly followed by one of sheer horror, he shouted, “Get me a priest!”  Fr. O’Leary approached and heard the man’s full confession, and ask him to explain his change of mind. The condemned man had seen Claude Newman and the Blessed Virgin standing behind him, her hands on his shoulders. Per Claude’s request, Our Lady showed James a glimpse of Hell, and filled with horror, he immediately demanded a priest.

Once again, the simple wearing of the Miraculous Medal called down our mother’s gaze, and saved not only one, but many souls in that Mississippi Prison.

 


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for September 29, 2020

The wicked exist in this world either to be converted or tha...

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September 29

 

The wicked exist in this world
either to be converted
or that through them
the good may exercise patience.

St. Augustine of Hippo


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

Archangel St. Michael

The fight between St. Michael and Lucifer has not ceased but...

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Archangel St. Michael

St. Michael is the model of the Christian warrior because of the fortitude which he showed by casting into hell the legions of damned spirits. He is the warrior of God who will not tolerate the divine Majesty to be challenged or offended in his presence, and who is ready to wield the sword at any time in order to crush the enemies of the Most High. He teaches us that it is not enough for a Catholic to behave well: it is also his duty to fight evil. And not just an abstract evil, but evil as it exists in the ungodly and in sinners. For St. Michael did not cast evil into hell as a principle, a mere conception of the intellect, nor are principles and concepts susceptible to be burned by eternal fire. It was Lucifer and his minions that the Champion of the Almighty cast into hell, as he hated the evil that existed in them and which they loved.

We live at a time of profound religious liberalism. Few Christians have an inkling that they belong to a Church militant, as militant on earth as St. Michael and the faithful Angels were militant in heaven. We also should know how to crush the insolence of wickedness. We too must tenaciously counter the adversary by attacking him and rendering him powerless.

In this struggle, St. Michael should not just be our model but our help. The fight between St. Michael and Lucifer has not ceased but continues throughout the ages. He helps all Christians in the battles they wage against the power of darkness.

Archangel St. Gabriel

The Incarnation of the Word is the greatest act of power and...

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Archangel St. Gabriel

“And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.
Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

The message that St. Gabriel – which means “the strength of God” – took to Our Lady is a message that affirms the Incarnation of the Word and therefore the greatest act of power and domination that God could exercise upon the world. With the Incarnation of the Word, God was preparing to rescue the world. In doing this, He, who is king of the world by right, also became king by conquest. Thus, He – the second Person of the Blessed Trinity – entered the earth to conquer on the cross. In this special way, He established His kingship upon the world. From this, we can draw some applications for the prayers we can still address to him today. St. Gabriel announced the coming and triumph of the Messiah to Our Lady and thus to all men. We should ask that he now announce the recovery of God’s effective kingship upon the earth through the coming of the fulfillment of the Fatima message.

Today we are in a situation that is even worse than that of the ancient world before Our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we can ask that Our Lord Jesus Christ reign once again, that He establish His reign on earth in Mary and through Mary, and that this period of darkness in which we find ourselves come to an end. He has done one thing, let Him do the other. He had the key to do it to close the era of antiquity, and thus opened a new epoch. Let Him close this era and open the Reign of Mary. Second: we should ask St. Gabriel for an enormous, superabundant devotion to Our Lady and that this devotion grow every instant until the end of our lives. Third: we should ask him for a most ardent, intransigent, vigilant and therefore most militant love of purity; and to have every form of revulsion and disdain for impurity in every way and degree. This is what we should ask him. May he thus protect us and bring us closer to Our Lady.

Archangel St. Raphael

St. Raphael appeared to Tobias disguised in human form and t...

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Archangel St. Raphael

St. Raphael is first mentioned in the Book of Tobit, where he appeared disguised in human form to Tobias, son of the blind man Tobit, and traveled with him from Nineveh to Media. While they were in Media, the Archangel told Tobias of Sarah, daughter of Raguel. Sarah had been married seven previous times, but each time, on the night of the wedding, her husband was abducted and slain by a demon. St. Raphael convinced Tobias to present himself as a husband to Sarah, who accepted him.

Sarah despaired that yet another of her husbands would be taken from her, and she prayed for her own death. Raphael banished the demon from her, and she and Tobias had a happy marriage. After the wedding feast, Tobias and Sarah return to Nineveh. There, Raphael cured Tobit’s blindness, revealed his true identity and returned to heaven.

Raphael's name means "God heals." This identity came about because of the biblical story which claims that he "healed" the earth when it was defiled by the sins of the fallen angels. He is also the patron of the blind, happy meetings, nurses, physicians and of travelers.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort...

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The Rosary, the Devil and the Queen

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As such, he was known for his powerful, moving sermons on the Rosary, which led people to adopt this devotion to their great benefit.

Furiously jealous of the holy man’s success with souls, the devil began to so torture Thomas that he fell sick, and was so ill for so long that the doctors gave up on saving his life.

One night, when the poor man thought he was near death, the devil appeared to him in a hideous form, coward that he is, seeking to frighten Thomas into despair.

But, making an effort, the good priest turned to a beautiful picture of Our Lady near his bed crying out with all his heart and strength:

“Help me, save me, my sweet, sweet Mother!”

No sooner had he pronounced these words, the picture came alive and extending her hand, the heavenly Lady laid it reassuringly on the priest’s arm, saying:

“Do not be afraid, Thomas my son, here I am and I am going to save you. Get up now and go on preaching my Rosary as you did before. I promise to shield and protect you from your enemies.”

No sooner had Our Lady pronounced these words, than the devil fled in a hurry. Getting up, Thomas found that he was perfectly healed. 

Thanking the Blessed Mother with tears of joy, Blessed Thomas again went about preaching the Holy Rosary, now with renewed favor and gumption, and his apostolate and his sermons were enormously successful. 

St. Louis the Montfort concludes this story saying, “Our lady not only blesses those who say her Rosary, but also abundantly rewards those who, by their example, inspire others to say it as well.”

 


 

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In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that Blessed Thomas of St. John was a great devotee of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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