Sister Helen Prejean on New Guide, Getting Rid of Dying Penalty, and Getting Jesus ‘Right’

Through RNS — Sister Helen Prejean needs to get faith “right.”

However too usually, she stated, individuals use faith, together with Christianity, for the incorrect causes.

That features Scripture utilized by politicians to justify separating households on the border, stated Prejean, 80. Or Jesus’ dying being utilized by Christians to defend the dying penalty.

Or pondering that praying for justice is identical as appearing for it.

“It took me a long time to get Jesus right,” she stated.

“It took me a long time to not just live Christianity as practicing charity to those around me who were pretty much people just like me, to getting involved with justice, which is the true call of the gospel.”

That want to get it proper prompted Prejean — an anti-death penalty activist whose e-book “Dead Man Walking” was the inspiration for the Oscar-winning 1995 movie by the identical identify — to jot down her newest memoir, River of Hearth.

Within the new e-book, which ends the place “Dead Man Walking” picks up, the sister describes her journey to the Sisters of St. Joseph — and the way spiritual life modified after Vatican II.

Prejean talked to Faith Information Service about how she grew to become concerned in social justice, why she thinks the dying penalty is on its method out and the way she bought to “bump into two popes along the way.”

You’ve been a part of the social justice motion for a very long time. How did you become involved?

I mainly would pray to God to unravel the massive issues, however I used to be by no means engaged immediately in social justice. And so I inform within the e-book about awakening, being jolted out of that. The road that bought me was, “Jesus preached good news to the poor.”

The excellent news to poor individuals was that it wasn’t God’s will for them to be poor. That that they had a proper to attempt for what was rightfully theirs and to have an honest life. In different phrases, poverty needed to be resisted, not simply one thing accepted as a result of God’s going to reward you in one other life. You need to work for justice.

Once I heard that, I didn’t even know any poor individuals, and I lived in New Orleans. We had 10 main housing initiatives for poor black individuals, and I’d by no means been to any of them. I used to be all the time within the suburbs with different white individuals like me. God helped wake me up (and notice) that the gospel was about being on the aspect with individuals who had no voice, anybody marginalized and who was struggling.

Then I started to be taught. I noticed that to work for justice, you’ll be able to’t simply pray for God to unravel these issues, you’ve bought to become involved.

So to get an invite to jot down a few man on dying row form of simply slot in.

Capital punishment has been again within the information with Lawyer Basic William Barr reinstating the federal dying penalty. However you’re really hopeful about ending the dying penalty. Why?

Pope Francis on Aug. 2, 2018, made a declaration that we’re altering the Catholic catechism that beneath no circumstance might we ever permit state governments to execute their residents.

The work nonetheless must be accomplished. So now you’ve bought a doc. Now you’ve bought phrases on a web page. You’ve nonetheless bought to carry phrases to life.

What occurs in nations or states is first you see the apply dwindling as a result of persons are shedding religion in it. You see that taking place throughout the entire nation.

It’s nonetheless on the way in which. It’s nonetheless form of budding. However it’s positively in the appropriate route, and in order that simply takes fixed dialogue. That’s why I’m glad about “Dead Man Walking,” and that’s why I’m glad concerning the film, why I’m glad concerning the opera, why I keep on the street to speak to the individuals.

Sister Helen Prejean on New Guide, Getting Rid of Dying Penalty, and Getting Jesus ‘Right’Within the e-book, you additionally embrace a letter you wrote to Pope Francis advocating for the position of girls within the church. Why is that this so vital to you?

The dying penalty — OK, we’re on the appropriate path. We’re getting that straight, however there’s an enormous, large, large injustice within the Catholic Church.

Right here throughout us we see girls coming into their very own. Right here we’ve the U.N. saying that whenever you educate the ladies and produce the ladies up, that’s what raises a society. Right here we’ve the #MeToo motion. Right here we’ve girls striving for his or her rights to have the ability to vote and to have the ability to have a voice, girls taking their place in Congress and decision-making.

Within the church, a girl can not learn the Gospel at Mass. Solely a person can. Ladies are usually not a part of any of the policymaking on the highest stage of the church. And I say in that letter to the pope, we’ve all males, all the time all males, making choices, and so they don’t have the voice and expertise and knowledge of girls throughout that desk with them.

We want the knowledge of girls in policymaking and decision-making within the Catholic Church. Finally it will likely be the priesthood, too.

How do you maintain on to pleasure and religion within the face of the dying and injustice you’ve seen?

That comes from the Holy Spirit. It’s not one thing I create and simply maintain on to. It bubbles up in you. It turns into current in you.

And I feel it comes from strolling out of that execution chamber after witnessing six human beings die.

I’m working with each little bit of power in my physique to alter that, to get up the individuals. What offers you hope is whenever you’re working for one thing. If you’re engaged on the choice, you’re not simply wishing for it. You’re not simply lamenting what’s incorrect. You’re working. You’re at work on a regular basis, after which the hope flows via you. And I feel that’s the place the enjoyment comes from.

I imply, there’s super grief. Oh my God. I imply, witnessing individuals being executed — to see it! You meet them, and so they’re human beings, and so they’re greater than the worst act of their life.

Did you ever count on you’d be doing what you do or have a film made about your work?

There’s a precept of the religious life: You do what you do due to the integrity of it, due to what you see, and never for the fruit of it. You allow the fruit of your actions as much as God. So, in fact, I by no means knew all this was going to occur, and it took me awhile to get up.