All or Nun: Memoir of a Black Catholic Growing Up

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Nevertheless he also wishes his pilgrimage to be a renewed gesture of gratitude to Our Lady for her protection during these years of his papacy. That text contains a prophetic vision similar to those found in Sacred Scripture, which do not describe photographically the details of future events, but synthesize and compress against a single background facts which extend through time in an unspecified succession and duration. As a result, the text must be interpreted in a symbolic key. The vision of Fatima concerns above all the war waged by atheistic systems against the Church and Christians, and it describes the immense suffering endured by the witnesses of the faith in the last century of the second millennium.

It is an interminable Way of the Cross led by the Popes of the twentieth century. As he makes his way with great difficulty towards the Cross amid the corpses of those who were martyred Bishops, priests, men and women Religious and many lay people , he too falls to the ground, apparently dead, under a hail of gunfire. On the occasion of a visit to Rome by the then Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, the Pope decided to give him the bullet which had remained in the jeep after the assassination attempt, so that it might be kept in the shrine. By the Bishop's decision, the bullet was later set in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

The successive events of led, both in the Soviet Union and in a number of countries of Eastern Europe, to the fall of the Communist regimes which promoted atheism. In other parts of the world, however, attacks against the Church and against Christians, with the burden of suffering they bring, tragically continue. Brothers and sisters, let us thank Our Lady of Fatima for her protection.

To her maternal intercession let us entrust the Church of the Third Millennium. Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix! Intercede pro Ecclesia. No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled. We see the Church of the martyrs of the century which has just passed represented in a scene described in a language which is symbolic and not easy to decipher.

Is this what the Mother of the Lord wished to communicate to Christianity and to humanity at a time of great difficulty and distress? Is it of any help to us at the beginning of the new millennium? Or are these only projections of the inner world of children, brought up in a climate of profound piety but shaken at the same time by the tempests which threatened their own time? How should we understand the vision? What are we to make of it?

Public Revelation and private revelations — their theological status. Before attempting an interpretation, the main lines of which can be found in the statement read by Cardinal Sodano on 13 May of this year at the end of the Mass celebrated by the Holy Father in Fatima, there is a need for some basic clarification of the way in which, according to Church teaching, phenomena such as Fatima are to be understood within the life of faith.

The two realities differ not only in degree but also in essence. It is not a matter therefore of intellectual communication, but of a life-giving process in which God comes to meet man. At the same time this process naturally produces data pertaining to the mind and to the understanding of the mystery of God. It is a process which involves man in his entirety and therefore reason as well, but not reason alone.

Because God is one, history, which he shares with humanity, is also one. It is valid for all time, and it has reached its fulfilment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Christ, God has said everything, that is, he has revealed himself completely, and therefore Revelation came to an end with the fulfilment of the mystery of Christ as enunciated in the New Testament. Because the single Revelation of God addressed to all peoples comes to completion with Christ and the witness borne to him in the books of the New Testament, the Church is tied to this unique event of sacred history and to the word of the Bible, which guarantees and interprets it.

But this does not mean that the Church can now look only to the past and that she is condemned to sterile repetition. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority On the one hand, the Spirit acts as a guide who discloses a knowledge previously unreachable because the premise was missing—this is the boundless breadth and depth of Christian faith. This is the category to which we must assign the message of Fatima.

This clarifies two things:. The authority of private revelations is essentially different from that of the definitive public Revelation. The latter demands faith; in it in fact God himself speaks to us through human words and the mediation of the living community of the Church.

Faith in God and in his word is different from any other human faith, trust or opinion. The certainty that it is God who is speaking gives me the assurance that I am in touch with truth itself. It gives me a certitude which is beyond verification by any human way of knowing. It is the certitude upon which I build my life and to which I entrust myself in dying. Private revelation is a help to this faith, and shows its credibility precisely by leading me back to the definitive public Revelation.

The Flemish theologian E. Dhanis, an eminent scholar in this field, states succinctly that ecclesiastical approval of a private revelation has three elements: the message contains nothing contrary to faith or morals; it is lawful to make it public; and the faithful are authorized to accept it with prudence E. Such a message can be a genuine help in understanding the Gospel and living it better at a particular moment in time; therefore it should not be disregarded.

It is a help which is offered, but which one is not obliged to use. The criterion for the truth and value of a private revelation is therefore its orientation to Christ himself. When it leads us away from him, when it becomes independent of him or even presents itself as another and better plan of salvation, more important than the Gospel, then it certainly does not come from the Holy Spirit, who guides us more deeply into the Gospel and not away from it. This does not mean that a private revelation will not offer new emphases or give rise to new devotional forms, or deepen and spread older forms.

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But in all of this there must be a nurturing of faith, hope and love, which are the unchanging path to salvation for everyone. We might add that private revelations often spring from popular piety and leave their stamp on it, giving it a new impulse and opening the way for new forms of it. Nor does this exclude that they will have an effect even on the liturgy, as we see for instance in the feasts of Corpus Christi and of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

From one point of view, the relationship between Revelation and private revelations appears in the relationship between the liturgy and popular piety: the liturgy is the criterion, it is the living form of the Church as a whole, fed directly by the Gospel. Popular piety is a sign that the faith is spreading its roots into the heart of a people in such a way that it reaches into daily life. While it must always take its lead and direction from the liturgy, it in turn enriches the faith by involving the heart.

We have thus moved from the somewhat negative clarifications, initially needed, to a positive definition of private revelations. How can they be classified correctly in relation to Scripture? To which theological category do they belong? The oldest letter of Saint Paul which has been preserved, perhaps the oldest of the New Testament texts, the First Letter to the Thessalonians, seems to me to point the way.

In every age the Church has received the charism of prophecy, which must be scrutinized but not scorned. On this point, it should be kept in mind that prophecy in the biblical sense does not mean to predict the future but to explain the will of God for the present, and therefore show the right path to take for the future. A person who foretells what is going to happen responds to the curiosity of the mind, which wants to draw back the veil on the future. The prophet speaks to the blindness of will and of reason, and declares the will of God as an indication and demand for the present time.

In this case, prediction of the future is of secondary importance. What is essential is the actualization of the definitive Revelation, which concerns me at the deepest level. The prophetic word is a warning or a consolation, or both together. To interpret the signs of the times in the light of faith means to recognize the presence of Christ in every age.

In the private revelations approved by the Church—and therefore also in Fatima—this is the point: they help us to understand the signs of the times and to respond to them rightly in faith. In these reflections we have sought so far to identify the theological status of private revelations. Before undertaking an interpretation of the message of Fatima, we must still attempt briefly to offer some clarification of their anthropological psychological character. It is clear that in the visions of Lourdes, Fatima and other places it is not a question of normal exterior perception of the senses: the images and forms which are seen are not located spatially, as is the case for example with a tree or a house.

Therefore we are dealing with the middle category, interior perception. For the visionary, this perception certainly has the force of a presence, equivalent for that person to an external manifestation to the senses. Interior vision does not mean fantasy, which would be no more than an expression of the subjective imagination.

It means rather that the soul is touched by something real, even if beyond the senses. This is why there is a need for an interior vigilance of the heart, which is usually precluded by the intense pressure of external reality and of the images and thoughts which fill the soul. The person is led beyond pure exteriority and is touched by deeper dimensions of reality, which become visible to him.

Perhaps this explains why children tend to be the ones to receive these apparitions: their souls are as yet little disturbed, their interior powers of perception are still not impaired. Mt But it also has its limitations. Even in exterior vision the subjective element is always present.

We do not see the pure object, but it comes to us through the filter of our senses, which carry out a work of translation. This is still more evident in the case of interior vision, especially when it involves realities which in themselves transcend our horizon. The subject, the visionary, is still more powerfully involved. He sees insofar as he is able, in the modes of representation and consciousness available to him. In the case of interior vision, the process of translation is even more extensive than in exterior vision, for the subject shares in an essential way in the formation of the image of what appears.

He can arrive at the image only within the bounds of his capacities and possibilities. Based on material found in the Pennwood cabin, the Marshals were alerted to the Hilton Boca Raton Suites, a banal upscale setting where the pair of fugitives had remained hidden since May 30, Marshals prepared to descend on the hotel. Thompson was a brilliant mind and incredible strategist, but he was not suited for life on the run.

One of the last times anyone had seen him, it was a worrisome sight: Thompson was in the backyard of a house he was renting, yelling into his phone in his underwear. Think more along the lines of Dilbert in charge of the operation. But what had to be one of the most intense disappointments in the saga, for Thompson, was the fact that the excavation of the Central America would carry on without him. Kane in turn contracted a company called Odyssey Marine Exploration to finish the recovery of the Central America.

The goal was to bring the rest of the gold to the surface and ensure that the investors got paid. Thompson has significant holdings in the U. If there are dollars that he is hiding, I want every penny of it. The renewed excavation launched in April , with U. Marshals putting a wanted poster of Thompson aboard the ship in case he attempted to rejoin the mission. The operation was quite successful, bringing up more than 45 gold bars, 15, coins, and hundreds of artifacts over the course of numerous dives, including a pair of glasses, a pistol, and a safe filled with packages.

The sale of the gold was once again undertaken by the California Gold Marketing Group. O n January 27, , Thompson, then 62, was pale and sickly as he sat in his room in the Hilton Suites in Boca Raton, his body racked with the paranoid tics of a man on the run. She took almost comically cinematic precautions when appearing in public, wearing big floppy hats and taking a succession of buses and taxis to lose anyone who might be on her tail.

The hunt was led by an intimidating and extremely direct U. Marshal named Mike Stroh.

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He had been involved in manhunts all over the country, but the mission to find Thompson had special resonance with him as a professional person-finder. After seven hours of following her, Marshals crashed their way into the hotel and surprised the two, screaming at them not to move. The Marshals would ultimately cart away 75 boxes of evidence from the room, but they came up empty-handed in one aspect of their quest. Investigators found boxes in the Gracewood mansion that looked a lot like those that had held the restrike coins, but the gold itself was nowhere to be found.

Thompson tried to fight the extradition. Marshal Brad Fleming said Thompson was chatty as they made the journey back, perhaps relieved that he no longer had to hide. Both pleaded guilty to criminal contempt. T he capture of Tommy Thompson made for a fairly pedestrian end to a story that had captivated Columbus for years. Other associates were wistful about the turn of events. But the notion that not even a brilliant mind could resist running off with gold was too salacious not to report, and the allegations of thievery became the dominant narrative. It was an unfortunate bookend to the legacy of someone who had long maintained that the historical and scientific aspects of the recovery were the most important point of the mission.

Indeed, the non-gold accomplishments of the Central America mission are impressive and resounding. Michael Vecchione, a zoologist with the Smithsonian who briefly worked with the expedition, said the jerry-rigged technology of the Nemo is now standard practice for deep-ocean explorations. The mission took thousands of hours of video, giving scientists an unprecedented look at deep-sea life and revealing new species and their evolutionary adaptations, he said. Deep-sea sponges were retrieved and studied for their antitumor properties.

And the way in which they physically nabbed the gold was incredible in its own right: The robotic arms of the submersible gingerly placed a frame around a pile of coins and injected it with silicone, which, when solidified, made for a block full of gold that could be stored until it was ready to be brought to the surface. Controlling all of this were systems less powerful than those contained in the average smart phone, Bob Evans said. The coins and other gold items recovered from the Odyssey Marine—led excavation debuted in a public exhibit in Los Angeles in February to record-setting attendance, and they were next seen in May at an NRA convention in Dallas.

After administrative costs, court costs and creditor claims, there would theoretically be a distribution to the investors in Recovery Limited Partnership — the first time they would ever see a dime, 33 years after the initial investment for some. The prison, an imposing but generic detention facility surrounded by razor wire, is about three hours from Columbus, and it is the place Thompson has called home for more than four years. It appears to be his home for the foreseeable future, as Thompson is serving an indefinite sentence in federal prison for civil contempt for refusing to divulge the whereabouts of the coins.

It has been hard to deduce his motivations, even for those who know him well. His intense concentration and extreme focus found the Central America , and the same focus applied to trying to find an answer to his current predicament is taken as unwillingness to play ball. Only two of the hundreds of investors in the mission have sued Thompson because they knew it was a gamble to begin with, she said. Moreover, as Bob Evans explained, the actual value of the gold was highly speculative in the first place. The inventory has been published. There is no other gold that has been recovered.

Perhaps the math is not simple, but it is not beyond the talents of the most elementary minds, or at least the reasonably educated. But according to Quintin Lindsmith, attorney for the Dispatch Printing Company, recouping the supposedly missing returns is not the point. Thirty years and two months after the treasure was found, Thompson was driven the long three hours from Milan, Michigan, to Columbus, Ohio, to stand trial and answer questions many people had been waiting a long time to ask.

The missing defendant suggested a repeat of previous events. Had he somehow fled? Thompson, in a navy sport coat and light-colored plaid shirt, was momentarily nonplussed, and his eyes, behind his black, thick-framed glasses, registered a small amount of surprise. Most damning, however, was alleged evidence that he had stashed gold at the bottom of the sea, presumably to be retrieved later on: When the receivership went back down to the Central America in , they found coins and gold bars that had been neatly laid out on trays.

Thompson also admitted that he had made off with the gold coins as a form of remuneration he felt he was due.

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In her testimony, Alison Antekeier said that between and she moved them from California to a safe-deposit box in in Jacksonville, and then to a storage facility in Fort Lauderdale, where she gave them, in a handful of suitcases, to a man who was supposed to transfer them to an irrevocable trust in Belize. This was the point Thompson was trying to make all along. As his attorney Keith Golden explained, an irrevocable trust means that once the trust is set up, the person who opened it cannot access it without the permission of the named beneficiaries.

Who was supposedly named as beneficiaries on the trust is unclear. The ruling was later overturned on appeal. Finally, after weeks of testimony, the attorneys made their closing arguments and the jury reached its verdict. Thompson sat in his wheelchair, legs shackled, as the official paperwork was handed from the foreman to the bailiff to the judge. After the decades of science, discovery, stress and flight, it all came down to this.

In the matter of the civil case against, it was determined that defendant Thomas G. Thompson sat expressionless while everyone else gasped. However, the jury declined to award any punitive damages or court fees, indicating that there was no evidence that Thompson acted with malice. Either way, Lindsmith said the victory is once again about the principle. Like the cost of the litigation itself, the financial cost is immaterial to the larger point. The receivership is fielding offers for a multitude of items from the Central America and the recovery missions.

Available for sale are bits and pieces of scientific and historical ephemera , including silicone molds with gold coin impressions, and even the Nemo , the remote underwater vehicle that was the first human contact with the Central America since They have tickets from the passengers. Golden adds that the relentless litigation torpedoed an opportunity that would have made the Central America recovery look like chump change.

Thompson was working with the Colombian government in the mids to recover an old galleon whose estimated value is legitimately a few billion dollars. The next steps for Thompson in the case brought by Dispatch Printing include an appeal of the judgment, with the hopes that the award will be diminished or overturned. Separately, Thompson has filed an appeal in federal court to be let out of prison.

Thompson is currently awaiting the ruling of a three-judge panel about whether or not his is valid. What little time he has to use the phone is spent speaking with lawyers, business partners, and his family; ditto for the days he can have visitors. And after decades of developing new technology, going after hidden gold, and having to fight in court, Thompson is used to secrecy and has no reason to talk about the case to anyone.

Alison Antekeier still lives in Columbus, keeps a low profile, and is still reportedly very sympathetic to Thompson. Numerous attempts to contact her went unanswered. In Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea , Gary Kinder includes chilling survivor accounts of the Central America disaster, including men and women screaming maniacally as they dumped out purses and emptied hidden pockets of gold as the ship sank. The vacated wealth was something they otherwise would have killed to protect. It was mania wrought by the plague of gold, a crippling infirmity that afflicts humans alone.

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These Syrian children survived attacks that left them burned beyond belief. One program thousands of miles from home is offering them life-changing treatment. W inter was on its way in northwestern Syria when Hana Al Saloom awoke around 6 a. There was a chill in the air. Her 5-year-old daughter, Aysha, was asleep near a gas heater, as her brothers and sisters slept in other rooms. Hana blinked. The blast knocked her down.

Then screams. She swiveled on her knees. She looked around. Everything was on fire. It was as if her house had exploded. The impact must have caused the gas heater to blow up too. The flames spread fast. Hana raced outside with her older children. He had reached into the flames to pull her out. His legs and hands were seared. But Aysha was injured the worst.

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Neighbors rushed to put out the fire on her body — and all around them. Her skin was smoldering. A neighbor rushed Aysha and her dad to a hospital. Her wavy hair dances around her bright eyes. There she is in a white blouse. There she is in a purple plaid dress. There she is with pigtails, sitting on a swing, wearing a white, blue and red polka-dotted tutu.

Her mouth hung open, her eyes slightly cracked, her neck as reddish-pink as a bloody raw steak.

Her face looked as if someone had slathered it with a mud mask. Pasty in some places, blackened in others. But her skin, Hana says, was still there, even if it had turned a different shade. Badly hurt and on the brink of death, that is how Hana remembered her daughter on the day she was burned.

After Aysha was whisked away to Turkey for medical care on the day of the accident, an uncle who accompanied her sent a photo of her face wrapped in white bandages.

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Instead, the uncle would call regularly with updates from Turkey. She was going to be OK. Doctors focused on her lungs especially, which were damaged from the smoke. Hana prayed and cried, waiting for Aysha to be well enough to come home. Finally, that day came.

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Hana waited, and when she saw the car coming down the road, she ran out of her house in time to see her little girl step out. She remembers that Aysha wore jeans and a red and white striped dress. Her hair had been shaved off. But it was her face that shocked Hana the most. She did not know that the burned layer of skin had fallen away in sheaths, and that the new skin that replaced it was a combination of grafts, recent growth and irregular-shaped scars.

Aysha did not look like the little girl her mother remembered, but Hana had no doubt she was her daughter. She grabbed Aysha and carried her inside of the house. She sat down, weeping. Hana recalls how Aysha was welcomed back to parts of the community, but the children who used to play with her refused. In May , they boarded a plane and arrived in California. For the last 10 months, Aysha has lived in Southern California, traveling with a chaperone several days a week — an hour each way from an apartment in Irvine — to the hospital in Pasadena for checkups and surgeries, all to treat the burns and scars that run across her arms, chest, neck and face.

She is one of six Syrian children who have come to the U. Given the immigration hurdles and expenses for travel, living and medical care, it would be almost impossible for most Syrian families to travel to the U. She has been active in humanitarian projects since the war in Syria began. State Department has remained supportive of temporary visas to bring burned Syrian children and their families to the U. Twenty-five more burned Syrian children are currently on waiting lists to come to the U. Currently they do not have enough funding to bring all of the children who need help.

There have been half a million deaths and at least two million injuries since the start of the Syrian Civil War in , and the young Syrian patients who show up at Shriners come with gnarled hands, missing eyes and knotty scars, as well as obstructed breathing, hearing and vision.

Some can barely swallow. Their injuries are the direct result of air strikes and, in some cases, chemical weapons attacks. A longtime Syrian-American activist within the Arab-American community, Moujtahed worked on developing the partnership with Shriners as well as getting support from politicians. Those who survive their burns have a really tough, heavy pain, not only from their burns, but also psychologically. Norbury recalls the injuries of one Syrian boy he treated recently. It looked like he was balancing a baseball on the back of his hand. But she still has more surgeries to go.

When Aysha is not in the hospital, she plays alone, or studies with a year-old Syrian girl, Hamama, who is also receiving treatment at Shriners and lives with Aysha and her mom in the Irvine apartment. Hamama lost her parents, along with key parts of her memory, when her village was attacked. She cannot recall her past, the accident, or even her family members who died.

They occasionally go to the shopping mall, or out to eat. Aysha collects dolls, watches Disney cartoons, and loves Skittles. But mostly she longs to attend school in a building outside with other children, even if they stare or laugh at her. It is too risky. Doctors have prohibited her from attending school outside because they worry the sun and environment could harm her already fragile skin and nervous system. Hana homeschools Aysha, who tries to stay in good spirits, even though she wishes she had other kids her age to play with. When she does go outside for brief periods, she worries about what people think of her.

Once, Aysha spotted a woman pushing a stroller. She noticed a toy fall from the stroller to the ground. Aysha thought of picking up the toy to give to the baby. On the television, a shark tries to catch a dolphin. Hana wears a gray head scarf and a red trench coat, which she has buttoned. She gives Aysha rosewater.

She is often so focused on her daughter, she forgets about herself. Hana left five other children behind in Syria. Though Hana and Aysha video chat with their family members back in Turkey and Syria regularly, they know that they will likely not see them again for at least another two years. That is how long the doctors expect it to take to complete the needed surgeries. W hen Aysha was a baby, her family resided in the close-knit village of Heesh, where she and her husband lived off the land, raising animals and growing their own food.

They made cheese and traded it for other products. Their agrarian life was peaceful, Hana says, until the military came in and ordered everyone in the village to leave. Heesh would become a bloody battleground as opposition fighters and Assad-regime forces clashed — artillery, rockets and mortars dropping over the hamlet, driving out residents and killing those left behind. Hana remembers gripping Aysha in her arms, carrying a bag of just a few clothing items, and making the two-week trek from Heesh to the border of Turkey on foot, with her husband and six kids.

If we make it out alive, we are alive. They spent four years in the camps. Aysha learned to crawl, and walk, between the tents. Since their entire village and extended family members had relocated there too, Aysha knew many people. She would spend her days going from canopy to canopy, hiding and hunting for food.

You keep her! The family eventually learned that the fighting had subsided and they could return to Heesh, but when they made the long journey back to the village, they found a heap of rubble, broken glass, burned toys, cracked concrete, dust, dirt and crumbled storefronts. The ceiling had collapsed. The living room was a hill of rocks. Like the rest of the village, they rebuilt their home, one concrete slab after another. Less than a year later, it was not fully intact, but they had repaired it enough to live within its walls again.

The doctor begins to make marks on her ears with a marker. Doctors know the patients may never look the same as before, but they hope to help them live a more normal life by improving their burn injuries and deformities step by step, until they look and feel closer to the kids they are inside. The ones who skip down halls, sing YouTube songs, and grab for toys like other kids their age — without fear of frightening others. At 10 a. Hama tells Aysha to open her mouth.

The syringe is filled to the tip with the bright pink liquid. Aysha breathes deeply, gathering the courage to drink it down. She drinks it down with a grimace and wipes her lips. Minutes later, Aysha is groggy. Her mom leans in close. Aysha says nothing, her eyes droop. A few minutes later, the nurses wheel Aysha out of the room, down the hall, as Hana watches from behind.

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Aysha is trying to call out. Her voice is so faint. Hana hears her. Hana rushes to her side once more. When priceless texts began disappearing from a seventh-century hilltop abbey, the police were mystified. They were even more befuddled when they finally caught the culprit. T ourists are a most common sight at the abbey of Mont Sainte-Odile in the summer. So, when a somewhat hefty, tall man walked down the marble stairs leading to the first floor of the guesthouse, hardly anyone noticed. His backpack contained a Bible, which is normal in a place where people come for religious pilgrimages, but this Bible was more than years old.

Along with it, the man carried a 15th-century incunabulum, works by Cicero and the eighth-century theologian Alcuin, and three more dusty, priceless books. He picked six books from one of the oak bookcases standing against the walls, and walked right out through the Saint-Pierre chapel, briefly glancing at the marble tomb of Saint Odile — the revered saint who founded this mountaintop abbey in the seventh century — on his way out. Now, the square-jawed, long-legged man sauntered through a swarm of tourists near the parapet enclosing the religious site. It was a warm, sunny day in August , and he had just stolen from one of the holiest sites in Alsace, a historical region in northeastern France.

On countless occasions, he had soaked up the views of the hillsides, blanketed with pines, and the sprawling Rhine Valley. He made himself a promise not to steal from the library anymore, he would later tell police investigators. A small, vaulted room, it had once been known as Calvary, a place where canons and nuns meditated on the Passion of Christ. In the midth century, a canon had turned it into a library, amassing more than 3, books donated by seminaries and monasteries from the region. In the s, an amateur historian started drawing an inventory and had found ancient editions of works by Aristotle, Homer, and the Roman playwright Terence.

Especially valuable were 10 incunabula — rare books printed before , during the earliest years of the printing press. Sermons by Augustine, bound in sow skin, from Three Latin Bibles, printed in Basel and Strasbourg. Works by the Roman poet Virgil, printed in in Nuremberg.

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A Bible commentary by Peter Lombard, a 12th-century Italian scholar. Now one was missing. On the lower shelf where they were supposed to line up, there was an empty space. Buntz scurried out of the room. She bumped into Charles Diss, 61, the director of Mont Sainte-Odile, a short man with an affable face and protruding ears. Diss was rattled. The library was accessible to some of the 60 employees, as well as to groups of 30 worshippers taking turns in adoration of the Eucharist, a tradition going back to the years following World War I.

Buntz and Diss drove the weaving road downhill to file a complaint with the local police station. For a moment, they thought that things would be left at that. The door was often left unlocked, after all. It appeared that only one book had been stolen, or simply borrowed by a fervent but dreamy pilgrim, and not returned. No additional security measures were taken. But when Buntz entered the library one day in November, just a few months later, the remaining incunabula were gone.

The empty shelf stared grimly at her like an open wound. Sonnier and his brother, Eddie, were convicted of raping Loretta Bourque, then fatally shooting her and her boyfriend, David LeBlanc, in the head. Both Sonnier brothers were sentenced to death in , but their sentences were appealed.

Eddie then recanted his story, saying he was the murderer, but the prosecution attacked his credibility and eventually convicted Elmo of first-degree murder as the more dominant participant. He was again sentenced to death. Over the next few months, Prejean and Sonnier began writing regularly. In July , when Sonnier received a warrant for his execution, Prejean increased the visits to once a week. As he prepared to die, she pushed him to take responsibility for what he had done to his victims and their families.

On one occasion, Sonnier told Prejean he had not killed either of the victims. Later, his brother Eddie corroborated this statement. Through her interaction with Sonnier, Prejean was disturbed by many injustices that she saw in the legal system, and she worked to get Sonnier proper representation for his federal appeals. Millard Farmer, an attorney who defends death-row inmates, appealed to Gov. Edwin Edwards to grant Sonnier another hearing, but Edwards refused. The Bourques and the LeBlancs, the parents of the victims, had rebuked Prejean for not reaching out to them as well as to Sonnier.

After her experience with Sonnier, Prejean began lecturing about the legal, social, and spiritual problems she saw in capital punishment; later she began writing opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines. In she published Dead Man Walking , describing how befriending Sonnier and visiting death row had inspired her to pursue her new vocation of death penalty abolition and education. The book drew the attention of the actress Susan Sarandon and her partner, the director and actor Tim Robbins. Prejean was thrust into fame as she began to travel the world, taking as many invitations to speak on camera and before audiences as she could.

Prejean has said that when she first started visiting death-row inmates in , she presumed that everyone sentenced to death was guilty. By , when she wrote her second book, twenty-three years of working with those inmates and their attorneys had convinced her that innocent people could end up on death row simply because of the way the criminal justice system operates. Prejean, who accompanied them to their executions, believes they were innocent.