This past week I was surprised by the fact that I shared the last name with Johnathan Wayne Nobles, a man executed in the State of Texas on October 7, 1998. Nobles confessed to the murder of two people and the assault of a third victim who survived. While his crimes were atrocious, what makes Nobles known among Texas Catholics was not these crimes but his conversion. While in prison Johnathan not only converted to Catholicism but also became a member of the Dominican Order and Laity. He spent the last years of his life studying, praying, and repenting as a Dominican. Seeking any opportunity for contrition, he eventually met with some of his victims' family members to express his sorrow. A mother of one of the victims said in a later interview, "You don't have to forgive what he did. You have to forgive him ... I went against my whole family, but I knew that if I didn't tell Jonathan I had forgiven him, I would be a prisoner for the rest of my life."
The older I get the more intrigued I am by what surprises me. Why am I surprised by the story of Johnathan Nobles or the level of forgiveness shown him? This practice of introspection is necessary for growth in the spiritual life, and too often you and I miss the opportunity to ask ourselves, Why? Now, sometimes, this question is counterproductive when we demand an answer to our question. Yet, the question "Why?" can be an invitation of the Holy Spirit if we allow ourselves to encounter a new, unnoticed part of our life. The answer may not come right away or even at all, but the introspective questioning is what grows virtue! So, if the story of Johnathan Nobles struck you, I invite you to have the courage to ask the question, "Why?" Let us not demand an answer, but allow this question the noble courage it deserves.
-br. James Martin Nobles, O.P.