I have a Jewish friend who says that we goyim (non-Jews) link our acts of mercy to Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, conducting business as usual the rest of the year. That may be why Francis’ call for a year of mercy is so striking. Imagine! A full year of mercy!
Be that as it may, I'm part of a call to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to grant clemency to Patty Prewitt, convicted 29 years ago of murdering her husband. She always claimed innocence and turned down a plea deal that would have allowed her to serve less than 10 years. At trial she received a life sentence.
In prison, Patty has taken advantage of every program offered and she has been a comfort to many other women inmates. Not too long ago she gave my name to a young woman who has lived a wild life. The woman, still really a girl, was about to be released and, under Patty's influence, wanted to do things differently, one of a long line of released prisoners who stand on Patty's shoulders. A particularly creative innovation Patty contributed was to establish an aerobics program in the prison with instructor certification as well as fitness as goals.
Clemency is the only means of correcting prosecutorial and judicial punishment of those who refuse to plead guilty and insist on a trial. Patty's not the only one who has received a particularly long and harsh sentence. And Gov. Nixon is not the only executive who seems loath to commute sentences and pardon offenders. Pope Francis’ call to this year of mercy will perhaps rise like leaven from our hearts to permeate our culture because our elected leaders reflect what is in our hearts. Change begins with us.