In the novel Dead Man Walking, Sister Helen Prejean, was asked to correspond
with Pat Sonnier, a man sentenced to die by electric chair for the murder of two teen-
agers, which he did not commit. Dead Man Walking, gives a moving account of her
spiritual journey as she became knowledgeable about our system of capital punishment
through her involvement in the lives and deaths of several convicted murderers, their
families, the families of their victims and the people whose job it is to carry out executions.
Sister Helen brings a profound compassion to all the people she meets, reflecting on her
experiences from an engaged Christian perspective. She helps the two death row inmates
by loving them even though society despises them. The soul of a man is reached and
articulated through the assumption of those who love without judgment. Sister Helen's
novel is a classic example of the practice of attentive love, and of its consequences.
Throughout the novel, Sister Helen quotes Albert Camus extensively on resistance
to the death penalty. The soul comes into articulation not through the discipline of
punishment, but through the practice of love, a process that the death penalty may initiate.
When a human being is being subjugated to the power of the state, he may enter into a
religious functionary willing to be attentive to his needs for companionship. In that
exchange lies the possibility of construction-maybe the reconstruction-of the soul. Her
description of the relationship that developed between herself, Patrick Sonnier, and Robert
Willie, whom she is able to touch and love, is clear testimony to the expression that is
given thereby to the souls. "I have never known real love," Patrick Sonnier tells Sister
Helen: " 'It's a shame a man has to come to prison to find love.' He looks up and says,
'Thanks for loving me'" . By loving Patrick Sonnier, Sister Helen
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