Unconditional love and unfailing forgiveness make up the foundation of Michael Franzese’s message.

Franzese, a former mafia gangster who has since dedicated his life to Christ, is the guest speaker for the 2011 Cleburne Christian Leadership Prayer Breakfast, set for March 7 at Cleburne Bible Church. Tickets to the breakfast may only be purchased in advance and are available from Prayer Breakfast committee members. The $5 tickets may also be purchased at the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce.

“I’ve come to terms with what I have done,” said Franzese, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a second generation member of the mob. “I have a God who tells me he forgives me. He knows my heart, and I have moved forward.”

“People ask me if I think speaking out for the Lord will make up for the past,” Franzese said. “The answer is ‘no.’ I let God deal with the past. I praise God that we have a Savior that’s merciful like that.”

Prayer Breakfast founder and committee chairman Lonnie Holliday first heard Franzese’s story at the 2010 Fort Worth-Tarrant County Christian Prayer Breakfast.

“He packed the house and he had a powerful message,” Holliday said. “I was really excited when we were able to schedule him for our breakfast here in Cleburne.”

In his autobiography, “Blood Covenant,” Franzese credits his wife, Camille, with leading him to his own “Damascus Road” and a new way of living.

“The first time I heard the words ‘born again,’ was the night I took the blood oath to join the Cosa Nostra,” Franzese said. “I didn’t realize by making that oath I was condemning myself to hell.”

“We have one purpose in life — to get to heaven,” he said. “And the way to get there is through a personal relationship with Christ.”

Today, the mafia boss who went to trial five times, faced 100 years in prison and was acquitted five times, is a man on a mission who speaks regularly to at-risk youth and professional and student athletes. At the Cleburne Christian Leadership Prayer Breakfast, he will talk about his blind faith, then and now, and service to God’s family.  

Sharing the morning service will be Nashville musicians Chris and Jan Harris, whose bios include performance and production work with everyone from Amy Grant to Toby Mac.

Serving as prayer leaders will be Dr. Danny Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church of Cleburne; Bosque County Judge Cole Word and Gary Randle, co-founder and executive director of H.O.P.E. Farm.

Church doors will open at 6:15 the morning of the breakfast, with the program beginning promptly at 6:50 to allow for an 8 a.m. dismissal.

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