Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Women Who Touch the Heart of Father Gordon MacRae

Father Gordon MacRae, the author of the very Catholic These Stone Walls blog, a priest falsely imprisoned for over 20 years is, in my opinion, a man's man. But, to call him just that would be to limit him, and as we have come to know, if prison walls do not limit his reach into the world, then who would we be to attempt to describe him in limiting terms?

But, his life has also been touched by many women, and One Woman in Particular, the Woman Clothed with the Sun.  But, this week, he writes about other women who have touched his life in one way or another in Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and the Gift of Life.

It is fitting for him to write about women in a piece with the partial title "Gift of Life" since women are the central point of the gift of life that we all enjoy, and it is also fitting that Saint Therese be a focus of his article since she was proclaimed, in 1997, as "the greatest saint of modern times" by none other than Saint John Paul II, and is a Doctor of the Church.

Gift of Life permeates Father Gordon's latest missive, as he writes of Miriam Ibrahim, Saint Therese, Michelle, and a young woman named Andrea McCormick.

As I pondered the Gift of Life and the brief stories of the women in this article, I was caught up in how they fought for life in one way or another.  It also was not lost on me that where men (though not all of us) will more likely fight to the death for something we believe in, women (though very sadly not all women) will most often fight for the life of something they believe in.

The women profiled in Father Gordon's article fight for life in various non violent ways, as Our Blessed Mother fights for our lives every day, and yet we men particularly do not see it as a fight.

Miriam Ibrahim fought for life by standing up for it, by giving birth to it in her baby child while chained in a prison cell for her faith.

Like Father Gordon my spirit leapt when I saw the exchange she had with Megan Kelly from Fox
News:
Megan Kelly: “But why not just say what they wanted to hear to save your life?”
Miriam: “If I did that it would mean I gave up. It’s not possible because it’s not true. I have committed no crime.”

Miriam Ibrahim displayed the faith that we may all be called on to display in the near future of this tumultuous world we live in.  Father Gordon can relate to both the question and the answer that Miriam gave, for he gave the same one over 20 years ago, and has paid the price ever since.

Part of the "Gift of Life" that Father Gordon writes about is the truth, for Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Life and truth are inextricably linked for eternity.  As the song goes: "You can't have one without the other."

Father Gordon called his post a two parter, which does not do it justice.  It is more like a diamond. On first reading I looked at one facet of it.  On second another, and on third the light shone on it in still another way, exposing its inner beauty.

One neat thing Father Gordon does is draw us back and forth across time to other posts he has written, and they form a panoply, as it were, which in totality is overwhelming, but in bite sized chunks is able to be absorbed by his readers.  That lets us take the current post as a piece, and then at our leisure and as prompted by the Holy Spirit, move about the links to get the deeper meaning.

When he invites us to go back in time to September 30, 2009, to his post A Shower of Roses, the story of Michelle and the linkage to Saint Therese of Lisieux, the diamond grows brighter as more light hits it many angles and faces.

He was touched by Michelle and her painful death, the love of her friends and family for her and she for them, and her release of herself into the custody of Saint Therese to escort her to the loving arms of Our Saviour.  Saint Therese might have only spent 24 years on this planet, but her way of love is monumental, and Michelle is a part of that way of love for eternity as well.

In her autobiography The Story of a Soul Therese comes to the conclusion of the purpose of her life, and also of her eternal life as she says:
Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.
This was a quote in the Office of Readings for today.

His final woman of faith is Andrea McCormick, a student from Pennsylvania, who wrote an award winning and thought provoking article on "Why Abortion Should End", which is available in Father Gordon's blog post.

But, where she grabbed me particularly was when she quoted my favorite document of American history, the Declaration of Independence.
“All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We are ALL created equal, not born, not hatched, but created.  And when are we created?  At the moment of our conception.

So, Saint Therese and her way of love permeates this posting about women of faith, and that is how it should be for we are all created by Love and for love.

Miriam suffered for a time and lives to tell the story of God and His Mercy.  Michelle lived for a time, suffered greatly and is in the company of the angels and saints interceding for us now.  St. Therese lived for a short time as well, and left us with her Little Way, the way of  love, and comes to many souls in many ways to make known the love of God for them.

Andrea McCormick is a continuing story.  Like Miriam Ibrahim, she is destined to suffer for her faith, in the midst of a world of unbelief, but like Miriam Ibrahim she and her faith will prevail because it is rooted in Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

Father Gordon is another continuing story, and though he suffers for his faith daily, he is pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned as the song below Trading My Sorrows says:





Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Parable of the Prisoner

There once was a little boy, born in a far off land.  While he was still very young, his mother left him and moved to a distant country, and he was placed into the prison of abandonment.  And the Father wept for His little beloved.

The little boy was taken in by family, but was put to work at a very early age, and so received no formal education.  He was placed in a prison of ignorance.  And the Father wept for His little beloved.

After many years, his mother returned with her husband from a distant country and took the little boy away with her to the distant country where he did not know the language, the customs or any of its people.  He was placed in a prison of fear and confusion. And the Father wept for His little beloved.

His step father was an evil man and sexually abused him.  Though he tried to run away he was brought back to the home of his step father, where he was continually abused.  He was placed in a prison of revulsion and anger.

Finally, he escaped and lived on the streets until one night he was involved in the death of another man.  He was convicted of murder and sentenced to prison.  He was first in a prison of remorse, sadness, and hatred, and then was placed in a prison of the body. And the Father wept for His little beloved.

He was moved from prison to prison from cell to cell. So, added to the prisons of his life thus far, his circumstances had placed him into a prison of loneliness. And the Father wept for His little beloved.

But, unbeknownst to him, another man had been sentenced, for crimes that never happened, to the prison where he was finally settled.  This man was a Catholic priest, and even though he himself knew the prison of abandonment, he did not allow it to define his life and so he befriended the young man from the far off land, and led him to relationship with Jesus Christ. And the Father leaped for joy to see His little beloved on the path to freedom, the path for which He had sent His Son to bleed and die, and then to rise again.

As time passed, the young man and his priest friend consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  They also discovered two very dear friends among the saints, Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Saint Padre Pio.

Under the protection of Our Holy Mother, the Blood of Jesus Christ and with the intercession of their dear friends the saints, the prison walls of both of their lives have been disintegrating, because they cannot stand against the virtues of Faith, Hope and Love.

This parable, like all parables is meant for each of us to ponder for we too have been placed in the prisons of our emotions by our circumstances, whether we were misled by others, or consciously took paths that led to these prisons.  How we came to be in the prisons of our lives is far less important than how we can leave them behind.

You see, some of these prisons, the prisons of our minds are prisons that we have willingly entered in the hope of escaping the other prisons of our lives.  But, exchanging one prison for another or adding another prison to our already tortured lives is not the answer.

Whatever the question, the answer is Jesus Christ.  He was and is the perfect gift from the Father to you and to me, because He took on all our prisons and allowed them to be nailed to the Cross with Him.  He returned them to their rightful place, Hell, and then He rose again from the dead.

Unlike most parables, this one is based on the true story of Pornchai Maximilian Moontri, and his mentor and best friend Father Gordon MacRae.

So, unlike most parables this one is before us every day for us to ponder, pray on, and then to accept the love of Christ, and the love of His Blessed Mother that has been bringing salvation to both Pornchai and to Father Gordon.

Let the Father leap for joy at your acceptance of His Son as your Saviour.  Let the Father leap for joy as you give your heart to Jesus to repair and heal, and to Mary to love you as only a perfect mother can.

And turn to These Stone Walls and read as the parable continues to unfold.




Thursday, September 11, 2014

From Fear and Humility to Hope and Love

Once again, a blockbuster article appeared over at These Stone Walls, this one titled "Travesty of Justice: The Ordeal of Fr. Gordon MacRae".  Every week I await the Wednesday morning posting on These Stone Walls, with some of the anticipation of a young child for Christmas, and every week I am not disappointed.  The gift given is always just what I needed, never too much and never too little. And it is probably so for many of the other readers of TSW postings, and so it is a unique gift for each of us.

And isn't anticipation of Christmas a good thing?  At that first Christmas we received the greatest gift mankind every received, the birth of Our Saviour; God became man for us.  And that gift too is unique for each and every one of us.  The same Jesus, the same manger, the same outward appearance, but he comes to each and every one of us where we are geographically and in our state in life.

The giving of gifts at Christmas was always meant to symbolize that greatest of all gifts, but has come more to mean conspicuous consumption.  But, the underlying meaning of Christmas is still there, even if hidden from the eyes of most. So, when we receive our weekly gift from Father Gordon at These Stone Walls, we are there too receiving the original intent of Christmas, the gift of Christ. In this particular case we receive the gift of Christ from an alter christus, a man ordained to bring Christ to us.

Yesterday our gift though was a little different.  It was a recounting of the case, life and trials of Father MacRae, by a very respected leader of the laity in America, Dr. William Donohue.  If you have been on the TSW site, or have come across articles or books by Ryan A. MacDonald or Dorothy Rabinowitz to name two of many you have had access to the story of cruelty and manipulation that resulted in the false imprisonment of Father MacRae.

The available information on his case is voluminous, and with the different perspectives of the various writers focusing on particular aspects of the injustice of it all, and official documents, it is a challenge to put into a single perspective.  However, Dr. Donohue does just that and for that TSW readers should be grateful.

Dr. Donahue highlights the confluence of evil that was required for our friend and priest Father Gordon to end up behind bars in such an incongruous set of lies, deceptions, hatred, greed, and malevolence.  The devil is in the details, and in this case we can see the devil in the details.

For further reflection we have the words of Saint Bernard an abbot and the author of the Memorare prayer that you can find at the bottom of the TSW web page.  Saint Bernard, like Father Gordon was a lover of Our Holy Mother.  In the Office of the Readings for September 10, we find that he wrote:
The whole of the spiritual life consists of these two elements.  When we think of ourselves, we are perturbed and filled with a salutary sadness.  And when we think of Our Lord, we are revived to find consolation in the joy of the Holy Spirit.  From the first we derive fear and humility, from the second hope and love.
Father Gordon did not commit the crimes for which he was placed in prison, in no large part because they never happened.  But, he is a sinner like you and me.  Our Lord knew who he was, and also how he, like you and like me, is the very apple of His eye.  He has allowed all that has happened to Father Gordon to occur for His Glory, in ways we can not understand, in ways that are way above our pay grade.

I do not know anything about the depth of Father Gordon's spiritual life before going to prison, but I read and see it becoming as deep as the ocean now.  He has been taken to the places of fear and humility; it is evident in his writings.  But, as I wrote last week in Unchained Melody: Hope in the Hoosegow, there is evidence of hope in the life of Father Gordon and Pornchai and those with them in the NH Pen for Men.  But, hope is incomplete without love, and the hope in the pen is not incomplete.

Father Gordon's gift of himself to us each week comes from the same place as the gift Jesus gave to us in His Birth, but also in His Death and Resurrection.  That gift and every good gift emanates from the heart of the Father, and as God is love, so too these gifts are gifts of love.

Cherish the gift that is Jesus, and cherish the gift from his alter christus, Father Gordon as if it comes from the depths of the heart of Jesus, for it does.  The gift we receive weekly from Father Gordon is a sign of God's love for us.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Unchained Melody: Hope in the Hoosegow

I have wondered why it is that Father Gordon MacRae, a priest falsely imprisoned in The New Hampshire State Prison for Men has become such a beacon in the lives of the many believers who read his weekly postings from Behind These Stone Walls.

This week as Father wrote his post entitled The Shawshank Redemption and the Crime of Innocence it hit me.

Father Gordon MacRae and Pornchai Maximilium Moontri are living parables.  They are in essence living the stories of our own lives but in a more dramatic and graphic fashion.  We wander about our daily lives, carrying the burdens of our own sins on our backs, free in our bodies, yet not free in our spirit.  They are stuck in stir at the NH Pen for Men, but are a witness to spiritual freedom in their daily life.

Father Gordon this week, gives us a glimpse into life in the prison system that is at once chilling and reminiscent of how the devil plays with us in our own daily lives of confinement. He tells of solitary confinement, and of time spent confined to a prison cell built for 4 men but housing 8.  It is only a glimpse, but it is an example of man's inhumanity to man. In the world outside prisons, we might look at legislation that makes things we know to be depravities legal as a form of confining believers to small and shrinking domains.

The potential hopelessness that can be generated in prisoners, by how we, as a society, handle our brothers and sisters, who are like us in general, except that they got caught, struck me as I pondered Father Gordon's article.  I am not trying to diminish the seriousness of the deeds of most prisoners. They have committed serious criminal acts, but in truth are they greater sinners than we are, if all sin is abhorrent to God?  As Pope Francis said, though the context is lost in translation: "Who am I to judge?"

I find that I have to absorb what Father Gordon says for a couple of days. Though sometimes I am able to write my own thoughts about it more quickly, his writing stays inside my breast for a lengthy period and percolates, often aided by readings from the Bible or Liturgy of the Hours or articles by other Catholic writers that I regularly pay attention to.  It amazes me how the points that I am to get from Father Gordon's writings usually come to me in multiple ways to make sure that the point is made.

So, I pondered on what life would be like with another person in less than 100 square feet of living space.  Our family room in Canada is about 3 times that size and looks over our gardens, and a forested park just beyond our property.  Not a very good comparison.  But, in Arizona, we live in a park model trailer, a "candominium" as we like to call our little metal mansions down there.  Even there we have 700 square feet of living space, with exposure to the sunshine and the desert daily. BUT, what would life be like if we were confined to our bedroom there for most of every day, which is about the size of the cell that Father Gordon and Pornchai share?  My wife and I need space from each other to keep us from going "stir" crazy.

But, if Father Gordon, Pornchai and the other prisoners in the New Hampshire hoosegow can survive their confinement, then something must be afoot behind These Stone Walls.  And if it is afoot for them, then surely it must be afoot for us on the outside.

The clue came in this quote from Father Gordon, including the words of the fictional Andy Dufresne from the Shawshank Redemption:
Most important of all to our survival, Andy Dufresne and I both had hope, that one necessary thing that Andy bestowed upon his friend, Red, at Shawshank: “Remember that hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.  We can certainly argue that the Bible ranking of the three primary virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity is correct in a global sense, Charity (Love) being the greatest, but when your back is against the wall, Hope might just be the "best of things."

A clue to the importance of Hope is found here in the Bible:
Romans 12:12: "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."
Hope is what we see in Father Gordon and Pornchai, and which we must find and see in ourselves as well.  Their tribulations and trials probably bother them as much or more than our own trials bother us, but Hope pervades their existence.  I have witnessed in them both an uptick on the Dow Jones of Hope this past year, and I attribute that to their Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Here is a link to one of many articles that touch on their Consecration at These Stone Walls.  In a world quickly going to Hell in a hand basket, I too, in no small measure because of their example, have consecrated myself to Our Dear Mother, and note that my own Hope has risen.

Locutions to the World is a Catholic blog site that contains prophetic words from Jesus and His Beloved Mother Mary to a person in Pennsylvania and has been reporting those words since late 2010.  The spiritual director of this individual has been instructed to disseminate these words from heaven. In a prophecy received on August 3, 2014, the Blessed Virgin Mary had this to say:
I see the world in such anguish. Never before have I so desired to pour out my gifts. I must always repeat the message. The heavenly Father has placed all of his treasures for the world in my Immaculate Heart because he foresaw this moment in human history when the fires of hell would break forth from beneath the earth.
He placed them there because my heart is so easily broken open and his gifts can fall like raindrops upon the fires. When fires are burning out of control, are not rain clouds a joyous sight? Do they not hold out hope that soon the fires will be overcome? 
The Church must see my heart in this way, filled with heavenly rain, waiting to quench these demonic forces that are evident everywhere and to everyone. Is there not a demonic source to all the wars, to all the diseases, to all the acts of terrorism, to all the hopelessness?
Within a few short weeks on August 21, 2014 Jesus gave these words of prophecy to a person in Ridgetown Ontario under the direction of a retired priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of London. The prophecies received by this individual are located on the Life in the Spirit blog site:
I am forming you today that you may see truly the merits of Heaven for all eternity, versus the deceit and lies of the world and all its views. 
Mindful of the great deception that has been perpetrated against My people to be lead down the path of destruction, I now snatch you back to Myself. 
You will not be taken out of the world, but made to live in the freedom of love and not the captivity of hate and self destruction.
Yes, the evil one would see you destroyed and incapacitated forever. 
I am giving you the opportunity of allowing you to serve your brothers and sisters now through My love now living in you, it will be Me working through you. 
For now, you who follow Me have been raised with Me into a newness of life, rejoice My followers, hold high your heads. 
Do not assume the downcast appearance of those who have no hope, for your hope is in your Saviour.
I am here and have never left you, but in these times of turmoil as you now find yourselves, be sure I am empowering you in all that you need and will need.
Both of these prophecies that predate Father Gordon's words of Hope by moments in the heavenly realm remind us to have hope, and the last one makes it clear that our Hope is in Our Saviour.

All over the world the message from heaven is to Hope in Our Saviour, that Hope is an essential characteristic of those who wish to follow Jesus,

As we read from Father Gordon there is Hope in the Hoosegow, but there is Hope outside the Hoosegow as well.

Have Hope always.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is Something Hokey in the Pokey?

Every Wednesday morning is a special time for me.  When I awaken I say my morning prayers usually including the Office of Readings or Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.  Since I use iBreviary on my iPad to do the Liturgy of the Hours, and also because I have a document of the particular prayers that I like to pray daily, I am then ready for my favourite part of Wednesday morning.

I open my email application on my iPad, find the Wednesday morning email with the link to the latest posting from These Stone Walls, the blog of Father Gordon MacRae and click on it, and settle in to read his latest epistle.  Then, I meditate on it, and if I feel the leading write my own posting for this blog largely based on the wisdom emanating from the New Hampshire State Prison for Men, and guidance from Our Lord.  Of course, the one source I can count on, the higher one I hope I hear since the still small voice often times gets drowned out by the noise going on in my own head.

So, this Wednesday I preempted the expected email, and had "http://thesestonewalls.com/" in a window on my browser all ready to go, and clicked.  I was anxious to get to what Father Gordon had to say.  But, nothing had changed from the day before, meaning that the latest posting was the very good posting by Father James Valladares, about the 20 years of wrongful imprisonment of Father MacRae for phantom crimes of child sexual abuse.

No problem.  I was probably early since the usual linking email had not arrived yet anyway.  But, several times through the day yesterday, I checked back, looking for that linking email and just in case the linking email had not gone out for some reason, went back to the blog site These Stone Walls, just to be sure I had not missed it.

I was concerned that maybe something had happened in the hoosegow that had missed my attention, but nothing seemed remiss.  I did think that maybe Father's latest missive had gotten caught in the US postal system.  But, usually the US Posties are pretty good at getting things delivered in a timely fashion.  In Canada where we charge more for postage on mail, delivery seems to take longer, and I often think that here in Canada our Canadian Postal Service charges for storage.

I did not worry, in the sense that I do trust in God that what is, fits His plan, and that everything will work out according to that plan.  But, I was disappointed.  I think that is so, because when Father Gordon writes, it seems to me like he is writing to me personally (as I am sure most of his readers feel) and so not hearing from him seems disquieting, like a very good friend is lost, if even temporarily.

It seems strange to think that here in the outside and allegedly free world, at least free from physical confinement we/I are/am concerned about a prisoner in the US prison system, but I think that those of us who follow the exploits (I have written of these exploits and exploitation recently) of Father Gordon and his very trusty and trustworthy sidekick Pornchai Maximilium Moontri, feel a particular kinship with Father Gordon (and Pornchai) and are lifted up by his faith, hope and love for his fellow prisoners and for us.

So, I was pleased to know this morning that the delay is because of a knee operation that the Editor has had that has prevented her from getting the latest missive from Father G to us.  I can relate to this, as my dear wife had a knee replacement about 5 weeks ago, and it sure put a crimp in our style, these last 5 weeks, though the speed of her recovery with how serious the surgery is amazed me and amazes me.

But, I relate to Father Gordon's editor's pain and life disruption pretty much as I relate to the pain and life disruption of Father MacRae being incarcerated for over 20 years for crimes that never happened.  I can empathize, but I do not really know the pain, physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

But, then I can empathize with a Saviour who comes to earth and requires his beloved brothers and sisters to put Him to death, only to rise again, though I cannot really grasp what it means.  However, that is where there is a connection that brings things full circle and engages us in the Salvation story of one and all.

Our dear friend Father Gordon as priest and alter christus, like Our Dear Saviour, the one and only Christ, was convicted of crimes that never happened by folks like you and me, and in the case of Father Gordon sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars, not a very painful, agonizing but relatively quick death like Jesus, but a death by 1,000 cuts, of day after day, year after year, hidden behind These Stone Walls.

Father MacRae's long march to death does not compare in its totality to the significance of that of Jesus, but it is instead a sacramental re-presentation of the death of Jesus, and so like with Jesus, we await a resurrection of Father Gordon of sorts, which we do not understand or grasp.  And is that not what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is, a re-presentation of the Death and Resurrection of Our Beloved Saviour?

The created can never suffer as much as the Creator, never love as much as the Creator, or hope as much as the Creator.  But, we are created in the image of the Creator and so we can give what we have in union with Jesus to be signs to our brothers and sisters that He is alive in us, through us, with us and for us.

Recently, at Sunday Mass, the priest, a man I have known almost as long as he has been a priest, had fallen asleep between the morning Masses and the evening Mass that my wife and I like to attend.  So, he arrived at Church moments before Mass and felt unprepared.  He made himself vulnerable to us in his homily as he explained this to us, and then went on to speak extemporaneously for his homily to us.  The words that came from his mouth connected to the readings of the day with clarity and truth, and the music ministry's song selection, which he also touched on had made it all come together as a tapestry.

Then the Eucharist itself began, and he consecrated Jesus with such devotion and love that His Presence became obvious to all present.  When I received Communion I had tears of joy in my eyes, for I knew Who I had just received.

I felt the need to write my priest friend the next day to tell him how awesome that Mass had been, and how his making himself vulnerable to us had been an important step.  He responded that he had felt foolish but believe that the Lord had wanted it that way, that he might be a "fool for Christ."

As I read his note I had a vision, and I have had visions at Mass a few times over the past year or so.  In the vision I saw what I had actually seen during Mass, that the large beautiful crucifix was behind the altar, and our priest was in front of the altar preaching his homily.  Then, in the vision I saw the Holy Spirit descending upon our priest from above the Cross, and a white garment, though whole and complete, coming as from Jesus, and settling around our priest.

I communicated this to my priest friend, but realized that it was not just about him, but about every priest in the world, ever.

And I realize that it is about our friend Father Gordon MacRae.  Why we relate to his writing is that the Spirit is upon him, and he does wear the white garment as well, the garment that joins him with Christ, and connects him to the death of Jesus as a witness (which by the way is what the word martyr means).  There are red martyrs who have shed their blood for their love of Jesus and their fellow man, but not all martyrs shed their blood in death.  Some bleed daily for their love of mankind, quietly, again death by 1,000 cuts.

This is Father Gordon, a free man empowered by the Holy Spirit with the mantle of Jesus Christ upon him, a free man who happens currently to be an unwitting guest of the New Hampshire State Prison foe Men, from where he ministers to inmates and to those who read his postings at These Stone Walls.

May God richly bless him as he shares the love of Jesus with us.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Exploits and Exploitation

Recently I wrote about what was happening with Father Gordon MacRae and his trusted friend and fellow journeyer Pornchai Maximilium Moontri and their exploits in the faith in response to this article of his.

I read Father MacRae's weekly missive during my Wednesday morning prayer time, and often, I think, God clarifies for me some of what Father MacRae has to say and how it impacts my life, and maybe gives me words to encourage him and Pornchai (at least I hope so).

While reading and praying over Father MacRae's recent article, the word "exploit" came to mind, a word I know, but would never use in conversation.  It is a great word, but not one for common parlance.  But, it was, in fact, a perfect word to describe what is happening behind These Stone Walls.

But since writing that article about their exploits, I could not get the word out of my mind.  I wrote about the noun exploit which means "exciting acts" and also can mean"notable or heroic actions."  But that is exploit as a noun.

But, exploit is also a transitive verb, meaning that it is an action done to another person, thing or group of persons or things.  It is exploit as a transitive verb that has been playing in my mind these last few days.  I think I described the exploits of Father Gordon and Pornchai well enough last week, so now it is time to look at the transitive verb exploit as it relates to them.

I often wonder if what I am writing is honoring to God, and is being faithful to what He is calling me to do.  I not only wonder but sometimes agonize as well.  Most of this particular article was completed by Tuesday of this week, and I thought it would be a second perspective on what I had written in response to Father Gordon's article from last week.

But, for some reason I could not seem to complete it and so it sat on my computer until now.  Apparently, I could not complete it because it was not really a follow up on Father Gordon's article, but somewhat of an explanation of the guest posting yesterday of Father James Valladares, the author of the book Hope Springs Eternal in the Priestly Breast.

Exploit as a verb often means to take advantage of someone or something, such as a farmer who exploits the land he owns to grow crops.  This taking advantage is a positive thing, but much of exploiting is not about beneficial or benign use of something, but of taking advantage of someone or something unjustly or unethically for one's benefit either directly or indirectly.

That brings us back to Father Gordon, and to Pornchai.

Father Gordon, as readers of These Stone Walls, and those who have done their research elsewhere know, is in jail as a Catholic priest convicted for sexual abuse of a minor.  He was convicted in fact, exploited by various persons and groups who derived an advantage by imprisoning him, and his guilt or innocence had little to do with it.

The truth of the matter is that for Father Gordon to have committed the crimes for which he is incarcerated, he would have had to have been places where he was not, and the places where he was and was supposed to have committed some of the offences would have had to be private, such that his actions could have been hidden from others in his office area, which they were not.

In other words Father Gordon was exploited both unethically and unjustly by individuals and groups that conspired to destroy him and his good name, unsuccessfully in the end, I might add.  Who exploited him?

Father Valladares writes of the dichotomy that exists between persons who have accused priests and religious of sexual abuse, where their primary motive is obviously financial gain, and the priests they accuse of crimes from the distant past with no evidence whatsoever.

The exploiters here start with a combination of litigation lawyers, who in a resurrection of ambulance chasers of the medical malpractice run for the money, had shifted their attention to the fiscal treasury of the Catholic Church, and fast buck artists, professional victims who are looking for a score.  Often, this has been the case.

But, even more in the case of Father Gordon MacRae, the criminal justice system in the State of New Hampshire, from the investigator who championed the flawed case against Father MacRae to the prosecutor who pursued the flawed case to completion, to Judge Brennan, the jurist who heard and adjudicated the case, exploited Father MacRae.

Sadly, his own bishop, and now his successor participated in this exploitation, and in fact the whole United States Catholic Council of Bishops tacitly did so and continue to do so, as well.  As the shark feeding frenzy over priest sexual abuse was getting into full swing, the Bishop of the Diocese of Manchester New Hampshire basically accepted all claims of abuse on their face. As Father Valladares points out at least 62 claims of abuse were made against the diocese, and were accepted on their face.

Meanwhile, Father Gordon has continued to be exploited for the last 20 years by the penal system of New Hampshire, since he is in prison on false testimony and conviction.

Alongside him in prison are many other men who were exploited, and I dare say that most to all of them have been exploited in some way in their lifetimes.  But, Pornchai, whose story we know at least some snippets of, is a good example of this further exploitation.

Pornchai was born in Thailand, was abandoned by his mother at age 2, and then recovered by his mother from family he lived with at age 11, and brought with her husband and her to America, against his will.  Using someone for your own selfish purposes is a form of exploitation, and of that his own mother is guilty. But, she delivered him into the hands of her husband, who as Pornchai's step father chose to sexually abuse him for the next 3 years.  He was exploited by those who were supposed to love and cherish him.

Then at age 18, he killed a man, and the exploitation hits kept coming.  Like Father Gordon his defense was inadequate, and so he became a prisoner, and eventually made his way to the New Hampshire State Prison for Men.

A version of Pornchai's story is the story of all prisoners, not that they do not deserve incarceration for what they have done, but that there is more to them than what they have done.  The penal system assigns prisoners a number, by which they are identified.  They are dehumanized and degraded by a penal system meant to protect the outside world from them.  Isn't that a simplified definition of exploitation?

So, here in a state prison, we have two men (and more) who have been and continue to be exploited, and the story could end there and we could go back to our morning coffee, but here the story turns.

The exploitation turns to exploits, and for Father Gordon and for Pornchai, Michel Ciresi and others. Imprisonment turns to freedom.

You may be able to take the priest out of the church, but you cannot take the Church out of the priest, and Father Gordon has continued in his priesthood while in prison these last 20 years.  He had been alter christus for the men in the prison, though many do not know it, and some of them have been Christ for him as well.  So, there have been many exploits of faith over the years, because faith is not extinguished by stone walls.

So, it seems appropriate to me that Father Gordon, Pornchai et al completed the Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus following the retreat format of "33 Days to Morning Glory" by Father Michael Gaitley.

Imagine Morning Glory in a prison.  But, it is, and Father Gordon and Pornchai are no longer the exploited, but are living lives filled with exploits as they explore their journey of faith with Our Blessed Mother as their guide, and Our Saviour as their focus.

There is a lesson for all of us in their story, and the lesson is that we are not the product of what was done to us, even if we conspired in the doing, but we are beloved children of God destined for greater things.  The only thing we have to do is what Mary did, when the angel appeared to her.  We just have to say "Yes."

If Father Gordon, and Pornchai can be free though still housed in a prison, can we not accept the freedom of trusting in God from the prisons of our lives?


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Exploits of Submission to God's Will in a World Falling Apart

Everybody who reads this piece probably wants the same things, world peace, an end to disease, an end to hunger, while at the same time to be left alone in comfort to live life the way they want to. The problem is that having and enjoying the latter personal life is actually in direct opposition to achieving the former objectives. It is in fact because of the latter that the former are impossible.

We live in a world that is falling apart quickly, and is not giving us what we want, even though in all reality our needs are being met or are able to be met.  But then, that is another matter.

So, if the world is not to our liking, we have a number of options.

Here is one I do not fancy, nor should you.  The world lost a great comedic mind the other day.  Robin Williams, who has made my side split more often than I can remember, brought me to tears when I read that he had committed suicide.  I cannot possibly imagine how much he must have been torn apart by depression, by the demons that haunted him.  I cannot judge the state of his soul when he died, but pray that he was able to submit himself to God in that final moment.  But, I do feel saddened at the loss of the laughter he brought to us all, and the subtle wisdom that often was lying beneath the laughs.  The world is not a better place without him in it.

Another option we have is to just do more of what we are doing already, since maybe that is all that is required to get to where we want to be.  However, again, that is not likely going to work.  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

Therein lies the frailty of the human condition.  In fact, in the human condition we are conditioned to respond to stimuli the way that we do.  We are conditioned by our family of origin, by the media, by the events of our lives, and by the devil, who wants to defeat God and take as many of us to eternity in Hell with him.

I hazard to guess that most of us won't take the suicide route, though more do so every day.  No, we are likely to just keep on keeping on as it were, maybe doing more to see if it will help, or getting depressed that what we are doing is not working, and maybe get a prescription for tranquilizers to see if that will help.  That is not meant as a condemnation of tranquilizers, just not an endorsement of them as the be all and end all of solving problems in our lives.

It seems to me that there is another and a better answer.  Individually, we cannot change the world, but we can make a change in our own world.  By that I don't mean a new diet, more or less exercise, better hobbies, more tofu or less steak.

No, I am referring to a change in attitude.

We see the world not as it is, but as we are, or so have said numerous wise ones.  We cannot change the world, nor can we really change who we are.  But, we can change our attitude, and in doing so we can change what we are committed to.

As readers will know, I am following carefully the exploits of Father Gordon MacRae and Pornchai Maximilian Moontri, two inmates of the New Hampshire State Men's Prison over at These Stone Walls, Father Gordon's blog.

I chose the word exploits intentionally because exploits are "exciting acts" and also can be "notable or heroic actions."

You might think that what Bill Gates and his family do on the yacht that they are renting at $500,000 per week for their three week summer vacation is exciting, and that two prisoners in a state prison is hardly up to par with that.  Well, in one sense that is true.  In a couple of weeks, Bill, Melinda and their family and billions will be back in Washington State or wherever, doing whatever with whomever, and Father Gordon and Pornchai will still be in prison in New Hampshire.

But, I am pretty sure that in a couple of weeks Father Gordon and Pornchai and their associates in the NH Pen exploits will have drawn them many steps closer to the Heart of Jesus Christ, closer to their own salvation, and closer to holiness.

On the other hand, Bill, Melinda Gates et al cannot buy that no matter how much money they put up.  It is not for sale.  It is a free gift from Jesus, because He already paid for it on Calvary.

The Gates' can do all the wild and crazy things that money can buy.  Father Gordon and Pornchai operate on a wild and crazy plane that is far higher, far greater, and far wilder and crazier than the Gates family can imagine.  They are operating on a spiritual plane, not merely a physical plane.

We all want freedom, but we want freedom from pain, from suffering, from injustice, from hurt.  Yet, in our daily lives we inflict pain and suffering on those we love, and even more so on those we don't know to love by ignoring their plight.  We inflict injustice on those who come to us for help that we ignore, or treat haphazardly, and we inflict hurt on others emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally.

The only way to get complete freedom is to give away what freedom you have.  Whatever freedom you or I think we have, give it away. Am I crazy?  Yes, I am, thank you very much and I intend to get crazier every day from here on in.

Father Gordon, Pornchai, and a few other men like Mike Ciresi in the Pen have consecrated themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  That was a very heroic exploit. Consecration, is a solemn act of dedicating oneself to a higher purpose.  What happened to them in doing that was that their eyes began to open.  I know.  I have done it too, and that is what happens.

By the nature of being incarcerated, they did not have a lot of freedom, but what little they had, they gave away anyway.  They gave it to Mary to take to her son Jesus that He might use it to his greater glory, to their sanctification, and that of others as He alone saw fit.

That eye opening exploit was so miraculous for them there in the prison, that they signed up for another eye opener, a retreat that takes off from their Consecration.  It is called "Consoling the Heart of Jesus", and is such a logical next step.  Somebody said to me a number of years ago: "Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess."

If you are consecrated to Jesus and Mary, then to console the heart of Jesus, Mary's Son is the obvious next step.

Father Gordon in his latest article at These Stone Walls tells a little about this next step.

Father Gordon and Pornchai and their friends have let go of what little freedom they have in a place filled with people who were put there generally because they committed acts that were seriously antisocial, and live in a peace and joy that frankly we cannot really imagine in the comfort of our living rooms, and big screen TVs.

Can we be like Dismas, the good thief on the cross beside Jesus, who in his last moments of life on earth consecrated himself to Christ?  With people yelling at Jesus on the Cross to come down from there to prove He was the Christ, Dismas looked with the eyes of faith, saw who Jesus really was, and trusted Jesus and His Divine Mercy, who told him that he would be with Him in paradise.

That is what Father Gordon and his friends have done.

My wife and I went to a nice restaurant the other day for lunch.  As I looked at the next table I said to the waitress: "I want what they have."  As it relates to Father Gordon and Pornchai, I want what they have.

Any other takers?






Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Transfiguration Behind These Stone Walls

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration.  It commemorates the day that Jesus took three of His disciples up on the mountain, believed to be Mount Tabor, and there, in an instant, was revealed in all His Glory before them, or at least as much as they could stand to see and live.

This happened just days after He had said to His disciples that: "There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."

Transfiguration means a change in form or appearance, or a metamorphosis.  Metamorphosis means a major change in the appearance or character of someone or something.

In fact, we are all called to change our form or appearance, to be conformed to Christ in us.  Where Christ in His Transfiguration was actually changed and it was visibly obvious to the three disciples present, our transfiguration is more like a very slow metamorphosis and as that, might not be as obvious to those around us, as that of Christ was.

But, if we look with the eyes of faith, we can see the transfiguration or metamorphosis of people of faith all around us, as they seek to conform or accept being conformed into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

We are created in the Image of God, and so except for the presence of sin in our lives we should be able to see the Kingdom of God present in each other, because we are told and we believe that the Kingdom of God is at hand.

So, it seems appropriate to me at least, that on the Feast of the Transfiguration, we are reminded of how a couple of men have been transfigured, though that transfiguration is not complete yet, maybe not as dramatically as Jesus was on the mountain, but changed from the inside out none the less.

Around this time five years ago, Father Gordon MacRae, a priest, wrongly imprisoned in New Hampshire for sexual abuse that was contrived by a supposed victim to separate the Catholic Church from some of its money began writing the blog that is known as "These Stone Walls."

I did not see the beginning of this blog, but came across it about a year later.  So, though I missed the beginning, I have not missed the point, I hope.  In the 4+ years that I have followed These Stone Walls, I have seen the transfiguration of Father Gordon MacRae, and his trusty sidekick Pornchai Moontri, as they have chosen to grow closer to Jesus Christ.

Noting their Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I have followed their lead, not because I am a sheep, particularly, but because I believe in it, and needed only a little prodding from brothers I have never met to take the step myself.

The Father Gordon MacRae who began this literary part of his own journey of faith is not the Father Gordon MacRae you read today, nor is Pornchai the same.  Both have been transfigured, and readers are the better for it, since we have before us a priest being a priest of God under very difficult circumstances, and a young man as his compatriot, who has fallen in love with our Lord and Saviour.

Father Gordon should never have been in jail, since he did nothing wrong, at least not in a legal sense.  But, I think that he, knowing that he is a sinner in need of the grace of God, knows like all of us, if we would be honest with ourselves and with our God, that our sin is so grave that we, in fact, deserve whatever befalls us, and that life is not fair, because the author of life has a plan bigger than our own personal comfort.

Pornchai, on the other hand might in some sense deserve to be in prison for crimes he committed, but there again, there is more to it than that.  Having read his story, I know that in the circumstances that I have read he was in, bearing in mind that whatever has been written is merely the tip of the iceberg, I might have done exactly what he did.  As well, I would likely have had the same feelings of abandonment, anger and hatred towards those who betrayed me.

But God conspired to use the evil around them to bring them together for His greater Glory, and so with their cooperation he is transfiguring them into His own Image and likeness.

Christ was and is perfect, so His Transfiguration could happen in a fraction of a second.  We, unlike him carry the stain of original sin, and of our own sin, and so ultimately transfiguration for us is a lifelong journey. But transfiguration happens in us more rapidly when we are committed to God's plan for our lives, and when we do not let the stone walls in our lives keep us from the love of God for us, and which we are to share with our brothers and sisters.

Father Gordon and Pornchai have committed to do God's will in a most unlikely venue, and that both blesses all who read These Stone Walls, and also encourages us, who most often are in better circumstances to amend our lives and conform ourselves to God's plan for each of us.

If Father Gordon and Pornchai can tear down the figurative stone walls that surround them, even in the midst of literal stone walls, can we not do the same?  The stone walls in our individual lives, disease, unemployment, poverty, woundedness in our relationships are very real, but must they possess us, or can we take the example of Father Gordon and Pornchai to heart, and accept these trials as part of God's plan for our own transfiguration?

Pray for Father Gordon and for Pornchai that they will be faithful to the calling that God has put on their lives, but pray also that they will be an example to us of what faithfulness to God looks like, that we might follow their example.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

NOTHING SHALL BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD

In this crazy mixed up world we live in where things that we were raised to know were gravely sinful are treasured as good, where wars are breaking out all over, where drought and famine are common, and uncertain and disastrous weather abounds, it is easy to get discouraged for people of faith.  As if these things happening in the world around us are not sufficient to make the stouthearted feel faint, then the attack on Christian faith in general, and on the Catholic Church in particular, might just be enough to do it.

Except, that God is not bound by time or space, and most particularly is not bound by the whims of foolish men.

Into the midst of a world of chaos, the Lord, Our Precious Saviour Jesus Christ, and sometimes His Blessed Mother Mary, has been speaking to individuals around the world, not just in the still small voice from inside, or by using other human beings to encourage and uplift them, but in an audible voice with which He is asking them to share what He is speaking to them.

With this audible voice Jesus has been speaking to one person in Ridgetown Ontario, under the spiritual direction of Father Sam Johnston, a retired priest of the Diocese of London Ontario for a couple of years now.

These words of prophecy are all available on the Internet here at Fr. Sam's blog.

But, the prophecies are getting more profound, and deeper as time passes, and the one received the other day has upped the ante, and so I urge you to read it particularly here.

The title of the prophecy is "Nothing Shall Be Impossible for God".  Christians know this both instinctively and by education, and faith.  But, with all that is going on in our world, we often look at what is happening and project more and more destruction and chaos as time passes, and perceive that all will be lost.

But, in this prophecy, God wants us to know that all is not lost, that He has a plan, that His plan is working, and that YOU are a part of it.

Although I have linked to the prophecy here are some of the profound statements in the start of it:
I am bringing about a time of testing for those who are Mine in this time of grace, I alone know your capability and desire to help you grow into spiritual greatness. 
It shall be a fortifying and building of your character, one which will show you your weaknesses and your potential for growth.
None are in favour of change for it is often difficult, yet because of My great love for you, a strengthening  and purifying is necessary.
So, here we are with an explanation of the times we are living in.  It is a time of testing, in which grace from God exists, and even abounds.  If you are like me, then Jesus reminding us that we are not in "favour of change" tells me that He knows me pretty well. But, I am all in favour of being strengthened and purified, because even I know that I need it.

Also, in the prophecy, Jesus tells us why this is coming about:
Soon enough this time of grace will have come to an end and there will be decisions of morality and faith to be made, you must be ready. 
Your children will seek guidance and direction from you, where previously they would have rejected your advice and example. 
Do not be surprised that it is 3:00 am when you are awakened, the DIVINE MERCY said at this time will reap great blessings for you and for the stranger for whom you pray. 
I understand that you are weary from your day’s struggles, but will you say “no” to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to pray, would you give up some sleep for them? 
Time is short with many problems and worries bombarding your thoughts these days, but you must not be distracted in your efforts to do good which are necessary in your life. 
There is nothing that shall be impossible for God, I challenge you to think BIG and believe in the love I want to do through none other than you, it is your time now.
I understand that even in the chaos of our times there is great grace present, but this prophecy says that time of grace will come to an end, and in that ending will come Decision time for us on matters of morality and faith.  That means that the time for compromise with evil will have passed.  Who of us has not compromised with evil just to survive?  I know I have done it, and I know some times when I have done it, and I even know how, though I think I will know it even deeper as this period of grace draws to a close.

But, the beauty of God's plan for us here is that our children, who we have seen wandering as in the desert, as we pray for them and sorrow for the difficulties that they encounter, while celebrating their triumphs as well, will seek our guidance and direction.  That is encouraging.

So, this is a call to people of faith to be strong, to pray, to listen for the voice of God, and to help those in need of our prayers, support, and above all love.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Last Fisherman

A novel of the last Pope, the Antichrist and the end of the age by Randy England

Some time ago, I got connected to a site called Tuscany Press LLC.  Tuscany promotes Catholic fiction writers, and I for one am glad they do.

I get regular emails from them because I signed up for Catholic, Ink a weekly newsletter highlighting new Catholic fiction and articles about authors and things going on in the Catholic writer world.  I am happy that I signed up for Catholic, Ink because I have then gone on to purchase several of the novels referred to by clicking over to them on Amazon.  1 Click and the novel is on my Kindle app on my iPad.  Pretty simple.

The other day I purchased 3 new novels that way, and have just today completed reading the first one, "The Last Fisherman."

Randy England told a fictional story of the end of the age, with a credible last Pope and a credible evil Antichrist character.  It was a book I did not want to put down, and so basically I didn't, finishing it in a couple of extended reading sessions.

The good news is that it is a well written story.  The bad news is that if Tom Clancy had written it, it would have been 650 pages longer.  David Baldacci or Robert Ludlum would have only added another 250 to it. So, simply there could have been more detail in character development, and plot thickening.

At first, that irritated me, but then I prayed and thought about it, and came to a different conclusion.

Good Catholic fiction has a somewhat different objective than other good fiction.  Good Catholic fiction should be faithful to the Magisterium (bingo), faithful to the Bible (bingo), faithful to Church tradition (bingo), and it should tweak your faith, and lead you to prayer (bingo).  Though it should entertain you it should leave you thirsty (bingo once again).

In His Message for Lent 1993, Pope John Paul II referenced the words of Jesus on the Cross "I thirst." Mother Teresa subsequently wrote a letter to her congregation about the thirst Jesus has for us, His Beloved. So, it is my contention here that if Jesus thirsts for us, should we not thirst for Him?  Accordingly, then should things that are Catholic that we read or see increase that thirst in us for Our Beloved Saviour?

Clearly, for me at least this book of Mr. England's made me thirst.  I was driving for two hours to Toronto, 120 miles away from home today to visit with my daughter and prayed about "The Last Fisherman" and contemplated as I drove.  In that two hour drive I drew to the above conclusions.  On that basis alone I would rate Mr. England's book a success as Catholic fiction.

Though I enjoyed the book from cover to cover (or at least electronic cover to electronic cover) there was one particular excerpt that caught my attention.  In this excerpt, the new Pope describes a one act play for a non Catholic believer to explain some of the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.  That alone was worth reading the book, because it was very thought provoking.

This book can be acquired for Kindle or for Kindle readers on other formats here at Amazon.  As of today, the book can be purchased for 91 cents for Kindle.  How can you go wrong with that?