A prisoner is defined as:
- A person legally committed to prison as a punishment for crimes committed or while awaiting trial.
- A person captured and kept confined by an enemy, opponent, or criminal.
As his blog These Stone Walls attests, the Poem, "To Althea, from Prison" by Richard Lovelace, an English poet, cavalier of the 17th century, who experienced prison himself rings true, especially in its final stanza.
Stone walls do not a prison make,While in prison, Father Gordon has been free to speak truth to lies, love to hatred, and kindness to prejudice. He has taken his imprisonment, as horrid and wrong as it has been to be a blessing, and one that he can share with others.
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above
Enjoy such liberty.
In prison, he has shared his faith, in the midst of trials with those around him, living it daily, and not faltering. As a result, some have wanted to share in the peace he lives in prison, and have become lovers of the one Who loved them first.
But, some time back, he embarked on These Stone Walls, and has shared with those of us who have come in contact with this blog, what living a life of faith means in trying times.
He is maintaining a ministry in prison and outside with his written word and witness of faith. Would he be more free if he was not incarcerated, and would the good he has done for those in prison, and others falsely accused had he not been wrongfully imprisoned?
But, the main question I have to ask is: Are you and I as free as he is, even though we are are on the outside, as it were?
A number of years ago, I had a vision that has come more clear to me with the passage of time. In the vision, I was in a one room prison. There were barred windows on all four sides, and I could see beautiful green fields, and hills, with mountains in the background. A short ways off, I saw my wife, and our parish priest beckoning me to come and join them in the fields. How could I do that? I was in a prison. In a flash, the walls and bars and roof disappeared and I stood where I had been, but now there was nothing between me and them.
I was terrified. I had only known the prison of my own making that I lived in, and so to have this immense freedom was traumatic to me, at the time.
Over the ensuing years, I have come to embrace to a certain extent the freedom I have, to live life more fully, to reach out to the God who loves me, and to become more authentically who I have been created to be. But, only to a certain extent. I find that I am still caught up in prejudices and fears from time to time.
Recently, we spent considerable time with a friend, and observed how this friend operated for several days. Though lip service was paid to the desires and needs of others, this friend worked hard during our time together to get personal wishes met, through various manipulative techniques. At the end of the time we spent together, we knew nothing more of our friend than we had on first arrival. Walls protected our friend from being penetrated, and therefor truly known.
I can observe this not as a judgement of our friend, but because I have my own tricks for doing the same things myself often. So, it is not a judgement that I make, but an observation that I am very well qualified to make, as one who has and probably will in the future do many of the same things. It is in fact a grace given us to look not at our friend, but at ourselves.
Again, I ask, who among us is really free?