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.