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.