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.