Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ringing True and Tickling Ears

At 8:30 pm on November 15, 2014 an inmate died in prison in Danville, Pennsylvania.  He was under armed guard and handcuffed to a hospital bed at the time.  His death could have been prevented by a straight forward procedure to clear the arteries leading to his heart.  Oh well, you say, somewhat cynically.  One down.

Meanwhile another inmate has spent over 20 years incarcerated about 400 miles away in the New Hampshire State Prison for Men.  To which you say again, so what?

Well, for one thing, both are Catholic priests, the deceased one Father Charles Englehart, an Oblate, the currently imprisoned one Father Gordon MacRae, a diocesan priest and writer of These Stone Walls.  In fact, if you want a good commentary on the case of Father Charles you can read about it at These Stone Walls and follow links to various other articles about the case and context.

For another thing, both Father Charles Englehart and Father Gordon MacRae were imprisoned for sexual abuse of minors, based on the testimony of individuals, who if they testified against you or me on similar charges would be laughed out of court.  There is no practical evidence that the sexual abuse these two men were charged with actually happened, or was even plausible.

However, to some the testimony of the two star witnesses "rang true."

But, let's take a look at "rang true" and what it means.  In the middle ages, when coins were made of gold or silver, they were not as uniform in their size and weight, and so this created an opportunity for there were those who would counterfeit these coins by mixing other alloys in with the gold or silver.  To test the coins, merchants would drop them onto stone.  If the coin were phony, it would make either a dull or shrill tone depending on the alloys used, but a gold or silver coin would have a clear tone or would "ring true."

The allegedly aggrieved in both the cases of Father Gordon and Father Charles gave testimony that ebbed and flowed with the audiences and was nothing, if not inconsistent.  If the testimony of either of these alleged victims rang in any way, it sure was not true.  How about a big clank?

But, both of these cases had a more significant sound that seemed more like ear tickling as described in 2 Timothy 4:3-4:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
In the 1990's a scandal broke of what appeared to be widespread sexual abuse of minors by priests. In fact there were significant instances of priests who did sexually abuse young people.  What was ignored was that the bulk of these incidents were actually not pedophilia, but ephebophilia, which is in fact homosexuality, and homosexual acts between adult males (in this case priests) and post pubescent males.  It is not the splitting of hairs, but an essential distinction that is important to know and understand.

What was ignored even more was that sexual abuse has been studied in the past and that there are reasonable statistics, particularly a study done by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, reported in 2001.  That study found that in the group studied, 96% of all abuse occurred from people closely connected to the victim, from parents, to cousins ,to grandparents, boyfriends of the mother etc., with only 4% from what was termed strangers.

You can read about the social context of the Sexual Abuse Scandal in a report produced by Catholic League in 2004.

But, here is my real point.  I believe that we have reached a time in our society where St. Paul, the writer, or at least the mind behind 2 Timothy is proving to be a prophet.

The prosecutors in both these cases had to turn away from objective truth to a version of truth that rang true somehow, and that tickled their ears and would further their careers in order to prosecute these cases.

If I were a prosecutor, which would be better for my career, to prosecute a teacher, or scout leader, who might actually have abused someone, or to target a class of people (priests) that the public will believe are already guilty?  Oh, and the priests are more likely to be under defended, to boot.  Judge Sol Wachtler stated at one time that a prosecutor in presenting to the grand jury looking for indictment could get an indictment for a "ham sandwich".  Well, if his ham sandwich was a Catholic priest, a conviction was almost a slam dunk as well.

I was frankly too shocked by what I read in Father Gordon's commentary about the Englehart case to respond as I often do in a timely basis.  Father Gordon suggested that his article would make readers angry, and that emotion flitted around in my noggin for a while.  But, the more I thought about it and prayed about it and read about it, I realized that it was less about the particular instance than about a North American society, both Canadian and American that is rapidly going mad.  Hence, my reference above to the writing in 2 Timothy about "tickling of ears."

Then Father Gordon dropped the other foot the very next week with his article about Gossip.

I have sat with this for over a year.  I have no explanation for it other than I felt compelled not to publish at the time.

My reason for publishing today is that there is much more going on and this piece is a prelude of sorts to the piece that will follow.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mercy for Max leads to Mercy to the Max

For several years I have followed the exploits from the New Hampshire Prison for Men of Father Gordon MacRae, a Catholic priest wrongly imprisoned for sexual abuse that besides being practically impossible to have occurred, is impossible if one plumbs the depths of the accused and convicted Father Gordon.  Father Gordon writes from the prison, with the aid of trusty editors and prayer support of many of us, of life behind These Stone Walls.

Life behind the stone walls of a prison compound is not a cakewalk, nor is it expectedto be.  For one who has been wrongly accused it provides plenty of opportunity to throw pity parties and even to rail at God or those who failed to exonerate him, or the prison system, if one so chooses.

But, Father Gordon will have none of that.  He has remained faithful to the vows of his priesthood, and like the Jesus that he imitates in his life, he allows his wrongful conviction to be used for greater good.  Like Joseph who was cast into a well by his brothers, and then sold into slavery, he has allowed himself to be shaped by the circumstances he has been in to become the priest that he is now, and the faithful servant of a God who has allowed much suffering in his life.

St. Teresa of Avila was a faithful servant of God, known to have undergone many trials, but also to have done so with humor.  On one occasion while en route to visit one of her monasteries, she was bucked off her horse, and she famously said: "Lord, if this is the way You treat Your friends, it is no wonder You have so few."

It was said tongue in cheek, for she in her faithfulness was an instrument in bringing many to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Father Gordon, though claiming ignorance of his part in bringing fellow prisoners to Christ, has done much the same, and with a tougher audience than many St. Teresa encountered.  He has worked with men who have been rejected by polite society and have in their own way rejected the society that turned its back on them.  Father Gordon, having been rejected by those who should have had his back, like his bishop, and his successor, and having been imprisoned falsely, knows their plight, and has chosen to meet them where they are at, and to help them to climb up from their circumstances.

The well known pastor and writer Max Lucado has a book called "You'll Get Through This," and in his book there is some commentary about how God shapes His servants.  He says:
Compassion matters to God.  This is the time for service, not self-centeredness.  Cancel the pity party.  Love the people God brings to you.  This test will be your testimony. 
2 Corinthians 1:4 reminds us God comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. 
You didn't sign up for this crash course in single parenting or caring for a disabled spouse, did you?  No, God enrolled you.  Why?  So you can teach others what He has taught you.  Rather than say, "God, why?" ask, "God, what?" What can I learn from this experience?  Your mess can become His message!
Max Lucado's lesson, so eloquently written, was well learned and taught to all of us who read These Stone Walls, but above all was passed on to another Max, Pornchai "Maximilian" Moontri.

In The Parable of the Prisoner, a post I wrote in September 2014, I gave a brief synopsis in parable form of Pornchai and his journey to hell and back to the loving arms of Jesus and His Mother Mary, while accompanied on that journey by the redoubtable Father Gordon.  In that posting I suggested in the end that readers of that post wander over to These Stone Walls and follow the faith journey of Pornchai and Father Gordon.

But, that is not your only option. Today Father Gordon announced the new site Mercy to the Max, which is a focus on the faith journey of Pornchai.

For those of you who have come across the story of Pornchai, of his journey to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary from the depths of abandonment and despair this will be a great place to read up on his walk with Christ and be inspired to deepen your own faith.

Jesus loves us all, and his angels sing for great joy at each one of us who turns from a life of sin and heartache to set our eyes on Him.  With the love that Jesus bestowed on Father Gordon, which he in turn shared with Pornchai, we have seen the beginning of what will be a life long walk of faith for Pornchai.

So, now another faithful Catholic priest, Father David Byers has brought to us a blog site devoted to Max and his journey.  Mercy to the Max not only promises to share how Mercy came to Max, but by his inspiration how Mercy is available to us all.

This is great, and is going to be great.  Link to Mercy to the Max, read it, share it, and ponder it.  You will be glad you did.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

All Things Turn to Good

Recently at These Stone Walls, the blog of wrongly imprisoned Roman Catholic Priest Father Gordon MacRae, there was a guest posting.  Now, normally I want to know what Father Gordon has to say, because like regular readers of TSW, I derive much in the way of spiritual direction from the wisdom that he writes.  From a prison cell in the New Hampshire State Prison for Men, Father Gordon, who has never seen the internet has an internet ministry to many.

But, his internet ministry is largely the fruit of a hands on ministry to his fellow prisoners, and a storytellers gift.  The story of and by Alexander Page, called "Turning a Page: A Long Lent Toward Easter Sunrise" is an example of the fruit of his efforts to bring Jesus to his fellow prisoners.

Like all followers of These Stone Walls, and its principal character, Father Gordon MacRae, I deplore the injustice done to Father Gordon, the comedy of errors, surrounded by lies and deceptions built by the protagonists in his court case from over 20 years ago.  It was an unmitigated fiction perpetrated by those who were caught up in the mass hysteria that surrounded the scandal of Catholic leaders being caught in sexual abuse.  That the instance of abuse was far lower than in what we might call polite society, was lost.  That the lack of credibility of some proportion of the claimants, and particularly the one in this case, was hidden from open court also contributed to the travesty of justice that Father Gordon and many other Catholic clergy had foisted upon them.

So, when word came out yesterday through These Stone Walls latest posting "Judge Joseph LaPlante Denies Priest's Appeal", like all followers of TSW I was stunned and saddened.

Some of the hardest words of scripture for me have been these words of Saint Paul in James 1:2: "Consider all these trials joy." These words were particularly ludicrous to me at first, when about 12 years ago, I was in an automobile accident, in which I incurred my 9th or 10th concussion.  My next several years were spent in quiet rooms, trying to get through painful days and nights, and maintain some sanity.  By the grace of God I was able to fashion a new life for myself and with and for my family, that though very different from our previous life has had many blessings in it, and so I can now agree with Saint Paul.

One of the things that has been helpful to me over the last several years has been the writings of Father Gordon MacRae who has lived James 1:2 for over 20 years.  So many of us have benefited from his written ministry, and his faithful following of Jesus in trials and tribulations.

But, when is enough, enough?  The simple answer is that enough is enough when Our Lord says it is enough.  If God would not spare His only Son, will he spare us from those things that join us to Him and His Son, and Holy Spirit?

So, this week we grieve along with our friend, a friend who most of us have never met, yet love dearly, at another giant stone placed in front of him.  It might have been nice for us to awaken next Wednesday morning to read of Alexander Page and his conversion story, which Father Gordon was instrumental in.  For then we could see the point in it all maybe.  But, that would make us like Thomas who had to see the wounds to believe.

Jesus said that those who believed without seeing were and would be happier.  Surely Thomas had seen the Lord perform miracles at other times and places while he traveled about with Him.  So, he had seen much, and yet he was overtaken by disbelief.

We like Thomas have seen the Lord act in and through Father Gordon in the conversion stories of Pornchai Moontri, Michael Ceresi, Anthony Begin, Alexander Page, and probably many others we do not know yet.

So, if the Lord who performs miracles of the heart has allowed Father Gordon to be crushed some more in this film noire that is his life, dare we not believe in His Infinite Mercy, Justice and Love for Father Gordon, and for us all?

In almost all cases of injustice we hear about or come across, we are seemingly powerless to do much, if anything about them.  Yet, we have the greatest power that exists on this earth, the power to storm heaven with our prayers and petitions, and watch the Lord of the Universe as He answers our prayers in His own inimitable style.

So, we must watch as "All things turn to good for those who trust in the Lord." (Romans 8:28)  We must gird up our friend Father Gordon with our prayers, lest the circumstances of his life overwhelm him.

Our priests must not be allowed to fall in loneliness and despair, when we can speak our love to them, and when we can speak to God of our love for them.

God of Mercy, we call on you to lift up our brother from his trials, that he might overcome them as it suits your perfect plan and will, and draw many into your loving embrace.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Divine Mercy is at Work

I read this morning with sadness the analysis of the denial of Father Gordon's habeas corpus writ at These Stone Walls. It seems another door has closed, or has it?

This effort to free Father Gordon MacRae from the false imprisonment he has endured for over 20 years has been undertaken by a professional legal team experienced in righting wrongs and has been supported by the prayers and financial contributions of many faithful Christians. So, we must know that this outcome fits perfectly in God's will. To our mind's eyes the outcome is unreasonable and unfair, and, as Ryan MacDonald points out in the article linked above, is anything but justice. Justice may be supposed to be blind, but she is not supposed to be deaf, dumb and stupid as well.

But, this is man's justice, not God's justice. God's justice is mercy. God is never blind to the sorrows of His Children, and He answers prayers, though He does so in His own way and in His own time.

With some of that in mind I asked God in prayer "Why?" this morning as I contemplated the injustice of it all. I confess that I was somewhat surprised at my own question. First, I was surprised at its brevity. It was one word only, "Why?" and the answer to that question is, as we often say, above my pay grade. I would have apologized for such an impertinent question, but I was distracted by what appears to me to be an answer, still above my pay grade to understand, but one I will set out below.

I am still shocked that I would ask such a one word question. It is not like me, but the word tumbled out of my mouth, as though it were inspired.

As God sometimes does with me He spoke and showed me a picture. The picture was a visualization of the words, and as the picture was profound, the words themselves have since disappeared in my mind, while the picture has remained with me.

In the picture, which was more a video than a picture, I saw there was a wine press. In the wine press were many faithful followers of Jesus, and they were being pressed. But there was two kinds of pressing going on.

Beneath the wine press was a large pool of blood. I was given to understand that the blood was the blood of the red martyrs, those who were crushed to death, until their blood flowed. I also came to understand that that blood was to be mingled with the blood of Jesus and would somehow flow across the planet as part of the salvation of many souls.

But, white martyrs were also being crushed in the wine press, and there was a clear plastic line, such as is used in tapping maple trees, and the "liquid" that was being crushed out of the white martyrs was flowing through this line to a cauldron where all the impurities were being boiled out of it. At first when I saw the cauldron, the word cauldron came to me, and I thought I had made it up, as I scrambled to understand the vision in front of me. It was only as the vision drew to a conclusion that I had some understanding of why a cauldron was being used. The impurities were the sins and imperfections of the white martyrs that were mixed in with the good they had done. The then purified water flows to a gigantic vat and Jesus pours it out with the water that flowed from His side upon the earth for the sanctification of souls.

The water from the pressing of the faithful being crushed is not as plentiful as the blood of the red martyrs. It does contain some impurities that would be purified instantaneously by a death in the name of Jesus Christ, and these impurities are removed in the cauldron. In offering themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for His bidding, and for a great many of them Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, many of their sins had already been purified from them.

But, God is able to use all things that the faithful offer up to Him of themselves, and what is impure He purifies.

In a prophecy published yesterday from a person under the spiritual direction of Father Sam Johnston, a retired priest of the Diocese of London Ontario, entitled "Because You are Believing", the Lord said:
I am wounded by observing those who are lukewarm, self-reliant, and who have no need of My help, they are not acting as Christians for this would involve looking fervently at the Cross.

I am forming you who have died to self and giving you grace upon grace, there are some who will not accept the graces being offered to them and so I am prepared to give you an abundance of graces.

Suffering and pain are the means that I may use to perfect those whom I especially call to minister to the many who are in great need of Salvation, I do not send you alone, I and My Mother Mary assist you.
It seems that Father Gordon is being crushed and pressed for his own sins, but even more so for ours, and for the sins and needs of many he might never meet or imagine exist. His sufferings may be great. They sure appear to be to me as an observer.

The Office of Readings this morning, which I read shortly after this vision had the following Psalm in it and concluded with the Psalm prayer which follows:
Psalm 38 (39)

Lord, hear my prayer: do not be deaf to my tears.What, now, can I look forward to, Lord? 
My hope is in you.
Rescue me from all my sins,
do not make me a thing for fools to laugh at.
I have sworn to be dumb, I will not open my mouth:
for it is at your hands that I am suffering.
Aim your blows away from me,
for I am crushed by the weight of your hand.
You rebuke and chastise us for our sins.
Like the moth you consume all we desire
– for all men are nothingness.
Listen, Lord, to my prayer:
turn your ear to my cries.
Do not be deaf to my weeping,
for I come as a stranger before you,
a wanderer like my fathers before me.
Turn away from me, give me respite,
before I leave this world,
before I am no more.

Psalm Prayer

Through your Son you taught us, Father, not to be fearful of tomorrow but to commit our lives to your care. Do not withhold your Spirit from us but help us find a life of peace after these days of trouble.
What is equally telling is the antiphon that accompanied the above Psalm, which was the second Psalm in the Office of Readings and the antiphon for the third Psalm:
Ant. 2 Hear and answer my prayer, O Lord; let me not weep in vain, alleluia.
Ant. 3 I have put all my trust in God’s never-failing mercy, alleluia.

God, who is Lord of us all, does not need to share with us any part of His plans, but sometimes He does, and I think He might be doing so now, because of the gravity of the times.

Our friend Father Gordon MacRae is most definitely one of the white martyrs of our age. The white martyrs are signs and symbols to us of how the devil and this world he still has much power over will use whatever is at their command to crush the good out of people. But Our Lord is very efficient, and where the devil tries to crush the life out of the faithful, the Lord magnifies the juice of that crushing, joining it with the blood and water of His own martyrdom.

Father Gordon and all those who support him are doing all they can to free him from false imprisonment, storming the gates of heaven on his behalf and spreading the message of his false imprisonment. Yet, he remains in prison, and the turns against him are at once ludicrous, and incomprehensible. Yet, they happen.

And yet, Father Gordon remains faithful to his vocation as a priest of God, an alter christus for us, and for the inmates in New Hampshire.

Let us continue to pray for him, that he will resist all temptations to lose hope in these great difficulties, and let us be inspired by his firm faith, knowing that if he can survive these challenges to his faith, our challenges are much smaller, and so we can use his example and the love of God for Him to be a beacon for us as well.

May God Bless Father Gordon MacRae each and every day, and may the Mercy of God shine forth for us all to see.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Father Gordon MacRae, the Sorrowful Mysteries and the Big Picture

Father Gordon MacRae has been a prisoner in the New Hampshire State Prison for Men for over 20 years, based on false accusations of sexual abuse that netted his accuser over $200,000, while sentencing an innocent Catholic priest to up to 67 years in prison.

When a person is baptized, that person is baptized into the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In the Catholic Church, we usually baptize infants, and the sprinkling of some water on their head three times is symbolic of what actually transpires.  What is missed usually, and can be so for their entire lifetime is that this now baptized Christian has been immersed into the ocean of the mercy of Jesus Christ, and into the significance of Jesus Death and Resurrection in the life of the baptized.

When we speak of people here on planet Earth having a big picture view of things, we usually mean someone who takes a longer view on things happening in the here and now, someone who does not get bogged down in the individual weeds.  But, God too has a big picture view of things.  It is just that His big picture is a view of every moment of your life and all those you come in contact with directly or indirectly, and how each moment of your life impacts on your eternal salvation.  Our big picture view ignores most of what goes on in our world, because we could not possibly grasp it or process it if we did try to incorporate it into our view.  God is not bound by our human frailty, even though Jesus took it upon Himself.

So, God has a big picture view of Father Gordon MacRae, and how his life intersects those of others, and how it fits into His plan of salvation for Father Gordon and for others who cross his path, physically and electronically through the writings of These Stone Walls.

This week, Ryan MacDonald, an outspoken critic of the injustice that has kept Father Gordon imprisoned, prepares us for the Federal Court Date coming up on March 17, where lawyers for Father Gordon will make presentation regarding the habeus corpus appeal that they registered with the courts on Father Gordon's behalf some time ago.  His article on These Stone Walls is here.

I have followed These Stone Walls for several years, and have often written here at Freedom Through Truth about Father Gordon, his compatriot Pornchai Moontri, and others who make their home at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men.  Following Father Gordon has opened my eyes considerably, particularly to the lot of those imprisoned for crimes they did or did not commit.  I realize that these are our brothers and sisters, and though they may have committed serious crimes, often our treatment of them is not consistent with the Gospel, particularly as Jesus instructs us to draw along side them.

But, these last few days, the latest writing by Ryan MacDonald, along with the body of work that is on These Stone Walls struck me differently, as you can imagine from the title of this article.

It struck me that Father Gordon has entered into the Passion and Death of Our Lord and Saviour, and is on his own journey to Calvary to meet Him.  God has so loved Father Gordon that he has allowed him to enter into his own version of Jesus Passion and Death.

Let us take a brief look at the Sorrowful Mysteries and see how Jesus Way of the Cross is being played out in Father Gordon's life.

In the First Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus is separated from his disciples, by His choice, mind you, and goes off on His own to pray, and to agonize over the path he has chosen to follow.

Father Gordon was drawn into a web of deceit and lies about him, and was separated from his fellow priests, and cast adrift by his bishop.

When Jesus was scourged in the Second Mystery, it was for the lies told by others about Him, but He also knew that this was part of His Way of the Cross for all of the sins of all those who would ever live on earth.

Father Gordon was scourged by a court of law, as he had to sit through lies presented to the court as facts, and believed by the court.  Where Jesus was scourged physically, and left bleeding and with skin stripped from his frame, Father Gordon was figuratively beaten by stories that were incongruous, and yet were believed about him.

Jesus was crowned with thorns in the Third Mystery, to indicate how the mighty had fallen.  His kingship was denied, and mocked by those who had no understanding of who He was.  He the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was mocked by His own creation.

Father Gordon received a crown of thorns figuratively when a guilty verdict on no meaningful evidence was rendered in his case, and he was sentenced to up to 67 years in prison, effectively a death sentence. As the Christ was humiliated, so too was His alter christus, Father Gordon.

Jesus carried the cross on which He would die to Calvary in the Fourth Mystery.  Along the way, he was aided by Simon the Cyrene, who was pressed into service.

Father Gordon has carried the cross of his guilty verdict into life in prison for over 20 years.  But, God has sent him men like Pornchai and others to assist him to carry the cross he has to bear.

In the Fifth Mystery, Christ dies on the Cross for our sins.

In the Fifth Mystery in the Life of Father Gordon, he has had to die to himself.  It is appropriate that he should wish to have an appeal launched on his behalf, though his own participation in it is limited. Though his appeal would appear to be in the hands of men, it is in fact in the hands of God, and the verdict that is ultimately rendered will be what God wishes it to be.

Jesus placed Himself into His Father's Hands, and so suffered death on the cross for that giving of His free will to the Father.  But, He was resurrected on the third day, and is with the Father in the glory of heaven, to which He calls all of us.

And in the Father's plan of salvation for Father Gordon and for all who follow him, He has allowed Father Gordon to more closely mirror the Way of the Cross in his daily life, so that witness of his faithfulness will shine forth for us to see.

We who are removed by 2 millenia from the actual Way of the Cross, though we celebrate it every time we participate in the mass, have the Way of the Cross of Father Gordon to remind us that greater love has no man that he would lay down his life for his brothers and sisters.

That is what Father Gordon's life in prison is a reminder of.

Saint Teresa of Avila once allegedly said to the Lord: "If this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few."

Father Gordon does not deserve to have spent more than 20 years imprisoned for sins he did not commit, but Jesus did not deserve to die either.  Jesus freely chose to enter into His Passion and Death to set us free.  Father Gordon may not have initially chosen this path, but he has been faithful to it, and that is about as much as we frail human beings can do.

Please remember Father Gordon in your prayers as the legal team in charge of his habeus corpus appeal present on his behalf on March 17.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Transfiguration, You and Me

Transfiguration is by definition "a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state."

Father Gordon MacRae, a spiritual adviser, if not director, for many, through the wonders of the internet, a medium that he has never had direct access to, reminds us of transfiguration once again this Lent in his latest posting "A Transfiguration Before Our Very Eyes" over at These Stone Walls.

After the Feast of the Transfiguration last summer, I wrote a post that Father Gordon links today entitled Transfiguration Behind These Stone Walls.  I think my posting of last summer provides an interesting backdrop to the further Transfiguration that is transpiring in the hearts and minds of Father Gordon, Pornchai and prisoner residents of the New Hampshire State Prison for Men.

In it I said:
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.
When Christ was transfigured in front of his 3 disciples, and Elijah and Moses appeared, this was a special, once in forever, miracle of God's Grace showing favor not just to his Beloved Son, but also to those who witnessed it, and also to all those who have ever read of it in their bible, or heard the story told at Mass.

Father Gordon describes for us a prison style transfiguration, that he has witnessed, in the care that Pornchai Moontri, his room mate and fellow pilgrim, has given to their friend Anthony Begin.

Father Gordon is often the scribe for us, describing life transforming events that occur behind These Stone Walls.  But, imagine the exhilaration that the writers of the Gospels might have felt as they relayed the story of the Transfiguration, or any of the other miracles that occurred in the life of Jesus. It is one thing for us to read a story from the Bible, but it is another matter to witness it, and/or to write it down as told to you by the participants.

Though Father Gordon writes of Pornchai ministering to Anthony, let us not for one moment think that Pornchai and his love for Anthony, and Anthony, who in love has had to receive the ministrations of his friend Pornchai, are operating in isolation, or that Father Gordon is merely a fly on the wall, observing.

Father Gordon has washed both of these men and their feet, figuratively at least, in his prayers and tears, which have flooded the Mercy Seat of Christ.  He is after all, alter christus for them, a Catholic priest, living out his ordination in the place and time in which he finds himself.

In the original Transfiguration story, we are told that Jesus clothes became dazzling white, and that his divinity shone through.  But, we were not there, and so we have to imagine something that is by its nature unimaginable.

But, Our God knows all this.  Who can tell Him anything that he does not know already, and who can counsel Him?

So, he placed his priest Father Gordon in the midst of a transfiguration, a miracle both profound in its scope and exhilarating in its visibility.  However, for you and me, as for those who have read the Gospel Transfiguration story, we must take it on faith.

Those who read These Stone Walls have come to trust Father Gordon and his stories and parables as he relates them to us in his inimitable style.  In fact, his writings and our readings have led us to a deeper faith, and so when we read that there was a transfiguration at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men, we can picture it, and enter into it alongside Anthony and Pornchai.

Anthony has been transfigured into a man who is ready to meet his Lord and Saviour personally, if that is God's will for him at this time.  Pornchai has been transfigured into a man whose love for His Saviour and the Mother of Our Saviour is palpable for us all, even if we do not get to see it first hand. And our Dear Father Gordon bears witness faithfully to all that transpires behind These Stone Walls, and is active both prayerfully and physically in his own journey of holiness and that of his fellow men there.

But, there is more, so much more.  If God so loves Anthony Begin that he would give him 3 months as a respite, still in a prison environment, where his body and soul could be ministered to by men the world has cast aside, and the evidence of the transfiguration is profound, then how could God not love you and me and be prepared to use us as mightily as He has used Pornchai in this story, and Father Gordon?

Maybe Anthony has already entered paradise, or maybe not yet.  But, imagine the celebration when he gets there, and imagine also the treasures that Pornchai and Father Gordon are building for themselves in heaven for having helped teach the caterpillar that is Anthony Begin to fly like a beautiful butterfly into the loving arms of Jesus.

God is not one to honor persons, but He does honor those who commit to doing His will on a daily basis.  Those He can call His own and trust with small things, will receive greater things from Him to use for His Glory and Majesty.

What a marvelous story.  Father Jim Williams, who was my pastor for many years in London Ontario was about 6'4" tall, and so was called Tiny by those who loved him.  But we was anything but tiny and he told us stories in his homilies that engaged us in our faith journey.  He would commence most homilies with the following statement that would immediately grab our attentions.  He would say: "I am going to tell you a story, and it is a true story."

Father Gordon has told us a story once again, and it is a true story.

Thank you Father Gordon, and Pronchai.  Thank you Anthony Begin for being faithful, and may God grant you rest in this world and eternally as it suits His great pleasure for you.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord

As I was contemplating on what to write for a guest posting at These Stone Walls that appeared recently, I had many thoughts and wrote many drafts until finally settling on the version that was published.

The topic of the posting was my own Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which I had completed earlier in the year, in part inspired by Father Gordon MacRae of These Stone Walls, and his cellmate and brother in the Lord, Pornchai Maximilian Moontri.

Father Gordon, in a recent posting wrote of the tapestry of our lives, particularly of Pornchai's in this instance.  The image of a tapestry is a wonderful image for our lives, and I did expand on it from a personal perspective in my guest post linked above.

But, another image, more particularly of what Mary means to us in our lives of faith in Her Son Jesus Christ came to mind and I want to put it out there for you to ponder.

It starts from this line of scripture: "My soul doth magnify the Lord," which reminded me of a lighthouse.  A lighthouse magnifies the light that is available to it.  A small light is magnified greatly and is used to guide ships to safety.  The lighthouse itself is the magnifier, not the particular source of the light.  The candle or incandescent or other light that is in the center of the lighthouse is a light unto itself.

I have often prayed for Mary to place her mantle of protection over me or over others, and thought of it as sheltering from harm, but now I can see that sometimes it is not so much the sheltering as the magnifying of the light of Christ in us that saves the day or the circumstance.

Jesus is the Light of the World, and where was that light first found in human form?  It was found within Mary, His Mother, from the moment of His Conception until His Birth.  We see His light shining forth from Mary when she goes to visit with Elizabeth, the Mother of John the Baptist.  When Mary calls out to Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth's womb leaps for joy in the womb, and Elizabeth calls Mary the Mother of her Savior.  Elizabeth knows that Mary is the Mother of Our Lord, not the Lord herself, and this is always important for us to remember as well.

Often, non Catholics look upon Catholic devotion to Mary as a form of idolatry, and since most of us as Catholic Christians do not understand what we are doing either, we are unable to defend this love we have for the Mother of God made man, not for her on her own, but for and because of Him.

Mary is the perfect model for us of what Jesus told us about how He and the Father would make their dwelling in our hearts.  If God dwells in you, can you hide the light?  Could Mary?  No, her soul magnified it, as we are called to do.  Mary is not the light, but the light bearer.

So, for us Mary wants to magnify the light that is in us because nobody knows as well as she what that involves and what it takes.  She has been there, done that, and has that wonderful blue mantle to show for it.