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A NEWSLETTER FROM ADEODATUS PRISON MINISTRY
Issue # 12 Spring 2012
I challenge you to really find something to die for, and then to live for it .
In the letters we offer in this issue, two voices speak from two different ‘prisons’—one from the prison on State Road, the other from a family member of a prisoner who speaks of almost being ‘captured’ by her brother’s criminal behavior. FIRST, “BARRY’S" EXPERIENCE-“I’ve always been one who is skeptical whenever someone told me about some spiritual experience they had, and to be honest, most of the time I still am. So I understand if you find it hard to believe my Divine experience, but to be honest I do not care if you believe me or not. I was taking a nap and when I woke up the first thing on my mind was Jesus the Christ. So every bit of my attention was on He. Under my breath I mumbled, “I believe in you Jesus Christ.” At that exact moment a crack formed from nothing in the air, and from the crack protruded a beam of light. The light made a connection from the crack into my forehead. As this was taking place everything around me was cancelled out. The only thing that mattered was the light shining upon me. I was completely paralyzed and speechless. I knew that I wasn’t in any danger yet I was terrified. I was more afraid than I have ever been in my life. Suddenly, I could tell that this incredible light energy picked up on my fear, and as quickly as the light had appeared it disappeared. That whole day I was trying my best to make sense out of what happened to me. The only possible explanation I could come up with was that I had just witnessed Christ in all his glory. I know in my heart it was Christ who visited me in the prison I was resting in that afternoon. I share this experience with you, not for my benefit but for yours. So that you may know that Christ Jesus is Lord and VERY real.” Barry is describing what is called a “religious experience.” You may have had such an experience, even if not as dramatic. Few people speak about these visitations from Jesus or the Holy Spirit. We or others tend to write them off as just a dream or a fantasy. Who would believe us? Yet if we do not speak of them to 1
someone or try to communicate back to the Lord, he may (as in Barry’s case) flee. God doesn’t want to scare you. He loves you, but he is not a bully or a needy child. You are free. Now a question: do you expect Jesus or God to communicate with you when you pray? We’ll come back to that later. NEXT, “CHERIE’S” EXPERIENCE— “I used to think that my measurements my mom marked on the basement wall above my head measured who I was, measured my capability, and when I stopped growing I was devastated. Height, I thought, was the vertical marker of my worth, because really, how can someone make more of themselves if there’s nowhere to store it? I used to think that standing on my tippy-toes would bring me closer to that standard, and that straightening my back and jutting my chin upwards would give me that extra inch to reach my potential. I was the only fifth-grader with perfect posture and sore feet. Scheming so hard, I was mystified by the mysterious scholastic failures of my older brother, “Victor”—he was so tall after all. I spent my elementary school days watching him struggle through school. Report cards and interim reports would always say that he had it in him, but never applied himself, and that all the special projects and extra attention weren’t affecting his disinterest. He was bribed to complete his homework, taken to tutors, underwent eye exams, was seen by counselors, given aptitude tests and by all accounts was a normal, healthy kid. As my transcripts would show, my concern over my capacity issues dissipated after 7th grade or so. I was trying to relate to Victor the only way I felt possible. He was older, good looking, popular and cool (by whatever definition it is that teenagers use) and I was none of those things. As I started high school, my interest in college and my future vanished. It’s so easy to forget to look past the day you are living out when you think that unreturned phone calls and leaked secrets are the biggest dilemma you’ll ever face. My brother’s situation grew worse than lack of educational interest very quickly, as he became a tenth grade drop out with more apparent criminal tendencies. He knew how to waste potential fast and with each arrest, broke my heart to a deeper extent than I thought possible. After barely passing high school and without any plans for my college years that I once anticipated so much, I realized that I was chasing a lost soul and began to straighten out my priorities. It has been two years since I last saw Victor and he has been missing since….after running away with just two weeks left in a mandatory outpatient rehab sentence following a year long jail term. I wonder where he is now, 2
how he is, but most of all, who he is. I can’t change the choices he made, and while I once allowed those choices to become my own, I now use them every day as a reason to live my life to the fullest and succeed on both of our halves…. “Victor,” the inmate-brother of Cherie whom she refers to above, shared this essay of hers to the chaplain at the prison before Victor was baptized there. Perhaps the poignant feelings she expressed broke through to him and had something to do with his request for this sacrament. Maybe she’s still wondering where he is, whether he’s still a “lost soul.” At the end, she added a note that challenges him and all of us: “Victor, this is something random that I found in my notebook when I was trying to write you a letter a while back: “I write to you with my eyes closed because I’m scared to look at what I can’t control: you, you, you, you, you, you, you… Sleepless with words said, but not said right, stirring inside me. Said, but better described unsaid in their clumsy, ill-formed existence. I fall asleep with my pen in my hand, trying to write you a new life. More scribbles than words, where to start? And I’m sorry I can’t be more bothered by not knowing where you are tonight, but it’s an uncertainty you’ve made so frequent, I’ve come to accept it as certainty. So used to living around your absence that your presence becomes jarring. Your voice on the line, your face in the door, like a visit from a ghost. And I swear I’m going to live happily to spite you. For you. I once wrote you: I challenge you to really find something to die for, and then to live for it.”
Such powerful words from an inmate’s sister! How great to have someone who loves you like this! And yet, can this kind of love be rejected? How many people in the city are suffering over the lives of the men and women who are serving time? These “ripple effects” in the lives of the offenders’ families beg to be addressed. (See end of newsletter for our plans). You can see and hear these two people seeking a path in life. On the one hand a prisoner in a cell being visited by Jesus. Where he went after this experience is a question. Is it possible to reject a visitation from the Lord? Sure. We do it all the time. How to find our way back to him is the challenge. Try to get down on your knees and 3
talk to God in your own words tonight. And here’s the new part: wait and listen for him to respond…even give him a few days. He may actually be shy to come near to you if you have been careless about your relationship in the past. You won’t regret this. As the Scripture tells us so much this Easter season, Jesus says often, “Remain in me.” Remain suggests he is already here…we just have to pay attention. He could be saying, “You, you, you, you, you…” In the second letter, a young girl is looking up to her older brother and even starts following his downward path. How many of us have done this with a sibling, parent, or friend? “You, you, you, you, you,” she cries. Her young girl’s voice gets inside you, doesn’t it? Yet, in self-protection, her love for her brother has been reduced to …”I’m sorry I can’t be more bothered by not knowing where you are tonight.” She wants to “write him a new life,” but his voice on the line…face in the door…(is)…like a visit from a ghost. Have you ever felt this way about someone? A family member, a student, a friend? You may finally have to give up on them and say in so many words, “I swear I’m going to live happily to spite you. For you…” Cherie stopped longing for him and chose to live for herself. Such is the pain of many an offender’s family. Maybe this choice of a long-suffering family member will finally goad an offender/exoffender to change, “…to really find something to die for, and then to live for it. We dedicate this newsletter to all the family members of offenders. May God bless you and your inmate or ex-inmate family member. We stand with you and love you. Father Paul Morrissey (for all the Adeodatus Community) A “restorative justice outreach” is a new direction for Adeodatus Prison Ministry. We desire to work with the families of ex-offenders, people like Cherie, but are not sure how. If you are a person who is struck by this call, consider attending one of our weekly meetings to assist us in addressing this. ...any Thursday evening 7:30 – 9 PM for fellowship and support. On the first Thursday of the month we meet at the Bevilaqua Community Center, 2646 Kensington Ave, Phila., Pa. All other Thursdays are at St. Rita of Cascia rectory 1166 S. Broad St., Phila., Pa. Together with God’s grace we can begin to heal some of the brokenness in these families that continues to breed crime in our city. To foster this on a broad scale, we are pleased to announce that The Coalition for Restorative Justice, of which ADROP/Adeodatus is a founding member, will host a conference on this topic at Villanova University on Friday, September 28, 2012. Mark the date. More details to follow. (updates available on www.adeodatusministry.com).