Voices from Prison: A newsletter of Adeodatus Prison Ministry
Father Paul Morrissey O.S.A. and
George Munyan, co-editors
Issue #1–Summer 2008
Christ has always used prisons to speak to us: in the cells of imperial Rome, the dungeons of the French Revolution, the prisons of communist China, and in our own prisons. Presently, 1 in every 100 United States’ citizens is incarcerated, a greater number and percentage than any other country in the world. Prisons are not always worlds of walls and iron bars, but they are trapped moments in time where the Lord speaks. What follows is a story by James as told to his chaplain…
Christ of Marynoll icon by Robert Lentz who states, “This icon of Christ does not make clear which side of the fence Christ is on. Is He imprisoned or are we?”
“LACE ’EM UP”
As a child I seemed to have an inattentive style to everything. In other words I did things my way. As I went to school in a Catholic grade school, I seemed to keep hearing the same thing…”Be a leader, not a follower”. So I tried to lead, to be a good athlete, as well as part of a family. I seemed to only excel at sports, leaving behind being a leader and a member of a family. Then one day, around nine or ten years old, I came home to see a new inscription framed on the wall going up the steps. The inscription read—“James: Following the Lord”. WOW!!! Up until this point in my life I really hadn’t known the Lord. So, being the rebellious natured boy that I was, I threw on the sneaks and started running. I didn’t even bother to tie the laces, nor did I look what direction I was going.
The devil starts early. I began to pick every wrong path to run down, only to have to retreat back. Within the same period of simple advances and retreats, I came across my Church’s Priest. He put his hand on my head and said I was to be a priest as he was one day. Hearing this I began to think of how I could get away from this ‘sentence’. Soon after I was becoming more reckless and eventually I directly stole from the novena candle donation box. I had crossed over and was moving on my own juice, thinking I was on my own. As a young adult in high school and college, I continued to make the wrong choices. I continuously tripped over my undone laces, from selling some drugs to support my drug habit to fighting with my girlfriends and others over ridiculous things. All the while I never realized that He was still looking over me.
In the blink of an eye I was an adult still running on my own juice, now with the laces practically out of my shoes. I was pretty much falling over my laces, yet something kept me from falling on my face. Jobs came and went, people came and were gone, and drug addiction had settled in. the distance I thought I had put between myself, and this ‘calling’ that was put upon me as a kid, was not what I thought. He had never left me.
But now I was scrambling around with no goals in sight, except self-destruction. My addiction was through the roof and my social characteristics were gone. The antisocial had set up camp and was continuously growing. I was only leaving my apartment to cop drugs and the will of the devil.
Eventually, after crack abuse and spouts of heroin abuse, I ended up having a crucial blow dealt. I was diagnosed with HIV and Hep-C. Now talk about a sentence. Is this life or death? So I decided to choose a life of death. I used until I had fallen on my face so hard that I left an impression in the ground. So let me paint this picture for you. I am at Curran Fromhold Correction Facility in Philadelphia…
I needed the Lord now more than ever and had to make a decision. And I did. That decision took me from the labyrinth of death and dismay to the straight and narrow path toward GOD. Eventually I was given a new pair of laces from GOD. I laced them up, tightened them and began to run a new race in a new direction—towards GOD the Father.
A Brief Reflection…
Wow! What an amazing story! And this from a young man in prison! As the chaplains remind the inmates often, God loves to break through cinder blocks, barbed wire and our calloused hearts to reach us.
James tells us how he was running away from God since he was a kid. He reminds us of Jonah and St Augustine. In fact, this newsletter hopes to practice what Augustine did long ago in the book of his Confessions. When God finally was able to reach his restless heart, Augustine wrote down his journey so that others could discover how God is active in their lives as well.
As you read James’ story, what strikes you? If you were to write your story down, what similarities or differences would you have? Have you ever rebelled? Did God’s call to you, whatever it is, ever make you run? Did you ever turn around? What did it take for you to do this? We hope to hear from you. Keep the inmates, especially James, and us in your prayers.