St Paul

St. Paul Visits Prison

 

As Maeve and I approached the prison carrying our supplies for my one-man performance, “A Visit with St. Paul,” we wondered; “What’s it like for a person serving a long sentence?” The imagined prospect of having our own freedom taken from us was enough to chill our hearts. The canopy of large coiled razor wire surrounding us only served to underline the gravity of incarceration.

The lay chaplain greeted us at the entrance and together with the corrections officer, she helped us get through security. The staff was friendly, even if the many locked corridors were forbidding.

Men who regularly come to the weekly Bible study were scheduled to attend the event. They were eagerly expecting the performance, the chaplain told us. The same could be said of me, who had been looking forward to this night for months.

The team of volunteers showed up just before the inmates. We could easily see that these were five highly motivated people. How else could they come weekly to a place that most of us don’t even want to think about? When the inmates arrived in the chapel, the exchange of greetings between them and the team was warm and enthusiastic. Any fear that my audience was going to be a “tough crowd” melted away as joy filled the room.

The premise for my performance is that as St. Paul, I’m under house arrest under the emperor Nero, as reported by Luke at the end of the Acts. My audience is a group of “visitors” who have come to hear my stories and share in the lessons learned from my life as a missionary. For the inmates that night, it must have been ironic that they were my “visitors” and I, their “imprisoned” friend.

For the next ninety minutes, I had the unique privilege of dramatizing the life of the Great Apostle for this diverse group of men. Clothed in prison garb, I could not forget that they were convicted criminals. But I treated them as I would any audience. In fact, I gave them what was perhaps my best performance. As the Holy Spirit worked in each of us, the Risen Jesus, with His joy, peace, and healing love was once more present.

“When two or more gather together in my name, there I am.”

                                                                       -Matt. 18:20.

Jesus was there in their affirming nods, their frequent smiles and the occasional, hearty “amens!” When I finished, their standing ovation was so long and spirited that the chaplain had to stop it because of time constraints… but not before my heart was aglow with gratitude.

As we drove home, processing our experience, Maeve and I marveled at what the Lord had done. The “Joy of the Gospel” is what Pope Francis calls it. It was this joy that had broken into the lives of these brothers! Men whose days are most likely lived out in boredom, frustration, and loneliness, were for that evening, infused with the mercy, beauty, and radiance of the living God.

The morning after the performance, I opened my Bible to Psalm 34. The first two verses said it all;

“I will praise the Lord at all times, his praise ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the Lord; the lowly will hear me and be glad.”

They – the “lowly” - were made glad as the Word of God was brought to life for them. As Jesus promised, he “proclaims freedom to captives.” -Luke 4:18

We – who are “lowly” whether we acknowledge it or not - have only to open our hearts to receive the joy of the Gospel. We can grow in the freedom that God so lovingly and faithfully offers to us.

 

 

 

A King Like No Other

ChristTheKing A Blessed Advent to all!

About 12 years ago, my friend, Joan, invited myself, my parents and brother to a Christ the King celebration as part of a Regnum Christi outreach. We attended mass and there was a special luncheon after. Purple placemats, gold colored plates and other decorations impressed upon me the kingliness of Jesus. And I appreciated the care they showed me and my loved ones.

Fast forward 4 years to the first Thanksgiving my husband, Glenn, and I celebrated as a married couple. On Christ the King Sunday, he surprised me with tickets to the Lion King. Although not as monumental as Jesus’ struggle, Simba struggles to accept his rightful place as king of the African plain. Jesus struggles to accept His Father’s will and to bear the weight of sin, none of which he committed. But he does say “yes” to Calvary and in his life and death, Jesus shows us the model of servant king.

After the musical, Glenn and I looked out from the second floor lobby at the lights of Times Square. We extended our hands and consecrated the city to Jesus our King. We must have had a few curious onlookers, but that didn’t stop us.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote, “Jesus of Nazareth…is so intrinsically king that the title ‘King’ has actually become his name. By calling ourselves Christians, we label ourselves as followers of the king… The King is Jesus; in him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself.”

He goes on to say, “God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways….The feast of Christ the King is therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.”

Father Robert Barron (of the “Catholicism” DVD series) writes in the Nov. 2014 issue of Magnificat, “…if you harbor suspicions of what submitting to this King would entail, take a good look at him. He reigns not from a pompous throne, but from an instrument of torture; he wears not a gaudy crown of gold, but a bloody crown of thorns, he issues not peremptory commands, but words of promise: ‘This day you will be with me in paradise.’ Don’t be afraid utterly to submit every aspect of your life to this King, for his power empowers you and his command liberates you.”

In his Apostolic Letter, “On the Most Holy Rosary,” (P.33) St. John Paul II suggests praying the Hail Mary by inserting a phrase to refer to the mystery being prayed. For instance; “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus….who was crowned with thorns.” Countless times, Glenn and I have meditated on a king who was born in a stable, was homeless (Luke 9:58), and hung naked on a cross so that we could have eternal life. I don’t know of any other king as selfless as this. Do you?

Our king pursues people in the gospels to love, heal, and show them our Father’s compassion. Right now He is pursuing you, to heal you – where you most need it. This is the only king who can bring you “the peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Phil. 4:7)

This is the King whose birth we await and whose second coming will establish His Sovereignty forever.

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