This morning for the first time I went to the Catholic Prison Ministry Service at Mt Eden prison along with The Captain and about twenty others of all ages. I some what nervously entered the prison going through bars and security guards. We went to one particular wing with about forty or so prisoners who surprised me by being really into coming! I didn’t really expect the guys to be so attentive and enjoy singing the songs and listening to the bible readings so much. One man was almost in tears during the service and seemed to hang on every word we said. No one seemed proud or happy to be within those rock walls. One man (an inmate) took the guitar from our lead guitarist and sang a song imploring that Jesus be in this place and with the prisoners in such a beautiful voice I actually cried because it seemed so moving, which was a little embarrassing… It also touched me that in the little hole in the front of the cell door I could see opposite me the man inside had placed his ear to the hole and seemed to be straining to hear what we were talking about, but obviously didn’t want to actually come. Others watched semi-interested from the balconies above us.
Many prayed for their partners, family and children who they are separated from. It felt really worthwhile to me to do something which Jesus talks about directly in the bible, but more than anything to feel that people were actually getting something from it. We must have sung about twenty different songs with the men seeming to want to sing as many as we could stay for.
One thing which I noticed in myself which I am quite happy about is that I could really feel no judgment for anyone standing face to face with them. Maybe I would if I actually knew what they had done, I don’t know. But I don’t know their lives. I don’t know their circumstances. What I do know is the older I get and the more experiences of people I have is that everyone lives with different circumstances and everyone sins, and even people who seem to live in sparkly houses with sparkly husbands, children and jobs, find life tough too, just like Jesus said (I can trust Him after all I seem to learn more and more!). I have done things I would be way too embarrassed to tell you, so who am I to be the one to cast any stones.
I guess that’s another to think about when voting. Obviously we need a justice system, we need protection for society from people who are dangerous to others, we need consequences for actions – but as for judging, I have no idea what you’ve been through, so I’ll try not to judge you, as hard as I find that simply among my own friends and family sometimes.
I think we’ve talked about it on the blog before but there are details about coming along from leaders within Inner City Parishes (St Bens / St Pats groups) if you’re interested in trying it out.