Guilty?

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.

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    Comments: 5

    1. Benedicta October 12, 2008 at 1:04 pm

      “I have done things I would be way too embarrassed to tell you”

      Me too, dreadful things I wouldn’t want published on the front page of the paper!

      Our God is the God of second chances (everlasting ‘second’chances)that the world won’t give. As the preacher that converted me said ‘Until the door finally closes behind you’. He meant death.

    2. The Captain October 12, 2008 at 3:00 pm

      Hi eyewitness,

      It was brilliant to do the visit with you this morning, I found it very moving as well and spent most of the time just feeling really blessed.

      Fabulous post – I’ve had the same sort of thoughts milling around my head all day. Our God’s wonderful isn’t He!?

    3. Chris Sullivan October 12, 2008 at 6:24 pm

      Good on you Eyewitness for visiting the prisoners. It’s a very graced encounter with Christ himself present in the social outcasts.

      There is nothing quite like actually spending time inside to give one a whole new perspective on the prison system.

      As the NZ Catholic bishops have pointed out,

      “A new approach, not new prisons, is the answer to our growing prison population”

      In the Scriptures, we see Christ’s compassion both for victims of crime and for those in prisons. Jesus began his ministry with the declaration that he came to set prisoners free. When he speaks of the final judgement, he identifies himself completely with their treatment when he says “I was a prisoner and you visited me”. At the same time the parable of the Good Samaritan tells of the loving care given by a stranger to a victim of crime, and of those who ignored him. Jesus exhorted his followers to follow the example of the one who was “a neighbour” to the man.

      In recent months, recommendations have been made by a range of organisations working with prisoners, including Prison Fellowship New Zealand and the Salvation Army. We add our voices to theirs, in particular supporting their recommendations:

      · That the government initiate a review of the Sentencing Act 2002, the Bail Act 2000 and the Parole Act 2002 with a view to reducing the number of offenders who are remanded or sentenced to prison
      · That the government increase the availability of Restorative Justice, Faith and Cultural based prison units and other rehabilitative models/pilots with the aim of making these available nationally
      · That the government direct the Department of Corrections to develop a plan that will enable all inmates to be actively involved in employment and/or vocational training by the year 2010.

      Read the whole statement at http://www.catholic.org.nz/statements/1006_crime_and_punishment.php

      “I have done things I would be way too embarrassed to tell you”

      Yeah. Haven’t we all ?

      It doesn’t seem like much is happening for another Being Frankers get together. Maybe The Captain could pick a Sunday morning for us all to meet at Mt Eden prison and visit the prisoners together ?

      God Bless

    4. dave-morgan October 12, 2008 at 6:50 pm

      hello cobbers ;)

      eyewitness, thanks a million for your beautiful post. very touching and personal. very nice to hear about the faith of the inmates inside the prison. you sound like you received a lot from it. i should make the effort sometime too.

      over and out.

      peace 8)

    5. James the Least October 12, 2008 at 8:55 pm

      Beautiful post, eW – as per usual!

      Well done to you, The Captain and all the others who went along with you. What a powerful witness! :)