“Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy . . . To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in my unfathomable and inscrutable mercy.” (Diary of Saint Faustina, 1146)
Over the last two weeks, our good friends Father George David Byers and Pornchai Moontri have conspired about the latter writing a guest post for Holy Souls Hermitage. I was a little surprised when Pornchai told me about the invitation. He and Father Byers decided that the post would appear at HSH between Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday to mark the third anniversary of Pornchai’s conversion.
To work on his guest post, Pornchai had to wait for me to finish my Holy Week post for TSW so he could use my typewriter, the only one available. This old electronic Smith Corona has a built-in spell checker that beeps whenever we misspell a word. Since English is not Pornchai’s first language, it helps him to write when he doesn’t have to also thumb through a dictionary to correct his spelling. I have to admit, though, that my typewriter doesn’t beep any more often for Pornchai than it does for me. Nonetheless, I can’t be in this cell when he types. It’s maddening. He hunts and pecks at the pace of plate tectonics! He wrote out his HSH guest post twice, then spent six hours typing it.
I finally finished my Holy Week post on March 20, so the next day, in the afternoon of March 21, Pornchai sat down to begin. He was completely unaware at the time of the huge significance of that particular date and time for what he was writing. This became an important part of his post. Pornchai took a story that many of you are already familiar with, and reframed it in the light of Divine Mercy. I wonder if he even knows it, but the result just screams out the “unfathomable mercy” mentioned in the above quote from the Diary of Saint Faustina. I urge you to go visit Holy Souls Hermitage without delay and read Pornchai’s guest post, “Divine Mercy and the Doors of My Prisons.”
It was three years ago next week that Pornchai was Baptized a Catholic, and a year ago next week that he wrote a guest post for These Stone Walls entitled, “The Duty of a Knight: To Dream the Impossible Dream.” In that post, he wrote of the great abyss that seemed to separate him from trust and hope. As Pornchai begins his 22nd year in prison, nearing the halfway point of his sentence, he knows that his years behind these stone walls will be immediately followed by deportation to a country and world he was torn from at age 11. With only vague memories of life there, scant contacts, and no place as yet to go, he has no frame of reference at all for what that life might be like on the horizon beyond prison.
Over this last year, Pornchai and I have talked much about Divine Mercy and the necessity of trust that the devotion requires. The famous image with the pale and crimson rays of light emanating from the Heart of the Risen Lord painted from Saint Faustina’s vision bears the words, “Jesus, I trust in you.” Trust has been the challenge of a lifetime for Pornchai. As he wrote in his amazing post over at Holy Souls Hermitage, trust “was the first thing taken from me, and the most painful to restore.”
In this past year, however, Divine Mercy has shown its graces to him in the most subtle, but profound ways, and the ongoing restoration of trust has made leaps and bounds in him. Over the last year, some remarkable people have come together to help find and open doors for Pornchai that a year ago were completely closed and beyond his reach. From Ostend, Belgium; Perth, Australia; Baltimore, Maryland; and Indianapolis, Indiana, doors and windows have opened to show Pornchai reasons to hope for a future of freedom, something he has never in his life really known. As Pornchai himself put it, “It is to me a miracle story.”
A part of that miracle is described in a new book just published this week by Marian Press. Loved, Lost, FOUND: 17 Divine Mercy Conversions by Felix Carroll has an extended chapter about Pornchai’s life and his encounter with Divine Mercy. These Stone Walls is also in the story, as am I, and it is truly an inspired and inspiring work. It is the third Catholic book published in the last year citing These Stone Walls, and we are adding it to the short list of books we recommend on the TSW Home Page. In his chapter on Pornchai’s life, Felix Carroll masterfully placed Divine Mercy on center stage, and that is just as it should be. The book is a work of art.
MY OWN DIVINE MERCY STORY
Exactly twenty years ago, in the first week of April 1993, my friend and spiritual director, Father Richard Drabik, M.I.C. was preparing to go to Rome to concelebrate with Pope John Paul II the Mass of Beatification of Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, now known as Saint Faustina. Her Beatification took place on the Sunday after Easter that year, and Pope John Paul II decreed that henceforth that Sunday would be universally known in the Roman Calendar as Divine Mercy Sunday.
Father Richard Drabik was formerly Provincial Superior of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. He wrote the Preface to the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska that has become globally famous. Just before leaving for her Beatification in Rome twenty years ago this month, Father Drabik asked me if I would like to write a brief prayer for (then) Blessed Faustina’s intercession. I did not know what to write, so on the day of my friend’s departure I handed him a small scrap of paper to place with his intentions for the Mass. I folded it and sealed it in a small envelope that would fit easily in his pocket.
No one ever knew what I wrote. Except for a brief note sent to Felix Carroll a few weeks ago, I have never before spoken of this. The note with my petition was simple: “I ask the intercession of Blessed Faustina that I may have the courage to be the priest God calls me to be.” It was an odd petition, and today I have no idea what I was thinking about when I wrote it and handed it to Father Drabik on his way out the door.
Exactly two weeks after the Beatification of Sister Faustina, on May 3, 1993, police showed up at my door. They carried with them a secret indictment and a warrant for my arrest for claims alleged to have occurred sometime between 1978 and 1983, ten to fifteen years earlier. They were the claims for which I faced trial and was summarily sent to prison as Ryan MacDonald wrote in “Judge Arthur Brennan Sentenced Father Gordon MacRae to Die in Prison.”
Those claims of abuse never took place at all, but I will always remember the words of a police detective as the officers took me away despite my denials: “It doesn’t matter whether you’re guilty. Your Church is!” It was a scene reminiscent of another era I wrote of in “Catholic Scandal and the Third Reich: The Rise and Fall of a Moral Panic.” The detective’s words could just as easily have been heard in Sister Faustina’s own World War II era Poland as Father Maximilian Kolbe and many other priests were led off to prison on trumped up charges.
DIVINE MERCY BEHIND THESE STONE WALLS
On April 9, I will turn 60 years old in prison. I was 41 years old when I was sent to prison, and was between 25 and 30 when my “crimes”- which never actually occurred at all – were claimed to have taken place. The process of reopening a case alleged to have occurred over 30 years ago, and which never contained any evidence to debunk or attack, is a grueling uphill battle. If there is any hope at all for freedom and justice, it is vague hope. It is a hope that exists, like the challenge of trust for Pornchai, on the other side of an abyss.
The readers of These Stone Walls have helped in so many ways to show us the face of Divine Mercy. Your reading TSW has given me a voice, something usually denied to priests who are accused in our Church. Your comments have comforted us and given us courage. Your sending links to others has spread the truth. Your gifts have given us hope for justice, have fed us when we were hungry, have paid necessary telephone bills to edit these posts, and have even kept me in postage and typewriter ribbons. You have brought the Corporal Works of Mercy to our cell door.
In his guest post at Holy Souls Hermitage this week, Pornchai Moontri wrote with great candor and openness about how our respective Crosses were laid on us in two adjacent states at the very same time, and of how these two very different, very painful stories one day converged. I am in awe of what he has written, and I am intentionally keeping this post short so you will find time to go there. Bring some tissue. You might need it.
Please don’t let Divine Mercy Sunday go by without reading and sharing “Divine Mercy and the Doors of My Prisons” by Pornchai Moontri at Holy Souls Hermitage.
“At that last hour, a soul has nothing with which to defend itself except My mercy. Happy is the soul that during its lifetime immersed itself in the Fountain of Mercy because justice will have no hold on it.” (Diary of Saint Faustina, 1075)