Pentecost, Priesthood, and Death in the Afternoon

Pentecost, Priesthood, and Death in the Afternoon s

On his 32nd ordination anniversary Fr Gordon MacRae writes of Priesthood, Pentecost, and the Jewish Festival of Shavu’ot as death draws near on a prison afternoon.

“I said, in the noontide of my days I must depart; I am consigned to the gates of Sheol for the rest of my years.  I said I shall not see the Lord in the land of the living; I shall look upon man no more among the inhabitants of the world.” (Isaiah 38: 10-11)

“Can you help Anthony?” It was one of those upside-down questions I wrote about in “Of Saints and Souls and Earthly Woes: Viva Christo Rey!”  Sometimes late at night after “lights out,” when the grinding noise of prison begins to subside, I lay on my bunk in the dark reading with a little book light.  Suddenly from up above, Pornchai-Maximilian’s head pops down to ask me a question. As he asks it, from my perspective, he is upside down.

Sometimes his question generates a long, reflective response.  By the time I’m finished with these erudite and thoughtful replies, Pornchai falls silent.  I used to think he quietly pondered my wise counsel long into the night, but I’ve since learned that before my response is even half delivered, Pornchai is usually snoring.  “Better than a sleeping pill!” he said one day when I asked him whether my homiletic response helped at all.

Pornchai’s last upside-down question was about Saint Maximilian Kolbe.  He asked whether we should expect Saint Maximilian to intercede for our rescue from prison when no one rescued him. This matter is complicated, and more than a little humbling.  I wrote in “Saints and Souls and Earthly Woes” of how disconcerting it is when Pornchai stumbles into a spiritual truth that I spent my entire priesthood working out for myself to make sense of it.

Pondering my response to Pornchai’s question about our Patron/ Saint Maximilian, that night made me realize something about the patron saints we choose.  The point is that we don’t choose them at all.  They choose us!  They choose us for a relationship with us that is not as simple as a rescue from all that is wrong and uncomfortable in life and the pursuit of living.  Our saints choose us so we can emulate them as we chart a course through the labyrinth of living spiritually in a physical world.

There is a difference between having life and living.  That might seem an odd thing to hear a prisoner of twenty years say but it’s true.  There are people in this prison who have life, but they are not living.  They are merely existing.  And there are some upon whom dawns an awareness that life is slipping away, and it’s a wake-up call to take an inventory, and begin to live.

YOUR  SAINTS  SHOULD  SHAKE YOU  UP

Pornchai’s “upside-down question” made me realize how ridiculous and childish I have been with the saints God has sent to me.  I spent twenty years asking Saint Maximilian to delivery me from false witness and prison when no one delivered him.  I have been asking Saint Padre Pio to deliver me from all the aches and pains of sleeping on a steel slab at the age of 61.  Think about that! I had the gall to come before Saint Pio – who lived his entire life as a priest, five decades of it, with the open, bleeding wounds of the crucified Christ – and I implored him to deliver ME from discomfort?  There is a photo on my wall that a TSW reader sent to me.  It’s a photo of Padre Pio laughing.  Now I know what he was laughing about!

From Pornchai’s simple question about imploring the saints for rescue, I discerned at last that having Saint Maximilian as a Patron Saint means that he will teach me the person I am to be while in prison.  Having Saint Padre Pio as a Patron Saint means he will show me the priest I am to be while suffering.  From both, I have learned the necessity and meaning of priestly witness and priestly sacrifice – which are really one and the same.  There is no witness without sacrifice.

Pornchai-Maximilian’s latest upside-down question troubled me greatly.  He asked in genuine humility and expectation if I could help Anthony.  Fully trusting that I would arrive at the right answer, Pornchai fell asleep just moments after asking this, while I stayed awake for most of that night.

You see, Anthony is a fellow prisoner, a man in his late forties who at times has been, to put it indelicately, a major pain in the ass!  He is one of Pornchai’s friends but he has never been one of mine.  Anthony has been in prison with us for about ten years, and at times, I confess, my patience with him has been stretched to its limits.  No, it’s actually worse than that.  For most of that time, I disliked Anthony so thoroughly that I would have nothing to do with him.  His cynical, abrasive, and judgmental demeanor gnaws at my nerves.  In all these twenty years in prison, Anthony is the only prisoner I have ever thrown out of my cell.

That’s not very priestly of me.  I know that, but it never really seemed to make much difference to Anthony.  He talks often with Pornchai, however, and when he sees me coming he makes a hasty retreat without a word.  I’ve been happy with that arrangement up to now.  So has Anthony.  Even Pornchai long ago accepted that when I feel like a burning flame, Anthony has always been ready to add propane.

DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON OF LIFE

So when Pornchai hit me with his latest upside down question, I felt ashamed that my long-felt disdain for this man stood in the way of something very important.  Over the last two months, Anthony has learned that he is dying.  I don’t mean this in the same sense that we are all dying – for we are – but rather that Anthony is dying now. . . visibly. . . and maybe soon.  For years he has complained of pain in his chest only to be told by prison medical personnel to take aspirin, drink less coffee, etc.  When finally an X-Ray was performed after seven years of complaining of such pain, a huge mass was found on one lung. Then a CT scan revealed that the cancer had spread to his spine. Then chemotherapy was ordered, but before it could begin, an MRI revealed four cancerous lesions in the brain, and now the consulting oncologist speaks of possibly months, but not years.

I have been coaching Anthony not to just accept this prognosis in defeat.  No one knows the day or the hour.  I have been prodding Anthony to fight for his life, and he is gearing up for that battle.  I have encouraged Anthony to make vast changes in the way he sees life, and to live in the moment he is in instead of the days gone by.

But what Pornchai really had in mind was not for me to show Anthony how to fight to live, but how to die.  Should a man about to mark 32 years of priesthood know such a thing?  Perhaps I should, and perhaps I have some things that both Pornchai and I together can show Anthony about standing at the foot of the Cross in surrender to the Author of Redeemed Life.

First, however, there is something I must resolve in myself for priesthood depends upon it.  When Pornchai asked me that question late in the night, I was confronted with a troubling truth about my life as a priest, and before you ever read another word of These Stone Walls you must know of my dismal failure.

When this darkness descended upon Anthony in the afternoon of his life, he could not come to me.  His estrangement from me was as fixed and settled as his estrangement from his faith and from the Church, a falling out set in motion long ago.  And because he did not feel free to come to me – the only priest in his field of view – he had to go through Pornchai, and when Pornchai told me all this, I was brought to another in a string of low points in my life as a priest.

THE SPIRITUAL WASTELAND OF HUMAN RESENTMENT

Have I been so preoccupied with being a prisoner in my disdain for Anthony’s fire and propane encounters with me that I forgot to be a priest? When light finally dawned, Anthony and I spoke for a long time.  The good news is that, unlike our Thai friend, Anthony actually stayed awake for most of it!  I told him that the past takes too long to drag into the present, and we haven’t time, so we’ll just leave the past back there.  Anthony told me he needs to reconcile with God.  I said, “That makes two of us!”

I gave Anthony an examination of conscience to read, then a few days later he emerged from his past into a new life of grace, restored to the faith and its Sacraments that were once a part of Anthony’s life, but dimmed into nothing but an ember as they can in so many lives in this modern world.  Now they have been kindled into fire again – minus the propane.

Pornchai showed Anthony how to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, something Anthony says he does every day now because it comforts him, and calms his fears, and gives him hope.  It is frightening to face death.  To face death and prison at the same time is a special kind of fear.  Whether my priesthood is up to the task of providing a roadmap through such a maze remains to be seen.  I’ll need the example and intercession of Saint Maximilian Kolbe who alone – among all my friends – knew how to die in prison.

Anthony comes by every day now.  In the afternoon when he returns from daily radiation treatments, he is often able to join EWTN in praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  The radiation is given in hope that Anthony’s brain lesions might shrink enough for chemotherapy to then help extend his life somewhat. In one of the most humane gestures I have seen in prison, Pornchai took out his clippers and shaved Anthony’s head to save him from the embarrassment of having his hair fall out in clumps once this aggressive chemotherapy begins.  It was a great idea.  Now Anthony and I have the same hairdo.

Some say that these treatments to slow down his cancer are the most Anthony can hope for, but that is not true.  He can hope for a share in the suffering of Christ.  He can hope for the grace to share it back, in atonement for our sins, and the sins of the whole world.  He can hope to live out his life as a disciple of Divine Mercy.  He can hope, for that alone is one of the great gifts of the Holy Spirit bestowed at the very dawn of the Church at Pentecost.

I gave Anthony a couple of past TSW posts to read.  Each day now when we talk, he asks for another.  I feel like such a fool.  Of all the spiritual reading available in the prison library and prison chapel, Anthony wants only to read TSW posts one by one. I feel like a fool because I had no idea this is one reason why they were written.  He is especially caught up in the life and death of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, and in the Divine Mercy movement in which he finds a power and surrender that transcend  life and death.

Pornchai and I have asked Anthony to visualize himself standing in the rays of Divine Mercy, and to remain there no matter what the outcome of his cancer treatment. Anthony also attends Mass with us when it is offered in the prison. He and Pornchai and Mike Ciresi and Michael Martinez and Jesse Pickard and I fill a row in the prison chapel.

I DREAMED A DREAM OF DAYS GONE BY

One of my posts that Anthony recently read was “Les Miserables! The Bishop and the Redemption of Jean Valjean.”  I hope you might find a few minutes to read it again.  Anthony loved it, and saw himself in it.  So did I.  After these events with Anthony, I heard in my mind Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean singing his famous rendition of “Who am I?” It’s a good question as I mark 32 years of priesthood, 20 of them in prison.

When Anthony first spoke with me about abandoning his faith years ago and his wish to reconcile with God, I had a painful and haunting dream that night that answered Jean Valjean’s question for me.  In this dream, I was walking the cavernous cell blocks of this prison wearing a Capuchin habit, but with my prisoner number – 67546 – clearly visible for all to see.  I began religious life in the Capuchin order, but left before Solemn Vows to pursue diocesan priesthood.

In the dream, I suddenly became aware that I must wear this priesthood openly, but also in the dream it generated a lot of abuse and ridicule from other prisoners.  As I walked through the cellblocks with priesthood bared for all to see, I was treated by some with scorn and derision.  In the dream, however, this was what was required.  There is no priestly witness without priestly sacrifice.  I always knew this, but it took me 32 years to live it.  This is now the difference between having a life as a priest and living a life as a priest.

I am conscious that this will be posted on June 4, the day before my 32nd anniversary of ordination.  June 4 is also the Jewish Festival of Shavu’ot – also called the Feast of Weeks.  It marks fifty days since the First Day of Passover, and it’s one of three required Pilgrimage Feasts, the other two being Passover and Sukkot, the Feast of Booths.  The Festival of Shavu’ot was the reason so many Jews of varying languages and nationalities were present in Jerusalem with the Apostles at what became for us Christians, Pentecost, the birth of the Church.

As I wrote in “Inherit the Wind! Pentecost and the Breath of God,” which you may have read anew last week, this faith and this Church began mired in scandal and suspicion, and with the clay feet of priests exposed for all to see.  We must not forget that Peter, whose priestly courage defended the Apostles and his faith with eloquence when filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, also fled Golgotha and the Cross just 53 days before.  Peter was not standing with Mary and the Beloved Disciple John at the foot of the Cross.  He was down below, listening to a cock crow. Let’s face it.  In life, we have all, at one time or another, joined him there.  As Pope Francis humbly offered, “Who am I to judge?”

I set out to show abrasive Anthony how to die, but instead he took up living, and doing it in a different light.  Pray for our friend, Anthony, please, that while he looks upon the Lord for whatever time God gives him in the land of the living, he will atone with grace for the days gone by.  And pray for Pornchai whose heart has been so thoroughly transformed by Divine Mercy that it humbles me to live in his presence – even when he’s snoring while I’m pontificating.

And lastly, please pray for me, that my failures to be a priest first in all things, and to model our Blessed Mother’s fiat – to put enmity beneath our feet – will never again be an obstacle to grace for someone else.

The Jewish Festival of Shavu’ot celebrated on June 4  this year recalls the giving of the Torah and the law to Moses on Mount Sinai, and foremost in that law is the command, “I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.”  Of all the things you might assign ultimate importance to in this life, don’t let resentment and grudges be among them.  Don’t let the sun go down on them.

Yes, I know, that’s life!  As the song goes, “that’s what all the people say.”  But it’s not living!  Inherit the wind of Pentecost, and live for a higher realm.

Holy Spirit

thermometerEditors’s Note: a continued thanks to TSW readers for their generosity in responding to Ryan MacDonald’s appeal to help with the legal costs, at the Federal level. We haven’t reached our goal yet, so please share this link to Ryan’s news alert post!

About Fr. Gordon J. MacRae

The late Cardinal Avery Dulles and The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus encouraged Father MacRae to write. Cardinal Dulles wrote in 2005: “Someday your story and that of your fellow sufferers will come to light and will be instrumental in a reform. Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound will be a monument to your trials.” READ MORE

Comments

  1. AG says:

    I submitted prayer requests to the Carmelite Nuns and Monks for Anthony and Fr. MacRae. In my prayers too!

  2. Father Gordon J. MacRae says:

    Prisoner, Anthony Begin, no. 76810, whose diagnosis of terminal cancer I described in this post, was moved last week to the prison medical unit where he is receiving palliative treatment. It is not expected that he will emerge from the medical unit. Some of us were able to bring Anthony from the prison hospital to the chapel for the Mass this morning. Such things are very rare in prison. He asked me to thank TSW readers for their prayers and cards. If you would like to send a card with your prayers to Anthony you may send it as follows:

    Anthony Begin, # 76810
    P.O. Box 14
    Concord, NH 03302-0014

    With Divine Mercy blessings, Father Gordon

    • Joe corvino says:

      Dear Father Gordon Congratulations on your 32 years of Priesthood.As for you feeling you failed Anthony you did NOT!!! From my prospective with no disrespect meant ONLY GOD WALKS ON WATER!! You may be a Priest but you are human just like the rest of us and GOD showed you as example to Anthony and those around you to be just that! GOD also showed you both the power of forgiveness. Anthony now has rekindled his spark to a flaming Love For JESUS. He used OUR SON PORNCHAI to ask you if you could help Anthony and bow Y’all sit together on a pew in a little prison chaple praying together. That my Friend is pure LOVE helping someone on the threshold of the ultimate parole is you will COMPLETE FREEDOM OF ETERNAL LIFE WITH JESUS! It dosent get any better then that!! So I will end this with you are an EXCELLENT PRIEST . Please tell OUR SON PORNCHAIVWE LOVE AND MISS HIM!! If you can please read this post to our Brother in Christ Anthony and let him know we will hold him up in Prayer and add him to our Church Prayer list. I will mail out a card to him as well in the morning. Oh one last thing could you let Maxk know I will write him this week. I have been busy this week with another mission trip to West Virgina

    • Maria Stella says:

      Dear Fr. Gordon,

      If you are able to, please tell Anthony that I will have a Mass said for him, for his intentions. Either this Sunday, or the following Sunday, whenever it can be scheduled. He is in my prayers, and I will write him tomorrow.

      I also have a letter for you…that may come later.

      Thank you so much for everything – for being so open to God in your circumstances.

      God Bless and keep you

  3. Greg Kokoras says:

    I enjoyed the help and care Father G you’ve shown in so many ways to Anthony. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.My wife went through something similar Anthony is experiencing now in 1992. My life changed completely after I lost her 22 years ago August 25 of 1992. I will pray to her and my Dad tonight in Anthonys difficult times he’s going through. You showed a lot Father G in your way of putting our deep feelings aside to help a fellow man who’s deep inner feelings must ne grueling to deal with each day. Thank you for just being you, your buddy for life, Greg Kokoras

  4. Josee Allen says:

    Dearest Fr. Congratulations on your anniversary.. You are never far from our thoughts and prayers.I widsh ..oh how I wish I could talk to you. I had a peculiar encounter at communion recently…and I was physically hurt…and discovered that not everyone is happy with me or my position in The Church.I have no one I can tell..but dear Father, I knew that you would advise me and comfort me..Your prescrnce comforted me..even though you are so far away…God bless you for ll the blessings you bring to those in prison with you …and those like me outside in the ither prison.

  5. Mary Fran says:

    Fr. Gordon, I just came back to this post this morning (a POWERFUL post) to reread it. I got stuck on and struck by the title and could go no farther. Pentecost, Priesthood, and DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON. The death you meant was Anthony’s, I assume. But, I see another death here—-YOURS. Death to pride, death to self esteem, death in the eyes of others, particularly prisoners who, according to Donald Spinner “expect you to be good”, death to your own image of yourself as a man and a priest. Death to your expectations of effectiveness.

    Not for nothing was the communion antiphon for the anniversary of your ordination—-”unless a grain of wheat die, . . . ” You are dying to yourself (kicking and screaming, I’m sure. Dying is not fun. Humiliations are not fun) so that Jesus can more and more manifest himself in you. Keep dying, Fr. Gordon, bravely, so that Jesus can produce more and ever more fruit in you and through you.

    With the deepest respect,

    Mary Fran

  6. Mary Fran says:

    Fr. Gordon. About Anthony. I bought a nice Divine Mercy card for him. However I would like to send it directly to him rather than trying to get it to him through you. I have no idea how the prison mail system works or if things get lost or whatever. Please can you have Charlene e-mail me (note the new e-mail address. Oh, you won’t see that, but Charlene will. I’ll send it to you too) Anthony’s last name and prison #. Thanks. Be thankful right now that you don’t have a computer. I am TEARING MY HAIR OUT.

  7. Juan says:

    Dear Father Gordon,

    Thank you for sharing inner and outer stories of you and others in the house: they are enriching and encouraging to us in a different setting but facing similar spirits of darkness and burdened with similar weaknesses in our daily lives.

    Blessings to you Father Gordon on your Ordination anniversary. Your priesthood is doing much good to whomever wishes to receive your messages.

    We are also praying for Anthony, Pornchai Maximilian (your thank you note to Father G in an earlier comment was great!), Mike Ciresi, Michael Martinez, Jesse Pickard and all others, including those who can do better in the justice system and those who may be harboring a lot of mistaken prejudices elsewhere.

    In union of prayers,

    Juan.

  8. Dee Susan says:

    Father Gordon,
    As I read your message today, I learned a few things. I learned how the saints choose us – and I thought why not? They are in a position to know a lot more about us than we know about them. This was something I had never thought about before. I learned that if we make a mistake we can do something about it, we don’t have to persist in error. I learned we can change. You did and so can I. I learned that people in prison deserve our compassion and prayers.
    But I also found myself thinking about the amazing ways God works. I have always told my children, “God can do ANYTHING!” But it still amazes me how He continues to do it over and over. Here you are imprisoned, for many years, in a small cell and you are ministering to me. (and others too) I can’t begin to thank God for you. Anthony will be added to my prayer list. Gee, Father, this list is getting longer and longer. (smile) God bless. And Happy Anniversary!

  9. Fr Gordon
    Happy Anniversary and thank you for answering the call to priesthood. You have remained a faithful servant of a God. I leave on Pilgrimage to
    Poland on 6/8/14 and will pray for your special intentions when I visit the holy places of: St John Paul II, St Faustina, St. Maximilian Kolbe and Blessed Fr Jerzey.
    I remember our childhood days @ Holy Family when we served at the Altar together. I remember you daily and whenever I stand at the Lord’s Table. God bless and keep you close to His Sacred Heart.
    Dcn. DeLuca, Diocese of St. Augustine.

  10. Gérald C. LaJeunesse says:

    Dear Gordon

    In the context of pontification that is better than a sleeping pill, your comment about Anthony wanting to read TSW posts rather than good spiritual material in the library struck a chord. When, for the first time I arrived in a parish as pastor, the secretary asked me for my comment of the week. She explained that my predecessor wrote something every week for the bulletin. And so started an exercise that’s been kept up in every parish where I’ve served since. The subject matter, most times, is a mundane, ordinary, banal occurrence of the week in which I try to discover God’s presence in my life. Those 20 or so lines elicit more comment (and appreciation, it seems) than any homily over which I’ve toiled labouriously. Go figure! I attribute this to: 1) people see themselves in the events, or similar ones, and 2) they see I too struggle and need to figure things out… And so, testimony from the lives of saints can shake us up as necessary, and testimony from the lives of saints (and from people we know*) can serve to reassure us.

    Rest assured of my continued prayers for yourself, for Pornchai also, and now for Anthony.

    En toutes amities

    *Had to add the proviso: wouldn’t want you to think you are a saint!!!

  11. MM says:

    Jesus keeps affirming the gift of your priesthood. Prison bars can never take this from you Father G
    Dear Anthony is also like the Good Thief .God Bless all of you

  12. Mary Jean Diemer says:

    Hi Father Gordon!
    The Holy Spirit knows what he/she is doing! It doesn’t diminish your priesthood at all to have a soul led to you through another. It seems some of Max’s role is to be a conduit for mercy. We are human and so are you.We have our human emotions and feelings but when we are open to the Divine…well, things happen in spite of our humanity getting in the way.
    We who love you see you for who you are,
    first and foremost a priest in the very image of Jesus. We identify with your suffering as we have all suffered in some way too. We are in awe of the ministry that you do in spite of where you are. Max’s post says it all.
    God bless you and keep you as you celebrate 32 years of a life well lived in His service. You are a true and faithful servant, don’t ever doubt that!
    Thank God for you! With love, Jeannie

  13. Carla Twigg says:

    You are all always in my daily rosary, but I will need to add Anthony to my list. This post was very hard for me to read, thank you for posting what I needed to hear.

  14. Mari says:

    Prayers for you Father and Ponchai and Anthony. May God bless you with a beautiful Anniversary present. (perhaps he already has, based on this amazing message in your blog. Thank you for sharing your discovery about Saints and that they choose us and why they do. It really has helped to clarify my own thinking on these relationships with the Saints that do adopt us and the real reasons. You are much loved and our prayers never cease. Thank you for your great sacrifice. Soon, may you be liberated and exonerated. May Mother Mary’s arms hold you close.

  15. Fr. Stuart MacDonald says:

    Dear Fr. Gordon,

    Happy Anniversary! ad multos annos!
    I remembered you at my Mass this morning.
    Powerful words in your latest post — speechless and somewhat shamed I am. How much people in the Church need to learn that the priesthood is about being and not about function (or at least that the function is inextricably linked to being). May the Holy Spirit bring you special consolation on this day.

    a grateful confrere,
    Fr. Stuart

  16. Sharon Morris says:

    Good Morning, Father Gordon. Anthony became alive to all of us through your words. Your ability to share your faults in this situation is what resonates for all of us when so readily we “miss” giving what God so often wants us to give, through the power of His Holy Spirit, to others. Simple love in the midst of the ugliness in all of our lives. What a very good post for your anniversary… showing us our weakness and giving us the hope that our pitiful efforts can be turned around by God into something glorious.

    Please say hello to Pornchai and to Anthony for me… I will be heading to New Hampshire June 19th through the 23rd, and daily will stop on my way past your prison to wave to the three of you… and to lift up special prayers for continued grace, and for freedom and healing.

    Sharon

  17. Maureen Dawson says:

    Dear Fr. G,
    I love your blog and look forward to each new post every time they come in. This one has been my favorite of all, which is saying something because there have been so many amazing posts. God bless you who has shown you his great gift to you under the disguise of the intense sufferings of wrongful imprisonment. Is this no less a sacrifice in union with the sacrifice of Christ than St. Pio? I think not. You inspire me! Thank you and may God continue to fill you with his great love.

    Peace be with you!

    Maureen Dawson

  18. Claire says:

    Happy Anniversary, Father Gordon. We are blessed to have these wonderful insights from behind, These Stone Walls. Praying for you, Pornchai, and all with whom you interact. God be with you.
    Claire

  19. LaVern says:

    Dear Fr. Gordon:
    I hope my card will reach you in time for your 32nd Ordination Anniversary. Would that we could throw a party, and celebrate this great day in your life. But even without a party, you have even more to celebrate this year–God has so flooded your life with grace. Especially the grace to see that Anthony needed help at this time in his life, and you were the one to give it. Pornchai has an interesting way to push you on to action for the Lord! You certainly are in our daily prayers–and assure Anthony that he has joined our list who we pray for each and every day. Love you much, and P, Steve, and Karen, the two Michaels, Anthony, Skooter, and all the others you have mentioned throughout the years. LaVern

  20. Mary G says:

    Father Gordon,

    This column was especially moving. I am in tears. I will pray for Anthony, Pornchoi , you and all the prisoners. I do believe God has permitted this suffering for you – great and tragic as it is to bear- in order to bring and transform these souls He has put in your path. I believe you to be a saintly man. Certainly the fruits are very very good.

    Pax

  21. Domingo says:

    Your post, Father, made me think of my vocation as a husband and father. Thank you for leading me to prayer.

    Asking for your priestly blessings on me and my family,
    Domingo

    Will certainly remember Anthony at Mass this evening.

  22. Lionel DUCROS says:

    Congratulation, Reverend Father Gordon!
    Union de prière LD

  23. Pornchai Moontri says:

    Happy Anniversary, my friend. I owe you so many thank yous and I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll try. Thank you for being you. Thank you for your priesthood. Thank you for my future! Thank you for showing me light when I didn’t see any. Thank you for giving me hope when I didn’t think there was any. Thank you for your guidance. Thank you for your counsel. Thank you for being my teacher. Thank you for always having my best interest in your heart! Thank you being my best friend! You are a light in the darkness for a lot of us here when we badly needed one. No matter where our lives may take us, I promise that we will always be in each other’s life. You are the best priest I know. Thank you for everything and more, with love and respect always, Pornchai Maximilian.

    • Anthony Begin says:

      My name is Anthony Begin, no. 76810, and I am the Anthony refered to in this post by Father G. After reading this, and hearing many of the comments and prayers for me, I do not know what to say. I came to this prison a little over ten years ago, and it took me a long time to work on the person I am today. I have always believed in God and believed that He was part of my life, but I kept Him on a shelf. It was not until I was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was told that I had very little time to live that I realized I have to find God again in my life, and quickly. In 2008, I met Pornchai Moontri. We did not become close friends at first and that was my fault and it was mostly because he lived with an accused Catholic priest. Pornchai told me once of his belief in Father G’s innocence, but I did not want to hear it. I was too involved in self-loathing to want to hear about anyone else’s unjust plight. Father G wrote in his post of our alienation, but that was my doing and not his. When I found out I was dying, I was utterly lost and broken, and I was terrified and never in my life felt so alone. Almost immediately the two men who were at my side to pick me up and walk with me through this were Pornchai and Father G. They became my guardian angels and helped me find my way back to God and showed me how to let God guide me through this process. I wish that I had years ago been able to hear and witness the truth about Father G, but all he says today is that none of that matters. I feel as though I am walking through Psalm 23. I fear no evil, for they are at my side and I know I will not falter from this path. I have decided to become Catholic and I have asked Father G to be my sponsor at Baptism this coming Sunday and Pornchai will also be my witness. I am no longer walking this path alone and I thank God for these friends and their powerful witness, and I thank him for the prayers for all of you. May God bless you, and I thank you. Anthony Begin, no. 76810

      • Mary Jean Diemer says:

        That is the Holy Spirit, Anthony! God bless you as you take that wonderful leap of faith. you are in the best possible hands there!
        I will pray for you at my Mass every day as i already do for Father Gordon , Max and the other blessed souls there! Jeannie

      • Mary Fran says:

        Wow, Anthony. What a response. We are all rooting (and praying, of course) for you no matter what life has for you. I am so glad you and Fr. Gordon are reconciled. And SUPER delighted that soon you will be my brother in Christ. Welcome to the Church. Welcome to the family.

      • Liz says:

        Oh Anthony, your comment is so touching and beautiful. I am so happy for you and that you are becoming a Catholic. This life only matters if we can ultimately get to heaven in the next. My family and I have been praying for you and will continue to do so. God bless you! Liz (Frank) and family p.s. St. Anthony is one of my favorite saints right now and I’ve been praying to him especially for you.

      • Domingo says:

        Anthony, you may not know it, but in time you will, how blessed you are.

        I just reread a story about how St Anthony accepted a challenge from a nonbeliever and through a donkey, made a lot of conversions. You may want to ask Fr Gordon about this next time you talk to him.

        Welcome to the Father’s House, to the Church which His Son established!

        Your brother,
        Domingo

      • Charlene C. Duline says:

        To those who write to Anthony, please remember to put your address INSIDE with the message. Inmates do not receive the envelope – only the contents.

        Anthony needs all prayer warriors praying for him and walking this long journey with him. Thanks be to God that Father Gordon and Pornchai-Maximilian are right there with him.

      • Louella says:

        I am sorry to hear what has happened to you. I just read Anthony Begin’s letter about your help along with Pornchai. It is amazing how God works to save souls. Have you ever read the book called Tortured For His Faith by Haralan Popov. Haralan was in Bulgaria prison held by Communist for 13 years for crime of being a minister. Starting in 1948 His life was spent talking to God and Ministering to all the others in prison. Tortured in the most horrible ways because he found ways to spread the word and give others hope. When he was caught he would be tortured for months at a time. They said you must like to be tortured. Never could they break his will. What seems to be the worst conditions to us, became a gift from God for him. How did this pastor survive was by turning a negative into a positive. This is truly a gift from God. In July 1961 he was released. God needs our help and You Father Gordon and Anthony are doing the Job God created for you both. As Mother Angelica said, “We are all called to be saints, don’t miss the opportunity”. You both will have a special place in God’s Kingdom. I pray every day for you to be release and now added Anthony to my prayers.

        God bless you and may you become a spiritual giant in Prison as Haralan did.
        Louella

      • Greg Kokoras says:

        Anthony, you are in all my prayers and thoughts. I am so pleased to read the connection you, Father G and Ponch have found together.When I was there you all were my friends I am proud to say and all so very different. Anthony, out of anyone I met in NHSP you was the biggest most stubborn fighter I ever came across. Never stop being that way. I’ve got everyone out here praying for you. God be with you my friend. Your buddy forever, Greg Kokoras.

    • Greg Kokoras says:

      Hi Ponch;
      Thank you so much for your care and help you’ve shown Anthony during these difficult times. If you see him please let him know I am lighting a candle at my church on Sunday and will have some special prayers said for him on that day. Thank Father G for his humane caring way he’s shown Anthony these past few weeks.He stood up like the man we all know first hand he is all about. Take care my friend, I am so blessed to have known all of you. Greg Kokoras

  24. Dear Father Gordon:

    Recently, we corresponded and you urged me to write again. My blog Freedom Through Truth has been pretty dormant for the last two years, as I try to figure out what, if anything God wants me to say.

    I had concluded that what God wanted me to do was say nothing, and listen much, and so I have.

    But, I had taken your words to heart, and hope that God is in the process of inspiring me to write words of truth and encouragement to our brothers and sisters in this crazy world we inhabit.

    Here is my humble response to reading your posting this morning. Like others who have commented, I await Wednesday morning where I will be able to enter into a mini retreat as I devour the words God presents to me through you.

    Today’s bon mots touched me deeply, and reminded me about my grandfather Anthony for whom I was named (at least in part), and also about the journey of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which you undertook recently, and which I have now undertaken.

    http://freethroughtruth.blogspot.ca/2014/06/embarking-on-journey.html

    May God Bless You continually in your special ministry to us from behind These Stone Walls.

    Michael “Anthony” Brandon

  25. Mary Fran says:

    Fr. Gordon, the first thing I do on a Wednesday morning is read your newest post over a morning cup of coffee. After the Morning Offering, of course. So, your post is an offering too. “. . . prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day. . .” Sometimes it’s a joy, others a suffering. This one is a suffering one, but a suffering one laced with joy and hope. I looked forward eagerly all week to hear what you would have to say about the priesthood. I don’t know what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t this. Please hand me the Kleenex; I can’t stop crying. For you. For Anthony. For Pornchai.

  26. Liz says:

    Aw, Father, we will definitely be praying for Anthony…starting with our rosary this morning. We may even attempt mass this afternoon so that we can pray for him. (And they offer confession before the Wed afternoon mass so that’s a bonus!) I hope he reads this post http://thesestonewalls.com/gordon-macrae/a-shower-of-roses/ Well, maybe the time isn’t right for that one, but I love it so much.

    I love this new post. Our humanity and our weakness unites all of us.

    Happy Anniversary! Prayers always for you and Pornchai.

  27. Keith Albrecht says:

    Father G:
    There is a saying in 12-Step programs that goes something like: “We come into program when we are ready to” You bemoan the moments of unawareness; yet God was preparing you for the moment of revelation about the role of saints in our lives. This new awareness becomes the stepping stone for the next revelation. This process reflects the history of Revelation — Jesus Himself points to His going forward for the coming of the Holy Spirit, under whose guidance we move toward the Kingdom.
    33 years ago, when you received the Book of the Gospels as a deacon, you were admonished (in summary) to continuously learn from them. You have done this well. Happy Anniversary.
    As for Anthony and you, rejoice that both of you have responded to the grace of the moment. Though his path is arduous, he does not walk alone. I am sure that the Faithful who read TSW are already lifting him up, this one is. How sad that it took 7 years for a diagnosis (does not speak well for those who are entrusted with the task of care)!

    • Carol Hall says:

      I agree with everything you said, especially concerning Anthony. Thank God Fr. Gordon & Anthony our in complete harmony now. GOD is good, God is great, Let us thank Him for all our blessings!! Amen

  28. Bonnie says:

    This post brought me to tears. God bless you. You are all in my prayers.

  29. Dear Father Gordon

    I have recently embarked on the journey of 33 Days to Morning Glory, in part because you referred to it here previously. It is a humbling experience, as was reading how you have been humbled to soften your heart towards Anthony.

    I am discovering through the graces that God has given our dear Mother, and she is sharing with me, that many times in my life I have been right, but often self righteous in that rightness.

    Many times I have told others that it is more important to discern the truth than to be right. I have since found that it is much easier to say than do, as I look at the hypocrite in the mirror.

    I think that consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a wonderful way to open the door to shedding the things in our lives that keep us from doing the best God has in store for us. As that door opens, our eyes are opened by the light that pours in, and we may begin to see for the first time in our lives.

    Thank you for the gift you are to the men in the NH State Prison, and the gift you are to each of us behind our own stone walls.

    In writing about your relationship with Anthony, you have told the story of the destruction of spiritual stone walls, his and yours. As I take this story to heart I pray that it will inspire me to allow Mary’s graces to knock down the stone walls that imprison me in my daily life.

    May God continue to bless you in your priestly ministry.

    Michael Anthony Brandon

  30. Fr Gordon , I promise to remember you all at Adoration tonight.

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