The Year Behind These Stone Walls

Esther, “A Catholic Mom in Hawaii” with an interesting blog, frequently leaves comments on These Stone Walls. Esther knows that as a prisoner I have no access to the Internet and have never actually even seen my own blog. So last week she sent me a message to let me know that These Stone Walls appeared on Our Sunday Visitor’s “Catholic Guide to the Internet – Reader’s Choice Edition.”

I wasn’t sure how to react to Esther’s message, so I had it forwarded to Suzanne Sadler who manages TSW from Australia. Suzanne responded with a “Wow, I saw that too,” but my “WOW!” rightfully belongs to Suzanne who designed These Stone Walls a year ago last month. She adds graphics to my meager posts, and has created what one snail-mail letter writer from England recently called “your very classy website!”

Charlene Duline in Indianapolis prints and mails screen-shots of the TSW Home Page with my posts each week. She prints them every Wednesday and I usually get them on Saturday so I see my TSW posts several days after most of you do. Seeing a printed screen shot doesn’t substitute for the real thing, however.

I must have been thinking of this last night because I had a dream about TSW. In the dream, a prison employee told me that she obtained approval to allow me a one-time look at the computer in her office so I could view These Stone Walls. I was to look at TSW only, and for five minutes. The woman told me to come to her office that afternoon. In the dream, I was very excited. It’s strange how emotions can feel so real in a dream. Her office was in the prison Health Services Center where I have been too frequent a visitor of late for reasons I’ll mention below.

The dream took me through all the convoluted steps of getting there. I passed through three locked doors to get out of the building I live in (there’s a photo of it on “Summer in the Slammer“). Then I walked through three locked gates outside, passed a guarded check-point, then across the long, walled prison yard, up three flights of metal grate stairs, through three more locked doors, then another guarded check-point, then finally down the long infirmary corridor to the staff member’s office. In the dream, I felt my heart beating faster, unsure whether it was anticipation of finally seeing TSW or the long trek getting there.


When I walked into the office, the computer was on. “Sit down right here,” the woman said. I sat down and watched her carefully type I was smiling as the screen blinked into action. Then I saw in large print across the screen: “Page Cannot Be Displayed.” I woke up just then feeling terribly disappointed.

Just as I wondered why OSV would put These Stone Walls on its list of “Catholic Guide to the Internet – Reader’s Choice Edition,” I had that dream and realized I may never see what you see.

A few weeks ago, I watched on PBS as Sir Paul McCartney received the Gershwin Award at the White House. It was brilliant, and I especially enjoyed the various artists’ renditions of Paul’s songs. Stevie Wonder performed and was an honored guest. It was a wonderful thing to see, but Stevie Wonder will never see it. For the first time ever, I felt a sort of kinship with Stevie Wonder.

There’s something almost humorous in the way I write for TSW. In a recent post – “These Stone Walls: Spring Cleaning and Loose Ends” – I mentioned that I was diagnosed awhile back with two deteriorating disks in the 4th and 5th vertebrae in my neck. In June I ruptured the two disks, and the resultant pain and discomfort has changed the way I write. I was in agony after spending a few hours last month sitting on my large bucket – umm, the plastic one – looking down at my typewriter while I typed “The Paradox of Suffering.” I knew afterward that I had to devise another way to type.

So I folded up the two blankets issued to me by the prison, and also borrowed my roommate’s two blankets. I piled them on the bare two-inch mattress on my steel bunk, then put my World Atlas on the pile. Finally, my typewriter was perched precariously on top of it all.

I now sit at one end of my bunk in a lotus position with two towels rolled into a sort of cervical collar placed between my neck and the cinder-block wall. Then I pull the typewriter topped pile toward me so I can type without having to look down. My last four or five posts have been written in this way, and someone even suggested they were better for the challenge I face to write them. I’m not sure of that, but the picture must look awfully strange. Recently a guard doing rounds stopped and stared for a minute while I typed. He was about to comment, but thought better of it and moved on.

When I told my friend, Pornchai, that the people at OSV listed These Stone Walls on their site he said: “I wonder if they have any idea what you go through to write it.” I wonder that too, but anything I write is just so many words without someone reading it. You would not be reading these posts at all if not for Suzanne Sadler and Charlene Duline, two remarkable women on opposite sides of the world who have never even met. They have absolutely nothing in common except for one thing: their concern for the state of justice for accused priests who are innocent, and the state of mercy for those who are not in the ancient claims that have so roiled our Church, and, for some, their faith.

My blog was launched by Suzanne one year ago, and her own blog, Priests In Crisis, exactly a year before that. The year behind These Stone Walls is therefore dedicated to Suzanne and Charlene, and the best way to do that is with what will be my second and last TSW summer re-run. It’s a post that actually was written for Priests In Crisis, one year ago this week.

Please join us in revisiting: “From Crisis to Hope.



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


  1. Julie says:

    Great news! I hadn’t clicked on the OSV link so I had no idea. Congratulations!

    I do often give out the url to your blog and tell people about your story, in hopes that they, too, will read it and get the word out.

    Being listed at OSV is going to do a LOT for you, is my guess!

    God bless!

  2. Leo Demers says:

    WOW!!! Is an understatement! The buttons on your shirt should be bursting with pride. Suzanne regularly creates a world class website presentation for you to share your insights.
    You know that you are in my prayers…
    Peace, Leo Demers

  3. Sharon says:

    Good Morning, Father Gordon.

    I so appreciate the details. I so appreciate your life. I so appreciate your work. I commit to living my day in freedom out here today in a noble way in honor of your life lived so nobly in prison.

    Hello Charlene and Suzanne. THANK YOU.

    Please send my greetings to Pornchai and tell him that Father Jonathan has put up a special shelf to hold the sail ship that Pornchai made.

  4. Mary says:

    Dear father G,
    Suzanne and Charlene are wonderful and do a great job as do you!
    One day I hope you will be able to see their marvellous work.In the meantime you are living proof of the power of ingenuity!

  5. Esther says:

    Aloha Father, Suzanne and Charlene:
    I think you three make a great team!

    Your dream made me sad. I hope someone at the prison will let you see your own blog one day, Father. I also hope OSV realizes the sacrifices you make to share what you do with everyone.
    God bless you all,

Speak Your Mind