These Stone Walls at Year’s End: The Hits and Misses of 2013

These Stone Walls at Years End Hits and Misses 2013 s

Ending a 19th year behind prison walls might evoke far more “Misses” than “Hits,” but that’s not the case behind These Stone Walls as 2013 draws to a close.


Every weekend, FOX News hosts “The Journal Editorial Report,” a half hour of commentary on the week’s news by members of The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. I try not to miss its incisive news analysis and often find topics to write about in that brief half hour. In the last few minutes each week, the panel is asked to weigh in on “The Hits and Misses of the Week.” My own Hits and Misses present a view from behind these walls, and are not in order of importance or chronology. I invite you to submit your own Hits and Misses of 2013 in comments on this post.

MISS: AT THE MERCY OF SNAIL MAIL

This post was supposed to appear a week ago, but it ran afoul of the same “Miss” that began 2013 behind these stone walls: Snail Mail. I wrote of it in “When the Caged Bird Just Can’t Sing: The Limits of Prison Writing.” It took a full eight days for this post to get from Concord, NH to Indianapolis, IN to be scanned. So once again, I have the last word on the Hits and Misses of the Year.

A HOMERUN HIT: THE LOST TREASURE FOUND

In “Behold Your Mother! 33 Days to Morning Glory” just a few weeks ago, I wrote of a long lost treasure, a reproduction of Fra Angelico’s famous painting, “The Annunciation.” It was a gift at Ordination in 1982 from a now long deceased dear friend. It was last seen on my office wall at the Servants of the Paraclete center in New Mexico when I left there to face trial in 1994. I had no idea what became of it.

Last week I received a Christmas card from Father Liam Hoare, another old friend and former Servant General of his community. Father Liam wrote: “I was surprised to read of your lost treasure, ‘The Annunciation,’ but it isn’t lost. It adorns the wall of my room in Ditmer, MO, where, in safe keeping, it awaits news of your freedom.” I’ve been smiling since!

HIT OR MISS? YOU DECIDE!

And also in “Behold Your Mother” I wrote that Pornchai-Maximilian and I, along with 12 other Catholic prisoners, entrusted our lives to Marian Consecration on the Feast of Christ the King on November 24, 2013. I just did a little math. That date was my 7000th day in prison. What a sense of irony – if not outright humor – God can have!

A MISS AND THEN A HIT: POPE BENEDICT XVI SHOCKS THE WORLD

It now seems far more distant, but it was just 11 months ago that a prisoner stood at my cell door on a February morning and asked, “Can a Pope quit?” When I shook my head, he said, “I think this one just did.” I tuned in to the news, and my heart, like many of yours’,  just sank in dismay.

I call this “A Miss and then a Hit” because over the next month before the Conclave, some of Benedict’s own heart was discerned and revealed. As the Church grappled with what to call a retired Pope, I came up my own title, “Benedict the Beloved,” in the first of three successive posts on this historical event. If you missed them during the glut of Catholic news at the time, I hope you might visit anew: 
 “Pope Benedict XVI: The Sacrifices of a Father’s Love” 
 “Sede Vacante: The Sky is Not Falling on the Catholic Church“
 “On the Successor of Peter Amid the Wind and the Waves

A GLOBAL HIT: TIME MAGAZINE’S “PERSON OF THE YEAR”

Time Magazine Pope FrancisThe news of Pope Francis as Time Magazine’s 2013 “Person of the Year” is momentous for the face of the Catholic Church on the world stage. In ten short months this Pope has captured world attention more than any figure in modern history. He has single-handedly moved the Church beyond the relentless media glare of scandal and ridicule. This Pope has become his own media event with a message to a world now listening intently.

A TSW reader wrote to me in mid-2013 to thank me for writing about Pope Francis. “You put my mind at rest,” she wrote, “and informed us about something very important – that all we are told to think and believe about this Pope is filtered through the news media.” Another wrote, “Your posts on Pope Francis have helped me see him in a whole new light.” A third reader wrote, “Reading your posts on the Holy Father, one could never tell you are writing from prison.”

These comments and others like them have meant a lot to me. Someone in my situation is in great danger of forming a sort of tunnel vision in which I could easily become a prisoner of another sort, a prisoner of my own perspective, of my own wounds as a wrongfully imprisoned priest. I am not the first, and 1 will not be the last. I wrote once that “in the Solar System of Church life, I write from the Oort Cloud.” From this vantage point, however, I see one thing clearly:» this Pope, and the world’s response to him are crucial to the life of the Church at this time in history. That is far more important than any predicament of mine. John the Baptist, in the Gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Advent, would likely agree!

Pope Francis has been to us a great gift. As a result, I was taken aback a bit to see in hindsight that I devoted eight posts to him this year. I hope you might revisit one or two of them, and perhaps share them with others. Here are those titles:

Pope Francis Can Call the West Out of the Sandbox of Self-Absorption

Pope Francis, the Pride of Mockery, and the Mockery of Pride

Strike the Shepherd! Behind the Campaign to Smear the Pope

A Father and a Priest: Pope Francis Energizes World Youth Day

Pope Francis Consecrates Vatican City to St. Michael the Archangel

Pope Francis Has a Challenge for the Prodigal Son’s Older Brother

When the Vicar of Christ Imitates Christ, Why Is it So Alarming?

From the Pope’s End of the World, A Voice Not Lost in Translation

HIT: DIVINE MERCY OPENS A DOOR FOR PORNCHAI-MAXIMILIAN

Pornchai Moontri Graduation

Each year in the week before Christmas, this prison’s Recreation Department and the Family Connections Center cooperate in sponsoring a Christmas visit between prisoner-fathers and their children. Gifts are donated, and gift-wrapped by the fathers, and entertainment is provided by some talented prisoners. This Christmas, our friend Pornchai was recruited to be the puppeteer for the event’s “Gifts of the Magi” puppet show. All three of the Magi just happened to have distinctly Thai accents this year causing one observer to remark, “I knew they were from the East, but was it THAT far East?”

In June I wrote with great joy, “Knock and the Door Will Open: Divine Mercy in Bangkok, Thailand,” and the doors it described are still opening. I wrote of some newer ones in “Behold Your Mother! 33 Days to Morning Glory,” and even since that post yet another door has opened for Pornchai. We received a message this week from a man in Michigan who learned of Pornchai during a recent visit to Bangkok for a Divine Mercy retreat there. Six years ago, we wondered how we could possibly find ties in Thailand (no pun intended!) The result seems miraculous.

This year behind prison walls, there have been long, dry periods of spiritual void and sullen depression. Year after year brings such times to us, but caving into them has been slowly, subtly replaced by abandonment to Divine Mercy and its beautiful image declaring “Jesus, I trust in You.” Long sought doors, long feared to be beyond our reach, have opened in seemingly miraculous ways. Never stop knocking!

HIT: THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE, SOMEDAY, SOMEHOW!

Rabinowitz Trials Gordon J Macrae S

The driving force of this tale is a story unto itself. Against the backdrop of $3 billion in often unquestioned mediated settlements like a runaway train, against an organized program of half truths and lots of propaganda, in the face of a version told almost daily in the news media and by organized groups like SNAP, well-oiled by kickbacks and shady support from contingency lawyers, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Dorothy Rabinowitz and The Wall Street Journal courageously published “The Trials of Father MacRae” in May.

I don’t want to turn this Hit into a Miss by pointing out that not a single Catholic newspaper has even mentioned this story. They are among strange bedfellows because beyond the WSJ, the mainstream secular press also shunned the story. There are none so blind as those who will not see – or won’t risk reporting what they see. It’s a sign of hope for truth, however, that since it ran last May, “The Trials of Father MacRae” in the WSJ generated close to 60,000 links around the globe, many of them on Catholic blogs and websites. The weekend the story was published in the Journal, These Stone Walls had 14,000 readers in two days even though TSW was never mentioned in the article. David F. Pierre and The Media Report covered the WSJ story in “Journalism Outside the Box,” and writer Ryan A. MacDonald wrote a riveting analysis in “Whack-A-Mole Justice Holds Court.” All three articles skillfully tore down myths and disarmed lies. It takes great courage to stand against a money and media-fueled witch hunt. These writers personify courage and truth.

TWO MISSES THAT BECAME TWO HITS

In July, I wrote that “The International Criminal Court Has Dismissed SNAP’S Last Gasp!” It described the long-awaited decision by the International Criminal Court to dismiss as invalid a “crimes against humanity” charge brought by the shady “survivors” group, SNAP, enabled by the Center for Constitutional Rights. A lie told about me – long since exposed as a lie – was nonetheless repackaged to become a part of that attention-seeking smear campaign against the Vatican. It met with a fitting end.

By the way, as I pointed out in that post, the far-left Center for Constitutional Rights that sponsored SNAP’S petition is located at 666 Broadway in Manhattan. Some things are just too obvious to nuance further.

Gov Jerry BrownOn another, related debacle, I ended “The Summer of Roman Polanski, Fr. Dominic Menna, and Bishop Eddie Long” with a question pondering whether California Governor Jerry Brown had the integrity and courage to veto a bill, all too easily passed by the CA legislature, that would open a window for expired lawsuits against Catholic dioceses and institutions while exempting public schools and for-profit groups. Catholic bishops who openly spoke against the bill were bullied into silence by SNAP and VOTF who accused them of “revictimizing victims.” Governor Jerry Brown courageously vetoed the bill in November after declaring it to be unjust, ill-informed, and “simply unfair.” Bravo!

MISS: OUR BISHOPS ON EQUAL JUSTICE FOR PRIESTS

No-Due-Process-for-Priests

Even Catholic League President Bill Donohue, ever a champion to defend bishops against an unfair news media, took this topic on in his essay, “No Priest is Safe” in the December issue of the Catholic League Journal, Catalyst. Priests accused from 30, 40, 50 years ago are ruined without adequate defense and the proponents of “zero tolerance” among our bishops refuse to address it.

In 2006, Archbishop Charles Chaput penned an essay for First Things magazine entitled “Suing the Church.” It was incisive and very well written. Archbishop Chaput laid out a spirited defense of why laws that extend civil statutes of limitations for lawsuits – like the one vetoed in California – are deeply unjust. “Statutes of limitations exist in legal systems to promote justice, not hinder it,” he wrote.

I agree, and this is no rebuke of Archbishop Chaput, a great bishop and a good man. He has written to me in prison a couple of times. However, since the Dallas Charter and its “zero tolerance” policy adopted by our bishops in the panic of 2002, the U.S. bishops as a body have lobbied the Holy See to dispense justice without justice by dispensing with “prescription,” in effect canon law’s version of a statute of limitations. I can only quote Archbishop Chaput again: “Statutes of limitations exist in legal systems to promote justice, not hinder it.” Ryan MacDonald wrote of this double standard in a commentary for the venerable Homiletic & Pastoral Review entitled, “Anti-Catholicism and Sex abuse.”

TSW’s BIGGEST HIT OF 2013

Ummm…that would be you! I started off 2013 with a January post, “When the Caged Bird Just Can’t Sing: The Limits of Prison Writing.” Your continued letters to me, even when you may not get a quick reply, your gifts in support of me and These Stone Walls, your continued prayers for me, and your stepping to the plate in our appeal for help with legal expenses, have all been more than heroic.

These Stone Walls could not exist without you. I will never be able to adequately thank those who have helped with legal costs of my ongoing appeal, and with keeping TSW afloat through your support (please note that the “support fund” has a new address on TSW’s “CONTACT” page).

TSW Readers

Most important of all, it is you who have spread word of TSW by sharing links with others and by sharing my posts at the social media buttons before and after each post. TSW ended its first month in 2009 with 42 readers, and will end 2013 with over a quarter-million page views around the world. I did not do this. You did!

I cannot let this New Year begin without thanking Suzanne, whose great skill as a publisher keeps TSW in existence, and Charlene who drops everything to take my calls, who scans and edits posts, and transmits them to Suzanne for her wondrous publishing magic. I owe a great debt to them, and to Lavern West who prints and mails me all your comments each week, and to Leo Demers who maintains a TSW presence on Facebook and Linked-In. I place them, and each of you, our readers, under the mantle of mercy that adorns the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Thank you for being here with me at the end of all suffering and the beginning of all hope. I offer each day in prison as a share in the suffering of Christ for the readers of These Stone Walls, and for graces that I beg the Lord will be bestowed upon you. Our friend, Pornchai, makes that same daily offering for you. Behold your Mother, and trust in the Cross of her Son.

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. Liz says:

    There is so much to be excited about in this post: the discovery of the reproduction of Fra Angelico’s painting, Pornchai’s part in the “The Gift of the Magi” and also the man from Michigan who can be a link for Pornchai to Thailand, and other things too. God is so good! God bless you all!

  2. JoAnn Muscara says:

    We continue to pray for you. Please pray for my daughter and myself. Thank you God bless you.

  3. Dympna says:

    Happy New Year Father,and may it bring you many joys and blessings. God bless you!

  4. God bless you, Father MacRae!
    May the Lord’s light shine upon you and Pornchai!
    Mike Fazzino

  5. Thanks, Fr. Gordon, for your inspired writing. (The Upper Room is a hotline for priests, deacons, and men religious.) You are held in the prayers of the volunteers who handle the calls and we ask your prayers for our services, as we pray for you.

    May all 12 months of the new year bring you every blessing. May God bless you and Mary protect you.

  6. Gail Ramplen says:

    Happy New Year to you Fr Gordon! I pray for you constantly that God’s Will be done in your life. I pray for your immediate release – the longer you are incarcerated the greater the scandal to the USA so-called justice system. And I hope you are set free without any conditions and with reparation – not like the scandalous treatment of Monseigneur Lynn. May justice also be done to your false accuser – he cannot escape forever. May the Lord have mercy on him too but the punishment is much less this side of death, the Lord has said. Courage and good cheer to you, dear Father and remember you are constantly upheld in prayer. God bless you.

  7. Claire says:

    Very enlightening post, Fr MacRae. May this new year bring many blessings to you and your fellow prisoners, and also, may it open up a crack in the wall of silence against you, so you may be vindicated. That is my prayer and hope for you in the New Year 2014. God bless you.
    Claire

  8. Domingo says:

    Again, thank you, Father G for your witness to CHRiST! This morning, as my family and I celebrated our ‘Theotokos’ Mass, we were blessed with a visiting young priest whose sermon was filled with grace, a fitting accolade to Our Lady. The Church, to Which you have pledged your life, is brimming with beauty and promise, at these bleak times, with you, that young visiting priest, our parish priest, and Pope Francis at the helm.

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

  9. Mary Jean Scudieri says:

    Happy New Year Father!
    May this be a year of blessing for you all of you!
    I find it a big ht for 2013 that your writing was recognized by many
    and almost took first place! (it should have and of course it does with us!)
    Praying that you will experience a very big hit this year with appeals.
    God bless! Jeannie

  10. Esther says:

    Hau’oli Makahiki Hou, dear Father!

    Thanks for this post. Love the review of the past year! Glad your Annunciation is in good hands.

    God bless you,

  11. Maria Stella says:

    Dear Fr. G,

    A 2013 hit for me was coming across your blog. I am not a social media user as I am not comfortable with that media. I do make use of the internet though, and in 2013 had googled Pope Benedict whereupon I came across your post where you refer to him as Benedict the Beloved. This exactly mirrored my thoughts about Benedict.

    Over Christmas, I have been reading some of Benedict XVI’s writings, and jotting down “quotes” that really speak to me. The following reminded me of you. It is taken from the homily Cardinal Ratzinger gave at the Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff on April 18, 2005.

    “The mercy of Christ is not a cheap grace; it does not presume a trivialization of evil. Christ carries in his body and on his soul all the weight of evil and all its destructive force. He burns and transforms evil through suffering in the fire of suffering love….the more we are touched by the mercy of the Lord, the more we draw closer in solidarity with his suffering and become willing to bear in our flesh “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1:24)”

    I had often wondered what “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” meant. Somehow, in a way I cannot put into words, I have been getting ‘heart knowledge’ of what that means by reading your blog.

    By their fruits you will know them…the testimony about you from some of the prisoners, and their conversion ( you don’t set out to convert them, but somehow it happens) …show me that your suffering is bearing good fruit…but I still shudder at what it is costing you.

    Maybe these thoughts are a bit heavy for the Christmas season. I am totally grateful to Our Lord Jesus, who became so little as to be born into this world, -showing us his merciful love, with his birth, death and resurrection. I am also grateful to Mary, Our Mother, for her ‘yes’. that allowed all this to happen.

    I pray many blessings for you and your fellow prisoners in 2014, Fr. G, and in 2014, I will add all imprisoned priests in my prayers.

    • Maria Stella says:

      Slight correction:

      I pray many blessings for you and your fellow prisoners in 2014, Fr. G, and in 2014, I will add all accused as well as imprisoned priests in my prayers.

  12. M says:

    Splendid post Father G.Your writing continues to illuminate, uplift and inspire.For me your life proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that with God all things are possible when souls trust and carry their cross.Your ministry with the help of those earthly angels Suzanne and Charlene continues to shine brightly in our darkening world.It is ironic that despite being imprisoned you help those of us on the outside to free ourselves from uncertainty, selfishness and doubt.
    God Bless you Father G and all those who help you and those of us who follow you on TSW
    I thank God for letting me find your site which has sustained me spiritually when I cared for my mother for many years.
    She is now with God and I have enlisted her to pray for you. I have no doubt she has found your own mother among the communion of saints. I hope any other TSW readers whose mothers are with God will enlist their help for you and your companions for God has a soft spot for mothers particularly His own!
    Every blessing and joy for 2014 to you , your friends and helpers and all of the TSW readers

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