When I was in prison, you visited me. You did so by your visits to These Stone Walls and by your comments left here. I cannot thank you enough for these. In prison, hope is a precious commodity, difficult to find and easily eroded. Your visits and comments are a source of hope and encouragement that I have found very meaningful. I can only say “Thank You.”
Recently, I obtained the great honor of celebrating weekly Mass in my prison cell. Sometime soon, I will write about, the struggle to bring this about. At Mass, I like to use the First Eucharistic Prayer – the Roman Canon – the most beautiful and ancient of the Canons of the Mass. It affords an opportunity to pray for people by name. I pray there for the readers of These Stone Walls, and I keep a list of those who left comments so I can pray for each of you by name.
I thank you for understanding the limits placed upon our blog by my imprisonment. It is an irony that I have never actually even seen These Stone Walls. Most of you are accustomed to instant on-line communications, but that is simply not possible for me. Prisoners here have no access whatsoever to the Internet or email.
There is likely no other Catholic blog that has to overcome the challenges and obstacles we face. I post to These Stone Walls every Wednesday. My posts are typed in my cell on an aging Smith-Corona typewriter. The prison will not permit a newer machine or a word processor.
After being typed, my posts are mailed to Charlene Duline in Indianapolis (see “Drinking from the Saucer”) who scans them. Charlene then emails them to Suzanne who posts them at These Stone Walls for me. Suzanne also manages the Priests in Crisis blog site.
In reverse order, Suzanne emails your comments and messages to Charlene who prints and mails them to me or reads them to me by telephone. Calls from prison are billed to my commissary account at the rate of 15 cents per minute. This is all a tedious and low-tech way to manage a blog, but with the help of Suzanne and Charlene the obstacles of prison are overcome.
These Stone Walls is unique. We know of no other blog site in existence that belongs to an imprisoned priest. I owe Suzanne and Charlene a great debt of thanks. As I wrote in “From Crisis to Hope,” I would be silenced without them.
Many have asked me what they can do to help a priest who is wrongly imprisoned for fifteen years. The most practical help you can give is to send a link to These Stone Walls to your contacts and to other Catholic blogs, and ask them to recommend it in turn.
It is time for the Church to hear another side of the story of accused and vilified priests. Many of your posted comments have convinced me that Catholics see through the ongoing monetary demands and rampant vilification of accused priests, and are concerned about justice and due process in these decades-old claims of abuse. Some of you have thanked me for opening your eyes to this.
The truth is, no one can spend fifteen years in prison for a crime that never took place, and not find the capacity for trust to be seriously eroded. It is I who must thank YOU for opening MY eyes. I now see that our Church still has many people for whom justice and mercy are a daily practice. As a priest, I am moved and humbled by the depth of your faith and your openness to grace.
There is hope. In coming months, I will have news for you about a new effort for a legal review and appeal of my unjust trial. Please stay tuned.
THE NARROW GATE
If you have been reading These Stone Walls, then you know of Pornchai – my friend and a fellow prisoner – who will soon be received into our Faith. “Pornchai’s Story” was published last year by The Catholic League, and can be found under “Commentary” here at These Stone Walls as well.
Is there anyone in your life for whom you have lost hope for redemption? If so, you should read “Pornchai’s Story” and Ryan’s post.
Just this week, These Stone Walls marked 2,500 visitors in just two and a half months of existence. Thank you, my friends. I offer each Friday – the Day of the Cross – in prison as a share in the suffering of Christ for the readers of These Stone Walls, and for your intentions.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
Pornchai, my roommate, does not like this photo of me. He says it doesn’t look like me because I didn’t have my reading glasses on, and they’re usually perched at the end of my nose. I took them off because I couldn’t see the photographer with them on. I had two taken that day, and the other one was hideous. I had more chins than the San Francisco telephone book. When I first got this haircut, Pornchai was concerned that King Kong may mistake me for a roll-on deodorant. THAT was a scary thought.