1988 April 22 – 5th Sun Easter (Prison Writings)
88 04 22 – El Reno, Oklahoma
My thoughts this week have focused on the sacrament of Confirmation. It pains me to know I will be missing our Confirmation ceremonies this year. More than any other moment in our faith community, the sacrament of Confirmation unites us with the universal church and its Apostolic Base. We come together to present to our Bishop; Bishop Bullock, the 7th & 8th graders of our parishes who have fulfilled the prescribed course work and service projects that prepared them to receive the Sacrament.
I am grateful I was able to accompany a number of this years candidates to Des Moines for a workday at the Catholic Worker. It was a good introduction to the Catholic Worker, to the homeless they serve and the challenge the poor pose to the larger, more comfortable church.
I remember vividly my own confirmation at St. Anthony’s in Des Moines. Back then, Bishop Daly gave each candidate a ceremonial slap on the cheek to remind us that someday we may be called to suffer persecution for our faith. We prayed the Holy Spirit would be with us at the right time to give us the courage we needed to bare witness to our Faith no matter what the price; a prayer that united us to the countless Christians who were put to the test and remained faithful through the centuries. Little did I know I would one day be a priest with my own parish, missing their confirmation ceremonies because of being imprisoned for my own act of faithfulness.
The holding cell I’m presently in has little to offer in reading material. However, as if by the grace of God, there is a copy of A FREEDOM WITHIN, THE PRISON NOTES OF STEFAN CARDINAL WYSZYNSKI. Cardinal Wyszynski was the famous polish cardinal who was imprisoned by the Communists in Poland between 1953 and 1956. Writing about St. Paul and the Christians being in prison, the Cardinal writes:
“The cause of Christ has existed almost two thousand years, and people are still in prisons for it today. The cause has survived. It is alive, fresh, young, and full of allure. How many guards have changed, prisons have fallen into ruin, keys have rusted, locks and chains been removed – yet the cause endures. So far it has been defended. The cause lives on! St. Paul’s chains clank not only in his historical recollections, their living current reaches all the way into my own prison cell.” P. 35
And about Bishops (and priests too) being imprisoned while their pastoral duties are neglected:
“A bishop performs his duties not only in the pulpit and at the altar, but also in prison – ‘in vinculis Christi’. To give witness to Christ while in chains is the same kind ob obligation as in the pulpit. It is therefore not a waste of time to remain in prison in the name of Christ. This is why God allowed so many servants of the Church to remain in prisons even when the crops in the fields were ripening, ready for harvest. The history of the church makes a substantial contribution to the history of prisons.” P. 91
My dear confirmation candidates, know my prayers are whit you on this important day. May the Holy Spirit give you the courage you will need to witness to Christ in both the small everyday matters of your life and in the larger ones in the lifetime moments of truth.