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talking to myself

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A prisoner’s powerful dream

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A prisoner’s powerful dream

I have been writing Joseph, for just over a year and it has been a very fruitful exchange between us.  Like many prisoners, he has found the Lord while being incarcerated and takes advantage of all that his faith has to offer.  He also helps the other prisoners there with him.  I am able to send him a package, via his sister, 4 times a year, food items and things like socks, slippers etc..  He tells me how much pleasure it gives him to share what he has with others.  He also helps others to grow in understanding of their faith; for instances, he leads a Confirmation group.  He will most likely never get out of prison, he has been in for over 20 years now and could be there for another 30 or 40 years.  He is I believe 50 years old and in good health. 

He shared a dream with me that was a powerful one for him.  In the dream, he was sitting at a table, in his prison visiting area, and Pope Francis was telling him that he needs to absolve everyone, to forgive everyone.  So Joseph told him that he was not a priest and could not absolve in confession.  Pope Francis just smiled at him and said to absolve everyone and then the dream was over.  He asked me what I thought about it.  Below is my take on the dream, which I thought was pretty straightforward.  However, it is just my own thoughts on it.

(Quote): Thank you for sharing your dream with me.  It seemed to be a powerful one and probably is telling you to understand more deeply what it means to belong to a priestly people, as is stated in 1 Peter 2: 4-5, 9-10.  As Christians, we are called to allow Christ to grow in us so that he can use us.  He does this by allowing our hearts to grow in charity and love for all.  So in prison, you are asked to love and to especially forgive those who hurt or annoy you there and perhaps to teach this to others.   It is part of healing, and the Lord will use you and all those there who will allow Jesus to fill them with his Holy Spirit and the gifts that flow from that.  We each have gifts, all important, and are called to use them to build up others.  I hope you have written the dream down and go back to it from time to time.  Of course, in the end, only you can really say what the dream means, but Pope Francis is big on the priesthood of the faithful.  (Unquote)

I do believe that Joseph is very far along in his life of the Spirit.  He is in a place where he can’t slack off, for he is surrounded on all sides by some pretty hard cases.  Men who have been in and out of jail all of their lives.  Some of them no doubt incapable of feeling sorrow or compassion for others.  So it is there that he is called to be a witness to what the life of the Spirit does for him.  I believe that his service to others is an example that touches some of the other men there with him.  There is a small community of others that he prays with, some Catholics others from different faiths.   So each day he runs the race, for if he stops, he could slip back into a life that leads nowhere but downward.

I have a deep sense that God works on those in prison more directly when they seek Him because of the overall situation than perhaps for most who are not in prison.  I believe that goes for those of other religions as well.  For to seek God is in a way to find him, for those who seek want truth, not something that will make them comfortable, but seeking the grace to become more loving human beings, just as Christ Jesus was. 

Some prisoners feel that they want to live in a Monastery.  However, I told Joseph that I believe he does better there than if he were in the Monastery with me.  Both have similarities, but aspects also exist that are dissimilar.  In prison, he is truly seeking to grow and the environment keeps him on a path towards deep inner healing and protection from ‘impulse control’ that some prisoners tell me about.  He is in for doing something on an impulse, without thinking and in a fog….and someone died.  For which he is deeply sorry. 

I would not wish anyone in prison, however, I also believe as St. Paul said, that for those who love God, all things work out for the good.  Even for those in prison who have done great evil.  As a Christian, I believe we are all priest, and in our prayer, we unite our prayer and sufferings to those of Jesus Christ.

Any of us could end up in prison, all it takes is one misstep, one moment when an impulse takes over and then someone is hurt or killed, or we get in a car and drive when we shouldn’t, and we can end up in the same place with Joseph.  Many in prison are not career criminals, but still in for the long haul for what they have done.  Joseph knows he is getting justice, but he is seeking mercy from God and in that, he is called to show mercy to others………we all are I believe. 

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