Tag Archives: prisoner

20 May: Jean Vanier RIP

By Eddie GIlmore; from the Irish Chaplaincy blog

Another tribute to Jean Vanier from a long-standing community member; Eddies now works at the Irish chaplaincy, but is still present to the Kent community.

As I was told of the death, at the age of 90, of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, there immediately came to mind my favourite story connected with the great man: an important story for me, and one which I discovered years later from Jean I’d actually misheard!

Jean was a son of Georges Vanier, a Governor-General of Canada, and he crossed the Atlantic at the height of the second world to join the British Naval College at Dartmouth. After the war, one of his tasks, together with a fellow young naval cadet, was to ‘entertain’ the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret on a long sea voyage to South Africa. I was touched to hear that when Jean went to Buckingham Palace in recent years to collect an award from the now Queen Elizabeth she said to him “hello Jock”, this being the name that those close to him used when he was growing up.

From this rather privileged background Jean found himself in 1964 in a village called Trosly in the North of France, moving into a dilapidated old house with two men, Raphael and Philippe, who he had met and befriended at a large institution and who he had invited to come and live with him. The house was named L’Arche, French for the ark, and it would grow into a worldwide network of 150 communities in almost 40 countries, where people with and without learning disabilities live and work and share life together. I joined the L’Arche community in Canterbury in 1988 and was there for 28 years, and it’s where I met my wife so I have a particular reason to be grateful for what Jean started.

In 2006 I was attending an event in Trosly for directors of L’Arche communities in Europe, at which Jean spoke to us. In one of his talks he recalled how he’d been visiting a prison in America where one of the guys had told him proudly (or at least this is what I heard at the time!) “I’m the best card-dealer in the State of Virginia”. Jean went on to say “you know, we all need to be the best something; but where do I want to choose to be the best?” I interpreted this as meaning ‘where do I want to choose to use my gifts?’ At that time I was coming to the end of my initial 4 year ‘mandate’ as Director and unsure whether or not to continue for a second 4 year term, but this story inspired me to do so.

I told this story often to people and I hoped I’d have a chance one day to say thank you to Jean. Years later I drove a minibusful of people from L’Arche Kent over to Trosly to visit Jean, who we knew could be in his final years. It was never easy to get to speak to him one-to-one but following mass in the lovely converted barn of a chapel I spotted that he was momentarily on his own in the courtyard and seized my chance. I went over and said I wanted to thank him for something he’d said years earlier that had been very important for me. “Oh yes”, he replied, “what was that?” I said he’d been speaking about the man in a prison who claimed to be the best card-dealer in the State of Virginia. “No, no, no!” said Jean, “the best car-stealer in the state penitentiary”! And we both roared with laughter.

God bless you Jean, and Thank You

And, by the way, if you want to see some archive L’Arche photos from the 1960s and 1970s (and even later!) then click here: Jubilee Blues

(Jean, seen here with Raphael and with Gabrielle who founded the first L’Arche community in India)

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16 April: Stations for Peter X: Jesus is crucified.

winchester crucifix

Peter stood a long way off, but he probably had little choice.

Scripture references: Peter’s boat: Matthew 13:1-3; Let the children come: Luke 18: 15-17; the Crucifixion: Luke 23:33-34.

Everyone always wanted to be near Jesus. We used to try to protect him, to keep the crowds away.

I remember when he sat in my boat, just to have room to breathe! 

I remember when we sent the children away. He used to get tired just like anybody else, but No, he said, let them come to me. And climb all over him, arms and legs hanging on everywhere.

Now, no-one can get near, soldiers with swords and spears hold us back while they hammer nails through him and hang him up on high.

No last minute rescue.

The whole world seemed dark.

Let us pray for everyone in prison, especially those held for no real crime at all; and for those separated from their families and loved ones, kept apart by bullying governments and authorities.

Jesus remember me, when you come into your Kingdom.

 

Image from Winchester Cathedral by MMB.

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12 April: Stations for Peter VI, Jesus falls again.

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The Transfiguration – and down to earth.

Scripture references: The Transfiguration: Mark 9:1-8; The Angel leading Peter out of gaol: Acts 12:1-12; Persecution: Mark 13: 14-23; Acts 4:1-31; 1Peter 3:13-17.

Peter is in prison in Rome, but supported by the local Church. He remembers, and ponders.

That day on the mountain when we saw him with Moses and Elijah – I was talking at random, I didn’t know what was happening,

We fell down in fear. We were in God’s presence.

No shining clothes now, just mud, blood, sweat.

He has come down again, down to earth.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And here am I, underground, waiting for the guards. The sisters and brothers in Rome help me to remember why.

This time there will be no angel to lead me away from death, but Jesus will be there, waiting for me.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom!

Let us pray for people who are disillusioned, who no longer feel that first rapture of love or commitment. May they receive courage and clear sight, and a helping hand to get up and move on.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom!

Chichester Cathedral, MMB

 

 

 

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8 April: Stations for Saint Peter, Jesus takes up his Cross.

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Scripture references: Matthew 27:27-31, John 19:12-19; You will be led where you do not want to go: John 21:18-19.

You will go where you do not want to go

Jesus is left with no choices – he is forced to take up his Cross. there is nothing Peter can do now. Some weeks later, back by the Lake, Jesus would tell Peter: when you grow old you will stretch out your hands and somebody else will put a belt about you and take you where you would rather not go.

A prison in Rome!

No, I don’t want to be here, waiting for the soldiers to take me away. Will it be the lions or the gladiators or the cross? There’s only one way out of here, but I do know where I’m going!

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom!

Let us pray for all prisoners awaiting death. May Jesus walk with them and welcome them into his Kingdom.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom!

 

 

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You came to see me

Here is another post from Eddie Gilmore about the work of London’s Irish chaplaincy with prisoners, as well as an interesting reflection on his own early career and on friendship.

Will.

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11 December: Visitors to Isis Prison.

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Prison ministry can be demanding and discouraging. I remember Fr H telling me how the father of one of my pupils had at first been keen to speak with him, but kept out of H’s way when he returned to prison after being caught offending again. Drugs were a problem for him: and despite that discouraging incident, I think Fr H must have played some part in his rehab. When next I saw my pupil’s dad he was clean and looked 20 years younger.

Our friend Fr Valentine left us for prison chaplaincy. Wisely, he has recruited volunteers, including these university students, to bring a breath of fresh air into the place. On this occasion they spent an evening debating with the prisoners. Read about it here:

  • Where can you exercise a ministry of friendship?
  • Let us pray for all prisoners who will be inside at Christmas, especially those who will receive no messages, or very few, from outside. And let us pray for the prisoners’ families, as well as those affected by their crimes.

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23 September: Jesus in the Attic II, Persecution leads to Amsterdam.

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I recently came across a long poem called ‘Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby’ and then found out about its writer. My research led me to Our Dear Lord in the Attic, an attic in Amsterdam, where we visited him. Here is one verse from the poem: Mary is speaking.

The earth is now a heaven become,
And this base power of mine
A princely palace unto me,
My Son doth make to shine.
   This sight I see, this Child I have,
   This Infant I embrace,
   O endless Comfort of the earth
   And heaven’s eternal Grace.

Richard Rowlands alias Verstegen wrote this hymn around 1600. He was an English Catholic who fled to Amsterdam after escaping from imprisonment for his faith at home. He made a new and prosperous life in Amsterdam, a Protestant city.

All the Catholic churches there were closed down, including the big church at the Beguinage Convent, now a Scottish Presbyterian church. The good beguine ladies there simply carried on after moving their place of worship to ground floor rooms in their main building. I do not know where Rowlands worshipped, but a little after his time people met for Mass at another city centre site, now known as Our Dear Lord in the Attic. its presence was an open secret; the people of Amsterdam were not given to executions for those who worshipped differently to the official norm.

The Attic Church remained open till the mid nineteenth Century when a new Catholic church was erected nearby. It is now a museum, with the Church area all ready for the occasional worship that takes place there.

This statue of the Madonna and Child belongs here.

We will return to Our Dear Lord in the Attic.

There are many links to the poem on the web, some set to music.

MMB.

 

 

 

 

 

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23 June: What became of …

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Simon had been a pupil at a school where I had once taught: that’s how we got talking about the disaffected lads I had worked with. Not that sunny Simon, whom I knew before I began teaching, ever had an ounce of disaffection in him in all those forty years.

But Luke did. He was ever ready to pick a fight with another child, then try to pin the blame on them when they gave him as much of a pasting as they could before they were stopped. One day he ran away on an outing to London, but was hiding in full view of the railway station cameras, so was soon rounded up.

‘Do you know what happened to these boys?’ asked Mary.

‘Luke’, I said, hesitating; ‘Luke met a teaching colleague years later, when he was a mental health nurse.

‘And then there was Peter, who broke my ribs, aged 11. He was found to have a severe wheat intolerance and was a changed boy when he cut it out of his diet. He completed secondary school at least.

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‘I was called over to a bench on a major railway station by a young man who introduced himself as Alan West – formerly known by two completely different names. “And this is Jill, we’re getting married soon. But I’m not telling my family. Jill’s my family now – and her family accept me.”‘

prison wall

While it’s good to share these positive stories, not all were doing so well when last I heard. Tony, son of a London prostitute, was moved very much against his will and our advice, from a foster family of a different complexion to one that nearer matched his own. He was soon in a secure unit, not allowed out of the new ‘home’ he was assigned by the court. An abuse victim who came to us at 12 was incarcerated at 18 for abusing other children. A lad who won my heart was murdered by his stepfather.

Please pray for them all; may the Good Shepherd seek each one out and bring him home.

We meet another prisoner tomorrow.

MMB

 

 

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16 May: A Prayer from Prison

stairs.v.e.A Prayer from Prison

Please keep in your thoughts and prayers –

all those who have left us

to rejoin society:

That they may continue

to do well

and never again

return to

Prison.

Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.    Anon.

Let us pray, too, for all who minister in prison, chaplains, staff and other prisoners.

Let us remember those in prison elsewhere in the world where conditions can be insanitary and dangerous. 

Lord in your Mercy, hear our prayer.

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22 March, Stations of the Cross V: Veronica wipes the Face of Jesus.

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FIFTH STATION
VERONICA WIPES THE FACE OF JESUS

The story of Veronica does not appear in the Gospel, though she has long had a place in the traditional Stations of the Cross. Our witness is a real person, the man who was born blind, whose story is told in Saint John’s Gospel, chapter 9, vv 1-8.


I know this man. Jesus wiped my eyes with mud, and made  me see.

Now the mud from his fall, the sweat and the blood from his crown
are blinding him. God bless the woman who wipes his face!


Prayer :

Lord, when we do not see what other people need we are blind to you.
Forgive us. Open our eyes to you in our brothers and sisters.

Bless all those who bring comfort to prisoners condemned to die.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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