Good intentions faced off with the power of sinfulness at our team meeting yesterday. And the outcome is not yet clear.
A bit of background: The thirty or so members of our Kairos Prison Ministry team have been meeting since early August to prepare for the retreat program we’re planning to present at Menard Correctional Center next weekend.
The preparations are fairly intense—and include an outreach effort to the broader Christian community. We ask our fellow parishioners and worship community members to take part in the ministry in a number of ways: by baking homemade cookies; by signing up for a slot on our 24-hour prayer vigil; by making monetary contributions; by decorating the placemats and posters used during the weekend; and so on.
Yesterday, it all came together at the last of our team meetings before heading into the penitentiary: We packed up the posters and placements; counted up the contributions; gathered our trove of some 12,000 cookies into plastic bins.
And then we learned that the prison has gone on lockdown in recent days—a security measure in response to an episode of inmate-on-inmate violence. We know from previous experience that “lockdown” poses a real threat to our planned retreat. Though we’re praying for a different outcome, there’s a good chance the team won’t be allowed in (as scheduled) on Thursday afternoon.
It’s frustrating, to say the least. We know, for example, that the men we are hoping to serve live in different cellblocks than where the violence occurred. So they are punished by the lockdown even though they were not involved in the incident. The team—and our faith communities—have invested quite a bit of time, energy, love and prayer into the weekend, too. And while there is a “make-up date” scheduled in a few weeks, a restart would inevitably involve schedule conflicts for some, and touch off a host of other disruptions and glitches.
So: frustration…disappointment…confusion…doubt: They were all added to the menu of our spiritual blessings at that final team meeting yesterday.
This morning at Mass, as we prayed the words of Psalm 33, I was reminded that blessings do—in fact—sometimes come in forms we do not expect.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
Whether famine…or lockdown…it’s not always easy to drink from the cup that the Lord offers us. Nor is it always easy to understand God’s ways—particularly when they seem to dash our good intentions.
If our hearts rebel, though, it’s a sure sign that we have not yet fully learned what Jesus wants all his disciples to know:
‘Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.’
And so we pray some more, as we wait to hear from prison officials about the fate of our planned Kairos weekend. We pray, and we invite you to join us in prayer, echoing the words we find in Psalm 33:
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
MONDAY EVENING UPDATE:
We just heard word from our Weekend Leader:
The prison is “off lock-down.” Everything is a go, the retreat is on.
Thanks to all for your prayers…and praise God, from whom all blessings flow!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.