I awoke to rain and reports on the TV of severe weather and tornados to the south. It would be one of those mornings you could easily just pull up the covers and let it rain. Not this Saturday. Today we schedule our spring retreat, or day of reflection, for the men of Rayburn Correctional, a state prison just about 50 minutes north of my house. So I shrugged off the need to stay in bed and off I went, stopping first at St. Jane's Church to secure Holy Eucharist for a Communion Service at the prison. Not only did I get to assist the Pastor but was blessed to preach. After securing Jesus we took a drive to the prison in a Saturday morning drizzle. After we arrived I secured the Eucharist properly, and stepped into chapel to hear incredible presentations from Sister Judy Gomilla and Dr. Augustine Ansel. They helped the men understand and seek God in sacred art, nature, beauty, their brother and themselves! Lunch break brought a wonderfully prepared meal from a local establishment in the tiniest of towns known as Sun, LA. We fed the men BBQ chicken legs and thighs, fresh salad, pork-n-beans and dessert. The men ate hearty as these types of meals are few and far between.
The afternoon brought two more incredible presentations by our two presenters and we concluded with a beautiful communion service where 75 men received Jesus in Holy Eucharist. They heard the readings and Gospels from Sunday's liturgy. We had music from the band made up of the inmates who worship with us in the Catholic community. We received several intentions to join the faith and one requesting Baptism. I will work with these men to make it happen, God willing.
So we looked for God and found Him because He is always there by our side and He is always there dwelling in us. I've always said, as a now 10 year chaplain for the Catholic community at Rayburn that I always deeply experience God in the men and the way they worship, the way they receive Jesus in Holy Communion (many receive on the tongue) and almost all return from Communion and kneel on a cold concrete floor. Beautiful.
So here I am again, this time a late Saturday afternoon and I'm feeling that holy exhaustion but exhilarated by a day well spent and prison as we looked for God and there He was!
Love Prison Ministry!