Letter #112, 2023, Monday, July 17: Corporal Works of Mercy

    To become a prisoner is to lose one’s freedom.

    In Catholic teaching, we hold that there are seven works of “corporal mercy” which all of us, in so far as it is possible for us, should practice.

    One of those works is “to visit the imprisoned.”

    We have over the years received many letters from prisoners, who appreciate the free copies of the magazines that we send to them.

    Our sending of these free issues, and our publication of the letters from prisoners in our “Letters” pages, is our modest attempt to carry out in some small way a type of “work of mercy” with regard to these prisoners.

    One prisoner, held in a prison in the United States, will now be writing a regular column for our magazine, as he reflects on his own life, and on what it means to be imprisoned.    

    The 7 Corporal Works of Mercy are:

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Visit the imprisoned
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick
  • Bury the dead

    Here is an excerpt from his first reflection in our new series in Inside the Vatican magazine: Spirituality Behind Bars, by our friend Marcellus Roberts, incarcerated in a Texas prison. —RM

    P.S. Please also consider supporting this writing. Thank you. (link)

    Kindling An Eastern Fire

    This reflection is the first in a new series from the pen of a Catholic inmate and Prison Oblate of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, Kansas

    By Marcellus Roberts

    When was it that you first felt holy fear; your mind attempting to sip God and swallow all creation in a single draught? Sarge was a dark-haired boy of eight when it happened to him, and he still remembers that visit to his mother’s native Russian Orthodox church in Kazan.

    Beneath the cupola ceiling, he saw the universe as it truly is, governed by the iconic Christ and his haloed host of holy ones. With a serious, unflinching love, the saints gazed into his brown eyes while the congregation stood swaying about him, an oriental forest alive with the singing of sonorous mysteries. Some congregants prostrated themselves like felled logs, their foreheads touching the ground, penitent in the grip of glory. Sunlight rolled in soft waves through the windows and exposed the wispy streams of spiced air that wafted through his nostrils.

    It was there in Kazan, in that church, from somewhere beyond the iconostasis, that Christ rapped at the royal doors of Sarge’s heart and ignited an Eastern fire in his soul.

    To be continued in the September/October 2023 issue of Inside the Vatican magazine. Subscribe now! Use code LETTERS30 at checkout to save 30% on your new subscription or renewal.

    We receive letters like this daily:

    “My journey to becoming Catholic is rooted in many years of soul searching with several fits and starts. Now that I am in a place where talking to God is the only solace one can find, I consider myself blessed to have found a small Catholic community in prison. One of my fellow inmates gave me his newest copy of Inside the Vatican and suggested I write in hopes of finding a sponsor for the subscription cost. I pray and ask for someone to help me in this regard.” —Brandon Combs, Arkansas, USA

    “I am an elderly, indigent Catholic who has been incarcerated for the past 37 years. I’ve read Inside the Vatican over the years and have found it to be a wonderful source of accurate and inspiring news. I hope that you will consider giving me a subscription. I would greatly appreciate that if it is possible. My faith is my lifeline and, as you can imagine, it is often difficult not only to cope but to remain informed. Please consider my request. Thank you! May our Lord and Lady bless you!” —Michael Cardinale, Florida, USA

    “May our Father’s blessings sustain you and the peace of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ dwell securely in your heart. As you can see by the return address, I am a prisoner in the state of Texas (still). A little less than a year and a half ago, I allowed the charitable subscription to lapse so as to allow another one of my brothers or sisters out there to receive the gift of your magazine. Of course, I’ve been told that I was a fool and that a subscription such as mine was negligible, but with people struggling with job loss and the economic downturn, maybe every bit helps.

    “If it is at all possible, I would like to receive an inmate subscription from you, if there are available funds. I’ve greatly missed reading Inside the Vatican, every last part of it. From the current articles to the essays on Church history and tradition to the theological insights and art of our Church — everything within your pages edifies. Dr. Robert Moynihan was very generous to all of us here at the Ferguson unit, as all of those magazine, back issues and all (even of magazines outside of your publication) are still in our library to this day. Old magazines do not depreciate in value as the understanding given in each issue is essentially timeless. Past, present, and future, the Body of Christ is very much alive.

    “I thank you for taking the time to read this letter, even if you are unable to assist me in my request. May we always abide in Him and stand firm within the faith freely given to us. Most importantly, may the love our Our Lord and Saviour be evident in our lives. Ore et labora. Blessed be God forever.” —Brian Joseph Wake, Texas, USA

    And no request has ever been turned down.

    Your gift allows Urbi et Orbi Communications, publisher of Inside the Vatican magazine, to get Inside the Vatican into the hands of incarcerated men and women. Support our Scholarship Fund today.

    Urbi et Orbi Communications, the publisher of Inside the Vatican, is a 501(c)3 Not-for-Profit-Organization, federal tax ID number 61-1238135. Your gift is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by U.S. tax law.

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