CHARLESTON — Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division has published “Prayers for Prisoners,” a book of prayers designed to bring the good news of God’s love to those most in need of its assurance, those in prison, their loved ones and anyone imprisoned by fear, loneliness, grief, guilt, anger, or sorrow.
Ann Ball, author, researcher and owner of a security guard company, compiled the book. Ball visited Texas prisons as part of her research. Maximilian, S.F.O. is an inmate of a Texas prison who became a Secular Franciscan during his incarceration. The two friends compiled prayers for victims, families, parole, even prayers for criminals who commit specific types of crimes. Maximilian wrote many of the contemporary prayers included in the book.
In the preface by Bishop Robert J. Baker, he writes that all people are prisoners in some way locked in prisons of our own or those of other people’s making. “We may be shackled by fears, addictions, negative attitudes, hostilities stemming from past experiences, inordinate attachments to people or material possessions, obsessions, bad habits, longstanding attractions to one or another form of evil, or just plain sin in general,” Bishop Baker writes. “We may not have landed in jail for our mistakes, but without the grace of God we could have.”
The bishop also adds that these prayers have universal appeal with the inclusion of prayers for the lonely, for mercy, saints, Mary and other Catholic prayers. The Charleston prelate formerly ministered to Catholic inmates on Florida’s death row and continues to visit prisoners, of all varieties.
“A prison can be like a monastery for those incarcerated who desire to be people of faith. Because people in prisons have time on their hands, they can take one of two attitudes: they can make use of this forced time of incarceration as a time for spiritual growth and regeneration, or as a time for spiritual regression.”
Bishop Baker received a letter from a man incarcerated in Manning Correctional Institution, thanking him for the prayer book the bishop sent him by way of a relative. His letter is a testimony to the value of reaching out to those who wish to change their lives within the confines of prison.
“I have read the book cover to cover and got a lot out of it,” the prisoner wrote. He continues that he has grown spiritually and is grateful for any spiritual sustenance.
“Bishop Baker, I have been in prison for two years, less two weeks and have only celebrated in the joy of Mass one time in two years,” he wrote. “Here at Manning, we are indeed fortunate to have Deacon Rowland Thomas from St. Martin de Porres come out on Tuesdays as his schedule permits. I am truly grateful. Deacon Thomas brings the holy Eucharist when he comes, thanks be to God, I am pleased to have his witness. I continue, however, to be dismayed at the apparent lack of concern or interest in prison ministry in my church.”
This prisoner eloquently expressed the effects of ministry to those most in need of the good news. “I am under a process of formation and growth and am learning to lean more and more on God and his immense strength. Jesus loves me and wants me to have life and live more abundantly and I am grateful for his mercy and forgiveness.”
“Prayer for Prisoners” is available online at www.osv.com or at Pauline Books and Media, 243 King St.