200 YEARS AGO: PRISONERS – ABANDONED BY SOCIETY AND THE CHURCH

The common theme running through all the descriptions of the ministry of the Missionaries was this infallible rule:

We are never to lose sight of one of the principal ends of our Institute, which is to help the most abandoned souls.

As Eugene unfolds the ministry of the Missionaries in the 1818 Rule, he applies this principle In the fourth category: evangelizing the prisoners :

For this reason, the unfortunate inmates of prisons have a rightful claim upon the charity of the Society.

The response of the Missionaries was

we will try to meet their needs, as far as circumstances permit, by frequently visiting them and by teaching them their religious duties, at least on Sundays, when we can get into these places of detention.

Among this category of abandoned people, the Missionary was to pay special attention the “most abandoned” of this group, those condemned to death – abandoned and shunned by society, and sadly by the Jansenist church too. The Missionary was to follow the example of Jesus and reach out:

In accordance with all the resources of Christian charity we will use every means in our power to assist those who have been condemned to death.

1818 Rule, Part One, Chapter 3, §4. Prisons.

[On the website you can find more information on this in the entries of 5 – 9 July, 2010 http://www.eugenedemazenod.net/?p=100 onwards]

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One Response to 200 YEARS AGO: PRISONERS – ABANDONED BY SOCIETY AND THE CHURCH

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    There is a saying: “you do the crime – you do the time”. How hopeless are those words for those who are in jail, how lacking in compassion is that treatment of those who have broken the law and been caught. Not only has society abandoned them but the Church also – and how with the latter a prisoner might then think that God has abandoned them.

    Jesus – 2000 years ago – being treated in the vilest of ways – done by the leaders of the church at that time, and by society who allowed themselves to get caught up in fear and hatred. Jesus himself asking the Father why he was being abandoned. Knowing and believing in God’s love for him did not remove the pain of betrayal or the cross. And then I look at St. Paul in jail who was in chains and cut-off from all those he loved and yet he managed to write and speak with joy in his love of the Lord.

    Eugene’s statement of “we will try to meet their needs, as far as circumstances permit, by frequently visiting them and by teaching them their religious duties, at least on Sundays, when we can get into these places of detention.” He wanted those prisoners to know how they were loved and valued by God. Eugene was not pretending that those in jail had not broken the law. It would seem that all that he wanted to do was to walk with them, to be an instrument so that the prisoners could hear God say to them: “I forgive you, I love you. You are mine – take my hand. Go in peace, sin no more – Beloved one.”

    We hear Pope Francis speaking of not judging others and the images in the news of him washing the feet of the prisoners, kissing their feet. I think again of what Eugene said and what that might look like in my life, in my family or my parish community. How do I show my own judgement of others? How do I treat others as a pariah, as sin rather than a sinner? Do I invite others around me to live with love and compassion or do I invite them to join me in judging and condemning? Do I play a part in assuring that they know how bad or awful or unworthy they are, or do I somehow try to play a small part in helping them to know of God’s love for them, their redemption?

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