||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
Have You Seen Him Too?
By: Dale Recinella
Prison just can’t sound this much like heaven. But it does.
Every Sunday afternoon at All Souls Chapel. Thunderous praise. Softly intoned adorations. From melody to melody a unified chorus of fifty mens’ voices defies the no-man’s-land between Raiford and Starke, pouring enough heart into the void to make angels green with envy. I never knew Catholic men could sing like this.
No small amount of credit is due the band. Hours of practice and years of working prison Kairos weekends have helped for sure. But in the end, it’s the unrestrained chutzpah, singing as if God himself were in the first row, that puts us over the top.
The bass guitarist is missing fingers. No matter. A metal pick is anchored into the permanent bandage beneath his prosthesis. The pick flies. Chords flow. His soothing baritone waves carry the entire church with him, leaving behind razor wired fences and turrets, stepping boldly into the halls of Revelation where the music of heaven ceases not. He’s there. We’re with him.
I sit quietly in the front row reveling in the moment. The lead guitar’s tenor weaves a pattern of harmony and descant around the deep tones of the bass. The other two guitarists fold-in. Words spiced with country, but every note perfectly pitched and balanced. The smooth texture lingers like a rich chocolate for the ears. If only my Catholic brothers and sisters from throughout Florida could be here right now. They’d know for sure that no man is as bad as the worst thing he’s done.
Stage right, a large painting hangs even with the line of the altar. A blind man is kneeling on a mat amidst the crowd. Jesus is passing by. The beggar reaches out, his whole body inclined toward the only power that offers hope. The picture bears no words. Yet it screams Scripture: “Son of David, have pity on me!”
The painter is an anonymous inmate. The signature says only “Raiford”—as if it has been painted by everyone who comes through the doors into this sanctuary from a manmade hell.
On the opposite wall hangs a work of the same size. It betrays the same eye. A woman caught in adultery is on her knees before Jesus. Townspeople throng thickly around her, stones in hand. The thirst for man’s justice reeks from their gaze. Jesus kneels, writing with his finger in the sand. Writing the sins of the righteous.
Again, there are no captions. Only faces. But Scripture echoes from the brushstrokes, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” In the forefront, an older man grimaces in disgust and dread as he throws down his stone and turns to leave.
No signature graces the corners of this Bible lesson. It is a homily that every inmate in the chapel could give. Each man here understands at a depth that most of us have never fathomed.
As the band warms into the opening song “I See the Lord,” I turn and look back into the church at my brothers in blue. A couple of men are standing with walkers. Most are singing out, matching the harmony of the music with the gentle rhythm of their bodies in the supreme act of praying thrice. One punctuates each note with fervor, like a philharmonic conductor. Others, eyes closed, allow the notes to transport them back to familiar churches where loved ones shared better days. A newly baptized brother smiles warmly, eyes lifted toward heaven as he savors each word.
I know in that moment that the words of the song are true. I have seen the Lord.
First published: The Florida Catholic, February 22, 2001
© 2001 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.
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Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed