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I Was In Prison
Online Prison Ministry Newsletter
July 1, 2011
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

From Assisi to Assisi

A few weeks ago, I found myself waiting outside a huge access gate deep inside the compound of the state prison where I teach the Wednesday night course in the Faith and Character Based Dorm.

After clearing security and searches at the prison control gate, after wending my way at least a quarter of a mile around and between yellow cement buildings and razor wire topped fences—all the while dragging my navy blue plastic Office Depot pull cart—I arrived at the monstrous gate to the southwest unit, an area that looks like an office park of prison dorms.

And there I stood. Sweltering in the heat and the humidity. Cooling my heels, in a manner of speaking, until the severely overworked officers that supervise the post-chow movement of inmates from the mess hall back to the dorms could run to my gate from four buildings away.

That is when it happened. A barely audible chirping sound almost slipped by my ears without registering at all. I turn toward the concertina wire to the west of me and discover a flock of tiny birds, like sparrows or larks, knocking out their last song before the sun sets. The abruptness of my twist in their direction startles them. In a blink they are airborne and on the move.

“Thanks for the reminder, God.” I chuckle out loud, to myself and the empty space where the birds had been. “This is my Assisi, too.”

I remember the first time the insight had come to me. It was an early evening in Tallahassee, Florida in September of 1989. I was alone on the penthouse floor of my law firm’s Monroe Street office, standing at the westward facing window. The orange fireball of a sun was melting into the treetops along Park Avenue. From eight stories above the pavement, the moment picked at a raw wound, a vibrant memory from just a few months before.

In July of 1989, I had stood on the roof terrace of my hotelin Assisi, Italy, gazing down past the ancient city wall and into the ocean of a valley that spread like a saucer beneath the fiery orange droplets of sunset. With more than forty other pilgrims, I had spent a month traversing the steps of Francis and Clare, trying to experience their mind, their spirit and their life as best one could from eight centuries away. It was the last night of my sojourn in Assisi. As if disturbed from a distance by the marrow of my bone-deep sadness, a huge flock of tiny birds exploded out of the trees surrounding the hotel and fled toward the valley.

“When I see those birds again,” my thoughts spoke without thinking. “I’ll know I’m back in Assisi.”

After returning home to Tallahassee and diving back into the routines of day-in and day-out life, a sadness stalked me like a dark cloud. How could I ever be happy again knowing that Assisi is there and I’m here? What am I doing here instead of in Assisi? Where is my Assisi?

Then a few weeks later, on that crucial evening in September, I stood at sunset in the law firm conference room. Beneath me spread downtown Tallahassee, the place where God had put me. But my heart longed bitterly to be 6,000 miles away in the place where God had put another man eight hundred years before. That’s when it happened.

In a split second, as if in response to the report of a deafening burst of gunfire, hundreds and hundreds of little birds exploded from the trees all along Park Avenue. A cloud of the little creatures seemed to form and hover just long enough for me to catch my breath. Then they were gone.

I knew immediately what it meant. Tallahassee was my Assisi. Maybe not forever, or even for a lifetime. But for that time, Tallahassee was where God put me and wherever God puts me is my Assisi.

More than twenty years later, the access gate to the southwest unit at the prison near Raiford, Florida can feel as far from Tallahassee as it is from Assisi. And yet, the little birds are here, too.

“Sorry, chap.” The young officer, who has just jogged three city blocks between mess hall dorm movements in order to unlock the gate, snaps me back to the moment. “Hope you haven’t been waiting long.”

“Just long enough for a little trip, sir.”

“Any place in particular?”


“Never heard of it, chap. Where is it?”

“It’s right here, sir. Assisi is always here.”

© 2011 Dale S. Recinella
All rights reserved.
No reuse without permission.

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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.

Your name and information will never be used or shared with anyone. We promise!

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

If you Like this Monthly Ezine - You will love Dale's Book!
The Poor Clare Sisters
Paperback: 433 pages

Excellent book on the topic!,
June 13, 2005 Nathan Eanes
(Review from

The Biblical Truth about America's Death Penalty is a must-read. It deals with Biblical standards of Capital Punishment and then compares them to the system used in America today. It is the best-researched, most faithful to scripture, and most evenhanded analysis I have ever read concerning the Death Penalty. Whatever your persuasion on the issue, this book will teach you a great deal. Recinella is a trained lawyer and committed Christian who now volunteers part-time on Florida's death row. He thus understands law, the Bible, and the system of execution in America. I challenge anyone who supports the Death Penalty to read this book.

This ezine edited by The Poor Clare Sisters of Spokane
to support the IWasInPrison Outreach