||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
The Legacy of August 9
By: Dale Recinella
At 12:25 p.m. retired Bishop John Snyder and Fr. Joe Maniangat,.
the priest for Floridaís death row from 1983 until 1999, don the vestments for this special Mass. My wife, Susan, tunes her guitar and sets out the music. Baptismal candle, water, pitcher and small towel are all neatly placed next to the chairs before the altar. Chrism for confirmation is at the corner of the altar. All is in readiness. As soon as count clears the officers will escort our brother to this prison chapel for his initiation into the Family of Faith.
Unlike the rugged individualism of some understandings of Christianity, our Catholic faith cherishes the reality of community, the Family of Faith. We are surrounded by brothers and sisters in faith throughout the world and throughout time. A cloud of witnesses testifies to the Truth of the Baptismal moment. Even when to the world we seem alone, the Family of Faith that is the Communion of Saints is standing for us and with us. We are never abandoned.
Today is Friday, August 9, 2002. What a day to be baptized and confirmed. Especially for a man who spent fifteen years on Floridaís death row and just received a life sentence in the spring. The blossoming of faith from the shadow of deathóthat is the legacy of August 9. He is still fighting to clear his name, to have the facts of his case revealed. Itís been so long, so many years waiting for the truth to come out. That is also part of the legacy of August 9.
As I reflect on this mystery of Godís ways, hidden truth revealed by Godís hand in Godís time, another prisoner comes to mind. He too seemed isolated and alone in a solitary cell, standing against insurmountable odds. The time was 1943. The place was Austria. The man was Franz Jagerstatter, a peasant farmer who prayed the Rosary constantly and received Communion daily. His wife and three children could not be with him during those long, dark nights of the soul in prison. He was truly alone with none but his God and his Family of Faith.
Those who loved him wanted to see him spared from further suffering. Friends and family exhorted him to give in, to compromise. Virtually everyone beseeched him to do whatever was necessary in order to get out of prison. What was necessary was to fight for Hitler.
God nourished Franz in his struggle against the pressure to conform. He prayed and fasted and refused to bear weapons for Hitler. He was beheaded at Brandenburg Prison in Berlin at 4 p.m. on August 9, 1943. He died apparently alone and unsung. To all involved in his execution, he must have seemed a fool, forgotten before his body even turned cold.
Then, against all odds, in the laboring of the next generation of that Family of Faith, his sacrifice was rediscovered. His story told. The solitary witness of his quiet refusal to compromise moral principles was discussed by the Bishops and Cardinals of the worldwide Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council.
The side entrance door to the prison chapel at Union Correctional Institution swings open. Our brother is escorted inside. Itís time to begin. My wife and I, standing as his godparents, renew our vows of faith as he commits to his. His lifelong name is surrendered, yielding to the name Christopher, one who bears Christ. The water pours. The candle is lit. The chrism is touched to his forehead. For the first time, the consecrated bread, forever changed, touches his lips.
It is August 9. The Family of Faith is in jubilation. Aloneness has been vanquished again by Communion.
First published: The Florida Catholic, August 23, 2002
© 2002 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