"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Visiting Prisoners

In the ante-Lenten period of preparation we have now begun, Byzantine Christians will presently hear the chilling passage from Matthew's gospel on the Sunday of the Last Judgment, sometimes popularly called Meatfare Sunday, which this year is February 23. There Christ poses a series of questions to disturb us all, asking, inter alia, when we visited Him by visiting those in prison. From priestly friends in pastoral ministry, I have several times heard how the number of Christian, especially Catholic and Orthodox, chaplains in full-time prison ministry in this country is abysmally low. And we have repeatedly heard recently about the outrageously high rates at which people are clapped into gaol in this country, at far higher rates than any other major country in the world. Clearly there is much brokenness here on many levels.

A new book by Amy Levad, then, is very welcome in reflecting theologically on these problems: Redeeming a Prison Society: A Liturgical and Sacramental Response to Mass Incarceration (Fortress Press, 2014), 192pp.

About this book we are told:

The United States criminal justice system is in a state of crisis, from unprecedented rates of imprisonment and recidivism to the privatization of the prison system and the disproportionate representation of particular racial, ethnic, social, and economic groups, all of which is within a larger social justice context. Catholics and Protestants have largely failed to offer vital theological responses. Amy Levad offers a Catholic perspective that directly addresses the concrete issues from a strongly interdisciplinary approach and utilizes the rich liturgical and sacramental resources of penance and Eucharist to offer a theological vision of reform.

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