Monday, May 10, 2010

Prison Ministry

In this month’s issue of the New Oxford Review, there is a very interesting reply from Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer to a letter from a prisoner concerning prison ministry.

An excerpt from Fr. Euteneuer's reply.

“For many years I was involved in prison ministry. In fact, the very first confession I heard -- two days after I was ordained -- was that of a prisoner who was in jail for murder. (He had already confessed the murder in a previous confession.) When prisons receive any real attention from Christians, it is usually from Baptists who take seriously the call to evangelize in the Matthew 25. When Catholics come in, we are usually given minority status. Where the presence of Christians is negligible, Muslims can often be found recruiting aggressively.

“Ultimately, these environments, full of criminals, are also seedbeds for the works of the Evil One and therefore are in dire need of Christian ministry. The idea that a person goes to prison to become "reformed" is an absurdity. Oftentimes they become confirmed in their criminal ways.

“I would ask … anyone in prison ministry, to be of good cheer, fully confident that your work is blessed by God because it is a work that Christ explicitly asked His Church to carry out. If the "official" Church does not pay proper attention to this work of the Gospel, then those in authority will be held accountable before the Judgment Seat of God. Ours, however, is not to agonize over what others are not doing, but to do what we are supposed to do with greater fervor, asking God to sanctify us in the process.

“I would add that prison ministers can and should pray particular prayers in order to increase the effectiveness of their visits to those environments. These are the "binding" prayers that any Christian can pray in the Name of Jesus. The concept of "binding the strong man" derives from Mark 3:27, which speaks of breaking into the house of an evil man after binding him. It is an analogy of how the Holy Spirit works in taking over strongholds of evil. Accordingly, we can pray prayers of binding that will restrict the power of evil in any place and open up spiritual space for the action of grace to enter into men's hearts. We bind always "in the Name of Jesus," naming whatever evil spirit we may sense is present. Mentioned ... were spirits of theft, murder, violence, dissension, apathy, and lack of faith. Certainly there are others.

“In the Name of Jesus, good Christians can bind them all and see God's grace act much more efficiently even in the hearts of criminals. Good Friday showed us that there is hope for everyone: At least one criminal stole Heaven at the last moment of his life.”