Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Forty Days of Lent in the Practice of the Presence of God BY FR. GORDON J. MACRAE


Reliving the past can be an obstacle to grace. The present is the only place where we can encounter God. It’s the reason we exist in the Year of Faith, 2013. On Ash Wednesday, 2012, we posted “In a City on a Hill: Lent, Sacrifice, and the Passage of Time.” It was about Lent from [...]

the perspective of prison, and time was its central theme. It was about a few people you have come to know and the persons they choose to be in present adversity.

This post is also about time, but from a different perspective. It’s about the interconnectedness of time. The threads that run through our human experience of God are a tapestry of creation rather than just a linear existence where we are at the mercy of random events.

The importance of detecting these threads in time and history was recently made known to me by – of all people – Stephen King, and it’s a story filled with its own tiny threads of connection. Ever since reading “Pornchai’s Story” when The Catholic League published it in 2008, I have not exactly been enamored of author, Stephen King. You might remember that Pornchai delivered newspapers to Mr. King’s Bangor, Maine home when Pornchai was twelve years old and barely spoke English.

There was really nothing in that story that I should hold against Stephen King, however. It was just guilt by association, and that’s never fair and just. I wasn’t very happy with anyone in Bangor, Maine circa 1985 after reading “Pornchai’s Story.” If I could travel through time, there would be some things I would try to fix back there. Like all of us, however, I’m stuck in the here and now.

But that’s not really why I’ve been shunning books by Stephen King for all these years. It’s because of that horrible clown! Because of one Stephen King story, I have been associating all his books with evil clowns, and I have a phobia for clowns. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember, and you might be surprised how many people I’ve met who share my disdain for clowns. Even Pornchai mentioned Mr. King’s evil clown in “Pornchai’s Story.”

Early this week, while shivering in the cold waiting in line for a seat in the prison chow hall, a young African-American prisoner was behind me. Someone in line mentioned a clown he saw on TV, and I detected the young man’s shudder, more than just a shiver in the cold. When I turned to him he said, “I can’t stand clowns! They’re creepy!” We spoke of that Stephen King film about an evil clown named Pennywise, and it was the reason neither of us read his books. We agreed that they’re just too creepy, and in prison we have enough that’s creepy on our plates – and we weren’t referring to the food in the prison chow hall that day.

I know Stephen King wrote some good stories that became great films. One, “The Shawshank Redemption,” has shown up in several of my posts. King’s original title was, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption published in a short story collection entitled, Different Seasons.

Pushed by a friend, I borrowed my first Stephen King book from the prison library this week. It’s long – 849 pages. The Stephen King section in this library is huge, not just because he wrote a lot of books but because most of those books are also huge. You might recall from my post, “Les Miserables” a few weeks ago that I haul books to prisoners being punished in “the hole” each week. Prisoners in the hole ask for Stephen King books because they’re long and they fill up the unbearably empty time. I feel like a pack mule lugging dozens of those immense books around. Has this man ever had an unpublished thought?

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