New York Times Best Selling Author, Matthew Kelly, identifies four questions as fundamental in leading a meaningful life. 1. Who am I? 2. What am I here for? 3. What matters most? 4. What matters least?
As a volunteer at Hernando Correctional Institution in Brooksville, Florida, I have the opportunity to offer a class in Centering Prayer as well as Lectio Divina and the Welcoming Prayer. A group of women who have elected to participate in a course that we currently call “Contemplative Fellowship” have the opportunity to wrestle with these questions in “the Classroom of Silence”.
One of my favorite quotes from Fr. Thomas Keating has always been, “Humiliation is the surest path to humility”. These women know what that means. They have had everything stripped from them – their material possessions, their identity, and their dignity. Misconceptions about the women behind those walls and bars pervade our society. The dehumanizing way in which these women are often treated does nothing to let them know that they matter.
When I meet these women, each one is a unique person on a journey, as we all are. The gratitude and appreciation that we take time out of our own busy lives to spend with them is evident. I have never felt unsafe or unwanted in my time there. In fact, my sense is that I am exactly where I belong. When the women thank me for coming, I reply “It’s God that got me here, but it’s you that keep me coming back!” As these women open and respond to God’s presence and experience His unconditional love and acceptance and the respect shown to them by the volunteers, they begin to value and respect themselves and others and to accept who they really are in God.
There is a principal in physics that when 2% of the molecules in a pot of water reach the boiling point, the entire pot boils. Imagine 2% of the population in any prison practicing Centering Prayer and the effect that could have on the entire compound for good. Imagine the possibilities! Maybe God is speaking to you? As I said, it’s His call! And it’s the experience itself that will keep you coming back.