I was doing a retreat day in early Lent for inmates at one of the medium security correctional facilities here in Central New York. I had started with a meditation I’ve often used in prisons, in which I invite the guys to re-enter a p
ast experience of being loved by another person. It’s a meditation that has led men to tears, and the sharing of powerful transformative moments in their lives.
On this occasion, one of the men told of how in his prayer he had been brought back to the day when he was convicted in court. The jury had returned a guilty verdict, and he was bustled outside to the waiting police car. He told of how as he was being put into the vehicle, he looked up to see his mother, his grandmother, and his sister standing off to the side – all three of them gazing at him with great tenderness, and they were sobbing. In that moment, he said, he felt such a powerful sense of their love for him that it almost overwhelmed him.
“It’s just so incredible,” he said, “that on that darkest day of my life I would be given such a beautiful awareness of how much I am loved.” It was clear that God had deeply touched him again through the memory of it, and he was visibly moved.