An excerpt from In the Arms of Mary (Part 2)

By Slawomir C. Biela

For him, prison has become an authentic place of true conversion – a place of encounter of the sinner with LOVE.

 FREEDOM IN PRISON?

When an innocent person is imprisoned, it is much more difficult for him to accept such imprisonment. This happened in one of the Latin American countries. A high-ranking and very well-respected bank executive was accused of perpetrating a great fraud and was sentenced to many years of imprisonment. Occupying an important position in the bank, this man had become so engrossed in his work that he had gone astray in his spiritual life. For him, God ceased to be of the most utmost importance.

Although he never stopped praying and always carried out his religious practices, he began to rely on himself more and more. He had a generous heart and more often helped others, but he did so at the expense of his own family. Thus, he grew in his proud self-belief that he was a good person. At work he considered himself irreplaceable. Spending more and more time at work, he neglected his wife and three children. His wife, who was heavily burdened by her obligations at home, felt the intensity of being alone and increasingly misunderstood as daily she confronted her husband’s self-sufficiency and vanity. And so, his family was on the verge of breaking up. He, however, noticing none of it, went on as usual, concentrating only on his career.

Something unexpected then happened. The man was accused of having committed a serious fraud involving a large amount of money. The sum of money he was expected to repay was completely beyond his means. Thus he was sentenced to many years of imprisonment. But in fact, as to his professional honor and honesty, he had been faultless!

During the first two weeks, he was on the verge of despair. He constantly asked himself: Why me? Why has God put me in this trial? He could not understand or accept the fact that such a conscientious and responsible worker like himself should suffer many years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

But the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation overcame that feeling deep within him of having been unjustly accused and sentenced.

When he came into contact with a good confessor, he perceived a ray of hope for himself. He discovered the meaning of his time in prison. He understood that real slavery is the slavery to one’s egoism and pride. There in prison, he began to regain interior freedom, thanks to the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the spiritual help of the confessor.

In prison he began to experience real happiness.

He said,”I am grateful to God for what had happened to me, even if it is for me to stay here in prison for the rest of my life!” He was convinced that it was necessary that God send him that trial, otherwise, being convinced of his own perfection, he would only be contented with the external manifestations of his faith.

The man was full of joy for having encountered God. With his attitude, he began to influence the other prisoners. The grace of his conversion made some of them perceive another dimension of their similar experiences.

In prison the man discovered the truth about himself. But at the same time he discovered the truth of the unfathomable love of God. And it was his truth that became the source of his freedom. Living in the midst of this difficult trial, he had to choose from two options:

to blame God for having allowed such an injustice,
or rather, against the dictates of pure human logic,
to believe in God’s love.
He chose to believe in Love.

He did not know afterwards how his life would go on and how much time he would remain in prison.

But certainly he was already free:
Through his trust in God,
Through faith in His love,
And by total abandonment to Him
He obtained, most important of all,
interior freedom of heart.
And this is the most important.

For him, prison has become an authentic place of true conversion – a place of encounter of the sinner with LOVE.