Here is the second of four excerpts from EWTN’s ‘The Journey Home’ in which interviewer Marcus Grodi allowed ex-convict and convert to The One Holy Catholic Faith to tell his conversion story from protestant to Catholic.
The Alabama penal system, in those days (1988 to 2013) was officially anti-Catholic.
In fact, they had an administrative regulation that said I could have the Last Rites, a Priest could come in and give me the Last Rites provided I gave them 24 hours advance notice of my death…
And they hated me evangelizing.
Because you see;
The Penitentiary is controlled by threat, intimidation and bribery.
That’s how they control the men.
And, a practicing Catholic can not be threatened, will not yield to threats, will not yield to intimidation and cannot be bribed.
Now, it never occurred to them that we were obeying the rules anyway they just knew that they couldn’t make us do ‘by the regular means.’
And it scared them.
Because they felt that they weren’t in control.
And so, for quite a while, I was beaten on a regular basis by the guards when they were sent to beat me.
They confiscated my prayer books, my Bible, my Rosaries, my Scapulars, they confiscated everything that I had. And, the day after they burned them they told me I could have them back.
Ah… I was beaten on a fairly regular basis anywhere from two to eight officers would come in and beat me.
And then I started writing and it got really rough.
Writing for the Catholic media…
I wrote for a lot of Catholic magazines and journals but probably ‘This Rock’ is where I wrote most of my stuff…
And, they would see these magazines come in with my name on the cover and so they knew that I was writing; it never occurred to them to read anything that I had written, they just automatically assumed that I was writing bad things about the Department of Corrections…
They had told me to quit writing and I had told them, ‘No!’ just like they told me to quit evangelizing and I told them, ‘No!’
But then it kind of came to a head and one day eight officers came into the cell-block and they beat me down with their sticks and this time they didn’t stop at that they tap-danced on me a while: broke a couple of ribs, my lips were so swollen that I could hardly breathe through my mouth, they broke my nose… my eyes were swollen shut, I couldn’t see anything, I could see light, but I couldn’t see anything.
And then they took me to the ‘segregation unit’ and stripped me naked. Six of them left, only two of them stayed behind.
They put me on my knees on the concrete floor and forced my head down to the floor until my forehead hit the concrete and then one officer put his knee on the back of my neck, to hold me down while the other officer took my hand back like this and snapped these three fingers (the thumb, index and middle finger of his right hand).
And then they put me into a segregation cell, ah, turned out the lights; I know that because it was totally dark and that was the only sensation I had for sight.
I knew that I wasn’t going to get any medical treatment because I knew why they were doing it.
So, I tried to reset my fingers myself.
Not a pleasant task.
I remember screaming a few times, in trying to do that.
I think I probably passed out a couple of times.
And, I finally gave up.
And just began to cry.
And started praying to ‘Mary Help Of Christians.’
She has never let us down. Never.
I began praying for help.
I don’t know how long I prayed. I may have been in there two days before this happened; I don’t know, you lose complete track of time.
But suddenly there was light in the cell and I thought that they were getting ready and come in and hand me another dose of a whoopin’ or maybe they were getting ready to feed me or something.
But, then the light got really bright.
And I felt a warmth in my hand (the one that was damaged).
And, my hand’s been fine ever since.
And, incidentally, I did have my hand x-rayed… and he (the x-ray technician) said that those fingers had never been broken. Well, I myself had broken one of them twice… but there are no breaks.
Yet another extraordinary event in my life because He had work for me to do.