(Reflections on a formation session conducted within the Correctional Institute for Women. The topic is "Blessedness: An Introduction to the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes, also called The Sermon on the Mount, are a set of Jesus' teachings that begins with the phrase "Blessed are the..." You can find the Beatitudes on Matthew 5:3-12.)
"Blessed" is probably the last word you would associate with persons within a corrections facility.
Indeed, how can someone in prison be blessed when he or she has been condemned to spend a significant period of time (for some, their lifetime) behind bars? Isolated from family and friends, trapped within walls, and deprived of opportunities free society take for granted doesn't sound blessed. And these are just the obvious sources of grief. Sit for 5 minutes with an inmate and you'll find that their prison's within. Confinement is a constant reminder that as far as the world is concerned, they are people better removed from the company of the supposedly more decent folk. Guilt, self-loathing, and in some cases anger at an injustice are just some of the internal tortures persons behind bars struggle with.
And yet, you'd be surprised. In many ways, persons behind bars are more blessed than the rest of the world --- and they will tell you so. Blessedness is not about winning the luck of the draw, or getting the best seats in the house, or being able to get away when others have been caught. Blessedness is a disposition: a disposition of cultivating gratitude, seeing meaning, and finding God in all things. And because of their unique circumstances in life, persons within correction facilities are probably better disposed towards recognizing blessedness than you and me. We think the loss of internet connection marks the end of the world. They, on the other hand, rejoice at an hour increase in electricity use.We get so self-righteous sometimes that we refuse to forgive people who wrong us. They, on the other hand, have been humbled enough by life experiences to know that everyone could use a second chance.
For we are blessed...
The first surprise of the day is how the women went about the task with much enthusiasm. In fact, come reporting time, each group was eager to share their output ahead of the others! You would think that persons behind bars would find the task of counting blessings challenging, or would even be insulted or saddened by the endeavor, but you'd be wrong. Their ability to find evidence that made them chosen and loved above others would put most people to shame.
Here's my favorite group output from the lot: