Every Friday we go to the local jail, Essex county, and it’s mostly guys from our neighborhood;
so we fit right in.
That night after finishing visiting with the polish immigration criminals, we were scheduled to go down to the infirmary, which I was looking forward to since I had never been, and it was all-Mother Teresa style: the poorest of the poor, because it doesn’t get much worse than being sick and in jail.
So after checking in with a guard who is really compassionate and kind, where I think to myself ‘that must be why he is stationed here’ we turn around immediately to see a man in his orange jumper sitting down with his head against the wall letting out a groan. I think to myself “hello Jesus” as we approach and we pray with him and he tears up a bit and it is a real encounter with Christ, it was beautiful. Then we go inside, and there is armed guards and a nurse’s station and two sections behind bulletproof glass and steel doors. I look thru the glass and a young man with long dreadlocks sees us and is waving us over with what seems like a joyful confidence. So I think to myself “I think were supposed to go in there…”, so I tell the guards “were going in there” and they ask “you wanna go in there?” and I say “were going in there!” So in we go and right away the young man says:
“Wasup my brothers, we are all God’s children!” and I say “amen!” and I ask him “how you doin tonite?” And he says “o, pretty good, but I got shot B!... and stabbed” and he pulls up his shirt to reveal stiches that go from his sternum to his belly button, along with 2 bullet holes and a stab wound with no stiches on it in his stomach. And I exclaim “(Dang). Where did you get shot?!” and he says “In New York. I got shot in New York.” And I say “Manhattan?” and he says “nah, in the Bronx” and I say “I used to live in the Bronx!” Then I say “wow, they opened you up just to pull the bullets out right?” and he says “yep.” And I say: “wow, I am glad you made it out of that one.” And he says “me too….but somethin’ happened.” And I say “what happened?” And you could see the love of God in his eyes and could tell he was sincere and he says “I was in heaven for a second Bro. I was in heaven.” and I say “well tell me about that!” And he says “There were these huge walls, with these huge gates and all of these flower petals were pouring over the walls, and I heard everybody say ‘let ‘em in Father, let ‘em in!’ and there were all of these huge mansions, they were beautiful, all white and gold with roads made of pearls. (The mansions) They were huge and beautiful. And then I saw Jesus. His face was bright white, a little like yours and he had a little beard, like yours, and his skin was dark like mine, and his hair was like wool, and it was long, son! I mean long! And then I saw his face.” And at this point the young man recollects and looks into the distance as he remembers and says “Everything’s in that face brother, everything’s in that face...”
I ask him “was there music?”
“OH, beautiful music, like AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!”
“What like chanting?”
“Yeah like chanting”
“was there light?
“yes, beautiful bright light, but you could look at it.”
I then ask, pointing to my habit “was there anybody up there dressed like this?”
And he laughs and looks away and looks back and says:
“The Catholics Bro! and Jesus IS CATHOLIC!...He’s got a long white robe, long and it never gets dirty, there’s no dirt in heaven Bro, there’s no dirt in Heaven!”
He goes on to say “the people were praising God and even had signs that said ‘The God of Nazareth!”
He then says “Let me in Father.”
And Jesus says to him “Not yet my son, for there are battles yet for you to win for me on earth.” And he said to him “but, why?” and our Lord said to him “don’t question me, you’ll wake up now” and bang! He was back in the emergency room!
The young man then goes on to say “Brother, before, I wanted to kill people, commit adultery, lie, cheat, steal, you name it. But not now Brother…I have seen the light! I have seen the light!”
“This life is not what we always think it’s about…we’ve got to Love!”
At this point he witnesses to me by telling everyone good night and that he loves them, and giving the guy in the infirmary a big hug and telling him he loves him and pushing him into his hospital/cell.
This life is about love.
God bless you,
Br. Nicholas Joseph, CFR
Most Blessed Sacrament Friary
375 13th Avenue