The Atlanta Region prison ministry was invited to Queen of Angels Catholic School during the Lenten season to discuss Corporal Works of Mercy with the middle school students. While preparing for the event I spent time in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to guide me. We began our discussion with Matthew 25, which the students had been studying with their teacher, Mary Beth Smith, and all were eager to learn more of how they could live the Gospel message. I shared with them some of the ways in which the Atlanta Region was currently living this particular Corporal Work of Mercy through our Catholic prison libraries, Magnificat distributions and our pen pal program. Hands started going into the air and many great questions were asked, giving us the opportunity to discuss the humanity of those in prison. Soon enough I got the question, “Aren’t these bad people?” It was the lead-in that I needed for where I think the Holy Spirit was leading us.
These middle school students were clearly well versed in scripture so I asked if they could think of any biblical characters they had studied who had been arrested or imprisoned. After just a few moments the answers started to fly: Paul, Sampson, Daniel, Joseph, and, of course, Jesus. Then I asked them how they thought today’s prisoners might feel if they knew that Sampson, St. John the Baptist and even Jesus had been imprisoned. Their answers were magnificent. “Maybe they might not feel so alone,” “I think it might be comforting,” “Do you think maybe that would give them hope?” You could feel the room filling with compassion.
Next, I asked the students about biblical figures who had committed crimes, serious crimes, and then repented and sought forgiveness. An even shorter pause this time before the answers started flying. King David, Dismas the Good Thief, Saul, Moses. We then discussed how someone on death row might feel if they knew that King David, part of the lineage of Jesus Christ, had committed murder, repented and been forgiven. Or that Moses had killed a man, yet been chosen by God to be instrumental in salvation history. Another beautiful discussion followed of just how much comfort and hope this would bring to those imprisoned. Naturally, the students wanted to know how they could bring this message of hope inside the prison walls. The solution we came up with was to create prayer cards. These 7th- and 8th-grade students spent weeks researching biblical figures and created eight superb prayer cards.
These prayer cards will be printed in bulk and distributed throughout the Georgia State Prison system to bring hope and comfort to inmates and inspire them to repent and seek forgiveness. In creating these cards for distribution within the walls the middle school students at Queen of Angels are, in a very tangible way, visiting those who are in prison. Equally important these students have opened their hearts and devoted their prayers to those who are imprisoned and will carry forth in their lives the knowledge of God’s tremendous forgiveness for those who repent.
To view examples of the prayer cards the students created, please click here.