Brothers Celebrate Prison Break-Through

With the Good Thief in mind and his own older brother urging him on, Tom Bailey willingly entered a prison three years ago armed with the Divine Mercy message and devotion.

"I learned of a need for prison ministry, and I thought, 'What the heck,'" said Tom, a retired attorney who splits his time between his native Wisconsin and adopted winter home of Florida.

His ministry work culminated this past April with a celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday at a maximum security prison in central Florida. Between 40-50 inmates attended. Thanks to the support of the prison staff, including the non-Catholic prison chaplains, the celebration proved powerful. Three priests volunteered their time. Many inmates went to Confession. And then something unexpected and extraordinary occurred.

"It's hard to believe, but after Holy Communion, many of the inmates prostrated themselves in Adoration and thanksgiving," said Tom. "These are pretty tough guys. This was an incredible thing to witness."

Tom's brother, Dan, 92, of Pardeeville, Wisconsin, was instrumental in getting Tom to embrace the Divine Mercy revelations given to St. Faustina in the 1930s.

"He has a special relationship with St. Faustina," Tom said.

The more Tom learned about Divine Mercy, the more it made sense to introduce it to inmates. Dan provided prayerful support as well as material support in the form of Divine Mercy prayer cards, pamphlets, and copies of St. Faustina's Diary.

"Many of these men are lifers," said Tom. "My efforts center on giving them hope - if not necessarily in this life, but for eternal life."

He said the main hurdle for inmates typically centers on forgiveness.

"It's part of their culture to feel unforgiven," Tom said. "Certainly, they didn't find forgiveness in civil society, and it's difficult for them to embrace the concept of God's mercy and forgiveness."

A key scriptural figure has helped Tom to break through hardened hearts. Saint Luke records that at Christ's Crucifixion, He was flanked by two criminals who also were being crucified. The criminal on the left joined many in the crowd in mocking Jesus. But the criminal on the right, known as the "Good Thief," was repentant and pleaded, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus replied, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise'" (Lk 23:40-43).

In his weekly prison visits, Tom first introduced inmates to the Good Thief. Then, he introduced them to the message of Divine Mercy, especially Jesus' promise that "the greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy" (Diary, 723).

Tom said that many inmates believe wrongly that their sins have been too numerous and too heinous. "They say, 'Oh, God will never forgive me for what I did,'" Tom said. "But He will; He does."

As Divine Mercy Sunday approached this year, the inmates increasingly embraced the notion that God's mercy is available to them. To top it all off, Tom taught them about Divine Mercy Sunday itself, particularly Jesus' promises of specific, extraordinary graces on this feast day. Jesus promised:

I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My mercy (Diary, 1109).

On Divine Mercy Sunday, April 28, as Tom witnessed inmates prostrating themselves after receiving Holy Communion, he knew Jesus was keeping His promises. "They believe in their hearts now that God forgives them, whatever sins they've committed," he said. "It was a beautiful and blessed experience."

The Bailey brothers urge others to get involved in prison ministry. They admit it can be a daunting work of mercy, often beset with many bureaucratic hurdles.

"But the fact that souls are saved is not insignificant," said Tom.

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