Posted by on June 1, 2016


A new Manual for Eucharistic Adoration from the Poor Clares and Saint Benedict Press has found a captive audience in Fr Gordon MacRae as he marks 34 years of priesthood.

“You have GOT to be joking!” That was my first reaction. In early April this year, I was summoned to a prison office to sign for “personal property.” I had no idea what it could be. I hadn’t ordered anything recently from the place where we in prison must purchase shoes, clothing, toiletries. So it had to be a book, but receiving books here also requires that I know in advance that the book is coming. I knew of nothing.

I signed for the mysterious item and returned to my cell where I sat down on a concrete stump – the same one I am typing upon at this moment. “You have GOT to be joking’” I said to myself as I perused the book in my hand and its cover letter. It was from Christian Tappe, Director of Marketing at Saint Benedict Press in Charlotte, North Carolina. The letter began:

“I am pleased to enclose this review copy of TAN Books’ Manual for Eucharistic Adoration… written by the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. If you would like more information, or to schedule an interview…”

I was more bewildered than ever. It was the fourth time in the last year that a Catholic publisher has sent me a book to review on These Stone Walls. Are people actually reading TSW? But this particular book was a complete mystery. First off, I should not have received it at all. The shipment and cover letter were addressed to “Father” Gordon MacRae with no prison number (67546) as required on anything sent to me. In the ordinary course, either the use of a title or the absence of a number would cause the book to be rejected and returned to sender without my even knowing about it. But here it was, in my hand nonetheless.

My first impulse was to toss the book aside as useless, at least for me. My apologies to the Poor Clares who so lovingly wrote it, and to the publisher who so kindly sent it to me. I am a slow learner, so the nicely adorned book sat unopened in a corner of my cell for a month. I was simply too caught up in the glaring irony of it. There is no True Presence here to adore. There is only the present absence.

To make matters worse, and more mysterious, on the same day I received the Manual for Eucharistic Adoration I learned from lawyers that we had lost yet another effort at appeal of my wrongful conviction and imprisonment. It took one full year for the First Circuit Court of Appeals to notify us that they will not review an earlier decision to dismiss my appeal with no hearing on its merits or evidence. This has made the road to justice ever steeper and more treacherous. I am told that others will be taking this up to write about it.


So it was in the dim and murky light of continued injustice that I tossed aside the good sisters’ book about Eucharistic Adoration, and shrugged it off. But appearances can be deceiving, and you never know what apparently “useless” thing might have a profound influence on your view of the world – not only the world you live in, but the world that lives in you. Who you are is in large part a collision of these two worlds, and a person of faith risks great loss if the interior life is forfeited to live only in that other, more calamitous world. We have to live in and with both worlds, and we have to keep them in balance.

One day recently, I saw a vocation ad in Our Sunday Visitor for a community of sisters. The ad described them as a “monastic, cloistered and contemplative community,” and then added, “Find us on Facebook!” That, to me, seemed a collision of two worlds, but it works if the sisters can reflect in the latter world the light that shines in the former.

On June 5th I mark thirty-four years of priesthood. Twenty-two of them have been in a place where presence before the Blessed Sacrament is unavailable and simply impossible. It can only be imagined. It has been a long time since I wrote of the power of the True Presence in a place where it seems absent. In 2010 I wrote a post entitled “The Sacrifice of the Mass” (Part I and Part II), and it seemed a pivotal point not only for These Stone Walls, but for my life as a priest in extraordinary circumstances.

The two-part post described the utter deprivation of something many readers simply took for granted in their world. For my first seven years in this prison, Mass was unavailable to me, and without it I found myself growing ever more distant from my life as a priest. That post described the extreme efforts it took to gain the ability to offer Mass, beginning with what I today call a “spiritual offering.”

It wasn’t what you might think. It was along the lines of a “Spiritual Communion,” and I got the idea from reading Father Walter Ciszek’s book, He Leadeth Me. During twenty years in a Siberian prison accused of being a Vatican spy, Father Ciszek could only imagine the Mass. Sitting in the pitch dark at night on his bunk, he began to recite The Roman Canon in his mind, and to imagine himself present before the Blessed Sacrament. After reading this, I began to do the same, and my post, “The Sacrifice of the Mass” evolved from that. After I wrote that two-part post, a TSW reader sent me a letter, an excerpt of which follows:

“I cannot imagine what sustains your identity as a priest in that prison. There is nothing in that environment that in any way supports your priesthood. You are not ever in the company of other priests. Your diocese and fellow priests have cast you off. You see yourself each day in the mirror wearing the uniform of a prisoner, and you know in your mind, heart and soul that there has been no justice in your being forced to wear this role.

“And yet when I read your writings, your priesthood is always at the forefront, the part of you that shines the brightest, that speaks the loudest, that sustains not only you but apparently many of those around you in that place. Can you explain, Father MacRae, what exactly allows you to retain a priestly identity?”


I do not have an answer for this. After I wrote my recent post, “Mother Teresa of Calcutta: Pentecost Illumines the Night,” some readers wrote in comments that they are moved by my faith. It is not so obvious. At least, it is not obvious to me. I struggle with faith on a daily basis, and I found a kindred spirit in Saint Mother Teresa when I learned that she struggled as well. The truth is that it was the Poor Clares’ Manual of Eucharistic Adoration that caused me to look more deeply into the faith life of soon-to-be Saint Mother Teresa. The Manual includes an admonition from her, and it was this quote that prompted me to write “Mother Teresa of Calcutta: Pentecost Illumines the Night.”

“The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you will spend on earth.,Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with Him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in heaven, and will help bring about everlasting peace on earth.” (Manual, 111)

It was from writing that post that I fathomed the necessity of Eucharistic Adoration. It is not for us to be present to Him. It is for Him to be present to us in a way that “will deepen your union with Him.” That is the very purpose of the interior life, that other world that we must balance with our other foot in this world.

While writing my Pentecost post, I learned of the spiritual deprivation often experienced by Mother Teresa, but that deprivation never seemed able to diminish her commitment to serve the poor. Rather, the opposite happened. It was her service to the poor that brought her to the Paschal Mystery and kept her there, ever providing the beckoning of Christ that compelled her spiritual life. Mother Teresa sought union with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and brought Christ from there to the poor. It was never the other way around.


So how could I, as a priest wrongly imprisoned for decades, possibly bring my interior life into this world where the True Presence is so overshadowed by the present absence? No matter what the source of the sense of emptiness is in your life, if you are reading this you know what I mean by “the present absence.” That is why God allowed Mother Teresa and others among our patron saints to suffer spiritual deprivation, and to endure it. It was so that we might emulate them as they serve as beacons in spiritual darkness. Their witness inspires hope in the dark, not just our rescue from it.

As has happened on so many nights in prison, I awoke one night recently, filled with an anxiety that has no name. It’s not related to anything I can identify. It’s just there, a natural side effect of the stifling nature of an American prison. I have a little battery-powered book light purchased from the same prison vendor from which we purchase clothing and other needs. Waking often in the night, I have gotten hundreds of times my money’s worth from that small light.

I switched on the light in that anxious night, and reached for my glasses and a book on a small shelf at the end of my iron bunk. I thought I had grabbed another book, but my hand landed on the previously untouched Manual for Eucharistic Adoration by the Poor Clares. It has a ribbon page marker so I opened to the ribbon and was struck by this admonition from Saint John Vianney, the Curé of Ars and the patron saint of priests:

“When you awake in the night, transport yourself quickly in spirit before the tabernacle, saying, ‘Behold, my God, I come to adore you, to praise, thank, and love you, and to keep you company with the angels.’” (Manual, p. 116)

So that night I tried to imagine a time and a place in which being before the Blessed Sacrament was most meaningful to me. Sadly, it was long ago. It wasn’t during my years as a parish priest when time and again I passed by the sanctuary and tabernacle barely noticing, blindly going from one pastoral task to another, not even genuflecting, not even knowing that I failed to bring Christ with me because I failed to stop and enter into His Presence. At some point in my life as a priest, this world collided with that one, and demolished it. This has been the real priesthood scandal. Action somehow overshadowed contemplation to our priestly peril.

It was only years later, after year upon year of absence, that I became aware of this deprivation of the Presence of God. So in that night of prison anxiety my mind fled down the nights and down the days, past the parishes where I served, and the seminary I attended, to a Benedictine Abbey just twenty miles from this prison. The journey in my mind took me to 1977. I was a Capuchin then, attending school at Saint Anselm College, and my most special place on campus was a tiny alcove built into the Abbey Church.



There, before a magnificent granite tabernacle, I spent many hours in the Presence of the Lord. Last year, TSW reader Bonnie Lewis found a photograph of the interior of the Saint Anselm Abbey Church and printed it for me. It is the opening graphic for this post. Then our Missionary of Mercy Friend, Father George David Byers, found a photo of the Benedictines at Adoration in that Blessed Sacrament alcove to the right of the main sanctuary. This is where I went back then, before the world shook lose the Holy Longing to be in His Presence. This is where I go now when I awaken in the night. Sometimes, now, I don’t think I awaken with anxiety and then go there. I think I now awaken just to go there.

In just a few months, These Stone Walls will mark seven years in existence, just one third the time that I have been in this prison. During that seven years, many readers have sent me letters and comments informing me that they have devoted an hour before the Blessed Sacrament to be in His Presence in my stead. You have bestowed upon me a most priceless gift, and for this I have much gratitude.

Now the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, along with author Paul Thigpen and Saint Benedict Press, have provided a road map to the interior life, and a tool to converse with the Living Christ among us. I most highly recommend the Manual for Eucharistic Adoration and, if you are not there already, the restoration of the Lord’s Presence in your interior life.

I humbly thank you for thirty-four years of priesthood, even out here on the dark peripheries from which I write. Without you, I might have forgotten how to be a priest, and might today be just a prisoner. There are two kneelers before the Blessed Sacrament at Saint Anselm Abbey Church in Manchester, New Hampshire. Some night when anxiety awakens you in the dark, join me there. I’ll have the Manual for Eucharistic Adoration in my hands.

Editor’s Note: Please, see these other posts by Father Gordon MacRae on the priesthood:

In the Year of the Priest: The Tale of a Prisoner

Marking 30 Years of Priesthood: If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Pentecost, Priesthood, and Death in the Afternoon

The Wounds of Padre Pio, Cyrenian Priest

Holy Orders: The Labyrinthine Ways of Divine Mercy


About Fr. Gordon J. MacRae

The late Cardinal Avery Dulles and The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus encouraged Father MacRae to write. Cardinal Dulles wrote in 2005: “Someday your story and that of your fellow sufferers will come to light and will be instrumental in a reform. Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound will be a monument to your trials.” READ MORE


  1. Tomsays

    June 2, 2016 at 10:00 AM

    Gordon, like you, the writings of Father Walter Cizek have inspired me in the toughest times. I had the privilege of meeting him years ago when I was a student at the University of Scranton. I recall reading his book, With God in Russia, and thought “thank goodness that could never happen in the US”. But alas, it has, as our government’s war on drug offenders, which was the ramp-up to the current war on sex offenders, has citizens registering and being hounded by the government much like Father Cizek was by the Soviets from the time he was released from the gulag until President Kennedy negotiated his release.

    It is very Ignatian…right out of the Spiritual Exercises…to imagine yourself in another place while in prayer. I recall on a couple of occasions…while living in a dormitory…doing the exercises. I would put in earplugs and read the meditation on my bunk and then cover my eyes as if napping, so as not to be disturbed, and I found that if you want something enough you will find a way to get it…even if it is some peace and quiet to contemplate the Lord.

    You continue to be a real witness and inspiration. You have been given a heavy cross to bear. It make me think of something Leo DiFiore once told me: the Lord must really love you!

  2. Sharon Morrissays

    June 2, 2016 at 5:56 AM

    Thank you, Father Gordon.

    “Sometimes, now, I don’t think I awaken with anxiety and then go there. I think I now awaken just to go there.” A special gift for you…. for me… for others, I am sure. I’ll remember the kneelers.

  3. Joan Ripleysays

    June 2, 2016 at 1:00 AM

    We are so blessed to have you as our on-line shepherd and to share the thoughts of your heart and priestly soul. You will be in my prayers especially on your anniversary and also on Friday, June 3rd, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and World Day of Prayer for Priests. The readings that day are all about the Good Shepherd. This verse from Ezekiel seems to offer hope for you, “…I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. …..I will feed my sheep with justice.” I’ll be looking for you on the other kneeler before the Blessed Sacrament at the Abbey Church of St. Anselm…. May the Lord bless you and keep you always, Father Gordon. In gratitude, Joan

  4. Lupuesays

    June 1, 2016 at 9:49 PM

    Father, that is so beautiful. I am so happy to read your story of Christ calling you in the night. My next visit to our adoration chapel is for you!
    I think you are redefining freedom for a lot of us.

  5. Domingosays

    June 1, 2016 at 6:44 PM

    This is YOUR priesthood, Father Gordon, the meaning of it all: to be by Jesus’s side, consoling Him and spending time with Him for the salvation of souls, within and without the stone walls, vicariously, mysteriously, in reality —because with the LORD, there is nothing impossible.

    Asking for your priestly blessings for me and my family,

  6. jeanniesays

    June 1, 2016 at 6:25 PM

    Dear Father Gordon,
    Only God could give us paths that so often turn out to be shared and I am constantly astounded and humbled by finding myself alongside of you as you take each painstaking step upon your path.
    Early on my thoughts were just a flood of outrage at the injustice and pity and protectiveness for you. Now I am torn between sympathy for your earthly plight and marvel at the immensity of God’s work through you.
    You say that you don’t see your faith and I know that there is no false modesty in that.
    Such is the response of the humbled. They are always aware of how far they have to go before they have that perfect accord with God. They long for it and the famous saying of St. Augustine , “Our Hearts are restless until they rest in God.”, applies beautifully to them.
    While you were thinking you were losing faith it turns out that God was infusing you with a hunger that enabled you to answer the call of the bishop (?) who advised you to write. As you pour out your thoughts to us, possibly thinking that they are nothing more than hollow words falling in a vast and empty cavern, in fact you are re-enacting the miraculous situation that was portrayed cinematically so perfectly in the secular film, ‘Field of Dreams’.
    He built it and they came.
    Well you are a modern day stone being set down to help rebuild what we have been demolishing for nigh on 60 years, a foundational figure whose very existence is now historically a fact that those never taught about our indescribably glorious and tragic history can access.
    The bishop must have known how many of us had read of the Christians imprisoned over the years, the saints the martyrs; but to have a priest, a citizen of America, robbed of his voice and a just legal defense, was too good an opportunity to see inside those minds.
    The fact that they had to use nefarious means to keep your blog from being globally recognized as the primary Catholic blog shows you the fear triggered by the unimaginable impact you have had.
    Oh heck, there I go again, trying to console you when in fact my length is of no consolation.
    Our Glorious Good Shepherd sees you and the fruits show that He trusts you with His flock.
    God bless you.

  7. Marysays

    June 1, 2016 at 6:06 PM

    Your post today was right on. It’s been nearly a year since I was able to attend Adoration, but the memory of it is precious. I also sit up and take notice when a writer uses phrases from my favorite poem, “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson. The words are among the most beautiful I’ve ever read, and the excerpt, “I fled Him, down the nights and down the days, I fled Him down the labyrinthine pathways of my mind, and in the mist of tears, I hid from Him….” So descriptive of our lives, those spiritual downturns that keep us floundering in confusion, fear and sadness. But, when I get to the end of the poem, I am reminded that God was always there, following after, ready to raise me up to joy. Your description of Adoration even when not in the presence of the Eucharist, is so helpful – I will remember that concept when I wake at night, from the pain that knows no end.

  8. Helensays

    June 1, 2016 at 3:35 PM

    Hello again, Father Gordon…

    I couldn’t wait. I had to tell You. Mass WILL BE prayed for you…ON your anniversary………..!!!!.


    Sacred Heart of Jesus…….thank YOU.


  9. Kathleen Riney says

    June 1, 2016 at 1:39 PM

    “No matter what the source of the sense of emptiness is in your life, if you are reading this you know what I mean by “the present absence.” .”
    Thank you Fr. G.! Once more, because of your Fidelity, The HS can & does, work through you!
    Thank you for your 34 yrs as “Priest”. Thank you especially for your past yrs in Prison! There are different kinds of prisons however, they have a common denominator.
    Illness I’ve learned, First Hand, (as I’ve Had to Learn EVERYTHING in my Life!) can isolate as effectively as any prison. And, nights can become a battlefield for our Souls! For the past week, I’ve been begging for “something”. Not a “consolation” so much, as a memory of the Why & How I got to this point! Then I opened my email, there was your Post!
    23-24 yrs ago, I was Blessed to live in a Parish with 24-7 Adoration! I went faithfully. And no matter the time of day, I was alone. For 3 yrs! What a Blessing. Thanks to the workings of His Divine Mercy, I have been equipped for this current “chapter”, all because you were falsely imprisoned, & You have Remained Faithful! Often, as you tell us, In Spite of yourself!! That’s Why so many of us return! Because you make us more accepting of Our Very Human Condition! You give direction by example & self honesty. Thank you! There will be a ‘time’, when you’re going to hear, “Well Done, Good & Faithful Servant”. Then you’ll hear a Cheer, from thousands! (At least!) In the meantime-
    Pax Christi

  10. Beasays

    June 1, 2016 at 12:00 PM

    Thank you for your faithfulness, Father Gordon. A very profound post indeed!
    Wishing you continued strength and God’s comfort and richest blessings during those nighttime hours.
    Remembering your presence in the presence of that light that knows no evening.

  11. Michael Brandonsays

    June 1, 2016 at 8:37 AM

    Dear Father Gordon, as I sit here in a comfortable chair, with a beautiful view of a forested park, I am holding back tears, as I read of a far more beautiful view, whether physical or in the place where the heart and mind meet.

    Some time ago, my Dear Wife Christina, and I added specific intentions to our prayer list, which is part of our daily devotion time together, for priests and royal priests who have and do touch our hearts. Among the ordained priests we have included you, and our pastor, and a retired priest of our diocese who has a tabernacle and monstrance in his home and prays with Jesus each morning. We have included in the royal priests Pornchai and my prayer partner of 25 years Deacon George Sebok.

    I went to see Deacon George yesterday to discuss prayer support for our priest in particular, in light of a posting on The Next Right Step about Eucharistic Adoration in support of our priests. Here is the link.


    After that I went to our local Adoration Chapel and prayed for you and him, and the other priests in our lives.

    Then I awoke this morning to this article from you.

    Coincidence. Hardly. God incidence. Definitely.

    This comment does not in any way capture the influence the Real Presence has had in my life since gazing at Our Loving Saviour in the monstrance as our pastor processed Him in our church of Holy Family and stopping in front of each one present during the Vigil of Pentecost recently.

    This is by far the most profound article that you have written, dear Father. Your body may be in a prison, but your heart is very much in the Living Presence. Thank you so much for your obedience to Our Loving Saviour. We, your spiritual parishioners, are most grateful for your sacrifice.

    God Bless You.

    Michael Brandon

  12. Lizsays

    June 1, 2016 at 8:10 AM

    Father, this is incredibly beautiful! Out of your pain comes beautiful words and sentiments. I’m so sorry for the ongoing suffering and outrageousness of your imprisonment.

    I just found this quote that my daughter had shared with me on Facebook last year after my dad had just died. It’s so beautiful that I though I would post it here:

    “He who has long been under the rod of God becomes God’s possession. The consolation Our Lord gives is not always to cool our fevered brow or heal our broken limb, but to give us a vision of His purposes, so that we hasten to use every pain to save souls, to repair our own sins and those of others. Oh! That we could die in pairs: husband and wife, lover and beloved, widow and only son, friend and friend. But we die singly that at death we might, by our free choice, be paired with Christ, as the thief on the right: ‘This day, thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.’” Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Lenten & Easter Inspirations)

    May God reward you and Pornchai for all of your sufferings.

  13. Helensays

    June 1, 2016 at 5:16 AM

    GOD BLESS YOU, FR. GORDON…AND YOUR SPECIAL DAY; THE ANNIVERSARY OF YOUR BECOMING HIS HANDS, FEET AND HIS HEART. I apologize to you, for all who have placed you there, for doing just that. I ask Jesus to forgive them, SURELY, THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY ARE DOING!

    I had a very rough night, last night. I’ve been sick. I woke up, at midnight, not being able to breathe. I lay there hoping that somehow I would just drift off. Not so…wasn’t to be. So, I got up, went to my computer, and opened the 24/7 online ADORATION. Imagine, now, if you will, the chills that ran down my spine when I read your words, this morning: “When you awake in the night, transport yourself quickly in spirit before the tabernacle, saying, ‘Behold, my God, I come to adore you, to praise, thank, and love you, and to keep you company with the angels.’” Looks like you’re not the only one for whom the sisters have shocked into reality. (http://marytown.com/live-stream).

    If I’ve never felt it before, Fr. Gordon, I surely have NOW a kindred spirit with you. That last paragraph, above, just cinched it. Thank you for writing it. Sometimes, it seems I really could use a ‘pinch’ from the Lord as a reminder that, although He promises to be with me always, I don’t always ‘feel’ it.

    God bless you. I am going to have a special Mass said for you for this very special occasion. I just need to ask you to forgive me for not knowing when your anniversary is. It won’t be on time, I’m sure. But, hopefully, you believe in the old adage: ‘better late than never’.

    As always, you are in my daily prayers. Hopefully, the great God will give you a GIANT pinch in reality and deliver you out from behind those stone walls, soon and very soon!!

    From my heart,

    • jeanniesays

      June 1, 2016 at 6:31 PM

      Well YOUR words caused a tear in MY eyes.
      The pebble in the pond.
      How infinite those rings.

      God bless you, Helen and thank you for sharing this.

  14. Msays

    June 1, 2016 at 5:08 AM

    Hi Father G
    Thank you for this article. It reawakened in me a devotion which was once a part of my week on a regular basis. I realise I need to rekindle this devotion in my own life.

  15. James Harrissays

    June 1, 2016 at 3:43 AM

    Never forget, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” God bless you Father Gordon.

  16. Di Panetta says

    June 1, 2016 at 2:48 AM

    It is important that we all pray for Fr.Gordon’s release, but equally important to pray for those corrupt hearts that have succumbed to Satan’s lure.

    God bless you Fr.Gordon. You’ll never walk alone.

  17. Frances Southsays

    June 1, 2016 at 1:20 AM

    Thank you, Father Gordon. Thank you for saying yes to your vocation. God is truly using you, thank you for saying yes to him. God bless you and keep you, and all those in need, safe and close to him.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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