Every time I visit a prison, I am struck by the wives and girlfriends lived up (often with two or three little children in tow) to visit their partners “inside”.
Prisons are very impersonal, unwelcoming places for all concerned and often visitors are treated with the same lack of dignity that the prisoners themselves experience. On face value, many of the women visitors appear to be a pretty rough lot, if they are judged by externals. But I never cease to admire them for their fidelity, for the huge effort that many of them make to travel to the place, for their seeming lack of any sort of judgemental attitude, for the devotion and love. I might add, their sense of humour must be called upon in a thousand ways.
I don’t know how many of them would regard themselves as religious, but surely they are living up to Jesus’ plea, “I was in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25:35).
All of this prompts me to compare them to the faithful women who stood beside the Cross to comfort Jesus as he was dying.
(Reflection by Bishop Patrick Power, former Auxiliary of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia)