FINDING GOD WITHIN by RAYMOND LEONARDINI
Reviewed by: Sister Catherine Marie Bazar, O.P.,
Chaplain, Twin Towers Correctional Facility, Los Angeles, CA.
At last it’s here! A book on centering prayer for prisoners and jail inmates that is theologically sound, spiritually grounded, scripturally based, and personally healing!
There is no better audience to bring this message to than those who are living a type of “death in isolation,” people who are struggling to find some semblance of meaning in their lives, who live in crowded and noise-filled spaces, yet are drowning in loneliness and longing for peace and gentle solitude. Where can one go to find this oasis of healing? It is only within.
Leonardini writes a masterful work in bringing together all the elements necessary to find this oasis and to reclaim one’s peace of mind and heart and soul. In a practical way, he lays out three journeys to take, which reminds me so much of those “mansions” St. Teresa of Avila writes about as one begins the trek, step by step, to the Center of one’s being to find the Rest of all rests, within the Heart of God. All that is asked is our consent.
Part One immerses prisoners right into the Waters of centering prayer to experience and taste, often for the first time, the power and strength and awesomeness of silence. Here we begin to listen to “other” messages that penetrate and claim our attention as we learn to decode God’s language of silence. Here, also, begins the challenge of surfacing who we thought we were while in the presence such a loving and caring God who sees only who we really are. It usually is someone we’ve never met before!
Part two dips us into understanding those false truths about ourselves that God invites us to surrender, those “lies” buried beneath the surface of so much pain, damage, and misdirection. God challenges us to take off our masks, one by one, for a last look as we begin to say “yes” to what our deep heart calls us to embrace about our true and noble selves.
Finally, part three gives us Jesus as friend and companion to help us read the signs of our times in prison or jail and walk the path with him as our sure guide. I always tell inmates that if they read only the four Gospels from their Bible over and over, they will have spelled out all they will ever need to know and live.
A long-time prisoner practicing centering prayer once said to me on a visit as I was leaving, “Chaplain, do you see that high fence with the barbed wire? There are a lot of people beyond it who are not free. I’ll never leave this place, but I’m free!” This comment holds the ultimate truth contained in Finding God Within. It is a way out of prisoners’ external realities into a new reality that frees and heals and gives meaning to their existence.