Fr. Philip’s sister, Nina, is legal assistant to a Superior Court Judge. Together with the Judge and all of his staff, we went to visit the prisoners of his district who are awaiting trial. Prison conditions here are very primitive and the prisoners and their families suffer a great deal because of the level of corruption in the court system and because of the conditions within the prison itself.
Most of the prisoners are from the ranks of the poor. Often employers take advantage of them and make false charges against them. Some are truly guilty of theft, forced to steal a small item in order to be able to buy some food for their children. Many of the situations are very tragic.
Prisoners whose cases come before Judge Danilo, however, are blessed. The judge is a Roman Catholic Christian who wants to do the right thing by the prisoners. On occasion, his staff prepare food for them and Fr. Philip hands out icons and crosses to them.
On this occasion, the Judge first addressed the prisoners, then I was invited to give a brief homily to the detainees. Then Dn. Silouan was invited to speak to them. Finally the Warden, a devout Protestant, gave a homily and exhorted them in Christ. Then the Judge returned and said “Those who put into practice what Fr. Seraphim spoke about will be the first to be released!” A great cheer went up from the prisoners.
Later a small band composed of a few of the detainees sang Christian songs for us. The prisoners sang along with them and clapped enthusiastically for them. Afterwards I spoke to the leader of the group and he said “this is why the Lord allowed us to come to this place; to minister to our fellow prisoners and to tell them of Christ.”
When we finished at the prison, we returned to the judge’s quarters and had lunch with him and all his staff.
While eating together, Dn. Silouan and I noticed a prayer that was posted on the side wall for all to see. It is required by law to recite this prayer each time the court is in session:
ECUMENICAL PRAYER FOR THE COURTS
Almighty God, we stand in Your Holy Presence as Supreme Judge. We humbly beseech You to bless and inspire us so that what we think, say, and do will be in accordance with Your will.
Enlighten our minds, strengthen our spirit, and fill our hearts with fraternal love, wisdom, and understanding, so that we can be effective channels of truth, justice, and peace. In our proceedings today, guide us in the path of righteousness for the fulfillment of Your greater glory. Amen.
In the America of my youth, such a prayer would not have seemed unusual in the United States of America. Today, it is illegal! We have lost so much in such a short time. May God preserve the Philippines from following our national disgrace in displacing God from so many government and public places.