Father Simeon Daly, OSB - Finding Grace in the Moment: Stories and other Musings of an Aged Monk


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Justice Gone Awry
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This is a fanciful response to a friend’s not answering her phone

My friends frequently ask me where I go when I leave town rather regularly about twice a month. I am reluctant to tell them, but I need to record, if only for myself, what has come to pass. The fact is I visit a friend in the State Prison in Houston. As I say, we are friends, but I can’t believe what has come to pass. Let me back up a little.

My father has made me chief executive of his affairs. He is quite elderly and though of sound mind does not feel up to the pressures of maintaining his portfolio and properties. It so happened that he wanted to sell off a rather sizeable piece of property in Florida and the burden of working out the details fell to me.

A man, whom I had never met, showed great interest in the property. After his initial contact I said I would get back to him. I wanted to make sure I would get the best return for my Father, and ultimately for my family. The gentleman became very insistent and called me frequently to advance his position. Actually he became a nuisance to me. Over and over I told him I would get in touch with him when I was ready to sell. It did not seem to register. Finally I simply stopped answering the phone.

I had voice mail on my phone, but even though I seemed to be getting many calls there was never a message. I complained to him once again and told him that if he continued to harass me I would go to the police. Well after a two-week period when the phone rang dozens of times with no message, I figured I would fix him and reported the problem to the police.

I know what prompted me to do this, but I will always regret the decision. They began an investigation. After months and what seemed forever, they discovered that the calls were originating in Indiana and not Texas. It seemed that the calls were coming from two numbers. Further investigation showed that they were from a priest friend who was a member of a monastic community there. The numbers it turned out were for the phones in his office and cell.

As soon as I was made aware of that I told them I did not want to press charges and they should just forget about it. I had no quarrel with my friend and certainly did not want press the issue any further, but the police were not willing to go along with that. They said that it was no longer my right to determine the outcome. This was a case of harassment across state lines and therefore was a serious federal offence.

Can you imagine my distress at this outcome? My friend claimed he was only trying to get in touch. He freely admitted that he might have overdone it. According to him, he began to worry if something untoward had happened to me. He knew I seldom left Austin for more than a week at a time. He said he was haunted by the feeling that he might have been dialing the wrong number, because he could not recognize my voice on the recorder. He said it was very gruff and unwelcoming which he felt was not characteristic. Since I live alone he worried that I might have become ill and need help. In any case, he called every evening for almost two weeks and sometimes several times in the evening.

Now it was out of my hands. It was explained to me that the law was very strict to protect the innocent and to discourage using the phone to hassle anyone. It never came to trial in court. The embarrassment and bad publicity for me, for him, and for his community led him to accept judgment with a minimum sentence.

He has ended up in Houston. The prison administrators are very reasonable in allowing him special privileges. They recognize that justice may have gone awry here. Legally they had to keep him incarcerated, but they had the leeway of allowing him to have Mass once a week and function somewhat unofficially as a chaplain.

He has quite a following and has interested a number of the inmates to study the Rule of Benedict with him.

Well there it is. I can’t believe the mess I have caused but I live with it. I try to visit him twice a month and drop him a note every week. He does not seem to have any rancor over the situation, though he is not afraid to say how upset he has been over what has come to pass.

Given his age, it is likely he will die in prison.
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