Michael kneels on concrete just behind a row of empty folding chairs. One by one, others enter quietly and join him. A few kneel, others sit. All seem to be in an attitude of anticipation. They are accustomed to waiting.

The wail of a steam-powered whistle sounds and the frenetic pace of life in prison slows, falters, halts. It is time for the 10:00 a.m. count.

The vimpa drapes my shoulders; its fringes hang to my knees. I clean my hands and wipe them dry and steady myself in prayer before grasping the base of the monstrance and setting its bottom on my open left hand. I bow my head in supplication before I exit the sanctuary. Michael claps his hands once at the sight of the Blessed Sacrament. We have no Angelus bells, no chimes. When I was a boy half a century ago, the Sisters of Mercy at St. Joseph’s School would clap to focus our attention, and the same technique works perfectly now. It was unimaginable back then that I would ever come to a place like this, and yet here I am, an old convict serving the thirty-fourth year of a life sentence in Texas.

As I center the monstrance on the altar and genuflect, Michael claps twice more. We are attentive, awed to be in the presence of the Lord. The State of Texas grants us the privilege of adoration for an hour each Monday, schedule permitting. About a dozen prisoners attend. A CD of Gregorian chants plays softly in the background. Otherwise we are steeped in silence in a place known for its perpetual noise...

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About the Author

Philip Brasfield is the author of Deathman Pass Me By (Borgo Press, 1983). 2011 marks his thirty-fourth year in prison.