Experience Making a Difference

Experience Making a Difference


by | Jan 17, 2017

This blog post from Fr. William Barry, SJ, is a reflection on Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, written by Bryan Stevenson.  Ignatian Volunteers across the country are reading and reflecting in community on this book this year.  This piece is written on Chapters Eight “All God’s Children” and Chapter Nine “I’m Here”.  
It nearly broke my heart to read about the three children in three different states who were among the hundreds of children condemned to life in prison without parole. It can’t be true in the United States, we want to say, but it is, and the great majority of those so condemned are Black or Latino/a. Thank God that Bryan Stevenson chose to include this chapter in his book, and that the Ignatian Volunteer program asked us to read his book. We need to have our hearts broken. I hope that we can join a rapidly growing number of our fellow citizens who will join together to bring a stop to this manifestly unjust and inhuman way of dealing with crime.

One of those children, Ian Manuel, had a photo shoot that gave him a short respite of human contact after the inhumanity of over fourteen years of continuous solitary imprisonment. The letter Ian wrote to Stevenson touched my heart. It revealed so much humanity, humanity that had not been destroyed by what he has suffered in his life. This humanity was also manifest in the courtroom where the appeal of Walter McMillian’s wrongful conviction was held, in the courage and dignity of all the Black people who came to support Walter against all odds, but especially in the courage and dignity of Mrs. Williams who refused to be cowed again by the presence of the police dog, in spite of what it represented to her. Tears came to my eyes as I heard her whisper to herself, over and over again, “I ain’t scared of no dog,” and then triumphantly sat down with a resounding “I ain’t scared of no dog” and beamed with all her compatriots.  I am grateful, as I’m sure all of us IVCers are, to Brian Stevenson for writing with such passion and for our own reactions of horror, compassion and even joy, because it is helping us to deepen our own humanity.

Fr. Bill Barry, SJ is a Spiritual Reflector for IVC New England.  He entered the Society of Jesus in 1950 and was ordained in 1962. He earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan in 1968. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, and Boston College. Bill is the author or co-author of 20 books, including The Practice of Spiritual Direction, God and You, Finding God in All Things, Spiritual Direction and the Encounter with God, Who Do You Say I Am?, Contemplatives in Action, and A Friendship like No Other. For more on his writing please visit Loyola Press.