A package arrived at Holy Souls Hermitage from the New Hampshire State Prison for Men. It’s from Pornchai. What could it be? Let’s investigate. Something made from wood. Better take off the rest of the packaging…
In ripping off the plastic, my first view is of the bottom, which reveals some sets of sunken screws, which ensure that any surface on which this is placed will not be scratched. There are also sets of rubberized “feet”, which provide a non-slip surface.
Those of you who have done any woodworking at all will immediately take note of the laborious process to achieve what is happening on this corner alone (below). I mean, just stop for a moment and count, if you can, all the steps it would take to arrive to such a point while making this by hand:
Just to name a few:
threefour kinds of woods, from prison. Imagine the forms and bureaucracy to be dealt with, and the waiting, and paying for it… with what?
- Measuring, putting each piece in a vice, sawing.
- Stenciling, putting each piece through, I suppose, a little band saw, or using a jig-saw.
- Putting each piece back into a vice. Using various bits with a router on each piece for the decorative edges.
- Painstaking, patiently, router out the section where the inlay will go, using various bits for the open area and the inside edges. Then using a a scalpel[?]-like knife [in prison!] to get the edges of the corners exactly right. Then, with heart-stopping precision, cutting out the inlay itself. Testing this, cutting microscopic bits off here and there, testing it again, and repeating this a zillion times. But I think I’m getting that wrong. The inlay and the surrounding bit go together over the other main piece of wood. Yikes! even more!
- Independently sanding each piece with ever finer grades of sandpaper. Sanding, sanding, sanding. Blowing away the sawdust. Coughing. Brushing the rest off.
- Independently staining and/or coating each piece with its own proper stains and sealers, and letting these dry.
- Somehow gluing the front piece to the other main piece. I mean, look at that impossible craftsmanship. I had “shop” in highschool, but I just can’t imagine even trying to do this. Can you imagine yourself doing this? I would be clueless.
- Eyeing, marking, drilling, screwing, gluing the pieces together.
- And… and… I’m sure I missed lots of steps in between.
The absolutely exacting precision of the inlayed wood accentuates the contrast of the grains and qualities of the different kinds of wood utilized for this very purpose. This is real artwork. The final presentation has to look “right”, so that, “of course it’s that way.” And it is!
In this next picture, you see what we have. The bright clockface surrounded by a golden band reflecting the darker wood accentuated by the special marbled inlay wood.
A mantle clock…
Let’s get the entire view:
Of course, that’s not where it will stay! It’s final home will be in the chapel inside. I just thought this made for a good picture next to the time-keeping angelus bell!
With this gift, Pornchai also included a letter. Let me quote that if I may (with more below, and with my [comments]):
I used maple to make the base, and the clock housing is made from cherry with mahogany and bird’s-eye maple veneers [four different kinds of wood.]. To change the time or the battery, the clock mechanism snaps in and out of place with a little pressure from the front. [Exactly. With precision.]
I made a few of these Mantle Clocks for the Grevior Furniture Store [This is a Christian apostolate of the store. Very charitable. Everything goes back to the prisoner, except a bit of a cut (for just expenses) for the prison. Father Gordon (about) explained all this to me. Very, very cool of Grevior's.] and they were sold right away [Of course!] so I have to make some more, but I wanted to finish this one for you first. [I am honored.] I usually make a few at a time and it takes about three weeks for me to finish them. [Three weeks. Keep that in mind. Yikes!] Last year I donated some to These Stone Walls and they were sold in one day [Of course!]. I hope you think of us when you check the time now, and maybe mention us to Saint Michael [Yes!].
So, let’s take just a few seconds to offer this prayer for Pornchai and Father Gordon and for all those with them:
Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in infernum detrude.
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle; be our protection
against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Father G said you may smile at the irony of somone in prison sending you a device to measure time.
Hah! Yes, I did. Someone “doing time” making a clock. Hah!
Now, you have to know that I had a good long chat with Pornchai, the better part of an hour. We spoke of many things, but we kept coming back to the theme of time. The currents run deep in Pornchai. Suffering has brought him to know something about this. This is awesome. Just some points, for your inspiration:
- The Lord is the Creator of time.
- The Lord is the Lord of History.
- Time absolutely relativizes us to ourselves alone, making us quite alone, so that we are cut off from history, from others, even in the present moment, which is now already past, except… except… for the fact of our Lord’s creative mercy that draws us together. Put more precisely:
- The Lord draws us to Himself across time into that one Hour of our redemption on Calvary. He said that when He was lifted up on the Cross, He would draw all to Himself, of whatever time, of whatever place, right across time into His Sacred Heart, which itself keeps pulse, keeps time for all Creation, for us.
[[ Playing this few seconds of sound effect will bring home this message about the Sacred Heart to you. I mean, I bet in all of Pornchai's years and years and years in solitary confinement, he was sometimes able to hear his own heartbeat in his ears. It needs to be really quiet for that. I've sometimes had that experience. Anyway, just click on the video. There's no real video. Just sound effect, for effect. I bet the Doubting Thomas, reaching his hand into the side of the risen Christ Jesus, touching that Heart still with its open wound, and yet beating, heard that Sacred Heart beating, resounding in his own heart and soul as he dropped to his knees before Jesus: "My Lord and my God!" ]]
- We also spoke about time and eternity, and alot about the joy of entering heaven — my favorite topic if ever I find someone who also looks forward to this with a constant enthusiasm – moving from time to eternity, getting in with a little help from our friends, who were in purgatory — that prison! – but got out with our prayers, and are welcoming us into heaven. O.K. A Hail Mary for the Holy Souls: Hail Mary…
Father G shared with me the letter he sent to you this week. In spite of setbacks, we are okay and we cope with all the letdowns in prison. There are lots of them, but I heard song once that was “We get by with a little help from our friends.”
That’s Joe Cocker. Joe is a really old geezer when he sings this. Yikes! Time flies. Remember death! Tempus Fugit! Memento Mori!
Just to put that in perspective: What’s an 8-Track prisoner to do in an iPod world?
Father, so I am very happy that you are our friend. Just to know that you pray for us helps us to feel that the evil around us is kept away. [This goes for all of us, Pornchai.] Being in prison is difficult, but friends help so much. This includes our freinds in Heaven. Father G put a quote on our cell wall htis week and it has gotten me through some difficult times. [That means, dear readers, and note very well in your hearts and souls, that the especially difficult times he is talking about occured this just the other week.] It is from his TSW article called “Saints and Souls and Earthly Woes.” Here it is:
“Devotion to Saint Maximilian Kolbe helps us face prison bravely. It doesn’t deliver us from prison walls, but rather from their power to stifle our souls.”
I pray for you every day [I am indebted...] and offer some of this time in prison for you and for your readers at Holy Souls Hermitage. [I'm sure you have our daily prayers too, Pornchai. Readers? Remember to harass Saint Michael every day to help Pornchai and Father Gordon and their friends. Just do it! Pornchai offering his time for us... well... that just brings the whole discussion about "doing time" to a whole new level in the Heart of our Lord, does it not? Pornchai, thank you. I have a prophesy: We'll be thanking you for this gift of time in eternity.]
You can contact Pornchai to offer a bit of friendship and even perhaps about making some mantle clocks with this address, which you have to write out EXACTLY as it is here:
P.O. Box 14 — #77948
Concord, N.H. 03302-0014 (U.S.A.)
And… and… you MUST follow the rules or it will never reach it’s destination:
- Use of tape and/or stickers (including religious stickers) is forbidden and will result in rejected mail.
- Each envelope is limited to ten physical pages. Double-sided printing is OK.
- Printed articles from the Internet are allowed (within the ten page limit) but newspaper/magazine clippings enclosed with letters are prohibited.
- Unused postage stamps and unused writing materials are prohibited.
- Checks to prisoners must include the prisoner’s full name and number (No. 77948), and the sender’s full name and address on both the check and the envelope. Abbreviated names (e.g. “J. Smith”) are not permitted.
A good place to start to begin to know a bit more about Pornchai is with this post on HSH, in which I include many links to stories on TheseStoneWalls, offer some quotes from Pornchai, and present another one of his woodworking creations: HERE.
P.S. to Pornchai: Please say hello to Father Gordon and the others who spend so much time with you in that little cell of yours during the day and then Sunday night for Holy Mass. Praying for you all.
Thank you, Pornchai.
May the Lord continue to bless you abundantly according to the perfect intercession of the Immaculate Conception.