YOUTH MATTERS: Mugged by Danny

By Sam Clear, Director of the Office of Youth Evangelisation

Sunday 12 November is ‘Prison Sunday’. Pope Francis has outlined that, “The task of a chaplain is to let the prisoners know that the Lord is inside them.

No cell is so isolated that it can keep the Lord out. He is there. He cries with them, works with them, hopes with them.”

I often wonder if when we are called to give an account of our life to God, I’ll be left lacking when it comes to how I have responded to every person I’ve ever met.

Each day presents its own set of ‘enemies’ and the call to love them (Matt 5:43-48), rather than convince them why they are wrong, is challenging. We want justice. Love and mercy are horribly difficult.

In 2007 I was crossing a highway bridge in Costa Rica with a youth group when four men, with shirts wrapped around their heads to conceal their identities, ran down the side of the six-lane highway, stretched out along us and produced long-blade knives.

One of the knives was pinned against my abdomen while everyone was stripped of their phones, sunglasses, bags and watches.

We lost everything, but I also later discovered that one of the men had threatened a young woman in our group with a pistol, saying that if I touched the guy mugging me, which I very nearly did, she’d be the first to go.

I was so angry at the position they’d placed us in. I was angry at the threat made specifically to her. And I was angry that they’d stolen our gear. I wanted justice, but I also wanted retribution. I wanted to hurt them.

A few hours later we were informed by police that they had caught one of the four men, a sixteen-year-old named Danny. They also asked if we’d like to meet him.

One of the youth group leaders, Damian, and I, took up the offer and visited the local police station. Danny was locked up in a cell and looking very embarrassed.

He glanced at us and apologised, “Sorry”. We asked him, “Why did you mug us?” He mumbled his response, “We were hungry. I’ve never mugged anyone before. We just needed the money to eat. Sorry.”

No longer was he a scary threat. He sat there, ashamed and regretting his decisions, or at the very least the consequences of them.

Ultimately, his poor choice still contained love; he was trying to feed himself and his friends. Damian asked if he prayed.

Danny nodded. “Would you like rosary beads? Danny looked up and nodded again, with a smile, so Damian reached across and placed his rosary beads in Danny’s hands. Danny smiled, “Thank you.” Having met the real Danny, we were able to forgive.

We’ve all been in ‘prison’ at some point. And we’ve all held someone in ‘prison’. We are all called to be chaplains to the prisoners, to see each person as Jesus does. To love them.

Tags: Youth Evangelisation