This blog is funded, owned and operated by Father George David Byers, a priest in Western North Carolina, and a friend of Pornchai Maximilian Moontri. For more, see the first post of this blog.
Message from Father Joseph, MIC for the Association of Marian Helpers and the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, Stockbridge, MA.
In March 1992, an 18-year-old man named Pornchai Moontri, who was out of his mind from years of rage and a night of too much drinking, stumbled into a Shop ‘n Save supermarket in Maine and proceeded to take beer from the refrigerator, open it, and drink it.
When confronted by the store manager, he tried to flee. Outside in the parking lot an altercation ensued, and a 27-year-old Shop ‘n Save employee was killed with a knife wielded by Pornchai. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
He’s 41 years old today. Inside New Hampshire State Prison, Pornchai is inmate # 77948 - a number not a name. But God numbers every single hair on our heads, as Pornchai has since learned from Scripture (see Lk 12:7). How much more God must cherish every single one of His children, including - and most especially - the most broken and those in most need of His mercy.
Pornchai was, indeed, among the most broken, among the most in need of the Lord’s mercy. By the grace of God, on April 10, 2010, in the prison chapel, Pornchai fully turned with trust to the Lord’s mercy when he received the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. The following day - the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday - he received his First Holy Communion from the Most Rev. John McCormack, bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire.
The date was no accident. Pornchai, who keeps a Divine Mercy image on his cell wall, understood well its significance for him and countless other souls in need of God’s mercy.
He understood about the “Feast of Mercy” because he had heard of Jesus’ revelations of Divine Mercy to a Polish nun, who is now canonized. In a series of revelations to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s, our Lord called for this special feast day. “On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open,” Christ promised. “... The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day are opened all the divine floodgates through which graces flow. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet” (Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, 699).
As Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, is fond of saying, “The Divine Mercy message and devotion is the largest grassroots movement in the history of the Catholic Church. “And Marian Helpers have been, and continue to be, at the heart of it!
Yours in Christ, the Divine Mercy,
Fr. Joseph, MIC Director
P.S. Pornchai’s spiritual commitment to the Lord deepened further, thanks to Hearts Afire: Parish-based Programs from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. On Nov. 24, 2013, he was one of 13 inmates in New Hampshire State Prison for Men who consecrated themselves to Jesus through Mary. On the occasion, Pornchai prayed to become an instrument in “Mary’s immaculate and merciful hands for bringing the greatest possible glory to God.” He took the name Maximilian as his Christian name so as to honor his patron, Saint Maximilian Kolbe.
Pornchai Moontri: Mercy to the Max
A new site, Mercy to the Max highlights the work of prominent Catholic writers on the inspiring story of Pornchai Moontri from despair to Divine Mercy conversion.
[[Note: This intro to Mercy to the Max by Father Gordon J MacRae first appeared on These Stone Walls on 24 June 2015]]
We need your help for a simple but profoundly important task. Readers of These Stone Walls know that I have struggled against the injustices of false witness and wrongful imprisonment for going on 21 years. Six years ago, after 15 years in this prison, These Stone Walls came into being, dedicated to the spiritual patronage of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a priest and prolific writer who was unjustly sent to prison at Auschwitz after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939.
He died there. In fact, he chose to die. Maximilian gave his life to save that of another prisoner, a young man chosen for execution to send a message to others, to keep others in the prison intimidated and broken. When Father Maximilian stepped forward with his hand raised, the brutal Nazi commandant barked, “Who is this Polish Pig?” Maximilian’s name didn’t matter. “I am a Catholic priest,” he said, “and I wish to take the place of that man.”
I have been unable to discern any earthly justice in my imprisonment. But while I have been here in this darkness, other truths have slowly been revealed to me. One of those truths is that our suffering, when offered as a share in the suffering of Christ, is not endured in vain. It’s a truth I have come to learn a good deal about thanks to the Marian Fathers of the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, and the writings of Father Michael Gaitley and Felix Carroll.
In prison, I have been an eye witness to some remarkable journeys toward freedom, and one of those journeys is a story I cannot yet fully tell. I have seen a young man in the grip of hostile despair with a past that would utterly destroy lesser men. I have seen his life in ruins because of the violence of others and the violence that thus consumed his life.
I have seen this man called out of darkness. I cannot claim to be a part of the Divine Mercy that infiltrated this man’s mind and soul with amazing grace to turn a life of suffering over to a life of service to God. I can only claim to be a witness to it.
I was with Pornchai Moontri when he died to himself and his past. I was with him when Saint Maximilian Kolbe rose up within him to replace him. I was with him when he entrusted his life to Christ through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And throughout it all, I, too, was dragged into the rays of Divine Mercy, inspired, like Pornchai, to endure suffering through Him, with Him, and in Him with a hope born of faith that suffering so offered has a sacred purpose.
When Pornchai Maximilian Moontri was received into the Church on Divine Mercy Sunday, 2010, I saw a man raised from the dead with a new name and a new life. From that day forward, I have stopped asking the Lord, “Why me?” I no longer dare to ask, for had He heard my pleas over all those years, had He freed me as I begged Him to, this story may be very different.
Over the last year I have become aware of the entire life story of Pornchai Maximilian Moontri thanks to the work of some dedicated people. Now that I know all of it, I can never again view faith, or priesthood, or even prison in the same way as I did when I entered my own darkness. I am not yet able to write it all, but someday soon I must and will, and so will others.
In coming months many people who have been working quietly behind the scenes will embark on a mission to restore Pornchai’s life in the land of his birth. People on four continents are involved in this effort, something that unfolded with a life of its own. A Catholic organization known as Divine Mercy Thailand has been working quietly in Bangkok to assist in this eventual homecoming.
As this effort gets underway, we want to introduce you to Mercy to the Max, a new site that collects in one place the many writings of some well known and less known Catholic writers who have taken up pen to bring you this remarkable story. They include the journalist, Felix Carroll, now Executive Editor of Marian Helper magazine, Ryan MacDonald, a columnist with Spero News, several posts from These Stone Walls, and other writers whose names you will recognize.
Our friends who created the new site will be adding to it over time until the entire story is told. This is where we need your help. As we launch Mercy to the Max [ https://mercytothemax.wordpress.com/ ], it is important to create links to it on the sidebars of your websites and blogs, your FaceBook and Linked-in pages, etc., and then click on those links! These “authorities” coming from authentic sources kickstart internet search indexers to pay attention to Mercy to the Max. This is critically important to the effort now underway.
There is really an incredible and inspiring story behind all this, and it will be told in due time in its entirety on These Stone Walls. In the meantime, please take some time to review Mercy to the Max, and to share a link wherever you can, clicking on those links to make sure they work! Let’s make this a team effort. And please do spend some time there, getting ready for updates, etc., by bookmarking the site and using the sharing buttons.