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Prison inmates, Chaplain, Redemption, Harry Potter, Les Misérables, Jesus, Saint Francis

Magic of Fiction in Illuminating Transformation
A Theology of Prison Ministry
by Donald Stoesz

This book is a direct response to the two most frequently asked questions that I receive as a prison chaplain:

Are offenders remorseful for what they have done?

Is it possible for them to change?

While the answer to the first question is often a resounding Yes!, this does not mean that it is always possible for inmates to change. Some of them find it too difficult, too much sacrifice, too much work. Others are willingly to make the long journey toward healing and wholeness.

The intractability of Tom Riddle in the Harry Potter series is used to look at the challenges of feeling remorse. The story of Jean Valjean details the journey from remorse to forgiveness, from grace to justification, from being reborn to becoming sanctified, from becoming holy to learning how to love. Jesus’ remarks that “he can lay down his life and take it up again” is used to develop a stronger theology of the will. The divine and human will are ever present in enabling change to occur. The sacrificial example of Saint Francis of Assisi shows how voluntary poverty, chastity, and obedience are necessary ingredients in becoming spiritually whole. The book concludes with a reflection on Dismas, the first Christian martyr.

Donald Stoesz has a creative way of making readers think more deeply about change. The chapters on Tom Riddle and Jean Valjean are especially brilliant in this regard. His theological reflections force the reader to think differently about what prison ministry entails.

— Rev. Dr. Pierre Allard, Former Director General of Chaplaincy, Correctional Service Canada.

The author has drawn upon literature to outline the dynamics of human suffering and evil. He has given new voice to a beautiful teaching of Christianity.

— Joan and John Palardy, retired Catholic chaplain and married Catholic priest, Olds, Alberta

As a reader of Harry Potter and long-time chaplain to men leaving prison, I found myself challenged to see the many twists and turns of our journeys as opportunities – missed and taken - for a gracious turning toward wholeness. This book is well worth the time of anyone interested in serving those behind bars. — Jonathan Nicolai-deKoning, Director – The Micah Centre at The King’s University

I particularly appreciated Stoesz’ thoughts on the duration of love in the context of prison. His reflections on Alcoholics Anonymous were helpful in relation to the role of the will.

— Debbie Fawcett, Women’s Reintegration Chaplain, Mustard Seed

Donald Stoesz is a Protestant/site chaplain who has worked in the Canadian prison system for the last thirty years. After publishing his first chaplaincy book in 2010, in which he used a verbatim style of inmate interviews to reflect on ministry (Glimpses of Grace), he moved to a full-fledged theological consideration of what it means for inmates to be transformed by faith in life. This theological work has spawned two more books that are in process of being published, A Prison Chaplaincy Manual: The Canadian Context, and In the Company of Saints: Interviews of Thirty Prison Chaplains. The latter two books provide information about how ministers and spiritual care providers can become chaplains.


Donald Stoesz

What People are Saying

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