Several men in our parish are part of an ecumenical team that presents Kairos retreats in prisons, and we periodically are asked to donate homemade cookies, two dozen per gallon-size Ziploc bag, for these three-day retreats. It has been going on for years, but I still marvel at this undertaking each and every time. As described in the program brochure, thousands and thousands of dozens of cookies are needed, because not only are they are available to participants and leaders throughout the retreat, but over the course of the weekend, every single inmate and staff member receives cookies as a physical sign of God’s love that is available to all. The cookies also are a sign of community to the inmates because they are homemade by real people outside the prison demonstrating care and concern, with prayer as a key ingredient. Third, the cookies signify the possibility of forgiveness, toward self and others, a particular challenge in prison; at one point during the retreat, each participant is given a bag of cookies to offer to someone in the prison that they consider an enemy. To this theology of cookies, I would add that the act of baking is a reminder that ordinary gestures can serve a spiritual purpose.
Blessed are you, Gracious God, source of all nourishment.
May these cookies be a taste of your abundant love for those who eat them.
Fill their hearts with the sweetness of forgiveness, faith, and hope.
To learn more about the Kairos Prison Ministry is to be impressed. The three-day programs are only the beginning. Various follow-up formats are available to support the inmates in their personal journeys and especially to foster self-sustaining communities within the prisons.