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On Divine Mercy Sunday, Pornchai received his First Holy Communion in the presence of Bishop John McCormack. In his homily, Bishop McCormack spoke of Pornchai’s redemption as a result of learning to trust even in the midst of great suffering.

Mercy — Inside Those Stone Walls

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Pornchai Moontri remembers he was carrying his knife, and he remembers struggling to get out from under the weight of a man much heavier than he. He doesn't remember much else other than that he was out of his mind from years of rage and a night of alcohol.

But this is what authorities in Bangor, Maine pieced together: Pornchai, a native of Thailand, stumbled into a Shop 'n Save supermarket in March 1992 and proceeded to take a bottle of beer from the refrigerator, open it, and drink from it. When confronted by a store manager, he tried to flee. Outside in the parking lot an altercation ensued, and a 27-year-old Shop 'n Save employee who had pinned him down on the pavement was killed with a knife wielded by Pornchai.

Pornchai was sentenced to 45 years in prison. He was 19-years old at the time. He's 39-years old today. As far as authorities at New Hampshire State Prison are concerned, Pornchai is not much more than a number in a crowded prison. He is inmate # 77948. But God's numbering system bears no resemblance to such cold calculus. God numbers every hair, as we learn from Scripture (see Lk 12:7), so how infinitely He must cherish every single one of His children, including — and most especially — the most broken, those in most need of His mercy.

It took Pornchai years of self-righteous anger, years of misery and hopelessness, before he was graced with the realization that God is real and that God is Mercy Incarnate. This realization culminated when, in the prison chapel, he received the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation on April 10, 2010. The following day — the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday — he received his First Holy Communion from the Most Rev. John McCormack, bishop of Manchester, N.H.

The date was no accident.

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," He 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. Faustina, 699).

In a recent phone interview, Pornchai said, "In the course of my life, what I have done and what has been done to me, I do need God's mercy, and He has given it to me."

What the Jury Didn't Know
That speaks volumes coming from a man who has spent more than half of his life behind bars. At his trial, he was defended by a court-appointed attorney who said nary a word about the life Pornchai led before that fateful evening when he murdered a man. Nothing was said of the victimhood he withstood long before his crime was committed.

Nothing about how, two years after his birth in northern Thailand in 1973, Pornchai's mother abandoned him. Nothing about how he never attended grade school and never learned to read or write until years later. Nothing about how his mother re-emerged with a new husband when he was 11-years old and took him to the United States against his will. Nothing was said about his assertion that his stepfather repeatedly raped him over a period of three years. Nothing about how in the racially monochromatic Maine of his youth, he was called "gook" by his classmates who did everything they could to make him feel different and stupid because of his broken English.

Nothing about how, at the age 14, anger was all he had, and by then he inflicted it upon anyone and everyone.

He left home and lived on the streets of Bangor. He was placed in a school for troubled teens and promptly kicked out for fighting. He went back to living in the streets and felt it prudent to carry a knife for self-protection.

By the time he got to prison, it wasn't self-protection he sought. Rather, it was self-destruction. He was remorseful for the murder of an innocent man. He could hardly bear to think about it. Just so the pain could end, he did everything within his power to provoke fellow inmates into killing him.

"Really, I wanted them to beat me to death or stab me with a homemade knife" he says. "To me at the time, I had no reason to live."

Because of his violent tendencies, Pornchai was placed into solitary confinement many times for a combined six-plus years. It was there where he learned of the murder of his mother, who had by then relocated to Guam.

"I was now alone in my rage," Pornchai says.

When he was released for a final time from solitary confinement and placed within the general prison population, his urge to commit violence had subsided. He was eventually transferred from a prison in Maine to New Hampshire State Prison where he formed a friendship that has changed his life.

It was with a Catholic priest.

Pornchai Meets Gordon
Through a fellow inmate, Pornchai met the Rev. Gordon MacRae, a down-to-earth spiritual man and prolific writer who seemed to have a lot of answers to a lot of questions. Is there a God? Who is He? How can we be sure?

Father Gordon, 59, was convicted in 1994 on five sexual assault counts that have since been called into question, including by The Wall Street Journal whose two-part series in 2005 brought national attention to Fr. Gordon's case.

Pornchai and Fr. Gordon's first meetings were not particularly transcendent. They were all business.

"I was real hostile, and told [Fr. Gordon] I just wanted him to help me get transferred to a prison in Bangkok, Thailand," Pornchai says. "'Be careful what you ask for,' he said. 'I won't help you pursue something that will only further destroy you.'

"I didn't care," Pornchai recalls, "so why on Earth should Gordon care? I was hostile to him for a long time. I had mastered the art of driving anyone who cared away from me, but in Gordon I met my match. Over time I was able to see that under my anger was a lot of hurt and pain, and he saw it and helped me to see it, too."

Within a few months of meeting Fr. Gordon, Pornchai was moved into the same unit as his. The two became quick friends and eventually cellmates.

"By patience and especially by example, Gordon helped me change the course of my life," Pornchai says. "He is my best friend and the person I trust most in this world."

The two share a 96-square-feet cell that serves as living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bath. On the walls they have religious images, including of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and Divine Mercy.

'By the Force of Grace'
Pornchai says Fr. Gordon never pushed him into becoming Catholic.

"He never even brought it up," Pornchai says. "I was pulled to it by the force of grace and the hope that one day I could do good for others."

Since then, Pornchai has immersed himself in religious studies. He earned his Graduate Equivalency Diploma. He's fluent in math. He is excellent at detailed carpentry, including building model ships. He lives a life of prayer and performs deeds of mercy. He laughs when he describes the reaction he gets now from prisoners who knew him back before his conversion.

"They don't even recognize me as the same person," he says. "They now see a man who, despite the pain and difficulty of being in prison, is at peace."

He looks to St. Maximilian Kolbe as his spiritual guide. Saint Maximilian knew what it was like to be imprisoned. He knew what it was like to be stripped of his humanity and dignity. Yet St. Maximilian never gave up hope, and he proved as much in 1941 at the Nazi German concentration camp of Auschwitz, when he gave his life to save that of another man.

"For me, he is the saint of prisoners," says Pornchai. "He teaches us how to serve our time here with courage."

Pornchai says, "For the past 20 years now, prison is the only world I know. I'm surrounded by many people who think only of themselves. The majority of people are, 'What can you do for me?' But when I read about St. Maximilian Kolbe and how selfless he was, I knew I needed to take the name 'Maximilian' as my Christian name."

With St. Maximilian as his model, Pornchai reaches out to fellow prisoners who are having a difficult time, including those in danger from other inmates. Some prison guards now steer vulnerable inmates toward Pornchai and Fr. Gordon.

"They know that we'll show them the ropes and how to do the right things to avoid creating hardship for themselves, for other inmates, and the guards," says Pornchai.

For Fr. Gordon, Pornchai has been an inspiration, a blessing from God that has helped him on his own difficult journey.

"I have never met a man more determined to live the faith he has professed than Pornchai Moontri," wrote Fr. Gordon in a recent post on his website, thesestonewalls.com, which is administered by a friend outside of the prison. "In the darkness and aloneness of a prison cell night after night for the last two of his 20 years in prison, Pornchai stares down the anxiety of uncertainty, struggles for reasons to believe, and finds them."

In less than two years, Pornchai will be eligible for a commutation or reduction in his sentence. He prays for his release. It would at least give him enough time to start a new life at a relatively young age. Still, when released, he is to be immediately deported back to Thailand, a place he hasn't been to since he was 11. He doesn't even remember how to speak the language. He has no connections there.

In Thailand, he hopes to serve in a ministry helping troubled youth.

"From age 11 to 32, I always felt I was alone, that no one cared and no one loved me," he says. "I want to be able to help those who are struggling like I did. I ask in my prayers every night that God use me as an instrument. That's what I look forward to."

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Ingrid Merchant - Jan 31, 2013

Thank you Felix Carroll for enabling Pornchai's painful but courageous story to be told. Thanks be to God who hears the cry of the poor. Dear Pornchai thank you very much! I will remember you and Fr Gordon in my prayers each day

Karin - Jan 30, 2013

Thank you to Felix Carroll for writing about Pornchai. His story is one of hardship, tragedy, but more than anything, it is one of hope and the power of God's love and mercy. I have followed These Stone Walls since its beginning, and Pornchai's story through Fr. Gordon's posts. This young man is an example of what accepting and living God's mercy should be.

Anthony - Jan 23, 2013

It is a very important adjunct to this story that Father MacRae offers mass in his prison cell late every Sunday night, and each week at that mass Pornchai prays for the life that was taken in his tragic offence in 1992. He has never used his own tragic hisory as an excuse for such a crime. He has far too much integrity for that. Our society has a troubling double standard, however. Pornchai was mercilessly victimised in his own home, something that happens far to often in America. Had his abuser been a priest, SNAP and others would line up to blame the priest for Pornchai's crime. This story contains many great ironies.

Barbara - Jan 22, 2013

After reading your story, how could one not be drawn into the light of God's mercy? As I pray for Fr. Gordon and Pornchai, I pray that more people will be graced by God's mercy through their story. Thank you for your courage and willingness to be an instrument of God's peace.

Cathy - Jan 21, 2013

How good is our God! The First Evangelization came from behind stone walls, Our Lord Jesus rising from the Sepulcher and the Apostles imprisoned and martyred. Prayers for both Pornchai and Father Gordon and great gratitude for their prayers as we face the New Evangelization that we neither flee nor compromise the truth out of fear of stone walls.

Bill Manzano, EADM Manila Philippines - Jan 20, 2013

A very inspiring story. May God Bless Pornchai always.

Peter Dismas - Jan 20, 2013

May God Bless them from heaven! What an inspiring story! Without the grace of God we are all vulnerable to our passions and are likely to make mistakes. Thanks be to God for all his graces! Amen!

Charlene - Jan 19, 2013

God said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." I say the same about my godson, Pornchai. He is truly a gem! He has much to teach his fellow inmates, and they are wiling listeners! He has come a long way thanks to the faith and example of Fr. Gordon MacRae who has an active ministry in the prison.

allyson - Jan 19, 2013

Blessed Be God!

Ave Maria!

Diana T. - Jan 19, 2013

It is truly inspiring to see a soul recognizing and responding to the tender mercy of God reaching through all circumstances and flowing from one soul to another. If we could all always do so!

Daniela - Jan 18, 2013

Where would Pornchai be today if he hadn't met Jesus in Fr.Gordon?! O awesome Divine Providence!

Lori - Jan 18, 2013

Another example of our precious God working in mysteriously beautiful ways in the lives of His children. God bless you both!

Lioba - Jan 18, 2013

May God bless you, Pornchai Maximilian, and make you fruitful in good works! May Our Lord's Divine Mercy, through the prayers of Our Lady, Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, and all the angels and saints, bring mercy and justice to you and to Father Gordon.

Bonnie - Jan 18, 2013

Amazing and wonderful story, my prayers are with both Pornchai and Fr. MacRae

ohwisdom - Jan 18, 2013

What an inspiring write-up! Thank you.

Ban - Jan 18, 2013

Great article! Prayers to all!

Helen - Jan 18, 2013

This is Divine Mercy! What a message of God's Love and Mercy. Pornchai and Fr. Gordon are an inspiration to all of us.

Gregg - Jan 18, 2013

Fr. MacRae and Mr. Moontri are inspiring witnesses to Christ and His unfathomable mercy.

Joann - Jan 18, 2013

God works in mysterious and wonderful ways. I pray daily for the release of both men from prison so that they can continue to inspire the rest of us to be better Christians. I pray that Fr. MacRae will always be a priest, as the Church dearly needs all its good men.

Ave Crux Spes Nostra - Jan 18, 2013

Wow, what a powerful testimony to Divine Mercy. Fr. Gordon is an inspiring missionary!

Cathe - Jan 18, 2013

I also want to give God glory and thanksgiving for the transformation that He has made in the life of Pornchai Moontri. God has a way of choosing the very lost souls in society and raising them up in greatness and good works. God is showing us that Mr. Moontri did not bring about his transformation on his own merits but rather by God's Grace. When people see what God has done in this man's life, they will realize that God is Hope, God is Love, God is Merciful. It would be a great loss for us if Mr. Moontri was shipped away when God has placed him here before us as a living example of what was and what is now. Mr. Moontri's new spiritual life gives tremendous glory to our God and would help so many others to overcome the challenges and closed prison doors in their lives. Mr. Moontri has shown that he wants to do God's work. God has placed Mr. Moontri before us and essentially said, "I AM Love and I AM Mercy." I pray that God will intercede, if it be His Holy Will, for Mr. Moontri to remain with us and to bless us with the beautiful life and heart of this dear soul that He saved. That God, working through Mr. Moontri, will save more souls. God bless us all.

Cathe - Jan 18, 2013

You can see that The Divine Mercy of God plays a huge role in both of these mens' lives. Father Gordon mirrored God's Divine Mercy that ultimately smothered the burning fires of hatred and self-destruction in his fellow prisoner. Such a power testimony of love of God and love of man by Father Gordon. May God's Love and Mercy rest on both these men and all mankind. Thank God for the open window of heavenly peace and love when the doors of our living prisons are locked and darkness descends. You can see God's Love and Mercy transcends all life situations. St. Maximillian Kolbe is a wonderful saint to have in your journey of faith. God bless you all.

Jane - Jan 18, 2013

This is such an inspiration. Thank you Jesus for using Fr. Gordon to bring one sheep back to you. May they be released soon so that they can Evangelise the Word of God and bring many to the mercies seat. Thank you Jesus, Praise you Jesus.

Rebecca - Jan 18, 2013

Pornchai is such an inspiration. Prayers for him, Father Gordon and all in prison with them.

LaVern - Jan 18, 2013

Thanks Felix Carroll for writing this article about Pornchai Moontri, and indirectly about Fr. Gordon. Any one who reads about Pornchai can have no doubt how the Lord works in our lives, and how example speaks louder than words. I know many prayers are being sent heavenward daily for both of them, so soon they will be doing their ministry outside of "These Stone Walls". I firmly believe that God's love for both of them will make this happen VERY soon!

John - Jan 18, 2013

Prayers for all involved.

needleduck - Jan 17, 2013

Prayers for the release of Pornchai and Fr.Gordon.

Elizabeth D - Jan 17, 2013

Pornchai is an inspiration to a lot of people!

Joisy Goil - Jan 17, 2013

God works in mysterious ways, doesn't He? Grace abounds and our Lord really does watch out for each of us. In His eyes no one is expendible. Pornchai and Fr Gordon are both living saints - I think.

Jim Anderson - Jan 17, 2013

In this time of Negative media it is so good to see God working powerfully even in prison. I pray every day for Fr. Gordon's and Pornchai's ministries among their fellow prisoners, and for their quick release. God be with you.

Liz - Jan 17, 2013

Pornchai's story is one of true grace. It's so amazing to see the man he has become, considering his painful past. He is extraordinarily talented, humble and good. Thank you for sharing this story. God bless!

Pat - Jan 17, 2013

Another reason to hope in the Lord.

Lara Lee - Jan 17, 2013

What a beautiful and powerful story of grace.

ctsheehy - Jan 17, 2013

Prayers, as always (!) for all involved in this story...

Bernadette - Jan 17, 2013

Wonderful story about two of my heroes! Thank you! Praying for justice for Fr Gordon and for Pornchai's ministry among the inmates.

B. MacLellan - Jan 17, 2013

Thank you Mr. Carroll!!!
May God bless Pornchai and Father Gordon.I am praying for release SOON and this made me realize the power of prayer for conversions and how God does answer in amazing ways.

Jeannie Scudieri - Jan 17, 2013

What a beautiful tribute to God and His instruments! Pornchai and Father Gordon are why we must never give up hope because the Lord's ways aren't man's ways.
I pray every day that Father will be released from his wrongful imprisonment and that Pornchai will get his chance to minister on the outside,in peace.
Love you both! Thank you Mr. Felix Carroll for doing this! God bless you.

Elizabeth Rodgers - Jan 17, 2013

Pray to the Mother of God of Priests seen by saint Faustina for the release of Fr MacRea . Her prayer for priests is very powerful . You will find both in her diary.
May they both be released to serve God.

kathygeorge - Jan 17, 2013

What an inspiring story has risen from so much sadness.

TONY DIXON - Jan 17, 2013

The story is well known around the world now, but I don't think it has been better written. A true miracle of God's grace. God Bless and grant freedom to Pornchai and to Father Macrae- soon!

Father George David Byers - Jan 17, 2013

Thanks, Felix, for bringing us to the Sacred Heart of the Divine Mercy!

Nancy - Jan 17, 2013

May God bless Pornchai and Fr. Gordon. Both of them have been such an inspiration to me. Amazing how the Lord works. Father Gordon, I pray for your release from prison, but I'm so grateful you were there for Pornchai. I pray that you are both released soon.

Ryan A. MacDonald - Jan 17, 2013

I am extremely happy and proud of my Church when its ministers so courageously champion a cause of justice. Felix Carroll has done just that with this tragic and triumphant article about Pornchai Moontri. I have interviewed Pornchai on a number of occasions and have written about him several times (search "Pornchai Moontri at the Narrow Gate"). Pornchai is a phenomenal Catholic because he embraced our faith as he himself was called out of darkness into a wonderful light of self-giving. He is not only a model for other prisoners, but a model for all of us who have found the tragedies of life holding us back from a full and vibrant love of God in service to others. I am very proud of Pornchai Moontri, but now I add Felix Carroll to my list of Catholic heroes. Well done, good and faithful servant!

Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC - Jan 16, 2013

Beautiful story! I will pray for Pornchai and for Fr. Gordon!

Fran - Jan 16, 2013

Trust in Me said the Lord.
the Divine Mercy always gives his mercy to those who believer and love HIM. Praise God for our mercies which we do not deserve but are given to us unconditional from our loving Divine Mercy.