“God of All-Comfort”
The Icon from Solitary Confinement
When OCPM founder, Fr. Duane Pedersen, began corresponding with Michael in prison, Michael was quick to say he preferred if Fr. Duane would stop writing about God. Despite showing no indication that his heart was changing, Fr. Duane faithfully wrote to him week after week, year after year.
After twenty years of correspondence, Fr. Duane received a surprising letter. “I want to be baptized into the Orthodox Faith.”
But this was only the beginning. Soon Fr. Duane received something even more surprising than Michael’s wish to be baptized: Michael’s first icon. This was unlike any icon Fr. Duane had ever seen before, and not just because Michael had written it with a set of crayons, the only tools available to him.
Michael lived in solitary confinement. To paint the Face of Christ he used the only model he had: his own face. And what did Michael name this icon? “God of All-Comfort.”
Shortly after Fr. Duane received this icon, Michael’s health rapidly declined, and soon he fell asleep in the Lord. In the wake of Michael’s passing, Fr. Duane began printing copies of “God of All Comfort” to send to other prisoners, many of whom were freed from years of addictions by praying with it.
Truly, Michael’s icon speaks to all of us. Are we willing to see the face of Christ in the faces of those in prison? Are we willing to believe, as Michael did, that Christ dwells in each of us, as near to us as our own reflection? Do we sincerely believe each one of us is an icon of Christ?
Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) is an agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States. For Orthodox Christians who have been arrested for crimes, OCPM helps them return to the Faith, offering forgiveness and reconciliation with Christ. For both Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, OCPM provides spiritual care, enabling prisoners to find hope and purpose in their lives. For more information, please visit www.theocpm.org or follow us on Facebook and Instagram @theocpm.