“Once upon a time, the story goes, Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph. He said, ‘Abba, as much as I am able, I practice a small rule, all the little fasts, some prayer and meditation, and remain quiet. What else should I do?’ To which the old monastic stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven, and his fingers became like ten torches of flame. And he said, ‘Why not be completely turned into fire?’” S. Joan Chittister, OSB,
The Fire in These Ashes: A Spirituality of Contemporary Religious Life.
Fire is fascinating. The saying “drawn like a moth to a flame” sometimes also describes us.
Fire can be alluring, dangerous, beautiful, destructive, and deadly.
Fire can also mean life itself with light and warmth that give comfort and vision in the depths of darkness.
Moses sees the burning bush ablaze and meets God, changing the trajectory of his life forever. The Holy Spirit descends on the disciples as tongues of fire and transforms their fear to boldness and courage. Fire is often used to describe urgency, holiness, and transformation.
S. Helen Prejean’s new memoir is called
River of Fire, My Spiritual Journey
. It is her story of entering religious life, on fire with the desire to love God with her whole heart, mind and soul. Without giving much of the story away, the path is filled with challenges, choices, falling in love and finding the place where you can no longer pretend not to see the great injustices in the world.
As the journey begins, Helen finds life in the convent a bit stifling, but certain. As times change so does her opportunity for self-discovery and the ability to use her own gifts, discovering not only the great adventure of a world beyond the walls, but an introduction to a new concept of “social justice” that forever changes her and redirects the flame in her heart.
river of fire
carries her as she becomes a fierce advocate for ending the death penalty and leads her to unimagined places.
The journey is riveting and filled with Helen’s wit, humor and reflective truth telling. As a speaker and a writer she captivates audiences with honesty, humor and a deep faith. Helen spends her life “exploring her fascination with the Divine spark she believes is in everyone.”
Many of us will not see a burning bush, or observe tongues of fire imparting us with the ability to speak in other languages. How will we tend our own divine spark? How will we find the fire in the ashes when things seem unclear or frustrating? The story at the beginning gives some clues, "some prayer, some meditation, remaining quiet …
“The results are clear: when our own hearts are aflame, no effort is too much, no effort fails” (Joan Chittister).