Friday, December 31, 2010

To Be Used

I've always been attracted to people on fire.  Missionaries who charge at their goals with fire and zeal. Attraction to the fire can get you into a boatload of trouble and it has (and still does) for me from time to time.

Thankfully, the great teacher experience refined the attraction along my way.   Just the right blend of formation in authentic Catholic teaching and experiencing that unless the fire was (and is) ignited from zeal for God, its egotistical, empty and unattractive.

I came across this poem a few weeks ago that captures the fire perfectly:

To Be of Use (by Marge Piercy)

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Fire can be a fata morgana when it's lit by a phonies to attract people unto themselves, to use them for one purpose or another.   When you make bad choices with fire, instead of using it for the mission, you can get disoriented and then burned.  I've seen people get consumed.     I've seen the mission blow up.

Voris used a citation from scripture yesterday that is really at the heart of the right fires in his request for prayer.  As the mission and battles wage, Moses is at the top of the mountain draining the strength from God by holding his arms up and reflecting it into the warriors. (Exodus 17.)  The theme is repeated throughout Scripture numerous times.  Like when the Ark of the Covenant is paraded around the the wall of Jericho by seven priests and in the New Testament when Christ is in a crowd of people who are touching Him but when one woman touches His cloak with faith for the purpose of drinking in gifts from His Divinity to heal her, He feels it and stops to find out who it was in the crowd.

The same citation from Scripture is used in this uplifting story about General Patton about the Third Army Prayer.    General Patton has always been a hero of mine.  He used the fire lit by God to preserve freedom for the citizens of the country he loved and freeing our brothers and sisters imprisoned in Europe.  When the weather was holding up victory, he summoned the power he later said he knew would work.  He had the prayer written asking God to intervene with the weather and he had it distributed to his Third Army.

Patton then discussed his belief in the power of prayer with Monsignor O'Neill:
I wish you would put out a Training Letter on this subject of Prayer to all the chaplains; write about nothing else, just the importance of prayer. Let me see it before you send it. We've got to get not only the chaplains but every man in the Third Army to pray. We must ask God to stop these rains. These rains are that margin that hold defeat or victory. If we all pray . . . [i]t will be like plugging in on a current whose source is in Heaven. I believe that prayer completes that circuit. It is power.

Do yourself a favor and enjoy the rest of this article.

 Our prayer people rock. All of our efforts would be futile without them.  (I found my glasses btw -thanks!).

  People with fire need a lot of seasoning before they wise up and use their fire correctly.   We have to be careful to avoid the firefighters who come along with all sorts of agendas, some of them well-meaning, but nevertheless, they can muck up the mission God has you on.  Like people who suffer from an affliction described by St. John of the Cross --they believe their spirituality and gifts are for everyone to follow. I don't see it much in people with the fire.   I see it in the people who want to emulate Mother Teresa or believe that prayer is the only action ever necessary.   They're blinded to the communion of saints and gifts and can only see their own patron saint or hero.   They've found the way for them but they go on a crusade to tell everyone else they are missing their calling if they don't follow them.   Every time I come across them, I bump into several of my own afflictions generated from these people annoying me ad nauseum.

I remember once about a year ago when we were engaged in the Caritas battle, being invited to dinner to talk about the situation by an individual I had been acquainted with for years.   I really did not know him all that well but always eager for savvy advice when engaged in a battle, I accepted the invitation.   In the middle of dinner when he started banging his drum that I had my calling from God all wrong, I started to eat a lot faster as I was trying to process how I missed the signals that his spirituality was myopic. "Ugh, not this again" I said to myself as I felt the weight of all the chores I put aside while sitting there getting advice I needed like I needed a hole in the head.

Somebody said once (and sadly I don't remember who) that at the hour of death when they meet God, they want every drop of blood to be spent, to meet Him in the same condition He met with God the Father.  To be able to say, have mercy on this sinner.  I gave it all.  Surrendered everything because I love You more than myself, more than everyone and everything you blessed my life with, more than life itself.  Those are people of the fire.

Fiery people are a handful.   I sometimes don't envy those who know us and love us because they understand  the fire and the Kingdom of God.      Thanks to all who were generous with your love, your support, kindness, friendship and prayer in 2010.

Happy and Blessed New Year to all Freedom Fighters.


Caroline said...

Carol..This is a great post. It definitely took a lot of formation to tame my passion and channel it properly.. It still gets me in a lot of trouble too...I used to try to fix it so I would "fit in" ... that was equally as disastrous.

Praying before the cross one day I finally realized Christ, above all, was most passionate. His fire took Him all the way to the cross. That's when a light went on for me. He understood how to lead me to the mission field in the right spirit..without the egotism and carelessness that would lead to burnout.

"People with fire need a lot of seasoning before they wise up and use their fire correctly."

Yup..That's an Amen for sure.

Carol McKinley said...


Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it - and thank God you found your way.

Yeah...there's no fix. You can sit on a rocket with the jets going but at some point, it's going to go off. Until you learn that the fire is a gift and you better learn the what fors and whens, there's a lot of misfires!

"I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it."

Many blessings in the new year to you and yours.