November 2023 By Father Stephen Durkee, Director of Priestly Vocations Through this holy anointing, may…
Last year at the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors, Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins gave one of the most inspiring talks I have heard on encouraging young men for the priesthood. His mantra: “You must become like ﬁre!” Over my next few columns, I plan to reﬂect on these words from Cardinal Collins.
Letters attributed to St. John are filled with references to light and darkness. The imagery of light, though more common with John, is not particular to him. For example, in Matthew 5 we hear from the Lord, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp-stand.” (Mt 5:14-15) Similarly, in Luke, we hear from Jesus, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Lk 12:49)
If we are going to set the world on fire, then we must also become fire.
Recently, a parishioner came to me after Mass and it was evident that he was very excited about something. He said, “Father, I don’t know if this makes sense, but I just realized something. Jesus as the ‘light of the world’ makes sense. Light always overcomes darkness. But no matter how much you try, darkness can never overcome light.” To put it simply, if you want to add darkness to a room, the only way to do so is to remove the light. But in order to add light to a room, the only way is to add a source of light. Darkness is completely inferior to light.
As we know, one great source of light, especially during the time of Christ, is fire. I believe this is why Cardinal Collins is emphatic that if we are going to be missionaries, if a young man is going to be a priest, we must first become fire. Cardinal Collins suggests four ways a young man preparing for priesthood must become like fire:
SACRIFICIAL FIRE: that he may offer everything to God.
PURIFYING FIRE: that he must be fire in order to purify his heart from sin, as gold is refined in the fire.
ON FIRE WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: that he will speak boldly, just as the disciples were compelled to speak boldly about Jesus Christ.
THE FIRE OF AWE AND MYSTERY: that he may have a deep reverence for the mysterious workings of God in his life, just as Moses was held in awe at the grandeur and mystery of the presence of God in the burning bush.
We must become fire! This is not just a message for young men thinking about the priesthood. This is a message for all of us. We must be so transformed by the fire of God’s love that we share that light with others. And this goes back to that simple, yet profound, realization from my parishioner. When light encounters darkness, darkness has no choice but to give way to the light. How true and needed this is in our world today! Imagine how the earth could be on fire today if only we all knew and were convinced that the power of Christ within us is no match for the darkness that exists in the world.