Thomas Griffin 2/18/22 (For Catholic Exchange)
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“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).
Before Lent begins, Catholics around the world discern and decide their plan of what they will give up. Dessert, or maybe even coffee, can be some difficult options, but committing to doing something extra is also a type of sacrifice. This Lent, there is a special invitation for men from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal to journey together through the desert in order to capture how we can become more captivated by Christ.
Born of Fire is written by Fr. Innocent Montgomery, CFR and it focuses on how our Baptismal call is the foundation and roadmap for our pilgrimage to the Father. This is a book crafted around the need for each disciple to have a desert experience and it sheds light on the whole notion of an “identity pilgrimage.” The goal is to discover who we are in relation to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “This pilgrimage,” says Fr. Innocent, “will reflect the natural journey of the masculine heart, taking it to the spiritual level.”
In order to accomplish this task, the book travels through seven identities: son, brother, man, spouse, father, mystic, and “the new man.” Each of these identities are critical for the masculine heart to meditate on and each highlights what it means for a man to be “fully alive in Christ.” Ultimately, this book, and the Lenten journey itself, ends with the invitation to commit ourselves anew to our relationship with God and to witness firsthand how that yes shows us what our true identity is in God’s eyes.
The book is phenomenal for its insights and because it grounds spiritual truths in reality. On Sundays, Fr. Innocent shows how the Gospel passages provide the anchor for the themes of our Lenten pilgrimage while challenging the reader to become more like Christ. “Each Sunday of Lent, we are going to focus on Jesus. He is the ‘perfect man’ who teaches us what it means to be truly human and how to live our identity to the fullest.”
Mondays will be an opportunity to dive deeper into the particular theme for that week and it will be a call to marinade oneself in what that specific identity means for the individual reader. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the passages focus on the experiences of one of the friars during their retreat to the Utah desert. For the last several years, Fr. Innocent leads the postulants out west to live in the desert for nearly a month and learn how to navigate their way through uncharted territory. These are earthy and honest reflections regarding the truth of who we are and who we are called to be.
Fridays will be centered around Fr. Innocent’s challenge for the reader to spend a Holy Hour in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Unlike other devotionals that may circulate during Lent, Born of Fire is concerned with not merely filling up one’s time during this liturgical season but with transforming one’s relationship with Jesus Christ. Meeting him as a real person in prayer is the best way to gain insight into who Christ is and to discover what he wants most for us.
This short book is not a practice in Navy Seal training, but it is challenging because strong commitments bear the most fruit. For that reason, it truly does separate itself from other works that hope to bring needed and necessary spiritual truths to the reader’s eyes. Born of Fire does the same, but it accomplishes this mission through a more intentional process because it asks more of the reader, just like Jesus does.
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Encountering God is easier said than done. We must carve out time on our schedules to spend that one-on-one time with him. The Holy Hour that you make on Fridays will be guided by several gospel reflections from Fr. Innocent. These are meant to stir the reader to a careful and prayerful reading of the text while being immensely impacted by the fact that Christ is in their midst. He speaks to us, calls us, and acts upon us now. This truth must never grow stale in the heart of the disciple.
It is that reality that will set us ablaze and renew the Baptismal fire that was poured upon us. Harnessing that fire will result in a rebuilding process of our own hearts that will be nothing short of transformative. So, let us enter the desert together and be attentive to how the shadow of Christ’s desert experience walks with us every step of the way.
Accept the invitation for this Lent to not just perform tasks or give things up, but to run straight to Christ right from the beginning. He is our goal and our everything. This Lent, view how God sees you and be amazed by the fire he lights in your heart.
Author’s note: You can find the book Born of Fire at bornoffire.com where you can use griffin10 for a discount.
Thomas Griffin is the chair of the religion department at a Catholic high school on Long Island where he lives with his wife and son.
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