I’ve been thinking a lot about my devotion to the Holy Spirit. As a vowed Franciscan Sister, I publicly committed to obeying the Spirit’s nudges, whispers, pulls and invitations. This means I am committed to living life according to God’s will, not my own. Like it or not, God’s way is always better than my way.
I can reflect back on my life and see the patterns: the Spirit summons me to do something strange and I begin to feel consumed by the sense that I must obey. I trust and try: I pivot my life and start doing something new and drastic, something that surprises me along with everyone else. This is how I transferred colleges, how I became a Franciscan Sister, how I switched from teaching high school to ministering in spirituality, how I started writing and podcasting.
After I begin to entertain the nudges from the Spirit, it doesn’t take long for me to become practically obsessed, for me to realize that the change is the next natural thing to say “yes” to and give God control. Each time this happens, it’s as if a spark ignites a wildfire, which starts to burn through my daydreams, prayers, questions, hopes, and imaginations. By God’s grace, I discover I have the energy and ability–the courage and strength–to enter into the Great Mystery and allow God to use my “yes” for the greater good.
This happened to me about a year ago when I felt called to open up a new intentional community and house of hospitality that would offer spiritual refuge to spiritual seekers, artists and activists. Now The Fireplace Community is established and starting to serve others in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. We’re two Franciscan sisters living with two women in their 20’s along with an extended community. Together we share life, host groups and provide refuge. (By the way, may I humbly ask for your prayers and some pennies during this time of foundation, dear readers? Anything you can give really means a lot to us!)
We know that many people are getting close to burn out and many already feel burnt out. But we’re interested in sustainable social change and creative actions. That’s why we aim to offer peace, quiet and connections that will keep the flames of social change kindled. I believe that if creative contemplatives are less isolated and feel a sense of belonging and meaning, then it’s easier to remain faithful to the calls they feel from the Spirit. In community, we can maintain momentum and build movements for justice. We are not meant to be alone.
Until last weekend, I didn’t realize that the mission of The Fireplace and my lifelong devotion to the Spirit (along with my healthy obsession with fire!) all are connected, all have to do with my personal mission to promote healthy spirituality. This dawned on me while I was rereading the spiritual classic The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality by Ronald Rolheiser. In the first chapter, Rolheiser writes:
“Spirituality is about what we do with the fire inside of us, and how we channel our eros. And how we channel it, the disciplines and habits we choose to live by, will either lead to a greater integration or disintegration within our bodies, minds and souls, and to a greater integration or disintegration in the way we are related to God, others, and the cosmic world.”-Ronald Rolheiser, “The Holy Longing”
Since I read this reminder, I have found myself in two conversations at The Fireplace where the word integration came up, where it was realized how essential it is to reflect, discern and notice the how God is in relationship with us. This is part of the work of living a life in the Spirit, of tending to the fire within us.
How do you respond to the Spirit’s nudges and tend to the fire within you? What might be needed from you to kindle fires of justice and peace? How can you prevent burn out for others?
To keep the fire burning, could you build community?