By Fr. Hau Vu
In St. Catherine of Sienna’s prayer entitled, My Nature is Fire, she poses the question, “And what is my nature, boundless love?” Then she responds with, “It is fire, because you are nothing but a fire of love.”
We are nothing but a fire of love! The first time I read this quote my immediate response was, “Wow, I am fire!” Truthfully, I never saw myself as a fire of love. But the more I reflect on it, the more I am saying to myself, “You are right, St. Catherine, I am fire.”
Our life as Catholics begins with fire. When we are baptized, we receive this fire of love, which is the Holy Spirit, and are thereby made adopted sons and daughters of God. On the day of Pentecost, St. Peter proclaimed to a large crowd saying, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).” The Holy Spirt gives us our nature as fire, but the question is, have we come to terms and fully accepted that truth about ourselves? And, if so, what does it mean for us to be fire? I believe what St. Catherine meant by this reality is that every Christian is called not only to possess the Holy Spirit, but to also be possessed by it. In other words, to be consumed by the Holy Spirit. However, before we are possessed by the Holy Spirit, we must first come to know the Holy Spirit. The “knowing” I am speaking about is more of the Greek understanding of the word “knowledge” or “epignosis” which means not a conceptual knowledge, but more of an experiential knowledge. Thus, a way to know the Holy Spirit more within your life, is to pray to the Holy Spirit. This is my favorite prayer to the Holy Spirit that I often use each day, that is easy to remember and recite.
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.
by the light of the Holy Spirit
you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit
help us to relish what is right,
and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Praying to the Holy Spirit will allow you to grow in your relationship with God, but also slowly be possessed or consumed by Him. The benefits that we experience in our relationship with the Fire of Love is really a greater conformity to God. We become united with God in a way where gradually our actions, thoughts, and words are inspired and influenced by the Holy Spirit, as the Apostles, and even the writers of the Holy Bible were. This is what I meant when I said we must be possessed or consumed by the Fire of Love. When we are led by the Holy Spirit, that we have come to know and love, we will live our life filled with joy, aspiration, zeal, passion, love, and mystery. Whether it be our work, relationships, education, marriage, priesthood, or parish ministry, all will experience a constant renewal and vibrancy. But when we allow the world and the bad spirits to influence or possess our lives, we will experience apathy, indifference, dullness, and a sense of detest within our lives. The Holy Spirit is the fire which inflames our lives. The world and the bad spirits are the dirt that chokes that flame out of us. It is, therefore, important that one decides who or what should possess one. We as human beings can make that conscious choice for ourselves. However, we must remember that if we do not make that choice for ourselves, often, the choice is made for us by another person or a force beyond ourselves. That is why building and nourishing our relationship with the Holy Spirit is so important. Jesus Christ even said, “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (Jn 16:13). The truth of the matter is, as Christians, we are all called to be the fire of God’s love. If we can accept that truth and live it out faithfully within our life, we will accomplish what St. Catherine said, “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.”
We are nothing but a fire of love!
Fr. Hau Vu is Associate Director of Vocations in the Diocese of San Bernardino.