“Love for our Mother will be the breath that kindles into a living flame the embers of virtue hidden in the ashes of your indifference.” – St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way #492
When I was younger, an early teenager, my family was on vacation at Pennisula State Park in Door County, WI. We camped there most summers for vacation and some of my happiest memories took place at that wonderful park.
One day in the late morning, around 9:30/10:00 the old man who was camping next to us called my brother and me over to his site, he wanted to show us something. Like us, he and his wife had a large fire the night before and had stayed up rather late watching it burn down. By this time in the morning all you could see was a pile of grey ash. It smelled like nothing and, of course, you couldn’t breath in deeply lest the ash choke you. There was no heat, no real warmth at all coming from this dry heap.
The old man brought over some dry leaves and small sticks. He put his hands into the pile of ash and gently pushed them to the side until he found, deep near the bottom, a small white ember on which he blew very gently, turning it the vibrant red to tell us fire was contained therein. Slowly and methodically he showed us how to pile the dry grass, then leaves, then small twigs until a fire was going and we could place on the logs and had a huge fire going that seemed to add light even to the morning sky.
As you can tell, this memory always stayed with me and when I first read the above quote from St. Josemaria some years ago it came immediately into my mind.
The Infinite God flooded our hearts with Spirit and fire on the day of our baptism and fanned into a burning flame when we were confirmed. This is divine truth, a cosmic reality. But it does not always feel so. The Maker of all comes into our souls during the night-time of the stain of original sin and lights a huge and undying fire. Yet, you may say, it seems to have died out. There is no bright light, no warm heat, nothing to ward off the darkness and shadow all around me. Indeed, there is nothing in my soul but a pile of ash. O, perhaps in my youth the fire burned bright, when I was good, when I was child-like, when I believed in goodness of God and His creation.
Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity, and chasing after the wind.
Yet there is one who knows a greater truth and has been given the power to show it. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and shall name him Jesus.” The flame was first burning in her, as a secret, in a hidden place, not yet for the world to see. Even after His birth He “went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. ” He was hidden with her until the time of His manifestation before all Israel.
“Behold your mother” He says from the Cross. She, the Virgin Mary has been give a particular power – to bring Christ Jesus to birth in souls until the end of time.
Mary know the pathway through the ash-heap of life down to the bright fire within. You see, there is nothing we can do the will put out Jesus Christ. Oh, we might cover over His light and fire with all manner of things, all the dust and ash of the world but He is never utterly gone from the baptized soul. Does He seem far away, hard to see, hard to follow, hard to trust? Well call out His name, Jesus!
Is it hard to even call out His name? Mary will help, she will clear off the ashes. God will never force anything but He is the All-Holy One, the burning fire. Mary can clear the way and give a gently breathe to fan the little flame in your heart. Devotion to her will make you, and me, and everyone a great and burning fire of Jesus Christ. Do we wish to be burning like the Holy Spirit? Well, imitate the Apostles before Pentecost who were “gathered in prayer, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus.”
Tomorrow, August the 15th, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. I am rather alone in this huge building in this huge city. The humidity is up. My packages still haven’t arrived and probably won’t until Monday (thank you ferragosto.) I’ve asked a few time, “God, what am I doing here?” It’s hard to pray, hard to focus, hard. . .
Why complain, why stare at the ash heap of my whining and indifference? Mary will help, she will help to breathe these things into a living flame – the flame that is Jesus Christ.