On Fire with Love

On Fire with Love

by, Sr. Jo Anne Kelly   MMM     Ireland     06.07.2022

holy spirit resizedI like to do crosswords. A few days ago a clue I had was “to set on fire” and the answer that fitted was “enkindle”.  I love that word enkindle.  I learnt it first from the prayer we say to the Holy Spirit.  “Enkindle in us the Fire of your Love”.  It is a beautiful prayer.  What would this world be like if we all tried to enkindle within us the Fire of God’s Love?
Everybody knows that love is the only thing that can make a world where everyone can be happy. It is the one commandment we have been given – to love. And yet our world is torn by violence, greed, abuse, injustice and every kind of selfish behavior.

But everywhere, also, there are those on fire with love, those giving their lives in homes, in work places, in public offices and volunteering in so many ways so that others can have a better life.

My first mission many years ago was to a village where everyone had leprosy. At the time, leprosy was a still a dread disease and those who suffered from it had to be segregated, having no access to home or any public place. Our MMM sisters and some very dedicated lay doctors had to be on fire with the love of God to have set up this village more than 20years before I got there.

The village was set up as any village with its own chief and his cabinet who governed the village, sorted out disputes and whatever was needed. There was a small hospital, primary school, workshops for learning trades and skills, a farm where everyone had a patch of land, three residential areas and a Catholic Church.  Everyone in that village had leprosy including the teachers and most of the hospital staff.  All were at different stages of the disease, from those who were diagnosed early with no obvious symptoms to those with the most severe disabilities and all had a job to do every day, however small.

They were a joy to treat and to work with, so grateful to God for every little thing.  Many who came followed the traditional religion but in the village were attracted to the Christian God because of how they were being cared for.  In that part of the country there are many small tribal groups each with its own language and in our village we had people from 14 different language groups.  So, the common language was a broken English called Pidgin English and we all spoke it.  A very common expression, no matter what happened, good or bad, was “God dey” meaning God is there.  Often there was quite a lot of rivalry between the different groups.

One evening I got a message that an old lady in the female ward had died.  On my way down I heard a woman cry, not just crying but wailing in a way that close relatives wail for a loved one.  I found the crying woman lying on the verandah, wailing, throwing herself around, and pulling her hair as family members can do when distraught.  She was from the ward.  I got down beside her. She sat up perfectly calm and I said to her “I did not know you were related to Grace.”  She said “She is not from my people. We do not speak the same tongue. I cry because she has nobody to cry for her.”

Another time during my evening visits. I found an old man outside his house.  He was very downhearted.  He explained that for the second time he had failed to pass the test to be allowed to be baptized.  He said pleadingly, God is in my heart but I am not able to learn the book.  At the time in the 1960s, it was necessary to know the catechism.  He could not read but the village catechist had tried to teach him.  It was all too much for him.  So we consulted with our chaplain, who asked me to try to find out what he did understand about the Catholic faith and the commitment he would be making.

Well, that was a journey in Faith for me.  He did have God in his heart.  He was delightful and had a good grasp of the real Truths of the Catholic Faith and a practical explanation of them which was very expressive in Pidgin English.  We had a lovely celebration the day he was baptized.  He danced out of the church that day on his crutches and his bandaged feet, he was so happy.

There is no doubt, the Spirit of God blows where He wills, and whether in times of prayer, or listening to the wind in the trees, or the trickle of running water by a stream or in the midst of a busy day, a whisper can come to us to enkindle that Fire of Love to guide us on our way.