Local Opinion Editorials


It’s now fall, my favorite time of the year, when we can watch football, falling leaves and a fireplace.

Our former house had a fireplace we converted to natural gas. While it was convenient and less of a mess, the gas-fueled fire lacked something. Over the last Thanksgiving holiday we visited our son and daughter-in-law in Denver. They have a real fireplace! And each evening they were permitted to burn – there are air-quality restrictions quite often out west – I was put in charge of tending the fire; a duty I soon relished again with pleasure.

When we moved late last year, we had the new home’s fireplace inspected since the former owners said they hadn’t used it for many years. This time we didn’t convert the fireplace to gas or electricity. It remains real! That’s because we remembered there is nothing like the smell, sound and sensation of a burning, crackling wood fire!

I realize a real fire is more work. You have to cut or buy the wood, stack it and cover it to keep it dry. Then you have to tote some of it into the garage or house for storage, making sure you’re not transporting a terminal of termites with the twigs. When you want a fire you have to build it from scratch using newspaper, kindling, and all the stacking and lighting techniques learned long ago working with the Boy Scouts. And, often, you have to remove the ashes and clean out the fireplace. To some it’s much easier to flick a switch, flip a Bic lighter or even use a remote-controlled igniter.

As I poke and prod the burning embers of a real fire to keep it going, adding just the right-size pieces of wood at the appropriate time, I am reminded of my faith. How, you ask? Let me explain by relating an old tale I read recently in Vision 2000, a contemporary guide to praying Scripture:

There’s a story of an old Jewish woman who stopped going to the synagogue. One day the rabbi went to her house and asked to sit with her by the fireplace. For a long time, neither spoke. Then the rabbi picked up a tongs, took a glowing coal from the fireplace, and set it on the hearth. As the two watched, the coal slowly lost its glow and died. A few minutes later, the old woman said, “I understand. I’ll come back to the synagogue.”

Even if you don’t have a fireplace by which to sit, think about it. Is there anything that threatens to cut you off from Jesus and cause you to lose your glow? Is there anyone who has been cut off from Jesus you might help, as the rabbi helped the elderly woman?

We may feel we are part of a “faithless generation” and in need of more faith. But do we pray for it? Faith is a good gift that comes from God. Think of a tough situation in your life. In trying hard to overcome it, is it possible you’re getting in God’s way? Have you tried trusting and simply surrendering to God? Maybe then His power, which is really healing, can be released in ways you may never expect.

Our faith is like a wood log in a real fireplace. It takes some tending to keep it burning. When we pray, meditate and read Scripture, we nourish our faith. Our faith always is strengthened if we remain close to God regardless of whether our prayers bring the results we’re looking for. And when we attend church regularly and receive the sacraments often, especially Confession and Communion, we allow God to build-up our faith life within us. When we neglect to do these things, our faith begins to die inside just as a piece of wood smolders for a short while and eventually cools off.

We might want our fireplace fire to burn all evening, but if it’s real it’s going to take some work periodically on our part to keep it going. Similarly, we might desire our faith to remain strong and even grow, but unless we’re willing to work at it often, it’s going to fade away. And like the messy ashes and soot, our faith life needs an occasional cleaning, too, if you will. We have to examine our conscience, confess our faults, express our contrition and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation rid our souls of the dirt and stain of sin.

In a well-designed fireplace, a burning fire will spread its warmth throughout the entire house. A spiritually-nurtured person will extend his or her gift of faith to others in the household, neighborhood and even “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (MK 16:15).

The Waynedale News Staff
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