“To set people’s hearts on fire,” this is how Vincent described our vocation.
So, our vocation is to go, not just to one parish, not just to one diocese, but all over the world; and to do what? To set people’s hearts on fire, to do what the Son of God did. He came to set the world on fire in order to inflame it with His love. Vincent de Paul – May 30, 1659 (SV XII, 215)
On July 31, 2020 seven men opened themselves to a further stage of being set on fire to serve those who are poor and on the peripheries. Each of them was sparked into flame with the help of family and members of the Little Company.
Three of them, Vy Nguyen, Juan Carlos Perez, Peter Dai Tran officially became members of the Congregation of the Mission and committed to further nurturing a flame already in their hearts.
Four of them Alex Palacios, Milton Lara, Noe Garcia, and Wilber Meja celebrated the completion of their first year in Vincent’s Little Company by making vows to continue to fan the flame in their own hearts.
To appreciate what happened think of a man named Paul writing to a younger Timothy… and to these seven men… “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.”
There was another Paul, Vincent de Paul, who recognized that flame in his awareness of following Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor. He fanned that flame all his life. It burned with such intensity that others drew near that fire and committed themselves to set the world on fire with the warmth of God’s love. Those who came after him realized that this is not a “one and done situation.” It involves a lifetime of tending to that flame.
Understanding how fires are tended is so helpful… especially for us who have so little experience of tending fires. To make a fire, first, you lay down some dry twigs as kindling, followed by layers of small branches and logs. Then you light a match and set the kindling afire. The flames spread, and you soon have a nice fire. Warmed by the fire in the cold night air, you eventually fall asleep.
Later, you awaken to find you no longer have a fire burning. But you do have some live embers. You realize you don’t need another match to relight your fire; you just need to get down close to blow on the embers and then fan them. With increased oxygen, they become even hotter. You add small branches and keep fanning until they’re set aflame. Then you add logs, and soon you have a roaring fire again.
We learn from this that setting people’s hearts on fire requires tending to that flame in our own hearts. Each of us in one way or another has that flame burning in our hearts. We become the flames of God’s love warming us in the midst of a cold world. Most focus on bringing the warmth of God’s love to our families. Those who commit themselves in the “Little Company” commit themselves to Vincent’s vision of setting the whole world on fire with the warmth of God’s love.
No matter our way of life, we can all learn from the life-long process of tending the fire in our own hearts. We recognize the kindling that burst into flame, We realize that we need to constantly tend to that fire and rekindle those flames.
For Vincentians, we are fortunate to set aside periods in our lives to rekindle that flame. These seven men are either beginning or completing an intense period of nursing and fanning the flames they have recognized in themselves.
As we celebrate let us remember to support our seven candidates in this process. Let their example remind us to fan into flame our own awareness of God’s love and bring the warmth of that love to others.
A country singer Garth Brooks captured this process well in his song about “Standing Outside the Fire”…
There’s this love that is burning
Deep in my soul
Constantly yearning to get out of control
Wanting to fly higher and higher
I can’t abide standing outside the fire
Standing outside the fire
Standing outside the fire
Life is not tried, it is merely survived
If you’re standing outside the fire.