Tag Archives: Quest for Sanctity

A Life on Fire

A Life on Fire

While at a stop sign last week listening to pop music (don’t judge), these lyrics pushed their way into my scattered thoughts, “Toniiiiight we are yoooooung, so lets set the world on fire, we can burn brighter, than the suuuun.”

I gave a half snort/half chuckle as I mused that the singer and I probably have very different ideas of what it means to set the world on fire.  Then I realized, perhaps my notion of what it means to be on fire in the world is just as mistaken, or at least incomplete.

When I chose the name Half Kindled, I was filled with the idea that a life on fire was a life full of unquenchable passion.  That a fully kindled life would be one of dynamic, contagious, life changing love; a love that would constantly push out into the world at large where it would transform all whom it encountered.

I still think this is true.  I am just realizing that there is more to a life on fire than this outgoing version of love.  There are also times when this all consuming love looks different.

Many times it looks like suffering.  Long hours of silent, lonely, suffering.  A suffering that reaches down into the core of all that you are and burns away all that does not belong.  And it hurts so much.

Perhaps it is the pain of the hole left behind when the Divine Physician attempts to remove the little selfish attachments that have infected your heart.

Or perhaps it is the pain of having your heart pierced with sorrow as you struggle with the pain caused by physical evils such as sickness or death, or moral evils caused by sin.  And your heart breaks open and burns.

It is in those moments, that your heart can most resemble that of Christ: pierced and aflame with love.

A life on fire is not just for those who are living their passion out in the world; it is also for those who are suffering with great love.  Perhaps few are called to the former, but anyone can participate in the latter.

Some fires have great effect by radiating a penetrating heat.  Others are the still, small flame that shines out in the darkest of nights, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

A Life on Fire

©tacluda /rgbstock.com

Graveyard with text

To Suffer Slings and Arrows: Finding Meaning in Death and Suffering


Taken by my husband on a visit to the cemetery on All Souls Day.

Recently I posted this article written by a college classmate on my Facebook page.  Later that day, a friend asked me to contrast that article to this one (be warned, the article contains vivid descriptions of what it is like to die a lingering, suffering filled death).  This post is born of thoughts I had after reading both.  

Because of the intense suffering and break down of the body that occurs with death, some call it ugly.  To the atheist, the suffering that accompanies the final days of one’s life could be described as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” If pain is devoid of all meaning and purpose, than the most reasonable thing in the world is to “take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them.”

When faced with excruciating, seemingly pointless suffering, some individuals consider suicide a an appropriate response to such a fate, perceived worse than death itself.  As holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, a man well acquainted with suicide from his time in a concentration camp, wrote: “Life is not made unbearable by circumstances, but by a lack of meaning and purpose.”

Advocates of suicide and euthanasia make the bold proclamation that the sufferings preceding death (or even those throughout life) are devoid of meaning, not worth enduring. or simply unbearable.  As a result, they promote suicide as a means of escaping suffering out of despair or fear.

For death to become bearable, one must first find meaning in suffering; this meaning can be seen from both natural and supernatural perspectives.

Every time that I have been a part of someone’s final days, I have been struck by suffering and deaths’ ability to transform, to drive change by forcing one to confront their own mortality. The person grapples with understanding what it means to have the span of their days on this earth numbered, perhaps imminently.

Death dispels the illusion of being in control. The one who suffers through it watches his very body turn on him.  He faces an experience he can try to fight, but cannot escape.  As Viktor Frankl noted, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  Death, then, offers the ultimate challenge, one that can compel us to change ourselves for better or for worse.

I have seen death bring about great increases in humility, love, forgiveness, and patient endurance.  I have seen it provide a chance for loved ones to express their affection through gentle service and keeping vigil at the bedside, and for the dying to humbly receive that love.  Often it takes the form of holding the dying person’s hand and whispering “I love you” countless times as you suffer together.

Facing the permanence of death has a way of reminding one of what his true priorities are.  The noisy distractions of life fade away and relationships have an opportunity to come to the forefront.  Love may intensify and be purified from selfishness and vain attachments.

Suicide robs the dying and their loved ones of the opportunity to share this deepening of love, the fullness of which can only be realized through the unique process of natural death.  In a sense, our lives are not simply our own; they belong to others.  We cannot be truly happy in this life except by giving of ourselves to others.  Our ties in the human family are closer and more profound than we often realize; each life touches so many others.  When someone deliberately chooses to terminate his own life, he tears a gaping hole in the fabric of his community. Whether intentional or not, committing suicide communicates to others that escaping one’s own suffering takes priority over the time and love that could have been shared otherwise within the natural death process, however painful as it may be for all involved.

The most significant relationship one facing death may no longer ignore is a relationship with God.  Death prompts one to take a final stand and decide what type of relationship they want to have toward God: one of love, apathy, or defiance.

For those who choose to draw closer to God, suffering holds an even greater purpose.  They are in the unique position of being a visible sign of Christ crucified to the world. “Always bearing about in [their] body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in [their] bodies” (2 Cor 4:10). In their pain and trials, the Christian shares in “the fellowship of his sufferings” (Philipians 3:10).  Love is proven, not in the heights of ecstasy, but in the crucible of suffering. Love “bears it out even to the edge of doom.” (Shakespeare, Sonnet 116)

With their bodily sufferings, the dying can fill “up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24). This is not to say that there is anything insufficient about Christ’s suffering and death on the cross, rather that, in His love, Christ has given us a means of applying the merits of His suffering and death to our own soul and the souls of others.  Accepting the sufferings one is presented, is a powerful way of taking up the cross and following in the footsteps of the savior.

Looking back on my own life and reflecting on my sufferings, I see that the moments of greatest pain and sorrow were not pointless.  These heartaches ignited the fire of passions, previously unknown, and increased my capacity to love others.  They prepared me for gifts I had not previously been disposed to receive.

Perhaps then the sufferings which precede death are merely preparation for receiving the greatest gift God has to offer: eternal life.   A life where every tear shall be wiped from our eyes, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”  (1Cor 13:12).


Do you see meaning in death and suffering?  Are there reasons that you find suffering meaningful (or not) that you care to share?   
P.S. Prolonging death unnecessarily will be addressed separately in another article.
I have aspirations of also writing on the idea of what constitutes a meaningful quality of life, but I am a slow writer, it will probably be quite a while.

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Thriving Amidst Adversity

blacksmith_2540894In January, frustrated with the chaos I was encountering, I decided to seek to thrive in all that I did.  I set goals for various aspects of my life: relationships, health, prayer, etc. (I hope to share them with you sometime soon, to help keep me accountable to them.)  

While I have been progressing in my goals, and life is becoming more ordered and running smoother, this progress didn’t bring me as much satisfaction as I had hoped.  In my mind, thriving was still eluding me.

As I pictured it, thriving meant managing all of the duties and responsibilities of my life with perfect competence.  I figured that, if I tried hard enough, I really could have it all together. You know, a perfectly clean house, with delicious all-organic paleo meals on the table promptly at 6pm, children whose days are spent engaging in a variety of stimulating learning activities (definitely not with any television), picture perfect health, and extensive periods in the day for prayer and recollection.

While all of these things are good and desirable, it wasn’t until recently that I realized that I had missed the point.  In my naivete, I had thought that sanctity- which is what true thriving is all about- necessitated having it all together.

With relief I recalled the lives of saints who share my vocation as mother.  If I held them to the same standards that I had proposed for myself, then Sts. Monica, Gianna and Frances hadn’t really thrived.  St. Monica had difficulties in her relationship with her son and husband; St. Gianna suffered from cancer; and St. Frances was constantly interrupted at prayer by her children.

When it comes to thriving, only one thing is needful: to draw closer to our Lord through the circumstances of our daily life.  I may not be able to control the chaos and trials in my life, but I can control whether these trials bring me closer to God, or lead me further away.

Thriving doesn’t just happen when everything is going right; it happens when you are being tested in the furnace of adversity and are molded into what you are supposed to be.

Is it even possible to thrive without trials?

The challenges and chaos aren’t distractions from my goal for a life well lived; they are a means of pushing me closer to it.  It is up to me to use them wisely.  Maybe then I will experience what it looks like to thrive.

How about you?  Have you ever experienced a trial that helped you become a better person?  I would love to hear about it in the comments!


Striving to Become on Fire


“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”                        (from the poem Summer Day by Mary Oliver)

It’s a question asked countless times; a question that relentlessly demands an answer with an ever present whisper. A question I haven’t answered to my satisfaction . . . yet.

Sure, I’ve got a few of the big pieces figured out, I am a wife, mother and lover of God, but the details on how I am to engage in the everyday mundane events that give life and meaning to these relationships . . . those details are a bit fuzzy.  It’s becoming clear that the infused wisdom that I always presumed adults received hasn’t come yet.  Maybe it will arrive next year?  In the meantime, I guess I have to keep working to figure out the particulars of my vocation.

Thus far I have lived a life that borders on mediocre.  I haven’t managed to screw things up too badly, but neither have I excelled strongly.  I may not particularly struggle with vice, but I surely am not a paragon of virtue.

Now that I am a mother, I feel the time slipping by at an ever hurrying pace.  I put my baby down for a nap, and, when I go to pick her up a few short hours later, her growth is almost perceptible.  Tempus fugit.  My time with them is so short and serves as a reminder of the brevity of my life as a whole.  It rather reminds me of taking an exam and realizing that the testing period is slipping by and there is so much left to be done.

In the words of my good friend, (and patron saint) Catherine of Sienna:

“Be who you are meant to be and you will set the world on fire.”

There lies the trouble; I am not yet who I am meant to be.  The potential is there, though, and the means are within my grasp.  I am not yet on fire, I am only half kindled.  A work in the making.  The match has been struck, but the kindling is not yet aflame.  That is my quest then: to go from this lukewarm state to become a blazing fire. And what stands between me and my goal?  Many acts of the will.  Many acts of love.

In a sense, this is the most dangerous question a person can ask: how am I to light the world on fire? Time will tell how I answer the question.  I hope you will join me on this journey as I work to answer it in my own life.

It’s time to live on fire!

 “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” Luke 12:49

Come Holy Spirit, renew the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love.

I would love it if you could take a moment to stop by and leave a comment.  Things are very “under construction” at the moment,  so please bear with me as I try to build this “virtual home.”  Feel free drop by and introduce yourself.  I promise that I won’t mind if you prop your feet up on the coffee table.

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