The Fire Within

We are born restless. We are very complex in our nature. We are very driven and complex in our sexuality. The majority of people including Christians have trouble connecting that to God. I do not use this expression lightly “God smiles on us”. Sometimes I think God is frowning on us. Particularity when you are dealing with your complexity. A book like this is needed. Somehow to make peace with the fire within. To come to peace with this fire. Not just personally but that God is okay with how we feel. Then we are going to be okay with how we feel. This is a huge problem.

This is a huge reason why a lot of people are not good with your churches. There life is driven, and they look at church and God and a spirituality that is not going to allow them to be inside their own skin.

Who is your target audience?

The target audience is not the converted or the people in the pews. This book is more for the searcher. Many people today are no longer finding a door of our churches. This is increasing every year. We live in a society without a lot of moral guidance. A culture is very strong but our culture is not driven by the Gospel. People say “are you making smart choices?” This can mean a lot of things. The sincere searcher. They may be not going to church. They may be struggling with something. How do I sort myself out? I write books for the inside. For the people in pews. There is a book on Eucharist. The holy longing or sacred fire. But this book you do not have to be religious to read it. This is inter-dimensional. There is nothing particularly roman catholic about this book.

I do not hide the fact that I write as a priest and a Christian.

Let me tell you a story –

I grew up. Very good Catholic. I entered the seminary at 18. “Some people say you were too young”. But I think that was the best decision I ever made. In my youth I was always a wrestles kid. As a kid wandering in our pastures. The world seemed too small. When puberty hits. Sexuality hits. I always felt guilty about this restlessness and I never shared this with anybody. You are now sexually restless, and it seems that it is sinful. That there is something wrong. When I went to the seminary. What they call a novitiate. They isolate you for 1 year. We were across the town through a lake. We were 18 novices. 5 staff. All male. Living across through the lake. These are the only people you talk to for a year. You see life across the lake. You hear the traffic. You see the town lights and so on. This just increases your restlessness. We were 18 and 20 years old. We are jumping out of our skin. We are reading books about “longing for the body of Christ”. Then you think “this is not exactly what I am longing for”.

One day we had a visiting priest. He puts us in the parlour and asks, “you guys a little restless?” He responds “Gee…you should be. You should be jumping out of your skin. You must be crazy being here. 18 years old and you are watching life across the lake”. But he said “that is good”….”that is good”….”that is the way your suppose to feel”.

This was the first time someone gave me sacred permission to feel what I feel in my own skin. Instead of saying something is wrong, he says “that is healthy”….”if you aren’t feeling you should not be here”.

This was a breakthrough and a little cantharus. He said “I am not weird”….”You are healthy. This is the way you are supposed to feel”. This got us smiling on that. God made you like that. But…underneath that all there is a longing for the body of Christ. On the surface you are longing for a lot of other things.

How would you distil the main theme of the fire within?

The main theme starts with desire. Sexuality is important and good. Our desires are wide. The Greeks had a word which we now have in English “Eros”. Eros is the God of love. All your desire. All your restlessness. But…for Christians…this is the image and likeness of God inside of us. This is not some beautiful icon which is stamped into you. The icon like the Trinity. No…God is fire. Inside of every man and woman there is a god or goddess of divine fire with appetites. The book is how do you sort that out? How do you make peace with that in terms of your own life? How do you make peace with that in terms of your sexuality? How do you make peace with that in terms of your spirituality? This is okay with God. This is not sinful.

Christian theology and spirituality has always been weak in attributing anything like that to Jesus. To God. To the blessed virgin. Catholics always speak “the virgin Mary”. Why is that you say “Virgin” every time? We struggle to contribute complexity. To God. To Mary. To Mother Teresa. Anybody we consider holy. People struggle because that is not the way they feel. We cannot attribute to deep complexity to Jesus. And, we should.

A page from the book…

Desire, restlessness and sexuality constitute a formidable trinity. Each of us is a bundle of untamed eros, wild desire, of longing, of restlessness, of loneliness, of dissatisfaction, of sexuality and of insatiability. Inside all that disquiet we need 2 things. Understanding of why. As Pascal once said “we cannot sit still in a room for 1 hour”. The 2 things an understanding of why we have disquiet, and secondly, we need sacred permission to know that it is good and normal to feel that way. In short, we need to know that restlessness makes sense. That God is smiling on us.

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12 July 2022

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Father Ron Rolheiser

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