The flames of the campfire illuminated the surrounding trees in orange, enhancing the vivid scarlet of the autumnal leaves.
In years past, hundreds of fires were set then extinguished. Small ones, like the flame in front of my fellow retreatants and myself, and great wildfires, like those in Australia and California.
Small ones, like the dwindling light of high school, and great wildfires, like those in the hearts of men I now call my brothers.
Being the only son of my father, but one sibling among three, I had always lived in the shadow of my older sisters. St. Xavier lit the fire to illuminate my heart and my passions and taught me how to carry that fire as a torch for my future.
Servers at Mass are taught to hold their hands in front of their flames as they light the altar’s candles. If too close, the tongue will lick and singe their hairs. If too far, the small breeze from walking may cause the light to die out, especially if the servers walk too quickly. Now, I reflect on how fast I was walking, how far my hands were outstretched. Every day, opportunities call out from afar but are drowned by the winds whispering in our ears. Learning how to hear beyond the whispers is what I will forever keep with me. I will hold my hand in front of the flame as I walk.
With my hand out already, it is not too far to outstretch towards others. Our theology teachers taught us we do not live for ourselves. As Dr. Malewitz introduced, agapé love is what life is for: sacrifice for all others in the way Jesus did. St. X challenges me, “Where is your zeal? How is your fire being shared with others? Why are you shining that light?” Looking around, I see the glow in every teacher, every educator, every person. I strive to see agapé love in everyone, with teachers at the forefront. Their job is to bear their torches for us, offer us a bit of that flame, and relish in an unrequited satisfaction. It takes a special kind of individual to take a group of boys to China, into the woods, or to the chapel loft; to share with them the darkest period of his life, the joys of parenting and death’s role in psychology. It takes a true hero to look a boy in his eyes and tell him he sees a future.
In elementary school, I learned how to serve in Mass. In high school, I learned how to serve in the world. Through KUNA, I learned that I could sell my ideas for the betterment of people globally. Through service hours, I experienced the conditions our neighbors live in. Through retreat, I opened my eyes to brand new dimensions of understanding both God and other people. Through my classes, I learned how to be confident in my abilities. Through distance learning, I learned to cherish every moment I have to be close to others. I felt the warmth of the fire St. X lights in its students.
I feel it now as I walk with it, hand outstretched.