The Fire of Community

I wrote a short reading for Saint Brighid’s Day. This piece weaves together many aspects of Brighid – patron saint of healers, blacksmiths, poets, keeper of the sacred flame and sacred wells.

This morning I woke to find that the well of one of my sacred communities had been poisoned somehow.  There was a lot of hurt and discontent.  As I reflected on what was happening and the pain I felt at the idea that our community might be divided rather than united, I thought about the sacred fire.  Not the fires outside holy sites or kept in well tended hearths. No, I thought of bonfires.  Yes, a good old fashioned Arkansas bonfire complete with marshmallows on sticks.

If you’ve ever had the good fortune to go the kind of bonfires I am thinking of, then you know that people of all sorts of backgrounds show up and are welcome at the fire.  I recall a particular bonfire from my youth.  It was small town, Arkansas.  It had become well known that bonfires took place on the weekends at nearby fields owned by someone’s dad.  Anyone was welcome.  Now there were flaws, this was far from perfect.  The kid passing you a beer or a smoke might not be willing to talk to you at school come Monday.  Yes, there were basic teenage politics at play.  But at those fires…. people you never saw hanging out at school would sit around and tell jokes and stories and be friendly with one another.  The differences were set aside.

This got me thinking about metaphorical bonfires.  The communal fire that is tended and kept in each community.  The place within us that calls us to set  aside those differences long enough to connect, to share stories and perhaps a beer together, and without the teenage politics.   The gathering place of our hearts.  The following writing emerged  – a blessing from Brighid and a call back to the fire.

Light the fires for justice,
For the shadows cast on the wall,
Reflecting what we wanted to hide away in the corners or our minds.
Light the fires of the heart,
Let it burn bright,
A welcome hearth
To those in need of kindness, compassion, acceptance

Light the fires of truth
So we may know ourselves
And turn toward the well lit path
Light the communal fire
 Call together those seeking,those lost in joy or sorrow,
those who too want to kindle the flame of peace
Of hope
Of love
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