• Alexandra Borchard

Keeper of the Flame: Dear Little Sister on Fire Series

Amanda and I are teachers at a Catholic middle school. Like many educators, we experienced the sadness that came from the cancellations of school activities. This included the 8th grade girls retreat we had been excitedly planning. Part of the impetus for the Sisters on Fire blog was our desire to reach out to girls experiencing the similar challenges we faced growing up. And hopefully in doing so, to give them a little comfort in knowing that they are not alone, that there is hope in darkness.

So, in true Sisters on Fire fashion, we refuse to let a little social distancing get in the way of the words we wanted to say. We are adding a weekly series titled, "Dear Little Sister on Fire" with themes from our young ladies retreat that we want to share with all of our Little Sisters on Fire out there. Each letter comes with a reflection activity; our hope is that you can make it your own.

Dear Little Sister on Fire,

Imagine a dark, starless night out at sea. In this veil of darkness, there is a single light providing some comfort and direction. This light represents the flame you were born with, the unique light given by God, just for you! He gave you a special task-- to be the keeper of His lighthouse, guiding others back to His shores.

When you’re young, this light shines brightly. It is newly lit, has plenty of fuel to burn. You can out run, out climb, out laugh any of the strong winds that might blow it out. But you get older and His gift becomes dimmed. And God becomes saddened because the little girl to whom He gave this wonderful gift forgets she even has it.

You notice your imperfections. What you see in the mirror isn’t good enough. Social currency is converted to likes and followers. You are told it only matters what is on the inside, but you look around and see that nobody follows this mantra, so why should you? You begin to seek control by living in the extremes: you worship diets, treadmills, dollars. Little by little you compromise what’s left of the little girl inside of you, until pieces of her fall away and you become someone you don’t recognize or perhaps even don’t like.

All this time, the little flame inside of you grows fainter. It cannot survive this toxic environment you’ve made inside of yourself. It needs to be outside, to breath, to have oxygen. But you insist nobody wants to see it, so you douse it and keep it hidden… You think you’re safe with it locked away. Nobody can judge what they can’t see, right?

As you get older, you grow unhappier. You realize that it wasn’t worth hiding your true self, your internal light. You're sad because the self you’ve constructed isn’t really who you are at all. But now it’s too late, you do not even know where to search if you tried...

Little sisters, we have all been there. As women, we are especially hard on ourselves. We demand perfection of ourselves and project our unhappiness onto others. Once we have extinguished our own flames, we target someone else’s. And we get satisfaction seeing theirs become smothered too. We can be cruel like that.

But you can be happy, you can find yourself again and again. How do you start? You turn to God! To our faith! He provides the kindling which comes in many forms-- His Word, His Son, His Love, the Sacraments, the Eucharist! It is ready to be reignited at any time. He can turn what is ashes into a fire once again.

He has done the first step for you. He never left your side. Sometimes it is easy to think He’s not there. We will get more into that later. But for now, take comfort in knowing that if He wasn’t present, how do you explain all those who have gone before you that lived a life contrary to “popular” culture? Who gave up their lives rather than deny Christ? Who put themselves in harm’s way for others? Who somehow, despite injustice towards them, continued to go to church even when they would have every “excuse” not to? There is something there, Little Sisters, guiding people in a way that would not make sense in a godless, calculating world. And that is our Lord, our Shepherd, never giving up on a single lost sheep.

It is up to you to be the keeper of the flame, helping direct others towards God. You must look after your own light in order to be of purpose to others. And yes, there will be strong, off-shore winds that will make it difficult to maintain the flame. Heck, even you yourself might stand in your own way to keep God’s light burning. Self doubt will weigh your feet down as you try to climb the steps upward to the top of the lighthouse...

But, you must make those tiny steps onward. You will not be happy if you do not try! Find a spiritual hero, a saint, our blessed Mother, a fellow Sister on Fire, to guide you, someone that will help nourish your fire. Surround yourself with those types of people who will support you, remind you of who you are. You are not alone! There are other Sisters on Fire out there! By placing your efforts and focus on others, by becoming the keeper of God’s lighthouse, you will find happiness and strength to ignore the voices inside and outside of you tempting to smother your flame again. Be the keeper of the flame. Our world adrift at sea is searching for it.

We Love You!

“Big” Sisters on Fire (Mrs. Borchard & Mrs. Costello)

Our first experience being sisters was to our little brothers!

Reflection Activity:

Go to a quiet place. Maybe your room or the garden outside.

Write down or draw your reflection to the following questions. This is something for your eyes only, so be honest!

-what are the things in my life that are currently threatening my internal flame?

-have there been moments when I have caused another’s flame to dwindle?

-what are ways that I can reignite my flame? Short term. Long term.

-what are ways that I can help others see their own internal flames? How can I ignite other’s flames?

-what are some tools I can ask God for to help me accomplish these goals?

Reflection Scripture:

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

“The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear?” Psalm 27:1

“Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of the light.” John 12:36-37

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