The fire burned bright and the conversation flowed easily despite occasional drizzle at the first Fireside with Father event Nov. 17 at St. Mark Parish in Affton.
Father Brian Hecktor stoked the fire with sticks and logs, with some newspapers thrown in at the start. As a bed of red-hot coals formed, a few parishioners roasted marshmallows. “This is called dessert,” one participant said, holding up a well-tanned marshmallow.
The parish pastor was deep in conversation at one point with a parishioner. Overhearing the conversation, another parishioner shouted, “He’s talking canon law. Does it say it’s illegal to burn a marshmallow?”
Some wondered aloud whether Jesus sat around a campfire or used wood or charcoal to cook. Laughter ensued when someone blew on the fire to “fan the flames of the Holy Spirit.”
Father Hecktor talked about growing up on a farm. Two others conversed about their grandchildren. Several people chimed in on the topic of music and everyone enjoyed discussing their favorite Missouri state parks.
Sheila Mason called the bonfire a community-building event. “We’re a family here, warm and welcoming,” Mason said.
Karen Kraus was a member of St. Timothy Parish before it merged with Most Precious Blood and Mary Queen of the Universe in 2003 to form St. Mark Parish. She wasn’t as active at the parish until recently because she was caring for elderly parents, but now serves as a lector and is on the parish council. She’s enthused about the future.
Pat Lampe, who sings in the choir, said the members stuck together, even through the move of the parish church to the location of the school and rectory in 2017. “We work well together. And there’s never a problem getting people together. They pitch in and work,” Lampe said.
Parish activities abound. For example, a potluck dinner and game night was scheduled Nov. 27 for families. The aim of the annual alcohol-free event organized by parishioner Glen Zeitler is to meet new friends and renew friendships.
Julie Dwyer called the rectory driveway “just a natural spot to hang out.” Father Hecktor’s fire-making skills were put to the test on a less-than-ideal night, “but I’m telling you, he keeps the fire of faith going around here,” Dwyer said. “He’s always there for all our parish’s social goings-on, but then he makes sure the parish has lots of opportunities for confession, adoration, Mass and all sorts of things to keep our faith life strong. He drops in on classrooms and he’ll spontaneously teach something to the kids in PSR all the time.”
The event was called off initially, then was back on when several people arrived as rain subsided. Father Hecktor said that he and the parishioners set aside time to gather for Mass and prayer each week. “But we wanted to set aside time for the sole purpose of visiting and enjoying each other’s company. A warm fire on a cool fall night is a great setting for some casual and fun conversation,” he said.
In his parish bulletin the next weekend — the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe — Father Hecktor wrote about what could be an analogy for the light from that fire pit in his driveway on that dark fall evening. “As winter approaches and the daylight becomes less, we have the growing glory of the Kingdom of God with His Son as our King. We can always look to Him for hope even on our darkest days,” he wrote.
In recent years, gathering around a fire pit has become more commonplace at parishes, especially during Advent. One upcoming event, for example, is at Christ Prince of Peace Parish in Manchester. On Dec. 4, men of the parish community will share and encourage each other in their Advent journey, with Joe Farris as guest speaker sharing his thoughts on discipleship for men and offering insight into the life and works of Father Emil Kapaun, a priest who served as a chaplain during the Korean conflict and died in a prisoner-of-war camp.
Fire in Scripture
John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Luke 3:16
There the angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush. When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed. So Moses decided, “I must turn aside to look at this remarkable sight. Why does the bush not burn up?” Exodus 3:2-3
I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! Luke 12:49
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. ... Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:1-4