Our very first Lent book exclusively for men is coming out this year... and it's a special one. Father Innocent Montgomery, CFR, wrote it. He walks the reader through their many baptismal identities with a focus on the example of Jesus as the One Who shows us how to live them out in the desert.
I think every man in your life needs one (and mine too!).
An Interview with Father Innocent Mongomery, CFR
Please enjoy hearing the responses about the book from the man himself, Father Innocent!
Father Innocent, tell us about your role as CFR postulant director and the outdoor adventure for the postulants that is a core narrative in your new book, Born of Fire.
It is a great blessing for me to be the Postulant Director for our community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. As God calls young men to religious life, they begin a journey we call "formation." This journey is an intense time of growth in the spiritual life as well as our humanity. I love inviting young men on the adventure of formation. I long to remind them that they are beloved sons of the Father, and they have been given a divine inheritance at their holy Baptism.
From this place, we dive into our interior life of prayer with God and encounter Him in a deep and new way. As we grow in relationship with Him, we grow to trust Him and allow Him to come and heal the deep places in our hearts that are wounded and hurting. In this encounter, true healing and transformation happens, and then we can live in freedom as sons of God.
Men need a concrete invitation to take formation seriously. That is why men need the desert. First, we look to Jesus, the perfect man, who made the desert holy. He went into the desert for 40 days to be with His Father and to teach us how to constantly live in our identity as His sons. Above all, He prioritized His relationship with His Father as the source of His life and identity. From this holy place, Jesus receives everything.
I believe that Jesus prepares a place for every man in the desert. That is why I take our postulants brothers to the heart of the Utah desert for 21 days every year. Our exterior journey of backpacking, canyoneering, and rock climbing pushes us to our psychical limits, as it challenges us to dig deep and trust amid the challenges. All of this is at the service of the interior journey. Most importantly, Jesus invites us into the desert to live in a new relationship with the Father. We are called to leave all our comforts and distractions of the world and to receive this gift of intimacy with God. In the desert, we come face-to-face with God and ourselves.
In the holy confrontation, we are forced to make real decisions that purify and help us to say "yes" to the men that God desires us to be. This is what makes the desert a holy place.
You wrote Born of Fire for men to experience an identity journey. What does that mean for you?
In the book, I invite men to go on an "identity pilgrimage." It is the invitation to go on a sacred journey of self-discovery, not from our own human vantage point, but from the Father's. For too long we have allowed ourselves as men to be defined by the world, which leaves us lost and empty. We attempt to "self-define," and we end up living a frustrated existence. The good news is that the Father did not create to live this way. He sent us His Son into the world to save us from our false identities and reveal to use what it means to be true sons of the Father. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, reveals man fully to himself (Gaudium et Spes 22). United to Him, we receive and live our true identity that is given to us by the Father.
Our identity as sons of the Father is bestowed on us in a particular way at holy Baptism. The fire of the Holy Spirit is lavished upon us, and we are "born of fire." We are invited to live a new existence as sons of God, constantly growing in our identity to be more like Jesus.
When we say "yes" to this journey, our life becomes the "identity pilgrimage." Sons become brothers; brothers become men; men become spouses; spouses become fathers; fathers are mystics; and mystics live as the "new man." This "identity pilgrimage" is an invitation for every man to be fully alive in Jesus Christ.
Who did you write this book for? If I’m shopping for my boyfriend, husband, son, or friend, is this book for everyone?
This book is written for all men who desire to grow in their identity as sons of the Father. I took great care in my writing to make sure that no matter where you find yourself on the journey of the spiritual life, you could receive the next best step to go deeper. I believe that the "identity pilgrimage" is for every man who desires to be fully alive in his vocation and mission. If the journey is new for man, let Jesus build the foundation of his identity and experience the joy of receiving the gift of who they are in Him. If a man has been on the spiritual journey for a while, let Jesus renew, deepen, and fortify his identity he has received from the Father. Remember, the Father always desires to give His sons "more" in the spiritual life. More life, love, mercy, and fulfillment.
I have been asked by a lot of women whether this book would be fruitful for them during Lent. I do realize that it is concretely written for men, but I tell them that if they feel inspired, I think the Lord would definitely use it. Obviously, we all are blessed with our identity as sons and daughters of the Father from our baptism. The Holy Spirit leads us all on this journey of maturity and growth to become fully alive in God. Born of Fire walks through this journey for men, blessing them as sons, brothers, men, spouses, fathers, mystics, and the new man.
For women, they are called on the same journey as daughters, sisters, women, spouses, mothers, mystics, and the new woman. Using the simple meditations given in the book, I do think that it would be easy to ‘translate’ to make it personal for the female reader. If I am mistaken in this, at least the book would give some insight into the masculine heart for those women who consistently live before the mystery that is man.
What was the biggest challenge of authoring this book? Biggest unexpected joy?
I have such a grateful heart to God and Blessed is She for the opportunity to write this book. I never thought I would write a book, so there was so many new graces and experiences. To be honest, when it comes to evangelization in general, I have a fear that my "projects," whether it is preaching, writing, or podcasting, will just be more noise in the crazy world. God knows we do not need more noise or distraction.
Over the past couple of years, in particular during my time in the desert, Jesus was moving my heart with this desire to bless people in their identity as sons and daughters of the Father. There was a ton of fire in my heart, and I remember being so moved by the Father’s love for His children and His desire to remind us constantly who we are in His eyes. I remember a deep desire in my heart to be an instrument of the Father’s blessings in this, but I do remember being afraid of what He was asking of me.
In many ways, the content of this book is an invitation into my heart as a priest. The call by the Father to be vulnerable and real, and to be an instrument of His blessing for others, is a beautiful challenge and deeply fulfilling.
My Blessed is She team is an absolute joy. I have never done this before, so the gift of being cared for every step of the way was incredible. Blessed is She is a family, so I just felt like a little Franciscan brother who was given freedom to be myself and follow Jesus on this amazing journey. Also, it helps that we laughed a lot. I am deeply grateful for all of this.
What is your hope for the readers of this book during Lent 2022?
As a priest, one of the deepest desires of my heart is to help people pray and experience the gift of their identity as sons and daughters of the Father. So, my hope is that this little book could help people experience intimacy with a God who loves them and comes close to them.
My hope that the readers would experience this Lenten journey as a sacred and intense time where the Father can remind them of who they are in their identity. My hope is that the fire of the Holy Spirit that we all received at our baptism would set us ablaze once again to fully live our inheritance as sons and daughters of the Father. Because of the gift of our baptism, every Christian is "born of fire." This fire is the fire of the Holy Spirit that the Father lavished upon us at our Baptism and continues to pour out upon us at every moment of our life.
This fire is God’s life that lives in us.
My deepest hope is that this book could remind people that there is a fire within, and this fire is the source of our life and mission.
Get a free leader guide along with the book, downloadable from the website.