by Fr. Gabriel Calvo 

Beep… Beep… Beep…

“This is a long distance call. May I speak with Fr. Gabriel Calvo? I am Bishop Patricio Flores from San Antonio, Texas. ”

“Bishop Flores?”

“That’s me in person!”

“What can I do for you, Bishop Flores?”

“I call because I would like you to come to the United States for a couple of months to assist me in the marriage and family ministry among the Hispanic communities we have all over the country. This is a commitment I have to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States. I would like you to help me. I am writing you a letter explaining more details about this call and invitation.”

“You have my enthusiastic ‘Yes’ with only one con­dition: that you write a letter to my General Superior of the Diocesan Laborer Priests Institute here in Rome so he will give me his permission and his blessing. ”

“O.K., Fr. Calvo, this will not be a problem. I will do that this week.”

“So, you have my Yes. Just pray for me. I wish to be faithful to His call.”

That happened in February 1974. At this time I was living in Rome (Italy). The Conference of Bishops of Spain asked the General Superior of the Diocesan Laborer Priests for a priest as a spiritual director of the Pontificium Spannis College in Rome. I was chosen for this service. During this time I conceived, designed and conducted the Priest Encounter” Weekend and I was called to collaborate with the Commission of the Laity Council and with the Committee of the Family in the Vatican.

In April 1974, I flew to San Antonio to start my new commitment. In 1976, when my commitment was fulfilled, I asked the Lord in my prayer: “Dear Lord, what do you want now?” I made my annual spiritual retreat with the group of priests from my Institute here in the U.S., and His answer came to me throughout this retreat.

After my spiritual retreat, I was appointed by my superiors to live in our residence in Washington. D.C., to spend my time, energies and enthusiasm in marriage and family ministry around this country and even in other countries if I were called.

From that very moment, I was so grateful to the Lord and to my superiors that I felt like flying with the wind of the Spirit of God. In April, 1976, I went to New York to share my new dreams and plans about family with seven families (parents and their sons and daughters), friends of mine. This was a very exciting and inspirational weekend and a wonderful gift from God.

During the different sessions that we celebrated in one of the homes of these seven beautiful families, I was presenting my dreams, plans and projects about a new marriage and family ministry. I explained how we could develop the concept and the meaning of ENCOUNTER and RETORNO among all the members of one home or family, not only among the couples.

At the end of one of the large sharings, someone in the group challenged me to put a name to my dreams and new programs. Everybody supported challenge, and I was encouraged to go to a room in the house with a pencil and a piece of paper. After imploring the assistance of the Lord, I wrote one big F: that must be the letter Number One,” (I was sharing with myself) that stands for FAMILY… families… homes. This is going to be the FOCUS of this new ministry. The real families, the ordinary people as they arc living and struggling in their homes without discrimination of culture, race, ideology, religion or social level.

Then I asked myself: What really is the most important and urgent NEED of today’s families? After my experience and vivencias of all these past years, not only in this country but in other countries, the answer came quickly and spontaneously: lack of interpersonal communication, that’s it: INTERCOMMUNICATIONS, therefore the next letter is I.

I kept asking myself: “We need to communicate with each other.” What for? To build a deep and loving interpersonal relationship in each home. I wrote an R, that stands for RELATIONSHIPS.

As I was reading the three letters together FIR FIR… FIR… FIRE! That’s the word! It came out alive from inside my soul: FIRE! However, at the same time there was a big question mark in my mind: FIRE? “What is E going to stand for? I was thinking: Emo­tions… Encounter… Events… Estimation… Ex­amples… Expectations… EXPERIENCES!!! That’s it: personal experiences, what we call in Spanish VIVENCIAS. That’s the key to release the divine ENERGY of LOVE hidden within each family, inside each home. Sharing personal experiences (vivencias) with honesty, trust and confidence is the best way to communicate with each other and to build or to re-build relation­ships among the members of one family.

This is how the true revolution of love can start in each home. Because the energy of love is like FIRE. If you do not communicate, it is extinguished. By sharing personal experiences with each other: husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters… the divine FAMILY ENERGY OF LOVE hidden in our hearts can be released. The same thing happens with thermo­nuclear energy that is released when the nuclei of atoms come together by a scientific operation called fusion. Therefore, homes are GOD’S FIRES. The problem is that most families do not know it. The hope is that they can discover it if someone, another family, blows upon them.

Aware that I had the whole picture of my dreams in one word and feeling happier than a child with his pair of new shoes, I joined the seven waiting families announcing the very “good news”. The word is F.I.R.E.! I explained to them with great enthusiasm what I was thinking, feeling and dreaming about these four letters. At the end of my explanation someone ask­ed, “What exactly is FIRE going to be, another move­ment?” That question was another challenge for me. After my experience in the ministry for and with families, too many movements and organizations ignore each other and show a sad spectacle of self-centeredness, thirst for power, rivalries and competititons.  

My answer was a quick and strong NO! FIRE must not be another movement or powerful organization, but just a SERVICE to all — especially to the families more in need. Then someone suggested, “It looks like one letter is missing so the word can be more meaningful and according to what you just said, the letter is S.” Everybody agreed and I added the of Services. With one voice we all read: F.I.R.E.S.! We all felt that the Lord was giving us His Word. We sang a song to Him. FIRES was born!

Remember: God’s Fire is within you, inside your family life. Do not waste the time searching outside for what is deeply INSIDE.