To Light a Fire on the Earth

“In Christian tradition, beauty, goodness, and truth are known as ‘transcendentals,’ linked to the three core human abilities to feel, to wish, and to think. Jesus refers to them in the Great Commandment when he talks about the mind, the soul, and the heart and inducements to take the wrong path with each of the transcendentals formed the core of his temptation scene in the Gospels. While Barron is convinced that Catholic Christianity represents the fullness of all three, he’s equally convinced that the right way to open up the Catholic world to someone is with its beauty…’There’s something winsome and less threatening about the beautiful. ‘Just look,’ the evangelist might say, ‘ at Chartres Cathedral or the Sainte Chapelle or the Sistine Chapel ceiling or the mosaics at Ravenna. ‘Just read,’ he might urge, ‘Dante’s Divine Comedy or one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poems, or Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.’ ‘Just watch,’ he might suggest, ‘Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity at work among the poorest of the poor.’ The wager is that the encounter with the beautiful will naturally lead someone to ask ‘What made such a thing possible?’

-Robert Barron & John L. Allen, Jr.


Since first learning about the work of Bishop Robert Barron a few years ago, I have been a huge fan. I regularly watch his YouTube videos, listen to him on EWTN radio, and have loved the Catholicism book and series. He manages to break down challenging theological concepts in an approachable manner and communicate the truth of the Catholic faith in a beautiful manner. Despite his presence in digital media, I missed his writing – the book Catholicism has become a favorite of mine to pass on to friends and family members who may have questions about the faith or need to brush up on it.

Naturally, I was beyond thrilled when I discovered the Barron had a new book – To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age. This book is a true collaboration between the two authors with Allen taking the lead for much of the background on Barron and the clarification of his role as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Nevertheless, Barron makes his thoughts and teachings known throughout the book by contributing to key chapters and bringing his compassionate approach to the pages.

To Light a Fire on the Earth focuses on the challenges of the Catholic faith today – how can we stand firm in our beliefs in a culture that shuns religion and seemingly actively avoids God altogether. Barron and Allen emphasize the beauty of the church and the power of individual believers in a truly magnificent way. While the book has a bit less Barron than I expected, I truly enjoyed it and know that this will be a book that I cherish for years to come. While it has elements of how-to (in order to clarify how one should navigate a secular culture), hints of reflections (so that readers might better understand how they look at the church and their faith), and bits of a biography (when clarifying Barron’s background and his journey with the church and his Word on Fire ministry), it truly is a beautiful text that focuses on the Catholic faith and how one can be a strong evangelist of the faith and inspire those around us to grow closer to God.

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