FR KEN Barker wants to set the world on fire and he wants you to help him.
But before you reach for the matches, you should know the flame he wants to grow comes from a personal encounter with God.
Fr Barker’s new book Go Set the World on Fire was officially launched by retired Bishop Brian Finnigan at Camp Hill parish on February 24.
Fr Barker said everyone had been talking about evangelisation lately and thought he would give his own pitch.
He joked the 200-page book was, in a way, his submission to the Plenary Council 2020.
“You can’t do the new evangelisation without a new Pentecost,” he said.
“So certainly I would be emphasising the role of the Holy Spirit as principal agent in evangelisation.
“What we need is a new infusion of the Holy Spirit, otherwise we’re trying to do a supernatural mission by natural means.
“So we definitely need the grace of God.”
Fr Barker is the leader of the emerging congregation Missionaries of God’s Love and places a strong emphasis on just that – God’s love.
He said he wanted to place a relationship with Jesus Christ front and centre.
“Many Catholics have been catechised, taught things in the Catholic school system, and they’ve been sacramentalised, had sacramental experience, which is all very good, but maybe not evangelised,” he said.
“So I think we’re coming to a new place in the Church where we realise the importance of that key experience of the encounter with Christ.”
As for why people hadn’t come to that encounter yet, Fr Barker said formalism and routine often got in the way.
“One reason is while people may have a Catholic sense of identity through upbringing but, for one reason or another, not yet in their personal life come to an encounter with Jesus in a really living way,” he said.
“That’s simply because we can be really formalistic in our Catholic faith instead of encountering the heart of it – and the heart of it is Jesus.”
Another reason, he said, why people struggled to encounter Jesus Christ was because of distractions.
Fr Barker said people were often distracted by worldly affairs, which weren’t necessarily bad things.
He said it was often just people being preoccupied with getting life together according to their own needs that they hadn’t had the opportunity, or they neglected the opportunity, to come into a personal encounter with the Lord.
But evangelisation itself had a whole process to it, he said.
“This is really an important point in the book about witness,” Fr Barker said.
“People will read you first as to how authentic you are as a Christian before anything else you say.
“And the same too, they’ll read a particular Christian community by the way in which they act and relate to one another.
“This Christian witness is really important.”
Another important element was his borrowed vision, borrowed from Pope Francis, of the Church as a field hospital.
“In some ways that’s the case, there are a lot of bruised and broken and hurting people out there, who are looking for somewhere,” he said.
“They don’t even know they’re looking in a way.
“But we’re meant to provide that, we are meant to be that – a place where they’ll find healing, where they’ll find refuge in the storm, where they’ll find a place they can be built up and respected in their particular struggles whatever it is.”
Part of the book focused on evangelising the digital continent, a world where so many young people now lived and worked.
Another section focused on beauty.
Beauty in all its crafts was an indication of the culture as a whole, and Fr Barker said “evangelisation is really meant to guide the whole culture”.
Other topics like the power of intercession, healing and mercy were all also part of his vision for a new evangelisation.
Healing and mercy were particularly powerful topics, Fr Barker said.
“I wrote an earlier book called His Name is Mercy,” he said.
“Every time I talk about that people are weeping just because of the topic.
“So many people are suffering from breakdown in relationships.”
Fr Barker said a lot of the time it was a matter of people learning to forgive and how to forgive.
He said many people often came to him asking, “Is it possible to forgive?”
“So many people are hurting deeply in that area,” he said.
And he said, for those coming into the faith being evangelised, healing and mercy was one of the first areas that attracted them to the faith.
Fr Barker has written many books over the past few years.
“I think it’s because I wanted to get out from within myself what I felt on fire about,” he said.
Fr Barker said his desire to set the world on fire, and to write about it prolifically, came from his personal encounter with the living God.
“So I’m always coming out of that charism the Lord is giving us,” he said.
“The base of that charism is when Jesus says, ‘I’ve come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing’ (Luke 12:49).
“The fire of God’s love, the fire of the Spirit; we want to, of course, live out of that fire, we’re Missionaries of God’s Love.
“The writing is about expressing that vision in different ways.”