Fan into Flame: Giving it a Chance

By Brian Delfs, Freshman at Seton Hall University

Brian Delfs (right) with freshman John Trask at Fan into Flame.

My first semester in college was rocky, to say the least. It was troubled by laziness, bad sleeping issues, and my unique initiation into the Army. I was my own tabula rasa, and I tried to become a new person. By week two or three I realized I needed to find a niche other than my room.

By the grace of God, I was led to Saint Paul’s Outreach and I realized it was the place for me. The rest of the semester I spent renewing my relationship with God: 

  • I began attending Mass, and actually looking forward to it.
  • I went to my first confession in at least six years.
  • I was immersed into expressive prayer.

I was not just being a Catholic, I was developing what seemed like an energetic, loving, and honest relationship with God. But something was off, and I had been ignoring it. This new-found relationship was simply a means for me to justify my involvement in the Saint Paul’s Outreach community. I was being a hypocrite, discussing topics about breaking bad habits in small group, but falling into the same traps not a few hours later. I had put myself into a dangerous routine: I had taken my faith and begun using it as a pass to achieve comfort, camaraderie, and entertainment. I was originally quite pleased that I had caught myself, but now I had no idea how to fix my issues. I needed guidance. I needed to save what little trust I felt God had in me. I needed to hear from God Himself, as I felt I was growing distant and needed a spark.

Well, I got a whole lot more.

Fan into Flame

Over 85 students and staff at the New Jersey Fan into Flame retreat.

I decided that I would try to get as much out of Fan Into Flame as I could, as it seemed it would be the only retreat of the semester. I arrived and realized that this was not just a retreat but a social jungle. There were so many people I did not know, and so many people I wanted to get to know. I was not five minutes in and already I was losing focus. Typical me. I was intrigued by the start of the event and I was immediately glad I came. The wonderful emcees mentioned that we should give it a chance and look to hear from God. Sitting through talks is not a favorite activity of mine, and it took a lot of self-control to not daydream. All things considered, I was enjoying the retreat and I was learning a lot.

By the night of the first full day I felt invigorated and I had achieved what I wanted: a new desire to love. It was not over, by any stretch of what I could have expected. That night we had a prayer meeting. It was an extremely intimate event and I was a little nervous being the youngest and newest member of my small group. When I was being prayed over I did not feel a whole lot and I was quite disappointed. I felt let down, even though I had been hoping to feel or hear something from God. However when I was praying over a dear friend of mine, I felt a desire to say something passionate. I opened the Bible and quoted Matthew in the story of Jesus calling Simon and Andrew to discipleship. I looked at my friend and said “Friend, you are a fisher of men; and it is important that you build your own life spiritually, not just others.” I was quite pleased with myself for using scripture and I went to bed happy that I had made such a wonderful connection.

'God had spoken to me'

Brian Delfs sharing his testimony on the last day of Fan into Flame.

The next morning we had Mass. In the Bible, people come to know God in a variety of ways, and He found an easy way to talk to me: through the priest at Mass. He began reading the Gospel, and I realized it was the same verse I had read, Matthew 4:19. I looked across the room at my friend, and he was staring back at me. What was running through his head was probably “huh, that’s funny.” What was running through my head was fireworks. This was it. This is what I had been hearing about my entire life. God had spoken to me, this was his way of communicating to me. Not only was there an interaction, He was clearly showing what He has in store for me.

Fan Into Flame did exactly what I had hoped for. I had given it a chance, and I came out a better Catholic than I could have ever imagined. One of the biggest lessons I pulled away from the retreat is that God has a plan for all of us, and if you wait, He will reveal your path. The times we need it the most, that’s when we must show our resolve and place our faith in Him. He is going to come to you when you’re comfortable, so that in times of struggle you can go in with the armor of God. Trust in Him.

Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His presence continually! - 1 Chronicles 16:11