It was time. Latecomers filled the remaining empty seats. The buzz deepened. Suddenly, hilarity turned heads. It was John O’Leary, lean and wiry, his eight-year-old-son, Patrick, under his arm, moving toward the speaker’s table. Anticipation mounted, the introduction made, the book signing at Barnes & Noble began, and with it, the firestorm that subdued the audience.

John’s words, scored with lightness and spontaneity, witnessed to another way of living culled from his having been salted with excruciating pain as a child.

In January 1987, his body became the crucible for a gasoline fire that burned one hundred percent of his body. Five months of treatments, multiple skin grafts, and amputations in St. John’s Mercy Hospital followed. As he scrambled away from the brink of death, his spirit flourished; it was fanned by supportive parents, siblings, medical/nursing staff, peers, and by Jack Buck, sportscaster for the St. Louis Cardinals. Promises of prayer from around the world poured in, including ones from Pope John Paul II and President Reagan.

Not only did that fire burn John’s flesh when a child, it also purified his spirit and refined his story; its lessons challenged the charred places in our psyches. Within the fiery love of God, change happens. We experienced this in John, His firebrand.

Should you or someone you know be stuck in life, do recommend On Fire – the 7 choices to ignite a radically inspired life (2016). A best seller on Amazon, it is also available at Barnes & Noble.

 

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