St. John’s Bonfire on the Vigil of St. John the Baptist’s Nativity

St. John’s Bonfire on the Vigil of St. John the Baptist’s Nativity

Tonight is the vigil of my birthday. Oh yeah, it is also the vigil of St. John the Baptist’s birthday. 😉

KDM Schola BurkeFor all my life, I never knew about St. John’s Bonfire, until Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (Fr. Z) told me about it last year. We didn’t get our act together in time last year, but this year my band of brothers – the Knights of Divine Mercy Schola Cantorum – will be gathering for a bonfire, cookout and schola practice. I think they are having birthday cake too. 🙂

Men love fire! We love bonfires and campfires and grill fires and just about any kind of fire. Maybe it’s hardwired in us from our ancestors, or maybe we are just drawn to the Fire of the Holy Spirit! Who knows? We just love fires.

As I said, we celebrate the Vigil of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist tonight and, apparently, this is a very old tradition. How cool is that?!?!

Sam Guzman over at Catholic Gentleman writes,

John the Baptist was a man on fire with the Holy Spirit. His words burned like a furnace, and he feared no one, even the powerful rulers of his day. He called all to repentance without exception, and lightened the way for the messiah like a blazing torch. What better way to commemorate this zealous prophet than with a roaring bonfire?


And indeed, it is an ancient tradition of the Church to build a bonfire on the night of June 23, the vigil of St. John’s nativity, and keep watch through the night. The vigil of this feast is also symbolic in that it takes place only a few days after the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, calling to mind St. John’s declaration that, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Build a bonfire tonight, just as our ancestors did, and invite a priest over to bless the fire. If no priest is available to bless your fire, the family can sing the hymn together and the father can recite the closing prayer. Enjoy!


P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.

P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.
Lord God, almighty Father, the light that never fails and the source of all light, sanctify + this new fire, and grant that after the darkness of this life we may come unsullied to you who are light eternal; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

The fire is sprinkled with holy water; after which the clergy and the people sing the following Hymn: Ut queant laxis

1. O for your spirit, holy John, to chasten
Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen;
So by your children might your deeds of wonder
Meetly be chanted.

1. Ut queant laxis resonĂĄre fibris
Mira gestĂłrum fĂĄmuli tuĂłrum,
Solve pollĂști lĂĄbii reĂĄtum, Sancte JoĂĄnnes.

2. Lo! a swift herald, from the skies descending,
Bears to your father promise of your greatness;
How he shall name you, what your future story,
Duly revealing.

2. NĂșntius celso vĂ©niens OlĂœmpo
Te patri magnum fore nascitĂșrum,
Nomen, et vitae sériem geréndae
Ordinae promit.

3. Scarcely believing message so transcendent,
Him for a season power of speech forsaketh,
Till, at your wondrous birth, again returneth,
Voice to the voiceless.

3. Ille promĂ­ssi dĂșbius supĂ©rni,
Pérdidit promptae módulos loquélae:
Sed reformåsti genitus perémptae
Organa vocis.

4. You, in your mother’s womb all darkly cradled,
Knew your great Monarch, biding in His chamber,
Whence the two parents, through their offspring’s merits,
Mysteries uttered.

4. Ventris obstrĂșso rĂ©cubans cubĂ­li
Sénseras Regem thålamo manéntem:
Hinc parens nati méritis utérque Abdita pandit.

5. Praise to the Father, to the Son begotten,
And to the Spirit, equal power possessing,
One God whose glory, through the lapse of ages,
Ever resounding.

5. Sit decus Patri, genitaéque Proli
et tibi, compare utriĂșsque virtus,
SpĂ­ritus semper, Deus unus, omni
TĂ©mporis aevo.

P: There was a man sent from God.
All: Whose name was John.

P: Let us pray. God, who by reason of the birth of blessed John have made this day praiseworthy, give your people the grace of spiritual joy, and keep the hearts of your faithful fixed on the way that leads to everlasting salvation; through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

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