Living with the power of the Spirit in the pews and throughout life
I hope you have had the chance to meet Lily. Lily is a very expressive second-grader from St. Joan of Arc in Omaha who was featured in a video we created for the annual Archbishop’s Dinner for Education. You see her whirling to articulate what her school and her growing faith mean to her.
"OMG," she gushes. "Math! … Science! … Religion! ... Learning about Jesus! I love it! My brain is going … Kaazaam!"
Every time I see this clip, I am reminded that the word enthusiasm comes from the Greek term, en theo, meaning ‘in God.’ Watching and listening to Lily, it’s clear she is filled with a beautiful fervor that comes from the expanding understanding of her world and her God. Her excitement and awe cannot be contained.
In his book, "Divine Renovation: Bringing your parish from maintenance to mission," Father James Mallon tells us, "Enthusiasm is the literal response to the presence of the Holy Spirit who is ‘in us.’ With the Spirit of God in us, the love of God poured into our hearts … we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ (Gal 4:6) … and realize with every part of our being that we have been adopted by God into the very mystical dance of the Trinity, so that God is truly in us and we are truly in God."
We all know people and parishes alive with this spiritual enthusiasm. Yet for too many, a better description would be lukewarm. A stoic culture in our parishes, where the emotional dimension of our lives is "checked at the doors of our churches as we go into pew mode" was never imagined by the early church, Father Mallon tells us. Rather, our church was birthed with an intensity as the Holy Spirit came to the disciples with fire and wind and filled them with every gift they would need to go forth. This church knew the Holy Spirit and the power of God.
Last year, Archbishop George J. Lucas launched a pastoral planning initiative to prepare for future growth of our archdiocese. Members of the planning committee were invited to read Father Mallon’s book. It helped members imagine parish life that inspires encounters with Christ and moves parishioners beyond the building walls to be like the disciples who traveled near and far to proclaim the Good News. It helped us to dream of an evangelization that Pope Francis described, "full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction!" (EG, no. 261)
I was consistently moved by the enthusiasm of this group in their deep desire to create a plan that inspired the Pentecostal reality of our faith, one that receives the Holy Spirit and sends us forth to the corners of our communities to meet people where they are with Christ’s message of love and mercy.
In celebrating Pentecost, may we more clearly know the power of God in us so our hearts and parishes respond with a boundless enthusiasm that can be felt in the pews and as we go forth as his disciples.
Shannan Brommer is director of the archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development. Contact her at email@example.com.