By SISTER DONNA LAREAU
The second annual Coastal Catholic Conference in Myrtle Beach on Jan. 26 marked the beginning of the year of evangelization for the Diocese of Charleston and the launching of the program “Disciples in Mission.” This program is an important part of the evangelization initiative for our diocese. It is an offshoot of the “Go and Make Disciples” program, which is the national plan and strategy for Catholic evangelization in the United States. These programs challenge us to “continued and renewed formation in faith as a basis of our deepening personal relationship with Jesus” (GMD p. 7). When we make our faith formation a priority, we are better able to evangelize others. One of the goals of evangelization is “to bring about in all Catholics such an enthusiasm for their faith that, in living their faith in Jesus, they freely share it with others” (GMD Goal I).
We are called to be enthusiastic about our faith. Enthusiasm for our faith is essential because we know that nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. When we look at the annals of world history, we notice that every great movement was the triumph of enthusiasm. We understand enthusiasm when we talk about sporting events or when we hear about the latest Harry Potter book, but what does it look like when it refers to our faith tradition? The etymology of the word enthusiasm gives us a good way of understanding what it means.
Enthusiasm comes from the Greek word meaning “to be God-possessed.” In order to be enthusiastic about our faith, we have to let God possess us. One of the problems with this is that oftentimes we think only of what we possess rather than looking at God possessing us. Too many times we identify only with the possessions we have gained through our own efforts — property, career, status, etc. There are times when what we possess comes to “possess” us. In order to be a people who evangelize, how do we let God possess us?
There are a number of ways in which we can let God possess us; these ways all revolve around faith. Faith is the divinely initiated personal relationship we have with a God we cannot see. We have faith in God, and we let God possess us when we come to know God more and more intimately in and through prayerful reflection on Scripture, through receiving the sacraments, and through acceptance of the apostolic traditions of our church. We let God possess us when we surrender our self-interest and self-reliance and trust God completely.
Faith, according to St. Ignatius of Antioch, is the beginning and the end of love. When we let God “possess” us, God brings faith and love into a unity in us, and this is something about which we can truly become enthusiastic. This unity of faith and love with a hope in a God we cannot see is something we can surely share with all we meet.
Sister Donna Lareau is available for spiritual direction and presentations on spiritual topics. She can be contacted at P.O. Box 12410, Charleston, SC 29422 or e-mail at Sr.Donna-OLM@juno.com.