The story is told of an army General visiting a platoon of paratroopers during the Vietnam War. During the conversation, the general asked, “How do you guys like jumping out of planes?” The first paratrooper responded, “I love it sir.” The second paratrooper then exclaimed, “I love it too sir. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” The general turned to the third paratrooper and repeated his question, “What about you? How do like jumping out of planes?” “Well sir,” the man explained, “it scares me to death. I get so nervous that I think that I am going to get sick. I really can’t stand it.” “Then why do you do it?” the curious general asked. “Because I love being around people who enjoy it,” he said.
Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is a difficult word to define. What we do know however, is that the Greeks who gave us this word summarized it best: EN-THEOS: meaning “God within”. The one who is enthusiastic then is one who has God within them; one who exudes excitement, one who conveys a sincere enjoyment for the life that they are living. Many times I feel like that insecure paratrooper when I take the time to leave the Central Office and visit your schools. My job makes me nervous, my job sometimes scares me to death. But I love leaving that office and becoming a first hand witness to the passionate enthusiasm, the endless enthusiasm of our teachers, administrators and staff here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I love coming to see the “God within” them. I love being around people who love what they do.
The educator who greets each day with enthusiasm is bound to spread that “God within” to the students whom he or she encounters every day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that “God within” all of us spread like wildfire through out the halls of our schools, our parishes and our administrative buildings across the Church? To me, this is the great mission of Catholic schools today: to be the vehicle through which we pass on the most treasured traditions and teachings of the Church and to do so with enthusiasm! When Pope Paul VI and similarly Pope Francis said, “The Church needs witnesses much more than it needs teachers”, they were calling all of us to unleash the “God within” so that others might come to know, love and serve Jesus Christ. Those of us that have been called into the ministry of Catholic education have the great privilege of being these witnesses each and every day to the students entrusted to our care. A bit humbling and yes, a bit daunting. But when others see the “God within” us they are inspired and moved to action. When others see the “God within” us they are motivated to know this God and to know of His great love for His people. What a tremendous gift we have been given!