Friday, August 5, 2016


"Holiness" and "Know-How"

I used to walk over this seal on the steps leading up to the main door of the seminary building at Saint Meinrad Seminary almost every day from 1964-1970 and again from 2004-2014. I hardly noticed it, much less what it said, until a few years ago. Yes, it says "pax," "peace," in the center, but the other two words are more important to me because it lists the two most important qualities a priest should possess. A priest should possess "sanctitatae," "holiness" for sure, but he must also balance that with "scientia." The important thing to note here is the choice of that last word. It does not use the word "sapientia." "Saphientia" means "wisdom." "Scientia" means "practical knowledge," as in "know how." A priest must possess "holiness," yes, but he also needs to possess "know how." He must be a holy man who is not just smart, but a holy man who knows how, and has the ability, to lead people to holiness.

In the gospel story about the "Good" Shepherd, there are two possibilities in Greek for "good" - "agathos" and "kalos." The word "agathos" means "morally good" (sanctitae). However, that is not the word used. The word "kalos" is used. It means "good at" (scientia) So the "Good Shepherd" is one who is "good at" shepherding. A good shepherd is one who is not only personally holy, but one who is good at leading others to holiness.

This is the story of why I subtitled my book, The Spiritual Leadership of a Parish Priest: On Being Good and Good At It. Just as a good shepherd must know where the grass is, how to find water and how to keep the wolves away, a good priest must possess certain spiritual leadership skills, not merely possess a life of personal piety. He must be holy and competent.

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