Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The priest as teacher

Called to teach his flock, a priest must present, as best he can, the fullness of the truth embodied in the wisdom of his 2000-year old faith community.

He must present it with complete fidelity—in its entirety, including those things about which he himself struggles.

He must never trim the truth to suit his personal loyalties—political, social, or economic; for his ultimate loyalty must always be to Christ and His Church.

Rather, a priest must allow the teachings of his faith community, in its fullness to speak for itself and to speak to the heart of the people entrusted to his care.

His trust in the wisdom and power of his community's treasure of faith must allow him in turn to trust and respect the gift of intellect and freedom God has given the people he shall teach.

Called to teach God's people, he will learn to "take off his sandals" for "the ground he walks on is holy ground". He will therefore neither coerce them into following, nor insult their intelligence by presenting them with arguments meant to convince them through trickery. Instead, he will treat their faith, no matter how simple or learned, with the utmost reverence and respect.

Such disposition will lead him on the one hand to "meet them where they're at", speaking the truth to them plainly, simply, clearly, and without dissembling. On the other hand, the same attitude will prevent him from "insulting their intelligence" by being unprepared, "winging it", and "feeding his people fluff".

For he must always remember that the people to whom he is sent, the flock he ministers to, is the body of Christ himself; and they therefore deserve nothing but the best he can offer.

A priest must always act as a 'theologian (a teacher and seeker after truth) never like a 'used-car salesman' (a sophist who seeks to convince by putting on a show) - no offense to persons of that profession.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)