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Posted November 9, 2006

Do you have to be smart to be a priest?

Father Louis Cameli
Origins. Oct. 26, 2006. Vol. 36. Number 20

“We very much need a priesthood and priestly ministry that is marked by a strong and integral intelligence,” Father Louis Cameli said in a Sept. 30 speech to the National Catholic Educational Association’s Seminary Convocation in Chicago. Cameli, former director of the Ongoing Formation of Priests Office of the Chicago Archdiocese, is a pastor in Norridge, Ill. He was general editor of the fifth edition of the U.S. bishops’ Program of Priestly Formation. He received the NCEA’s John Paul II Seminary Leadership Award during the convocation. The question Cameli posed was, “Do you have to be smart to be a priest today?” in the end he said: “Perhaps ‘smart’ is not the right word. What we have been circling around is truly holy wisdom.” Cameli said that certain models of priesthood accord intellectual engagement a lessened importance. But, he said, present demands call for a heightened intellectual engagement. For the priest today, for example, “there is the double-edged sword of making faith relevant, that is, in tune with the culture, and at the same time making it prophetic, that is, honestly and constructively critical of the culture. It takes a penetrating intelligence” to sort this out. Cameli said there is today an “urgent need for training priests who are intelligent and who use their intelligence.” He suggested, calls for greater emphasis on the priest’s role as teacher and his ongoing formation.

Excerpts from the article:

“Just as those formed to be humanistic professionals are tempted to live their priesthood in a kind of leveled existence (‘I’m just like everyone else’), so those formed in a more determined identity as icons of Christ are tempted to live their priesthood in a kind of exalted way (‘as icon, I’m not like anyone else’)”

“Priests on the front line must be intelligent, wise and practical to make the difference that only faith can make.”