The importance of knowledge in the life of a Priest

Scientific Essay, 2010

14 Pages, Grade: 97



1. Introduction

2. What is Knowledge?

3. Types of Knowledge
3.1 Science as Knowledge
3.2 Self Knowledge
3.3 Intuitive Knowledge
3.4 Infused Knowledge

4 Understanding of Knowledge in Christianity
4.1 Knowledge in the Bible
4.2 Knowledge in Christ's Human Intellect
4.3Knowledge: The Gift of the Holy Spirit
4.4 Church and the Importance of Knowledge

5. Importance of Knowledge in the Life of a Priest
5.1 Knowledge - The Eighth Sacrament
5.2 Knowledge of the Church*s Teaching and Doctrine,
5.3 Study and Pastoral Knowledge
5.4 As a Prophet-Declares the Message of God
5.5 As a Shepherd - Guards the Flock
5.6 As a Teacher and Preacher-Communicates the Word of God
5.7 Constant Update - Reading the Signs of the Times
5.8 Knowledge of Love - ‘Heart to Heart’

6. Conclusion

1. Introduction

Now-a-days many priests and religious spend a major part of their early lives in studies of various kinds. They attend renewal programmes and crash courses during the vacations. They go through secular professional courses to ensure that they are equipped to be at the best service of humanity, especially those; the poor, the down trodden, those victimized and marginalized by the society and those who face injustice. For any further information they use the internet which is the easiest source of finding knowledge; which provides an almost unlimited magnitude of knowledge which was not available a few years ago. There has been a drastic change in the societal education system die to intense development in the multimedia and technologies. The knowledge that we have at a moment needs upgrading, since the latest version of the technology has upgraded the previous versions. One needs to be fast and even super fast to cope with the world that is going ahead with research in science and technology. Research and knowledge will make only little sense if it is not practical. Knowledge in the Christian perspective is the knowledge of God who revealed the eternal knowledge to humankind. We are called to mobilize our knowledge in the light of the knowledge of Christ Jesus who is the Revelation of God's knowledge to us. The priest who is the vicar of Christ, has to be filled with the knowledge of God and the medium of communicating the word to his people in an intelligent and reasonable way.

Today, knowledge of all kinds is possible and easily accessible. Social media and Internet makes things happen online and offline. We need to have knowledge about all this. Every priest must ask himself whether he is knowledgeable. How-a-days the members of the community are more knowledgeable than their priests and leaders when it comes to the academic achievements. Earlier centuries and years priests were the ones who brought knowledge to them and the educational institutions. Today there is a lot of competition from university to university to offers various types of courses and upgrading the lessons and topics of teaching according to the needs of the times. Many a times it is difficult for the priest who does not have the updated knowledge of the times to discuss the matters of concern with the people of the community. If the leader of the community is not knowledgeable enough then the members would not find him relevant to listen and attend to their problems.

Since the people are literate and well educated, the priest has to communicate the word of God in an intelligent and knowledgeable way. The exegeses of the word of God should touch the heart and mind of the people in such a way that they can understand in and through their life experiences, strives, and struggles. Therefore, to communicate the word of God in an effective manner from their cultural and traditional perspective, the priest must be knowledgeable in every aspect of the faith and belief and sacraments and be able to discern the will of God for the people. His teachings of the scriptures, church documents, and faith should be relevant in the times.

Therefore, the priest must be a leader of knowledge. In this paper, I wish to present the importance of knowledge in the life of a priest today. I will be dealing with the understanding of knowledge in Hinduism, Islam and Christianity in particular. Looking at the importance given to knowledge in the Old Testament, New Testament and in the life of Jesus; how important is knowledge for a priest today who is a priest, king and a prophet to the world for the sake of Christ.

2. What is Knowledge?

Knowledge by its very nature is beyond the horizon of knowing.[1]No knowledge can give you a comprehensive understanding of reality. Knowledge implicitly indicates what is not yet known. ‘The most obvious form of knowledge in­volves human persons through the sense organs of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch as they encounter objects outside themselves.”[2]Since knowledge is common to both animals and humankind, it is different from intellectual knowledge. Through science and philosophy which use rea­son and experience to understand the surrounding reality, human knowledge is constantly on the increase. Can ev­erything be known? Knowledge acquisition involves com­plex cognitive processes: perception, learning, communica­tion, association and reasoning.

The term knowledge is also used to mean the confident understanding of a subject with the ability to use it for a specific purpose. Knowledge can be basically categorized into the following types: knowledge of the senses, intellectual knowledge, spiritual knowledge, infused knowledge, acquired knowledge, self-knowledge, supernatural knowledge, inter­pretative knowledge, religious knowledge, intuitive knowl­edge and so on. There is no one theory of knowledge but immense variety of rival theories. ‘Theory of knowledge is a misnomer, it is not a theory only about the nature of know­ing and the objects of knowledge, if it has any pretentions to completeness, it must be a theory about the range and lim­its of knowing, and about what happens beyond those lim­its.”[3]Knowledge is not limited to few selected sources but is widened to reach new and less known ones. “We live in a world of repressed and homogenized systems of knowledge which suppresses alternative sources of knowledge outside the established orthodoxy. We just cannot be content with knowledge associated with the theoretical process of objectivation, institutionalization and legitimization.”[4]

3. Types of Knowledge

3.1 Science as Knowledge

Search for truth is the fundamental task of science. The re­searcher who moves on this plane of science feels all the more fascinated to know the truth. “Pure science is good in itself which deserves to be greatly loved, for it is knowledge, the perfection of human beings in their intelligence. Even before its technical applications, it should be loved for itself, as an integral part of human culture.”[5]In scientific research, Galileo perceived the pres­ence of the Creator who stimulates it, anticipates and assists its intuitions by acting in the very depths of its spirit.[6]Second Vatican Council teaches, “Methodological research, in all domains of knowledge, if it follows moral norms, will never really be opposed to faith; both the realities of this world and of the faith find their origin in the same God”.[7]

3.2 Self Knowledge

Knowledge of oneself is very important. St. Francis de Sales in the Conference states: “the first degree of humility is the knowledge of ourselves. It is consciousness that we have, when by personal experience and through the light of God’s grace illumining our spirit we come to know that we are poor, wretched and worthless.,,[8]The light of divine grace is very important to know and see ourselves. Of course there should be genuine self-knowledge. Self knowledge is a life­long process, once one has begun the journey and insights begin to flow, there comes simultaneously knowledge of who God is. For Karl Rahner, God’s revelation of divine being is spoken of as God’s self communication to the world through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.[9]

Francis de Sales affirms that ‘know yourself not only means to know our unworthiness, imperfections and wretch­edness, but also to become aware of the value and positive dimension of ourselves. This leads a person to trust in God's goodness and mercy. The knowledge of our nothingness should not trouble us but it should make us gentle, humble and lowly. Self knowledge implies a clear view of our mean­ness and weaknesses as well as the blessings and good­ness we possess. Knowing our miseries and shortcomings should nurture us in humility. This self-knowledge should not make us sad nor discourage us but on the contrary it helps us to see these shortcomings as the throne of divine mercy.[10]

3.3 Intuitive Knowledge

It is a kind of epistemological pattern that is found in religious knowledge. The believer discovers divine events in history, that is, one interprets historical events in a certain way and reads in them the action of God. It is to say that “the revelatory events leave room for the spontaneous re­sponse called faith and preserve the cognitive freedom of the believers. Religious faith has the particular quality of being both cognitive and free because it is the voluntary recognition of God’s activity in human history.”[11]The intel­lect and the will have a part to play in the religious inter­pretation of events. To weigh up the above view that regards religious knowledge as interpretative knowledge, we should say that such characterization is correct but also inconse­quential because every kind of knowledge involves an ele­ment of interpretation. Of course it does not rule out the possibility of being different from other types of knowledge.

3.4 Infused Knowledge

The Knowledge which is not dependent on personal ef­fort in its acquisition but which is received as a gift is desig­nated as infused knowledge. “It differs from acquired knowl­edge gained through the senses of the intellect insofar as God takes hold of the soul and teaches it. However the in­fused knowledge also differs from connatural knowledge because knowledge by con-naturality assumes an associa­tion with the intellect.”[12]Therefore it is understandable that infused knowledge can be explained as the means by which God offers self disclosure to humankind.

4 Understanding of Knowledge in Christianity

4.1 Knowledge in the Bible

The key biblical terms for knowledge assume a personal familiarity, especially knowing with clarity and completeness, even an intimate involvement, with the known object. Similarly, knowing God entails acknowledging Him as Lord in obedience and praise. As a result, human knowledge of God is decisively shaped by the fall and God’s salvation.

The Bible teaches that truth has its ontological ground in God Himself (Ps 31:5; Isa 65:16; Jn 146).[13]All human knowledge is dependent upon God, who is the source and stipulator of truth. During the earthly ministry, Jesus was encouraged and sustained by His unique knowledge of the Father (Jn 8:55).[14]

Adam and Eve knew God. They acknowledged him as their Lord and obediently carried out their responsibilities as his stewards in creation. However, eating from the for­bidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil decisively shaped humanity’s future (Gen 2:9 Gen 2:17). The knowl­edge derived from eating this fruit is called godlike (Gen 3:5 Gen 3:22), denoting a rebellious attempt to decide good and evil independently of the Creator.

The fall, however, did not destroy the availability of God’s knowledge. General revelation, God’s universal revelation, still exists. After the fall, saving knowledge of God is grounded solely in God's , decision to reveal himself to sinners (Gen 18:18-19; Ex 33:17; Ps 139; Jer 1:5; Eph3:35). In these Acts of special revelation, God chooses a people for his purposes and guides them back to himself (Amos 3:2).For sinners can come into fellowship with God only through God’s prior act, which objectively makes known his mercy, and subjectively makes us rightly related to Him.

Human knowledge is likewise a theme of the Old Tes­tament. Mankind is enjoined not to glory in wisdom, might, or riches, -but in the privilege of knowing God (Jer 9:23f). God was the Supreme reality to believers of the Old Testament era, even though at times they experienced difficulty in understanding the dispensations of His providence (Job 19:25f).[15]

Knowledge of God frequently depends on the witness of others to whom God has revealed himself (Ps 44:1-4; Is 51:1- 2). Only those who know God may seek him. In the New Testament* for example, the first step toward knowledge con­sists of receiving Jesus’ message (Jn 7:16-17; 12:37-46; 20:30-31). Only those-willing to believe that Jesus is doing the will of the Father receive the light enabling them to dis­cern that he is the Son of God. On this path, followers are led to the full truth. Sinners, on the other hand, come to a knowledge of God through judgment and repentance. In repentance one recognizes the holy God who demands righteousness (Ps 25:14; 111:10; Prov 1:7; 2:5; 9:10).

If knowledge of God is the path of our life, this must mani­fest itself in godly relationships to others (Mt 7:17-20; Jn 10:27; 1 Cor 12:31-13:2; Phil 4:9; Col 1:23). “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands” (1 Jn 2:3). Those who know God willingly practice his will and thus manifest his character by defending the cause of the poor (Jer 22:16 ; Hos 6:6). In addition, the one following God’s path becomes a co-worker for God’s kingdom (Is 43:10-12 ).

Reflecting the messianic promise of knowledge (Jer 24:7; 31:33-34), there is a finality to the Christian’s knowledge of God (Mt 11:27; Rom 16:25-27; Eph 1:9-10; Coll:26-28). In Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowl­edge” (Col 2:3). Moreover, in contrast to ordinary historical knowledge, this knowledge of God is self-authenticating. God himself personally confronts each Individual in the Word (2 Cor 4:6; 1 Jn 2:27), foreshadowing the future when teach­ing is no longer necessary (Jer 31:34 }. “All human knowl­edge is dependent upon God, who is the source and stipula­tor of truth.”[16]

On the other hand, the believer’s knowledge of God in Jesus Christ is only provisional. It is sufficient for recogniz­ing and trusting the object of faith (Jn 17:3; Rom 10:9): “I know my sheep and my sheep know me... My sheep listen to my voice” (Jn 10:14, 27).Without answering all our ques­tions, it provides an adequate light for the joumeyers in this darkened world (2 Pet 1:19). But this knowledge is only a foretaste of knowing God “face to face” in the hereafter (1 Cor 13:12), when “the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (2 Pet 1:19).[17]

4.2 Knowledge in Christ's Human Intellect

Knowledge of Jesus Christ here does not mean a sum­mary of what we know about Jesus Christ, but a survey of the intellectual endowment of Christ.

Jesus Christ possessed two natures, and therefore two intellects, the human and the Divine. The question as to the knowledge found in His Divine intellect is identical with the question concerning God’s knowledge.

The Man-God possessed, not merely a Divine, but also a human nature, and therefore a human intellect, and with the knowledge possessed by this intellect we are here mainly concerned. The integrity of His human nature implies intel­lectual cognition by acts of its human intellect. Jesus Christ might be wise by the wisdom of God; yet the humanity of Christ knows by its own mental act. For the soul of Christ enjoyed from the very beginning the beatific vision; it was endowed with infused knowledge; and it acquired in the course of time experimental knowledge.

The existence of an infused science in the human soul of Jesus Christ may perhaps be less certain, from a theologi­cal point of view, than His continual and original fruition of the vision of God; still, it is almost universally admitted that God infused into Christ’s human intellect a knowledge similar in kind to that of the angels. This is knowledge which is not acquired gradually by experience, but is poured into the soul in one flood.

Besides, the soul of Christ is the first and most perfect of all created spirits, and cannot be deprived of a privilege granted to the angels. Moreover, a created intellect is simply perfect only when, besides the vision of things in God, it has a vision of things in themselves; God only sees all things comprehen­sively in Himself. The God-Man, besides seeing them in God, would also perceive and know them by His human intellect. Finally, Sacred Scripture favours the existence of such in­fused knowledge in the human intellect of Christ: St. Paul speaks of all the treasures of God’s wisdom and science hid­den in Christ (Col 2:3); Isaiah speaks of the spirit of wisdom and counsel, of science and understanding, resting on Jesus (Is 11:2); St. John intimates that God has not given His Spirit by measure to His Divine envoy (Jn 3:34); St. Matthew repre­sents Christ as our sovereign teacher (Mt 23:10).

4.3Knowledge: The Gift of the Holy Spirit

In many expressions of Christianity, knowledge is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The update of the knowl­edge is very important. Pope John Paul II, encourages the theologians to go ahead with theological research and ex­horts them to take notice of the queries and needs of the times without letting oneself go astray by fortuitous and short-lived currents of the human mind. Scientific and in particular theological knowledge needs courage to venture and the patience of maturity. It has its own laws and must not be allowed to be imposed from without.[18]

“We are called upon to encounter science, and with it the whole earth, nature and the cosmos in our search through heaven and earth for the Lord of all. God’s spirit wants to imbue all faculties of man with his living grace, and so it con­secrates science too placing it among the gifts.”[19]The aim of science is to teach us how to think rightly about all created things, but beyond objects we move on to the relationships between them. “Science is the study of relationship, cause and effect, premises and consequences, data and theorems, etc., but the mind goes on ordering, conquering categories, acquiring names.” However knowledge is much more than science because everything of science cannot be compre­hended since science is more of signs and equations but it also gives the knowledge about the purpose of God’s creation.

Knowledge allows us to see the circumstances of our life as God sees them, although in a more limited way, since we are limited by our human nature. Through the exercise of knowl­edge, we can ascertain God’s purpose in our lives and His reason for placing us in our particular circumstances. Knowl­edge is sometimes called the science of the saints, because it enables those who have the gift to discern easily and effec­tively between the impulses of temptation and the inspira­tions of grace. Judging all things in. the light of divine truth, we can more easily distinguish between the promptings of God and the subtle wiles of the devil.[20]


[1]Knowledge is an act of understanding: information fined through learning or actual experience. An intellectual virtue. A gift of the Holy Spirit. Cfr. Albert J. Nevins (ed.):The Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary.New York: Dimension Books.

[2]Michael Downey (ed.): The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality. Bangalore: Theological Publications in India, 1995, pp. 586.

[3]A. D. Woozley: Theory of Knowledge. London: Hutchinson University Library. 1966, pp. 10-11.

[4]Felix Wilfred, “Knowledge Ethics for Our Times.” In: Jeevadhara, XXXIX, No.229

[5]Dennis J. Murphy (ed.): The Church and the Bible: Official Documents of the Catholic Church. Bangalore: Theological Publications in India, 2007, (no. 1050), p. 432.

[6]Ibid., (no. 1059), p. 436.

[7]Ibid., (no. 1058), cfr. Second Vatican Council Document, Goudium et Spes § 36).

[8]Cfr. John Sankarathll: Humility and Gentleness: Theological Investigations in the Writings of SL Francis de Sales. Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, 2009, pp. Ill; also cfr. Conferences of St. Francis de Sales.

[9]Karl Rahner: Foundations of the Christian Faith. W. Dych (trans.). New York: Scribner’s. 1959, pp. 116-119.

[10]John Sankarathil, pp. 113-114.

[11] Ibid., p. 29

[12] Michael Downey, p. 586.

[13] To keep up to the consistency of the scriptural passages and language all throughout the paper. I have used for scriptural references New Revised Stan­dard Version, Catholic Edition, Bangalore: Theological Publications In India, 2009.

[14]Geoffrey W. Bromiley: The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Vol III, K-P. Michigan: William B. Eedmans Publishing Company, 1992, p.,49.

[15] Geoffrey W. Bromiley, p. 48.

[16] Ibid., p. 49.

[17] Walter A. Elwell (ed.). Knowledge of God. In: “Evangelical Dictionary of Theol­ogy". Michigan: Baker Books, 1997. - Standing: 11.11.2009. - http: / / /dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionarv/knowl- edge-of-god.html - Electronic Publications.

[18]Dennis J. Murphy (edj; The Church and the Bible: Official Documents of the Catholic Church, no. 1063, pp. 437-438.

[19] Carlos G. Valles: Taste and See: Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Anand: - Gujrat Sahitya Prakash, 1990, p. 61.

[20] Ibid., pp. 62-65.

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The importance of knowledge in the life of a Priest
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Every priest must have knowledge. His knowledge should be relevant and updated. He is a leader of the Church and her people. He should be knowledgeable and reasonable.
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Albert Fernandes (Author), 2010, The importance of knowledge in the life of a Priest, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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