About Ignatius Insight
  Who We Are
  Ignatius Press
  Ignatius Press catalogs
  Catholic World Report
  Homiletic & Pastoral Review
  IP Novels site
  IP Religious Ed blog
  IP Critical Editions

The Logos in Seminary Formation and Teaching | Deacon James Keating, Ph.D. | March 5, 2011 | Ignatius Insight

Print-friendly version

God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love, as Saint Paul says, "transcends" knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is Logos. Consequently, Christian worship is, again to quote Paul - "λογικη λατρεία", worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1). — Pope Benedict XVI, "Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections" (Sept. 12, 2006). [1]
Love can perceive more than thought alone. Love does not diminish the work of reason but clarifies it and places reason's work within the fullness of reality. [2] Catholic theology originated in humanity's love of and faith in Jesus Christ. Love is theology's "natural environment" and to sunder it from such an environment is unscientific. "It would be comparable to a natural scientist deciding to study a plant or animal without any reference to its habitat." [3] Scientific critical theology "labors under the mistaken assumptions rooted in the enlightenment's anti-clerical wing... [whose] aim of using history was to correct dogma, setting up a purely human Jesus, historical Jesus against the Christ of faith" [4]

Faith and love change one's approach to thinking. Theologians and seminarians are to think and learn with a spousal mind and not simply with the minds of scientists. To seek to be in relation to truth is to seek to be in relation to Christ. If such seeking is done in faith then one is explicitly seeking truth in Christ. "Truth, in fact, is logos, which creates diá-logos, and hence ... communion." [5] Theologians—and the seminarians they teach—who are formed in this communion are with Truth itself: Christ.

This is what theologians proper do: they think about truth in relation to the revelation that is Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. For those laboring outside of faith, the truth they discover by their affectively imbued minds is not explicitly but tacitly related to Christ. This allusion to Christ in everyone's search for truth must be so or Christ would not be who faith posits Him to be: the Divine Reason. "No one has ever seen God; God the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has revealed him" (Jn 1:18). "By this revelation then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines forth in Christ, who is at the same time the mediator and the fullness of all revelation". [6]

Since Christ is this "fullness", He is active in our study and we ought to give Him free reign, within the asceticism of study, so He can reach us with His loving presence. Since He desires that we know the truth, He lovingly reveals it to us in His own life and person. The Spirit of Christ, whose mind we wish to possess, assists us in study and learning. I believe this to be one of the main points that Benedict XVI wants to emphasize in his Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini: God is alive and actively working to purify our minds now, enlightening them and directing them to rest in the beauty of truth. The mind of God, the Logos, is abiding with ours to assist, not replace, the suffering and laboring that is the discovery and reception of truth. Learning theology is accomplished when a dedicated seminarian knows not only the meaning of a text but from within that meaning he discourses with the Divine.

But here is where the true freedom of the seminary is largely untapped. Unlike the ideologues running some graduate schools to promote their utilitarian ends, the seminary needs to form men who have suffered the meaning of love in all its dimensions: affectively, spiritually, intellectually and corporeally in pastoral self donation. In these men a way of living and thinking is appropriated to such a depth that upon their ordination they invite their parishioners to share in it as well, deepening and enriching their own baptisms. By keeping the seminarian focused on the regenerating power of the Paschal Mystery in prayer, study and service the seminary facilitates the purification of any fantasy in the man. He is called to live in truth and to reject the "voices" of the current culture of distraction. These voices are not substantial enough to carry truth, but only artificial consolation.

Holy Orders is no less than a life sublated into the sacrificial life, death and resurrection of Christ as this mystery is shared through the apostolic office of Bishop. Such a life admits no fantasy (longings disconnected from vocational truth) but it does welcome the arrival of a prayer-filled imagination. Such an imagination is suffused with the Paschal Mystery and thus able to lead a man to what is real. A man's fidelity to this divine act of "being taken" for service to the church is also his "usefulness" to the church. "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. ... My speech ... [was] not with plausible words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

Notice how the emphasis is upon the gift that Paul is giving, a testimony to the power of God and not upon his own competencies. Here is the correct orientation for the seminarian and his teachers to take. When formation is complete a priest is a co-agent with God in ministering the power of God to His people. This co-agency is not an excuse for anti-intellectualism since only a man who has suffered the coming of truth intellectually and affectively can provide the proper platform upon which God can make "foolish the wisdom of the world" (1 Cor. 1:20).
Clearly, then, the "mind of Christ" is not some kind of alien rationality that displaces native human reason, but is rather a pattern of rationality that is constantly held open by faith....participation in the mind of Christ is fundamentally a relational activity, a noetic event that transpires in the communion of love. [7]
According to Benedict XVI [8] it is spirituality that provides a correct method for doing theology: as such it allows the church's communion with the mystery of Christ to affect the mind's search for truth. Accepting this method would revolutionize doctoral education for those called to teach in seminaries. It does so by correcting the latent hostility present in the historical-critical method that pushes against this vital truth: God is alive and active. [9] Christ is not trapped in a past culture of ancient Palestine. To have one's reason tutored by the Logos, the mind of Christ, will ultimately show us a new way of thinking, studying and teaching.

When seminary professors live their scholarly lives as a sacred exchange between their freedom and God's own self-offering in Christ, they will be gifted with the desire to move from the mind they have now to a new mind. Such professors will allow the mind of Christ to possess them, to welcome Christ thinking in them, as Jean Pierre de Caussade so radically phrased it. [10] If such is our vision then the theme which with I began this essay can be joyfully jettisoned, we no longer will separate intimacy with Christ from study. In fact in the near future the interior structures of such intimacy will "unceasingly" [11] guide the external structuring of seminary academics.


[1] "Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections" (Sept. 12, 2006)

[2] Benedict XVI, "Address to the Participants in the First European Meeting of University Lecturers" (June, 23, 2007): "The concept of reason needs instead to be broadened in order to be able to explore...those aspects of reality which go beyond the purely empirical"

[3] Scott Hahn, Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Benedict XVI (Mich: Brazos, 2009), 31

[4] Hahn, 31

[5] Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate (2009), n. 4

[6] Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei verbum,, 2.

[7] Mark McIntosh, "Faith, Reason and the Mind of Christ" in Paul J. Griffiths and Reinhard Hutter, eds.; Reason and the Reasons of Faith (NY: T&T Clark, 2005) 136

[8] Pope Benedict XVI, "Address to the Hans Urs Von Balthasar Congress" (October 6, 2005). [9] See Benedict XVI, On the Way to Jesus Christ (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2005) 61-2.

[10] Jean Pierre de Caussaude, Treatise on Prayer from the Heart (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1998) 145, n.38.

[11] "Spiritual formation...should be conducted in such a way that the students may learn to live in intimate and unceasing union with God the Father through his Son Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Those who are to take on the likeness of Christ the priest by sacred ordination should form the habit of drawing close to him as friends in every detail of their lives." -- John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis (1992) 45.

Related Ignatius Insight Articles and Excerpts:

• The Character of Diaconal Ordination | Dn. James Keating, Ph.D.
• The Seminary as Nazareth: Formation in a School of Prayer | Dn. James Keating, Ph.D.
• Surrendering to the Healing Power of Christ's Own Chastity | Dn. James Keating, Ph.D.
• St. John Vianney's Pastoral Plan | Fr. John Cihak
The Blessed Virgin Mary's Role in the Celibate Priest's Spousal and Paternal Love | Fr. John Cihak
The Priest as Man, Husband, and Father | Fr. John Cihak
• Holy Christians Guarantee Holy Priests | Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
• Priest as Pastor, Servant and Shepherd | Fr. James McCarthy
The Religion of Jesus | Blessed Columba Marmion | From Christ, The Ideal of the Priest
• Why Preaching | Peter John Cameron, O.P.
Satan and the Saint | The Feast Day of St. John Vianney | Carl E. Olson
• The Ingredient for Priestly Vocations | Rev. Jacek Stefanski
• Becoming a Man of God | An interview with Fr. Larry Richards
• The Year for Priests and Its Patron | Sandra Miesel

Rev. Mr. James Keating, Ph.D., is Director of Theological Formation at the Institute of Priestly Formation at Creighton University, Omaha. Before joining the staff of the IPF Deacon Keating taught moral and spiritual theology for 13 years in the School of Theology at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio. He has given over 400 workshops, retreats and days of reflection on the Catholic spiritual/moral life. In the field of his professional research, the interpenetration of the spiritual and moral life, Deacon Keating has authored or edited ten books and dozens of essays for theological journals.

If you'd like to receive the FREE IgnatiusInsight.com e-letter (about every 1 to 2 weeks), which includes regular updates about IgnatiusInsight.com articles, reviews, excerpts, and author appearances, please click here to sign-up today!


World Wide Web


Place your order toll-free at 1-800-651-1531

Ignatius Press | San Francisco
Web design under direction of Ignatius Press.
Send your comments or web problems to:

Copyright © 2018 by Ignatius Press

IgnatiusInsight.com catholic blog books insight scoop weblog ignatius