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State Chaplain 2019 - 2020

Picture of Rev Kenney St. Hilaire

Rev Kenneth St. Hilaire
November 2019

I mentioned in last month’s column that supreme knight Carl Anderson and supreme chaplain Archbishop William Lori had issued an urgent appeal, asking all members of the order to work diligently to restore civility in the realm of public discourse. I suggested that keeping the lines of communication open was an important first step in this work. Rather than making enemies out of anyone who offends us, we ought to pursue dialogue in order to reach a mutual understanding.

This month, I would like to write a little more about this theme. It’s still on my mind, especially after listening recently to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in audiobook format. You may remember the story. Early on, Scout (from whose perspective the story is told) has a conversation with her father, Atticus, about something her school teacher said that bothered her. This is part of that conversation: 

“First of all,” [Atticus] said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view


until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

            Atticus’ words offer good insight for us in the realm of public discourse. It helps not only to listen to what other people have to sayincluding people whose opinion is different than our ownbut also to “climb into their skin,” so to speak, and to try to understand where they’re coming from.


We have to be careful. There is a temptation to focus on preparing a response or rebuttal when we should be listening attentively. I fall into this sometimes. In conversation, I catch myself trying to think of a comeback instead of really hearing what the other person is saying.

The question is not: “How does what the other person is saying agree or disagree with my view of things?” Rather, we should be asking: “Where is the person coming from? Can I see why this person would see things that way?”

It’s all too easy to reduce a man to his opinions—to look across the table and see only “that guy I disagree with.” If, on the other hand, we consider things from his point of view, we are more likely to remember that he is a human being with inviolable dignity, created in the image and likeness of God and worthy of our respect and love.

When this loving respect is the foundation on which our conversations are built, our conversations will be much more fruitful than they would be if our only intention were to win an argument.

As Catholic gentlemen, we should lead by example in the public sphere. Coworkers, friends and neighbors should know us for our kind, civil, and respectable manner of conversation. They ought to see our desire to listen, empathize, and seek the truth together.


Vivat Jesus!

Fr. Kenneth St. Hilaire
State Chaplain