Heroes and the Fear of God: Words at the Start of the School Year

Glenn Arbery is President of Wyoming Catholic College.   He shared some thoughts with the incoming freshman class last week.   

While his hero references are from academic literature, all organizations tell stories about leaders who have played critical roles in their history.  These stories  are reminders of extraordinary success or sometimes tragic failure.

They are intended to help us be more aware of the choices we make in our “lived” roles.  His last words about the “Fear of God” are interesting.  It is not a religious statement he is making.

Rather he is stating  that most of us know what are better angels require.  But as one CEO wrote me in a request for counsel, sometimes right gets a little blurry.  Here is an excerpt from his talk.

When you enter the classroom this week, you will encounter in a new way those figures that the tradition of the West has always honored and whose names you have known since childhood: in Genesis, the patriarchs specially called by God; in the Iliad and the Odyssey, the heroes who explore the boundaries between the mortal and the immortal.

These are men and women who step outside the common order into a uniquely charged sphere of unfolding meaning. They extend the expectations of mankind.

Heroes and saints are not necessarily easy to get along with, since they answer a higher call that puts them at odds with the world around them, even those closest by. It is not easy to fit the hero into ordinary life, but without these primordial figures, we would not hope for more in human life than good internet service and enough coffee. 

We are not engaged in tearing down or demeaning what is great, but in honoring whatever is noble and good, wherever it might be found. . .

Fear of God, in the sense that I mean it, is awareness of another choice when there is a temptation to belittle others or indulge yourself. Moment to moment, there is a better way, a best way.

Fear of God means a dread of choosing what you know to be wrong or of letting something harmful happen through weakness, indifference, or inattention. It is wholesome and cleansing, like cold mountain air. It is the kind of fear that makes you alert and urges you to pay attention and watch where you are going.

Good advice to start the school year for everyone. The full speech and essay can be found here.

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