finds prescription for a spiritual longing
Fr. Binet serves God in world’s troubled areas as member of
Special to the Catholic Herald
— The cure for what was ailing Scott Francis Binet turned
out to be his healing of others — as a priest and a doctor.
Although the route to that realization wasn’t always clear,
he now travels to many of the world’s disaster areas
fulfilling his vocation.
becoming a family physician in 1993, and being ordained a
priest of the Order of St. Camillus in November 2003, “I was
unfulfilled, thirsting, not satisfied,” the 41-year-old Fr.
Binet said in a recent interview.
he knew as early as age 15 or 16, praying before the crucifix
after Sunday Masses in Little Rock, Ark., “that the Lord was
calling me to serve” in some way.
church, he found the perfect example of the service God sought
remember as an adolescent at Mass being fascinated by stories
of Jesus healing people and saying to myself, ‘Lord, I want
to be like you,’” recalled Fr. Binet, who is establishing
a Camillian Task Force which will provide medical and pastoral
care to people suffering from disasters such as earthquakes,
hurricanes and wars in many parts of the globe.
the young Binet found himself to be right at home with the
medical profession: his father was a neuroradiologist and his
mother a registered nurse.
the form of his vocation — that of a doctor and priest —
was far from apparent. Though he didn’t know it then, the
question foretold the ultimate answer to his spiritual search.
the time, “I said, ‘Yes, Lord,’ and started seeking to
better understand what the Lord wanted.” It would be about
10 years before he got that sense of direction.
high school he attended Christian Brothers College (now a
university), Memphis, Tenn., and majored in biology.
never until later wanted to become a doctor,” he said.
“This is the way the Lord works.”
1985, Fr. Binet was accepted into medical school at the
University of Arkansas in Little Rock. Instead, he moved to
New York City, where he tried out different career roles as an
actor and model. He played what he called bit parts on soap
operas, including “One Life to Live” and “All My
Children.” Eventually, he found himself being considered for
a major part on the latter program.
in soap operas tested his moral character, requiring him to
literally act in ways that contradicted his faith. He had
hoped an acting career could help him “make Christ known to
people.” In the soap opera role, though, he would possibly
have had to play someone engaging in decidedly unholy activity
like illicit sex or drug use.
had to ask myself, ‘Would I want my mother to see me?’”
in such a part.
closed the curtain on any acting career he may have had and
instead said, “‘OK, Lord, I will go to medical school.’
But I gave myself the option of choosing something else if I
wasn’t happy after four years.”
his third year of medical school, he got a sign of what that
choice might entail. A woman in “asthmatic crisis” lost a
child she did not know she was carrying.
followed her through the whole thing, and it was very moving
for me,” Fr. Binet said. “I asked myself, ‘How do I want
this patient to see me? As a doctor?’ And the answer that
came to me was, ‘As Christ.’ That was the Lord moving to
help me see my vocation.”
he resisted. “I knew it was going to take sacrifice,” he
said. “There are certain choices I wouldn’t be able to
make after ordination — to have a wife and children.” And
being celibate would be challenging, he added.
his fourth year of medical school, Fr. Binet finally said
“yes” to the priesthood.
great feeling of joy and peace came over me and it has not
left,” he said. “It was a manifestation that I was on the
right path. That thirsting was gone.”
to become a diocesan priest in the Archdiocese of New York,
where he could serve the inner city poor as a pastoral and
medical missionary, Fr. Binet did his family practice
residency in Yonkers. But he was refused admission to the
archdiocese’s St. Joseph Seminary by a rector who told him,
“We need good doctors. We need good priests. We don’t need
knew it would be a challenge” to acquire that dual status,
“but I didn’t know how much,” Fr. Binet said.
he persevered, meeting with the late Cardinal John O’Connor,
who was seeking to interest professionals in joining the
priesthood. Cardinal O’Connor indicated that Fr. Binet might
undertake his priestly formation in the Archdiocese of New
York, or Rome.
finishing his residency, Fr. Binet worked part-time as a
physician, while completing a pre-theology program at the New
York Archdiocese’s minor seminary.
interviewing for admittance to the major seminary, however, he
decided against entering it when its rector twice asked him if
he would be willing to abandon practicing medicine after only
two years of priesthood.
time, Fr. Binet, knowing “the Lord was calling me to be a
priest and a doctor,” replied, “I don’t want to be put
in the position of being asked that question.”
began making inquiries of religious orders about his becoming
a missionary priest/physician, and perhaps serving in a
foreign country. That led to his entering a Louisiana Jesuit
novitiate. But because the Jesuits would not guarantee him
experience as a missionary physician, through which he hoped
to explore his call to such service, he had “an amicable
separation” from them after about seven months.
questioning his vocation, Fr. Binet recalled, “I said,
‘Lord, what’s going on here? You’re calling me, but
I’m having trouble finding the way.’”
“thumbing through” the Guide to Religious Ministries, he
happened upon an advertisement stressing the Camillian charism
of “serving the sick” — exactly what he had discerned as
Binet said that upon contacting the order, whose North
American Province is in Milwaukee, “I was very
straightforward about what I understood my vocation to be.”
order’s vocations director, himself a physician and a
priest, “said, ‘Fine, no problem.’ I had to pinch
myself. Once again, I had a great sense of peace and joy,
which are fruits of the Holy Spirit, a sign that I was in the
fact, Fr. Binet said, the Camillians “probably have more
physicians” — 25 of its 1,200 members — “than any
a Camillian pre-novice, Fr. Binet began studying at Sacred
Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, and working as a
physician at a National Avenue health clinic in Milwaukee.
got his missionary exposure, which he termed an
“inspiring” two-and-a-half months, in the Amazon region of
Brazil. “I went on the river” with a Camillian
priest/physician who makes annual or biannual visits to 90
communities, treating patients spiritually and physically, Fr.
Binet said. “He has been a model of combining medicine and
the priesthood. We would celebrate Mass at the homes of sick
people. They couldn’t get out of bed, so we went to them.”
experience, said Fr. Binet, “made it clear that I had the
Camillian priest, who speaks several languages, has been to
Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, the Philippines, Indonesia,
Kenya and Uganda, providing pastoral and medical care in
slums, refugee camps and other areas. He is also developing
the Camillian Task Force.
does Fr. Binet handle all the demands of his duties?
Lord is good,” he stated. “And I’m being helped” by
whole work of the task force is a team effort,” added Fr.
Binet, who played quarterback for his high school football
team, and centerfield and pitcher, respectively, as a college
and American Legion League athlete. “And it is evolving.
We’re just getting started.”
greatest reward in his dual vocation, said Fr. Binet, “is
knowing that through what I’m doing — counseling in
confession, forgiving sins, helping people medically, bringing
Christ’s peace in the Eucharist, praying with patients if I
see the situation is open to prayer — I’m making
Christ’s presence known to people.”
month Fr. Binet will begin a three-month visit to Italy to
study tropical medicine. He will then head to Nairobi, Kenya.
on the way in which he finally arrived at his vocational
destination, he said, “It’s amazing how the Lord has
brought that about.”