The pastoral spirit PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 May 2015 13:55




We all need to develop this pastoral spirit or some sense of the pastoral. I am afraid a great majority of the people, even among so-called devout Catholics, are still not quite clear about what this sense of the pastoral means.

To many, pastoral can mean that quaint atmosphere of rural places marked by stillness and serenity, simple living and the like. Others may understand it as something that has to do with shepherds, and that’s getting close to what is being meant here, since the pastoral spirit has to do with caring and guiding.

But since we hardly have sheep and shepherds here in our country, the word, ‘pastoral,’ barely registers in our culture. And so we need to know more about it, since to be pastoral means a certain awareness that we form one sheepfold with Christ as the good shepherd.

In a sense, each Christian believer is both shepherd and sheep. It’s a truth of faith that a Christian faithful has to conform himself as much as possible to Christ, and therefore has to care for others. He

has to have the mind and heart of Christ. But that role also requires him to be a sheep to be guided by the Good Shepherd. Otherwise, he would not be a good shepherd to others.

The sense of the pastoral actually refers to all the activities of the Church that are meant for the salvation of mankind. When one is said to be pastoral in his ways and lifestyle, it means he is very much

engaged in the salvific activities of the Church. And these activities can be many, even endless.

Truth is we are all meant to be pastoral if we have to be consistent to our identity as Christian believers. We cannot help but be involved in the continuing work of salvation now carried out by the Church as mandated by Christ.

One of the things that we have to dismantle from our mind is the belief that the pastoral activity in the Church is exclusive only to the clergy. No. Everyone has a share of this pastoral duty, though it is exercised in different ways.

Obviously the formation and training related to this duty is to be carried out first of all by the clergy who are precisely conformed to Christ as head of the Church, but the goal is for everyone, especially the laity, to be involved.

The differences among the various faithful in the Church, whether clerics, lay or consecrated religious persons, are meant to form an organic body where the principles of solidarity, complementarity and subsidiarity and the common good would be at play.

And the reason for this is that everyone has the same vocation to sanctity and to the apostolate, and as such share a common responsibility before God and one another.

This is really a big challenge in the Church. Even among clerics, developing this pastoral spirit can be demanding, since many factors can work against it. There will always be, for example, the danger of falling into being merely administrative and bureaucratic in the clerics’ ministry.

Then other factors like laziness, narrow-mindedness and bigotry, undue attachments to worldly things, etc., can hinder clerics to give their all in their pastoral work. There’s also the great need for continuing formation so that we priests can really have the mind and heart of Christ, knowing what to say, what to do in any situation.

In short, we should have a global picture of the duty and mission to continue with the redemptive work of Christ, from beginning to end, and not get stuck in one level or aspect of the pastoral work.

There’s, of course, some specialization and distribution of assignments, given the enormity of the responsibility and the practical conditions of each priest, but this specialization should not undermine the pursuit of the entire and universal pastoral ministry.

The challenge is even bigger on the part of the laity. Even in our country that is known, thanks be to God, for its vibrant popular piety, how many among the laymen, including the supposedly cream of the crop, are aware, let alone, are putting into practice in an abiding way this sense of the pastoral?

I would say, not many. Of course, it’s heartwarming to know that more and more laymen are getting into the act, but a lot still needs to be done for the active lay faithful to be competent, consistent and persevering in their pastoral duties.

We should make an active campaign to promote this pastoral spirit among everyone, priests, laity and the consecrated religious men and women!