FIYH 18-19: The Pastoral Preacher

FIYH heads this subsection “PASTORAL ROLE OF THE PREACHER.” Let’s read:

[18] Preachers who are conscious of their representative role strive to preach in a way that indicates they know and identify with the people to whom they are speaking. Their preaching is pastoral, displaying a sensitive and concerned knowledge of the struggles, doubts, concerns, and joys of the members of a local community.

The term “pastoral” gets a bad rap in some conservative circles. I’m not sure what to make of that; one of the leading complaints about the implementation of Vatican II in parishes is how insensitively it was done.

John 10:14 shows Jesus giving the principle by which pastoral leadership identifies with those led. It is not a leadership that passively gives in or accepts everything the community hopes for or wishes for:

[19] To be in touch with the cares and concerns, needs and good fortunes of the assembly does not mean that the preacher has to answer questions or solve problems in every homily. There will be occasions when nothing we can say will do anything to change a situation. We cannot raise a dead daughter to life; our words will not stop inflation or lower unemployment.

Most people are not looking for miracle cures and reversals of fortune. Most often, it is enough that people know others are with them.

What our words can do is help people make connections between the realities of their lives and the realities of the Gospel. We can help them see how God in Jesus Christ has entered and identified himself with the human realities of pain and of happiness.

This is really the core of pastoral ministry, and by extension, pastoral preaching: that Jesus knows them and that the preacher can communicate that reality.

(All texts from Fulfilled in Your Hearing are copyright © 1982 USCCB. All rights reserved. Used with permission.)

 

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to FIYH 18-19: The Pastoral Preacher

  1. Randolph Nichols says:

    The word “pastoral” has aroused suspicion because it too often has been employed as an obtacle to intellectual growth, whether it be in the homily or liturgy. Furthermore, because our society is now more transient it also means that diversity challenges any simplistic understanding of being pastoral.

    Nonetheless, the “struggles, doubts, concerns, and joys” referred to in ‘Fulfilled in Your Hearing’ are universal and provide the key to a proper understanding of the word “pastoral”. For example, when you shared your anxieties about moving and personal details like the note from your daughter, differences with your readers evaporated. Most of us identify with being uprooted and every parent recognized the angst contained in that brief note. Being aware of and sensitive to these universal human connections correctly define what it means to be “pastoral”. At least that’s how I see it.

  2. Randolph Nichols says:

    [19] “To be in touch with the cares and concerns, needs and good fortunes of the assembly does not mean that the preacher has to answer questions or solve problems in every homily. There will be occasions when nothing we can say will do anything to change a situation.”

    Here’s another thought: one such demand on a priest’s pastoral sensitivity is the mandated closing of a parish. There have been many closings and mergers in my archdiocese the past two years and the response from those effected is invariably hostile. Priests are always caught in the middle. What can a pastor say? At best he must console the heartbroken while at the same time conveying that the health of the larger community demands sacrifice and change. Good luck with that.

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