Thursday, July 28, 2005

Pastoral Theology

With only 1 day to go before classes start (Yikes!!), I've been doing a little more reflecting upon the journey that awaits me, and in what way I hope to grow from it.

The program is entitled the "Institute for Pastoral Theology", which necessarily begs the question: "What exactly is Pastoral Theology?"

Merriam-Webster gives the following definition for the word "pastoral":
pas·to·ral: of or relating to spiritual care or guidance, especially of a congregation
So, applying this to theology, Pastoral Theology would be the study of theology with a particular eye to the application of that knowledge towards "spiritual care or guidance".

The Catholic Encyclopedia agrees: "Pastoral theology is the science of the care of souls." Traditionally taken up by priests, the discipline has also been emphasized among the laity since Vatican Council II.

So the IPT is, in effect, gearing its students up to better evangelize the uncatechized and bring those already evangelized closer to Christ. It's worth noting again that the basic assumption underlying the whole program is that there is a universal call to holiness (see Vatican II's Lumen Gentium, ch.5). Everyone you meet, whether it be the homeless man down the street, the CEO of your company, or your annoying neighbor who always leaves his garbage can in the way, is called to holiness. And the study of Pastoral Theology has as its aim individuals better equipped to promote holiness in everyone they encounter (especially themselves!).

It's important to note, also, that promoting holiness doesn't simply involve giving out warm fuzzies. In the packet handed to us on orientation day, among the "12 Fundamental Convictions" is this item: "Pastoral theology presupposes doctrine. Doctrine and pastoral solicitude cannot be placed in opposition." In other words, there has to be some meat there to chew on. With this in mind, the program is based upon the three Foundations of Formation (which I've mentioned before): Theological Education, Spiritual Formation, and Pastoral Orientation. A succinct way of putting this might be: We have to better learn our faith so we can grow in personal holiness and thus become more effective agents of evangelization.

I have no doubt that, by the time I finish this program, I will know my faith better. But, the key question is, will I have grown in holiness? The responsibility for progress in this regard rests squarely upon my shoulders (pray for me so that I may persevere!). And as for being a more effective evangelist? Here I take great comfort in Mother Theresa's fine words to the effect that "God is not so concerned whether we are successful. He only holds us accountable as to whether we are faithful."


At 7/31/2005 1:54 PM, Anonymous M & D said...

May you be both successful and faithful! You are in our thoughts and prayers.


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