Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Traditional Catholic pastoral theology: Ministering to the parishioners

Another extract from Fr Frederick Schulze's Manual of Pastoral Theology (1914).

355. A priest charged with the care of souls must not only attend to the parish at large by employing the ordinary spiritual means, but also watch over the individual members and apply extraordinary means with those who cannot be expected to be reached by his ordinary ministry. Here the following suggestions may be in order:

In not a few parishes you will find persons who need special and separate instruction in faith and morals, since the general preaching of Christian truth does not reach them, partly because they cannot go to church at all, partly because they still lack knowledge of the very fundamental principles of religion. Such persons are deaf mutes, blind people, idiots, and those who are confined to their beds and houses on account of broken or paralyzed limbs, general weakness, etc. The only way to reach these parties is to instruct them privately at visits made from time to time in their houses. It is a tiresome and unpleasant task, but a true shepherd must not lose sight of these sheep, and be encouraged by the example of our Lord and the thought that thus he will be able to save one more soul for heaven. As a rule, that knowledge should he imparted to them, by which they are disposed to receive the Sacraments. Therefore, let them learn the ordinary prayers, the principal articles of faith, the ten commandments, the commandments of the Church, the acts of faith, hope, love, and contrition. An opportune warning against intemperance and sensual lust, to which these persons may he inclined, will also not be out of place. If lay people, charitable men or women, can be found to lend a helping hand in such instruction, they should be engaged for the purpose. One thing, however, is certain, deaf and dumb children must not be sent to a Protestant or State institution for their education, as they are sure to lose their faith. Parents not willing to submit to this rule cannot be absolved. The same holds good with regard to orphans. If possible, they ought to be placed in a good Catholic family, or else be sent to a Catholic orphanage, but never to a Protestant or State institution. If by chance this has been done, a pastor should not rest until he has regained such a soul. He should also look after the spiritual wants of all those Catholics who are inmates of poor-houses, schools of reform, asylums, etc., in case such houses lie within his district. The poor you have always with you, Christ said, thus insinuating that he wishes his followers, in particular his priests, to help those who are destitute and needy.

356. Next in order to those mentioned, the rector of a parish or mission should have an eye upon such members of his congregation as either through sin and malice, or through negligence, have become somewhat estranged from the Church, or who, on account of particular circumstances, do not practice their religion as they should. Under this head fall parties living in mixed or invalid marriage relationship, those who have contracted marriage before a squire or preacher, those who fell out with a former pastor, who are members of secret societies, drunkards, and habitual sinners, and heads of families neglecting their duties towards their children. Sometimes a kind word and well-meant warning tendered at the right time and season may produce a wonderful effect.

357. In connection with this whole matter we must insert a few remarks on various scandals which a pastor is bound either to prevent or eliminate. Thus:

(a) Scandals may arise from lawsuits and public quarrels. The priest ought to use his influence to reconcile by compromise parties who are on bad terms, before they go to court and he should do this even if he has not been asked to act as arbitrator. His position as such entitles him to it, because it is his duty to prevent sin, which usually is the consequence of disputes and quarrels.

(b) A dissension or trouble existing between a married couple may be the cause of great evil if not brought to a stop in due time and season....

(c) Scandals may be caused through agents of secret societies, who, under the pretext of furnishing cheap life insurance, or of assisting people in their business, entice Catholics to join their lodges....

(d) Scandals may arise from saloons, boarding houses, and such like places, the proprietors of which allow all sorts of people, and suspicious characters, to meet there in order to drink, to gamble, to dance, etc., and this at any time, day or night, Sunday or week-day. To check this evil, it is advisable first to have a private talk with the owners of such establishments; if that has no effect, you ought to denounce the whole affair publicly in church; although it must be done with great circumspection, lest it lead to a law-suit, and the last things become worse than the first.

(e) A source of scandal is found not seldom in the circulation of bad and immoral papers, and books or publications that are hostile to faith and religion. Also papers which sail under a Catholic flag, but defend that false modem liberalism, condemned by the Roman Pontiffs, come under this head. Much evil is done by such products of the press. There are various ways to combat it. Prudence must tell each pastor what mode may be the best for him to choose. Never, however, should he be silent, for the reason that he could not stop the evil.

(f) Scandals may result from factions which have originated among the members of a parish. A priest sent to such a place should be patient and wait, and not hold either with one faction or the other, but simply attend to his duty as pastor, following accurately the instructions of his bishop. Leave them alone in fighting their cause if they want to. Thus they will lose ground, and in a short time all will be quiet. A patient and forbearing priest has sometimes done wonders in a place where an ambitious and hot-tempered man had been an utter failure.

These are a few scandals of frequent occurrence. No priest should feel discouraged if confronted with them. As long as this world exists, scandals must needs come. A zealous worker in the vineyard of the Lord ought to take consolation in the thought that whether he meet with success or not, eternal reward will not fail him.