I remember reading years a quote (and I cannot remember the source), someone making the observation that we care more for the training of plumbers than pastors, because we do not think a pastor can hurt us. That quotes comes to mind, when reading this introduction to Gregory the Great’s Book on Pastoral Care:
No one presumes to teach an art till he has first, with intent meditation, learned it. What rashness is it, then, for the unskilful to assume pastoral authority, since the government of souls is the art of arts! For who can be ignorant that the sores of the thoughts of men are more occult than the sores of the bowels? And yet how often do men who have no knowledge whatever of spiritual precepts fearlessly profess themselves physicians of the heart, though those who are ignorant of the effect of drugs blush to appear as physicians of the flesh!
That phrase “physicians of the heart” raises a point. I wonder how rarely that particular aspect of pastoral care is thought of when it comes to pastoral work. On one hand, there are those who delegate this duty to academic psychology, which at best will have a truncated understanding of a human being (how does one “scientifically” apprise the spiritual state and the eternal nature of a human being?). On the other are those who seem to think the heart can be cured by laying propositions upon one as if bare ignorance of a proposition were the whole of human trouble.
After rehearsing the requirement that pastors must have requisite skill and knowledge to their work, he then states that ignorance will not act as a defense:
Yet this unskilfulness of the shepherds doubtless suits often the deserts of those who are subject to them, because, though it is their own fault that they have not the light of knowledge, yet it is in the dealing of strict judgment that through their ignorance those also who follow them should stumble. Hence it is that, in the Gospel, the Truth in person says, If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch Matthew 15:14. Hence the Psalmist (not expressing his own desire, but in his ministry as a prophet) denounces such, when he says, Let their eyes be blinded that they see not, and ever bow down their back Psalm 68:24. For, indeed, those persons are eyes who, placed in the very face of the highest dignity, have undertaken the office of spying out the road; while those who are attached to them and follow them are denominated backs. And so, when the eyes are blinded, the back is bent, because, when those who go before lose the light of knowledge, those who follow are bowed down to carry the burden of their sins.
Book I, chapter 1.
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