Intellectual Approach to Pastoral Ministry

One question is lingering on my mind: ‘Do we need an intellectual and learned approach to ministries in our parishes?’ The question has sharpened because in Goa we now seem to have the challenge to take pastoral care of the third generation of the literate people of God. This does not mean that the situation is so bad that it warrants something like a Council of Trent that made intellectual approach a pastoral approach among other things by starting the seminaries. Perhaps, what we need is to seek depth dimension that would integrate the spiritual with the social. Jesus did adopt an intellectual and learned approach. He adopted a non-elitist, praxis-oriented, transformative, dialogical, prophetic and critical pedagogy. We can find this illustrated clearly in his parables which are his chief pedagogical tools In Goa in several ways hope has been replaced by anger and fear. People do feel displaced by development that seems to leave the people behind as it serves the vested interest of the elite. Fundamentalism and intolerance are threatening to increase the decimals of conflict in our society. Hit by faulty developmental policy, several among our people have chosen migration. Day by day Goa is bleeding and is looking for healing of its wounds inflicted on her by her own sons and daughters.

This is why we as pastors cannot rely on business as usual mode of pastoral response. This is why we as pastors cannot rely on business as usual mode of pastoral response. We have the challenge to smell our sheep. We do have to bring depth dimension to our ministries so that we can reconcile everything to God in Christ. We have a great task to read the signs of the time in Goa and our country and seek a learned and intellectually as well as spiritually discerned response. We can no longer also adopt an anti-intellectual approach that seems to seek its comfort that our people are simple and do not need it. We all have to somehow play the role of what Romilla Thapar describes as a public intellectual. We all like to be wisdom figures to our people and people do consider us the same. it is therefore of prime importance that we embrace an intellectual approach to our pastoral ministry. Maybe we have to move from what Antonio Gramsci in his book Prison notes, describes as conventional intellectuals to organic intellectuals. Organic intellectuals take a vertical and hierarchical stance that largely divides while horizontal links and reconciles. Hence we require courage and intellectual dedication besides prayer.

This means we need to insert the salt of intellectual dimension to all ministries that go to build our pastoral care. We need this today more than before because market fundamentalism is controlling our society as well as our politics. We have seen the corporatization of education. Now we are seeing corporatization of politics. We are already facing the impact of the likes of Jindals and Adani in Goa. Hence, we have to enrich our orthodoxy centric approaches to pastoral care with orthopraxis so our parishes and institutions become ortho-communities. To reach these levels maybe we have to give up the complex of a persecuted Church as well the all-conquering Church. We are indeed feeling the weight of the cross with the growth of right-wing politics in the country as a minority. We have a feeling of being under siege. But we also have clerics who act in a triumphant and all-conquering manner throwing their weight of office on our laypeople adopting dominating and self-serving approaches. Hence our largely Lietourgia-centric pastoral ministry may have to embrace Diakonia ( service ) and Martyria (witness). It seems to be the best way to come to a koinonia-centric Ecclesia.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao