Pastoral Practices and Pastoral Innovation Lab

Pastoral Innovation Lab has both the challenge and opportunity to securitize how some pastoral practices inscribe themselves as forms of mediating grace and Christian life. Thus, for instance pastoral practices of novena as ways of preparing individually as well as collectively for the celebration of feast are looked upon as channels of grace that we hope will evangelize us and bring about metanoia or transformation of our lives. Feasts and pastoral practices embedded around them assist in bringing about catharsis that rejuvenates and revitalize the life of our people. Pastoral Innovation Lab has the challenge to think of finding ways of transforming these pastoral practices into intensive moments of grace.

While there are several pastoral practices (ritual practices included) attached to the nine days novena as a preparation, we may ask from where did Catholics got the number nine as a counting the bench mark that suffices as preparation for a feast. In Goa, nine day novenas are very popular. Hence question that asks from where did we get this number nine as one that marks the end point of a preparation for a feast is important. The Jews do not seem to have any religious practices weaved to number nine. To them number seven appears to be sacred. Catholic encyclopaedia indicates that it was from the Greeks and Romans that the Catholics borrowed the importance of number nine. The Greeks and the Romans had a custom of moaning for their dead beloved for a period of nine days. It is from them that we took up practices of moaning for our dead beloved for nine days with celebration of mass each day. It is said that it was in the middle ages, that Catholics embraced nine days as a preparation for the feast of Christmas. In Goa , we might have have also the influence of nov ratri celebrations of the Hindu tradition.

Nine days as preparation for a feast is naturalised and has become tradition has been sedimented over time. This means at one time, this celebration of novena and rituals attached to its practice were truly innovations. But as time passed, they seem to have become frozen and often any change in the date of novena and feast or even opening of novena and feast to other lesser privileged people in the same Parish has brought very emotive resistance. This also tells us how caste and privilege is also being inscribed and continues to enjoy social life through these pastoral practices in some. While there are profound complexities rooted in the ganvkarism of the past, the sheer refusal to change with time may tell us how practice of novena reinforced and perpetuated issues of discrimination and exclusion inherited from traditions that we followed before we got converted to Catholicism . This suggests that novena also functioned as means of blocking access to its celebration for significant number of people. Hence, the practices of novena as preparation for a feast may also stand in need of evangelization in some places.

Thanks to the Diocesan synod, the pastoral practice of celebrating a feast with a novena has broken the walls that limited the access of it to only few. This de-elitization of the novena and feast is a welcome change of our times. The participatory character of the novena and feast has changed and has become democratically all embracive. The issue that a Pastoral Innovation Lab can focus is the all important transformative character of the novena and feast. How can these practices be evangelized and converted into effective practices of our Catholic faith?. This goal is not easy but we do have the challenge to give it a try . This means we have to work to place these practices into the hermeneutical circle of life and we have a challenge to see that these practices do not render the people passive but activate them for practices of love. Practices of love/charity can be made a fruit of each day of novena. Thus, being evangelized, one is led to live love and thus become God’s mission in our society. There still remains the missing link. It is about finding ways of socially engineering the people to be the change that evangelization requires us to be.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao