The excellence of the pastoral ministry, and thus its usefulness, results from its salutary action. The pastor is in society the bearer of that astonishing panacea that imparts sociability to the modern pagan, moral balance to the intellectual, and culture to the one who is still at the first rudimentary stage. The pastor is everywhere and always the representative of kindness, peace, justice, and mercy, and not the representative of the sorrowful side of existence, as is sometimes wrongly believed. He is tirelessly bound to the mission of governing souls in order to awaken and strengthen in them thoughts that should dominate their life and guide them toward the future life.
The pastor, shepherd of the believers, is charged with power for their spiritual needs. As we must eat and breathe every day, and not only on certain great occasions of life, so our spiritual being demands daily nourishment in order to be in health. Inevitably, then, the pastor is the man of every day. Not only is he called to baptize, marry, and bury, although at those great moments of our fragile existence the pastor's help is desired and even indispensable; but he is the one who must maintain, in those entrusted to him, faith in things invisible and eternal. His intervention is all the more imperative as worldly contingencies are constantly coming to lower in man the attachment to divine things and realities.
The minister of the gospel is above all an apostle, one who carries the good news of salvation. In order to spread this word of life, he cannot remain seated in a chair; on the contrary, he must literally carry it: preaching in public, entering into the homes, visiting isolated souls. It is therefore unfailingly necessary that he possess a certain measure of aggressiveness, all the more since his vocation calls him not to limit his activities to those who are won to his cause. Indeed, under the pressure of his sacred fire, he must communicate his conviction to others and confront unbelievers and skeptics. That aspect of his ministry lifts him to the rank of combatant of peace and requires him to carry his victories everywhere the order of his great Captain sends and places him.
Duties of the Pastor
As a leader, the true pastor has for his first duties to aid the weak, to define and particularize their rule of morality and their line of conduct, and to recall, to those whose consciences are hardened by compromises, the directing principles of the gospel. Always he must lead his flock, adapting his teachings, his counsels, and his encouragements to the very diverse vicissitudes of the life of each one. Sometimes he will need to have the courage to denounce disorders in private life and exercise with gentleness the necessary reproof. It is always delicate, even for the arbiters, to mix into certain disputes; however, the duty of the healing of the soul implies also that difficult intervention which happily transforms the pastor into a messenger, even into a peacemaker frequently.
He who devotes himself to the pastoral vocation should be able to speak as a dispenser of consolation. In that respect his work is to devote himself untiringly to the service of wounded souls buffeted by adversity. His role as physician of the soul designs him to attenuate, calm, or appease the distresses and sorrows that constantly harass them. Always he must draw near to human misery: support the discouraged, the despairing, the sick, the widows, the poor, those afflicted by physical or moral illness, and all others who are in need of compassion. He is called to function in hours of misfortune and distress.
The true spiritual leader must be capable of following, with the same zeal and the same perseverance, the multitude of his activities through all crises. In the unleashing of persecutions he remains the model of the faithful. When war paralyzes and tears apart the country, he is there as ambassador of the Prince of peace. If an epidemic sows terror and anguish, he becomes automatically the good Samaritan, who spends himself without reckoning. Raillery and mocking do not at all injure his constancy, for such a unique ministry requires a steadfast heroism.
This preacher of love, of peace, and of justice makes an impression more by the eloquence of his example than by that of his speech. He will avoid the danger of seeking to please by a spirit of compromise. He will never give way before the menace of the half measure or the play of flattery. It remains part of his duty to conserve his naturalness, while maintaining the ideal of justice with much charity. With him, fidelity must always triumph over facility. And as a faithful representative of his religion he will be, by his example, his abnegation, his benevolence, the main pillar of the spiritual sanctuary that he seeks to edify upon earth. His is truly a "high calling."