Faith of Our Fathers

Arthur Middleton on the past through teaching of Johann sailor S J

Pastoral theology is an application of the truths of theology to the practical ministry of souls, and is characterized in the son of a poor cobbler, the Jesuit Johann Sailer, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Ethics at Dillingen in 1794 and Bishop of Ratisbon in 1829, dying in 1832. His Lectures on Pastoral Theology were never translated into English but they influenced Edward King when Professor of Pastoral Theology at Oxford, for both shared the same objectives, as academics and bishops, in forming the mind and spirit of ordinands and clergy.

A priest must have a life of the spirit, but should cultivate the life of the mind to be equipped against the spirit of the world. In their different times both had to face the forces of rationalism, materialism and unbelief, and they shared a common approach to devotion, doctrine and pastoral care in preparing clergy for a new age.

Sailerís age, dominated by the Enlightenment, disputed the fundamental dogmas of Christianity and was characterized by externalism, contempt for Christian mysticism, worldliness of the clergy, degradation of the pulpit by preaching secular topics, a relaxation of ecclesiastical discipline, and a one-sided training of the mind in education.

Sailer opposed to these destructive tendencies his defence of faith in Christ and the fundamental principles of Christianity. His concern was for an inner, living, practical Christianity, for a faith that would issue in charity, the maintenance of godliness and the training of a pious and intelligent clergy. He insisted the pulpit be reserved for the preaching of Christ and that education should aim at training the whole person.

As teacher, parish priest and preacher he reconciled countless people to the Church. With Sailer, German piety, both Protestant and Catholic, learned again to pray. This is the peculiar characteristic of his activity. He cherished the cooperation of the various Christian bodies against the negations of infidelity, and breached rationalism by opposing to it a piety in which all Christians could unite.

Fundamental to his theology is the Fall of Man and reconciliation with God through Christ, mediated from age to age through the priestly ministry of his Church. The Church is itself the living embodiment of this reunion of men with God and with one another. So the Church needs priests and pastors to exercise the Churchís ministry and they will require a double preparation, one scientific, which will qualify them to teach and to persuade; the other spiritual, which will give them the will and motive-power to fulfil these functions.

After sketching a true pastor of souls, he gives an account of scientific training, the principles on which he grounds his direction, illustrating how to use Scripture in the various aspects of priestly work. He illustrates the connection between Paulís practical precepts and dogmatic doctrine.

He follows the priest into the various areas of ministry; preaching, catechizing in church or school; ministrations to the sick; liturgical work, and how the Churchís festivals can demonstrate Christian doctrine.

Instructions are given for the pastorís relationships, to his home, his parish, his brother clergy, his country; with those not in communion with the Church, with people in general. In pastoral theology, dogma, prayer and life can never be separated.

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