Archive for the ‘Pastoral Care’ Category

Flannery O’Connor’s story, “The Enduring Chill,” contains one of the most entertaining confrontations between the Church and the world in modern literature. In the story, Asbury, the spoiled son of a Southern farmer, has been forced to return home from New York City because of illness. Asbury fancied himself a highly sophisticated artist. In fact, he was an abject failure. But now, he’s convinced that he’s dying and has badgered his mother into calling a Roman Catholic priest to visit him. Asbury had met a Jesuit priest in New York who was hip, witty, intellectual—all the things he fancied himself to be. Starved for intellectual stimulation, Asbury assumed that another priest would be the perfect conversation partner. At least he would be far better qualified than any of the narrow minded, uneducated Protestant clergy in town. When the local priest finally arrives, however, he is not at all what Asbury was expecting. What entered his room was not a polished intellectual but “a massive old man” who introduced himself as “Father Finn—from Purgatory”:

“It’s so nice to have you come,” Asbury said. “This place is incredibly dreary. There’s no one here an intelligent person can talk to. I wonder what you think of Joyce, Father?”

The priest lifted his chair and pushed closer. “You’ll have to shout,” he said. “Blind in one eye and deaf in one ear.” (more…)

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Eugene Peterson in his book Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, makes an interesting observation about the fact that Lamentations is written in the form of an acrostic poem. Peterson observes that the acrostic form (as it goes through the Hebrew alphabet) both organizes and puts limits upon grief and suffering:

“In such ways does the acrostic function: it organizes grief, patiently going over the ground, step by step, insisting on the significance of each detail of suffering. . . . Arranged in the acrostic structure the suffering no longer obsesses, no longer controls. . . it makes certain that nothing is left out, but it also, just as certainly, puts limits upon the repetitions. If there is a beginning to evil, there is also an end to it.” (p. 122)

The form of Jeremiah’s lament shows “a pastoral style.” There is full sympathy for the terrible suffering being endured and yet, the structure insists upon a termination to the time of grief. It reminds us that sorrow and suffering are not endless: (more…)

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