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Pastoral accompaniment

Fr. Roy Cimagala
Candidly speaking

 

Fr. Roy CimagalaIt’s one concept Pope Francis is trying to popularize and push, asking the clergy especially, and even the seminarians, to have the appropriate training, so that the true spirit of the mercy of Christ can be spread more widely, and especially to those in some special conditions insofar as their spiritual and moral lives are concerned.

For this, he is asking everyone to be more discerning of the promptings of the Holy Spirit so he can make the proper assessments and judgments of specific difficult cases.

He has warned us against being too legalistic or too rigid in doctrine as to be a doctrinaire, blindly or indiscriminately applying laws and doctrine without the proper regard to the concrete conditions of the people concerned.

In a number of instances, he has expressed the view, for example, that we cannot judge the present with the criteria of the past. And I suppose he can also mean that we should not judge the past with the criteria and standards of the present.

Again, I suppose that he does not mean that our laws and doctrine are all wrong. They definitely are not. They hold great value and are always helpful. But they have to be understood, interpreted and applied under the promptings of the Spirit, otherwise they can be dangerous and even wrong. Human wisdom is not enough. We need the Holy Spirit to be able to see, understand and do things properly.

St. Paul once said: “We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit. The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.” (1 Cor 2,13-15)

More directly, St. Paul also said: “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us. Our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit, for the written code kills, but the spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3,5-6)

The ideal to aim at is to be vitally united with the Holy Spirit, the sanctifier, whose gifts and fruits would enable us to see, understand, judge things and behave properly. This can only happen when with God’s grace, that will always be made available, we truly take care of our spiritual life, our life of loving relationship with God and with others.

We cannot overemphasize the indispensable need for prayer, for a living and vibrant faith, for unconditional charity and mercy for everyone. Of course, all this would also presume an assiduous study of the doctrine, the continuing development of virtues and other relevant disciplines that are always pursued under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and motivated primarily by love for God and others.

Everyone, but especially the clerics, should know how to develop a life in the Spirit. It’s not enough for us to be smart and clever in philosophy and theology, nor to have some human charm, to be effective in pastoral accompaniment. Without the Spirit, we would simply be left with some brilliant theories, mother statements, etc., that would hardly have any impact on our lives. The transforming effect would be missing.

We have to learn to discern the spirit behind everything that takes place in our life. We cannot be naïve and just accept things as they come. We need to check if the spirit behind anything that involves us comes from God or not.

St. John, for example, in his first letter, warned us, “Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (4,1)

There are many kinds of spirits roaming around the world, and we have to learn how to discern them. There is the spirit of God, the spirit of Christ as opposed to the antichrist. There is also the evil spirit, and the spirit of the world that is dominated by the evil one.

St. John was explicit as to which spirit is proper to us. “Every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. ” (1Jn 4,2-3)

Only then can we be effective in pastoral accompaniment.

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