Enabling Pastoral Care {Section B:3}

Enabling Pastoral Care

 

To focus pastoral care primarily in intentional friendship marks a fundamental shift in its traditional theoretical base. This highlights two important issues in understanding this thesis.

Firstly, whereas traditional pastoral theory has been theological and centered in ideas and concepts of God, in this thesis the Self becomes the primary focus. While pastoral care as a form of care is universal and has its origins in family life and its personal extensions into the wider community, it has only been formally reflected on as a function and discipline of religious organization within the western church. It became theoretically based in theology, in official thoughts about the nature of God, and practically based in the religious and ritual functions of the church.

Making the Self the primary focus for pastoral care, consequently takes pastoral care out of theology into a philosophical anthropology; not a scientific anthropology, for as we shall see, intentionality and action are key concepts in an adequate conception of the Self for my purposes, and intentionality and action cannot be adequately incorporated in a scientific appraisal of the world. This shift in no way lessens the importance of the word 'God' in human life. It simply grounds pastoral care in a concept that we can all share as human beings in a secular, multifaith society, regardless of our religious tradition, if any.

Secondly, this thesis places pastoral care within the religious functions of community life. However, I make a clear distinction between religion as it finds outward expression in a community, and religion as an inward process that contributes to the inner structure and relationships that constitute the individual's soul or inner life. It is this second expression of religion that is the particular focus of multifaith pastoral care in the community, and its clear delineation allows pastoral care practitioners to develop skill in helping people connect to their inner resources when facing difficult situations regardless of the person's spiritual or religious tradition or beliefs.

Focused in the concept of the Self, pastoral care properly conducted is a true expression of religion in culture in its fullest and most positive and generic form. This re-instates religion's fundamental importance as that form of reflection that focuses primarily on the behaviour and interactions, especially communicative interactions that occur between people in community.

Pastoral care in a secular multifaith society is made up of acts of intentional friendship in which the carer is positively motivated through his or her own convictions and commitments and is trained to act intentionally in a way that is based in the interests of the other person.

The modern pastoral carer is sensitive to what a person believes, not for the content of what she or he believes necessarily but for the value the person invests in that belief and the place that belief has in determining the person's actions. The carer is especially sensitive to inner relationships that positively structure the other's inner world. These can constitute the person's inner resources and resilience. Most of all, the modern pastoral carer works with a concept of the Self as primarily an Agent, someone who intentionally acts, and who is only secondarily a Subject who feels and an Object who is thought. In fact, an essential process in the formation of a pastoral carer is learning to think about what we do from the point of view of Action, and how our feeling and thinking contribute to that action.

 

» Next: {Section B:4} "The Fifteen Elements of the Philosophy": A Philosophy of Pastoral Care