On pastoral care and priorities…
Duties of Ministers of the Church
The priesthood "is not leisure but the task of tasks," Bernard writes somewhere, and "the name 'bishopric' is a word of work, not of honor," according to Augustine (Bk.19, de civ. Dei, c.19). Now that we have explained the reasons for the ministry of the church and the necessity thereof, as well as the utility and dignity depending on it, it remains for us to speak about the duties of ministers of the church. Various writers list those duties in different ways. "Every administration of the church consists in three things: in the sacraments, in the holy orders and in precepts" (Hugh of St. Victor, Bk.2, de sacr., part 2, c.5). "The duties of the priest are to learn something from God, or to teach the people, or to pray for the people, etc." (Jerome, on Leviticus 8). For our list to be quite complete, however, we say that the duties of the ministry are most accurately evaluated on the basis of the end, because the church was divinely instituted and is still being preserved. In earlier sections we said that that end was dual: namely, a principal purpose, the glory of God; and an intermediate goal, the conversion and salvation of people. The intermediate goal holds the rationale of some means through which one reaches the principal and ultimate end. From this it has even received its name. To achieve the intermediate purpose, God uses the duties and activities of ministers for the effective conversion and salvation of people.
First, the people who are to be converted and saved are born "in the darkness of ignorance" (Is. 9:2, Luke 1:79, John 1:5, Acts 26:18, Eph. 5:8). They are "alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance of God" (Eph. 4:18). The Holy Spirit wants to dispel that naive darkness through the light of the heavenly Word (Ps. 19:8, Ps. 119:105, 2 Peter 1:19). Therefore, the most important duty of ministers of the church is to preach the Word, through which the Holy Spirit provides an inner illumination of the heart. "I shall appoint you to serve . . . the gentiles, to whom I am sending you to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light" (Acts 26:17-18).
Second, to the Word are added the Sacraments, the signs of divine grace and of the promise of the Gospel, so that the ancients call them the "horaton" or "visible" Word. Therefore, the second duty of ministers is to administer the Sacraments. "This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them" (Matt. 28:19). Here, preaching the Word and administering Baptism are connected.
Third, every effort of ministers is in vain without the blessing of heaven. "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Cor. 3:6-7). Augustine, sermon 4, on the words of the apostle: "It is we who speak, but God who teaches. He who does the internal teaching has a throne in heaven." Therefore, the third duty of ministers is diligently praying for the flock entrusted to them. "Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and right way" (1 Sam. 12:23). Here the instruction of hearers and of praying for the fortification of the Word are connected. It is proper for ministers to lead their hearers with the example of an excellent life. Those who teach sound material but live shamefully take away with the left hand what they gave with the right. At times, they can hurt more by example than they benefit with the Word.
Their fourth duty, then, is the honest control of their life and behavior. "Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds" (Titus 2:7). Because in addition to the native darkness of ignorance, a corruption of the will and a proclivity toward every evil adhere to people, the bonds of ecclesiastical discipline (which have been entrusted divinely to the ministry) must be used to keep those things from hindering conversion through the Word or from snatching the converted and putting them at a crossroads.
Therefore, the fifth duty of ministers is to administer church discipline. "If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church" (Matt. 18:17). In the solemn public exercise of divine worship, certain rituals related to decency and good order were introduced by consent of the entire church and should be preserved. Therefore, ministers should protect those rituals approved by serious consideration and give useful advice about many things in the public assemblies. Furthermore, the ministry should not change them because of some private desire of the mind at the offense of the church.
Consequently, the sixth duty of ministers is to preserve the rituals of the church. Finally, because among the hearers are orphans, widows, the poor, the homeless, the ill—duties of charity are especially owed to alleviate their poverty and affliction.
Therefore, the seventh duty of the ministry is the care of the poor and the visitation of the sick. He should collect and spend faithfully the money destined for use for the poor. If this duty is entrusted to those in charge of the church treasury, he should exhort members diligently to demonstrate their generosity toward the poor. He also should see to it that dispensing the goods is done lawfully and correctly (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:1).
All told, therefore, there are seven duties of ministers of the church. We can relate all the rest to those seven: first, preaching the Word; second, dispensing the Sacraments; third, praying for the flock entrusted to them; fourth, controlling their own life and behavior; fifth, administering church discipline; sixth, preserving the rituals of the church; seventh, caring for and visiting the sick.