Tuesday, October 13, 2009


For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me, ...
When Jesus heard him, he was amazed...

I've been "working on" my understanding of pastoral authority.

How do I understand my - or any - pastoral authority? How does my theology inform my understanding of it? What does my experience say to my cognitive knowledge of it? How and when is my self-doubt triggered and how can this be a teacher for me? These interrelated questions pull deep within me for reflection and ponder. I believe these questions, and their answers, hold some keys for me in becoming more authentic in my pastoral care.

I find myself using pastoral authority:
- to contact the chaplain at a prison to arrange for the grandson of a dying patient to speak to the woman who raised him for the last time.
- at the bedside of a newly-dead patient to commend her spirit into God's Love as she passed from death into Life.
- to say nothing to the wailing mother whose young adult son died on the operating table, while all the folks around her gave cliche responses to the unnameable horror that happened.
- when the doctor waited for me to be present while he delivered delicate treatment news to the family of a trauma patient.
- to sit with the child and play word games as his mother tearfully said her last goodbyes to her father.
- to invite a patient to think about how or where God is in all of "this" (arm waving)

Pastoral authority is so ambiguous. At this stage in my awareness, sometimes I am sensitive to it, other times it is only afterward that I notice how I used it (or did not).

Even Jesus was amazed (read: astounded, dumfounded, stunned, flabbergasted) by authority. Okay, I have a lot to learn. Thanks be to God!

What shape does your vocational authority take right now?

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