Priestly Pastoral Theology for Seminarians

By Basil Cole OP

ST PAULS - 58/23rd Road, TPS III, Bandra West, Mumbai 400 050, India

ISBN 978-93-92340-15-4 / Pp 271 / Rs 300 

With vocations to the priesthood at an all-time low worldwide, here's a book that serves as a timely reminder to seminary formators that becoming a priest is one thing, while being a 'pastor' is quite another matter! To be a pastor is to have the "smell of the sheep" entrusted to one's spiritual care as so profoundly desired by Pope Francis. Pastoral Theology is what prepares seminarians to absorb the "smell of the sheep", thereby fulfilling the aim of priestly formation, i.e. to be formed into shepherds after the heart of the Good Shepherd Himself. Enhancing that formation is Priestly Pastoral Theology for Seminarians.

Early in his papacy, Pope Francis said that the training of priests must be a "work of art, not a police action…We must form their hearts. Otherwise, we are creating little monsters. And then these little monsters mould the people of God. This really gives me goose bumps." Could it perhaps also be that, exacerbating the issue is the misconception several priests harbour that Ordination per se instantly invests a priest with complete knowledge and expertise in everything under the Sun? Needless to say, such a mindset cannot but stunt ongoing formation. Priestly Pastoral Theology for Seminarians could well help pre-empt the development of such an attitude in an individual called to the priesthood.

A priest can be a good pastor precisely by being a man of 'sound doctrine', thus making Pastoral Theology come through as an art form that orientates the disposition of the heart, mind and will towards the task of shepherding the flock. Through this book, Dominican friar Basil Cole takes the reader into the heart of a proper perception of the priestly vocation, thus ensuring a highly pastoral output in terms of effective priestly ministry. This redounds to the benefit of seminarian, ordinand, pastor and sheep alike, emphasising as it does that "a less knowledgeable faith ordinarily produces weak orthopraxis" (p. 11). Pertinently, the opening chapter of Priestly Pastoral Theology for Seminarians is titled 'Why study priestly pastoral theology?' (pp. 17-31)

The dissertation in this book, a comprehensive study of the subject, throws light not merely on some relevant Vatican documents, but also on the following: Scriptural roots and roles of apostle, bishop & priest; contextual understanding of the Priest/Prophet/King principle in relation to Christ; the Eucharist, prayer, devotions, the Sacraments and sacramentals; vocations to the priestly and religious life and lay apostolate; RCIA, and so much else that goes to make priestly, pastoral theology and ministry ever so meaningful. Indeed, it may be safely said that the contents are enough reason for every seminary and religious house of formation to stock a few copies in their respective libraries or reading rooms!

Lastly, it is often said, "Never judge a book by its cover"! And yet, given the exquisiteness of the cover of Cole's Priestly Pastoral Theology for Seminarians, thanks to the creativity of the publishers, ST PAUL'S, the book could well go on to become a collector's item! Of course, though a must read for every seminarian and cleric under formation, religious and laity in general would benefit tremendously from the contents, widening as it does the reader's perspective of the Catholic Priesthood, the priesthood of Christ!