For you I am a bishop, with you, I am a Christian

Augustine’s sermon “On the Anniversary of His Ordination” (listed as Sermon 340) provides a beautiful portrait of pastoral ministry. I have included here several excerpts.  The importance of the oversight of souls is clear in these comments.  Here is a good blend of authority and humility.  The people need their pastors and the pastors need their people.  Prayer is needed from both.  And, pastors are first and foremost members of the church along with everyone else.

“What, though, is to be dreaded in this office, if not that I may take more pleasure, which is so dangerous, in the honor shown me, than in what bear fruit in your salvation?  Let me therefore have the assistance of your prayers, that the one who did not disdain to bear with me may also deign to bear my burden with me.  When you pray like that, you are also praying for yourselves.  This burden of mine, you see, about which I am now speaking, what else is it, after all, but you?  Pray for strength for me, just as I pray that you may not be too heavy.” 292

“Where I’m terrified by what I am for you, I am given comfort by what I am with you.  For you I am a bishop, with you, after all, I am a Christian.  The first is the name of an office undertaken, the second a name of grace; that one means danger, this one salvation.  Finally, as if in the open sea, I am being tossed about by the stormy activity involved in that one; but as I recall by whose blood I have been redeemed, I enter a safe harbor in the tranquil recollection of this one; and thus while toiling away at my own proper office, I take my rest in the marvelous benefit conferred on all of us in common.

So I hope the fact that I have been bought together with you gives me more pleasure than my having been placed at your head…” 292

“Make my ministry fruitful. . . . The turbulent have to be corrected, the faint-hearted cheered up, the weak supported; the gospel’s opponents need to be refuted, its insidious enemies guarded against; the unlearned need to be taught, the indolent stirred up, the argumentative checked; the proud must be put in their place, the desperate set on their feet, those engaged in quarrels reconciled; the need have to be helped, the oppressed to be liberated, the good to be given your backing, the bad to be tolerated; all must be loved.

In all the vast and varied activity involved in fulfilling such manifold responsibilities, please give me your help by both your prayers and your obedience.  In this way I will find pleasure not so much in being in charge of you as in being of use to you.” 293

“Just as I, you see, have to give thought with great fear and anxiety to how I may blamelessly carry out my duties as bishop; so you for your part must make a point of showing a humble and eager obedience of everything that is commanded of you.

So let us pray together, dearly beloved, that my tenure as bishop may be of profit both to me and to you.  It will profit me, if I tell you what has to be done; and you, if you do what you hear.  You see, if we all pray tirelessly, I for you and you for me, with the perfect love of charity, we shall all happily attain, with the Lord’s help, to eternal bliss.  May he be graciously pleased to grant us this, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.” 294

(In The Works of Saint Augustine: a Translation for the 21st Century. Translation and notes by Edmund Hill. Edited by John E. Rotelle. 292-294. Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1990-1997)

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