This past week, we celebrated the feast day of Robert Grossteste, medieval Oxford scholar and later Bishop of Lincoln (+1253). It is often pointed out that his name means literally “fat head,” but he was anything but that, being noted in his own day for his keen intellect (he was especially interested in scientific topics), his pastoral care, and his efficient management of his Diocese. In one of his writings he gives us one of the most succinct descriptions of a pastor’s duties that I have found anywhere:
The cure of souls consists not only in the dispensation of the sacraments, in singing of the hours, and reading of masses, but in the true teaching of the word of life, in rebuking and correcting vice’ and besides all this, in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, housing the strangers, visiting the sick and prisoners—especially those who are the parish priest’s own parishioners. By such deeds of charity, a priest will instruct his people in the holy exercises of daily life.
Those are words I would like to have framed and hung over my desk as a reminder!