iii. Pastoral care

Pastoral care is a topic that the Hibernensis approaches from different angles and in a number of different books. In the Hibernensis, aspects of pastoral care— which I shall define here broadly as things owed by the church to the faithful, sometimes as part of a reciprocal relationship—are entitlement to baptism, the mass, the eucharist, communion, excommunication, penance, almsgiving, tithes, and burials. Of these, the latter two will be discussed separately in Sections iv and v below. As mentioned above in Section i, Corus Besgnai only treats the topic of penance incidentally, whereas in the Hibernensis it receives a great deal of attention, with the main discussion taking place in Book 46 De penitentia.

Nowhere does the Hibernensis give a concise description of the various elements that contemporaries would have recognised as constituting pastoral care. One is left to infer such elements from sporadic references like Hib 11.2 (p. 50 In. 13-16), where a certain Augustine (perhaps a pseudonym for an Irish sage) is quoted as saying that qui sub gradu cecidit, post poenitentiam contentus fiat babticare, communionem dare infinnis et altari ministrare 'he who lapsed from his grade, let him be content after his penance to administer baptism, to give communion to the infirm, and to minister at the altar'. This offers indirect testimony on what appear to be typical pastoral duties that a priest would have been expected to discharge. In contrast, Corus Besgnai is unequivocal about that which pastoral care constitutes (§39):

baithes 7 connnnae 7 inunain anmae 7 oifrend 6 each eclais do chach idma creitnie coir, co n-aisneis breithre De do chach inda-tiiaisi 7 nod a coniallnathar. baptism, and communion, and hymns for the soul, and mass from every church to all, by virtue of the rightness of their faith, together with expounding the word of God to all who listen to it and fulfil it.

The text continues with listing what parishioners owe in return for pastoral provision: idbarta ‘offerings', dechmada 'tithes’,primiti ‘firstfruits’,primgeine 'firstborn' (a child, rather than an animal, according to §43), and imnae 'bequests’ (or in a narrower sense 'burial charges’). The theme of dues from the laity is developed in §§42—45 (see below. Section iv). Similarly, the Hibernensis also addresses these dues: almsgiving in Hib 13 (p. 69); tithes in Hib H20.11-12, V19.11-12 (p. 96 In. 13-p. 97 hi. 14); firstfruits in Hib 1.8 (p. 10 hi. 19), 2.11 (p. 24 In. 9-14), H20.11-12, V19.11-12 (p. 96 In. 13-p. 97 hi. 14), 24.9 (p. 150 In. 14), 36.9 (p. 260 In. 9); and bequests in Hib 40 (pp. 307-313). The firstborn of animals are also mentioned (e.g. Hib 2.11 [p. 24 In. 9-14]) but not of humans. Unlike Corus Besgnai §26, there is no provision in the Hibernensis that a flaith 'lord’ oversee the collection of dues for the church.


The best examples are Muirchú 12 and Tírechán 38 (Bieler [ed], Patrician Texts, 68, 152).

The language of mutual contractual obligation, which permeates Corns Bésgnai, is also evident in the clauses concerning pastoral care. The text observes a certain degree of symmetry. For example, Corns Bésgnai §38 opens by stating Dliged túaithe i n-eclais ‘The entitlement of the laity in relation to the church’ and §42 opens Coïr ecalso ó thúaith 'The just due of the church from the laity’. The Hibernensis does not explicitly use contractual terms, but a reciprocity is implied, as noted above in relation to the dues that the church requires of laypersons in return for pastoral care.

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