Reflections on praxis and poiesis What constitutes Christian action? Bible study – Mth 9:35-10:8; Introduction to the Pastoral Cycle; Sharing of good practice – Housing Justice; Group work – application of See-Judge-Act methodology to local issues; Closing reflections
Aristotle reflects on the ethics and ends of any action (praxis) in the opening passages of Nicomachean Ethics. He concludes that what people shall do and what things they shall refrain from doing - the realisation of the Good that is not secured for one person only but the wider community – is political science. The Good referred to is also the Beautiful and praxes therefore have to be examined ethically, aesthetically, and politically.
However, for Aristotle praxes also have to examined theologically; he recognises that the securing of the Good is also a divine achievement (theioteron); He also makes a distinction between praxis (doing and acting) and poiesis (making, creating): The genus of action is different from that of production, for while production has an end other than itself, action cannot. Poiesis bears a transcendent charge, an ontological weight of bringing something into being, a genesis.
After Aristotle, then, we might characterise Christian acting as a praxis that participates in a divine poiesis that has soteriological and eschatological import. It is a techne, a crafting, a production of redemption……this acting is liturgical (an act of service to the community) …but is also political, ethical and aesthetic. Graham Ward, The Politics of Discipleship, p. 201
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest."
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, "The kingdom of heaven has come near.' 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
1. What does this passage say about how we are to see Gods world? 2. What part do our spiritual disciplines play as Christians in determining our response to the needs in Gods world? 3. What are the distinctive elements of our action in responding to these needs?
A pastoral theology method developed by Joe Holland & Peter Henriot SJ to assist groups responding to social issues. Widely used by social justice workers around the world since the booklet Social Analysis was published by the Centre of Concern in 1980. A revised and expanded edition Social Analysis: Linking Faith & Justice was published by Orbis in 1983. Has roots in the see, judge, act method of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn; the hermeneutic circle of Juan Luis Segundo; the methodology of modern Catholic Social Teaching; and the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola.
A flexible framework that can be been used for pastoral, academic or community action purposes. Known variously as the pastoral circle, pastoral cycle or pastoral spiral. The moments are known as: experience or contact; social analysis or simply analysis (including ecclesial); theological reflection or reflection; and pastoral planning or response. Not a closed circle: action leads to a new reality, new experience to the examined.
What does it mean? How shall we respond? Why is it happening? What is happening? ExperienceAnalysis Theological Reflection Response
This method is holistic, engaging our heads, hearts and hands. It touches on the cognitive or intellect, as well as affectivity and the effective or deliberative. Experience and analysis help us to achieve better understanding – using our heads Immersion or contact in the experience moment can also help us get in touch with feelings – using our hearts Theological reflection helps us to get in touch with deeper values – aligning our heads and our hearts with the will of God Planning for improved responses to issues and situations – using our hands
We can start with whatever information is available to us. Making modest responses based on what we do know and understand can help us to avoid analysis paralysis. Our responses can continue to deepen as we evaluate our actions, gather more knowledge & experience, and analyse and reflect upon it.
Our response will never be perfect or complete. We need to evaluate our action and critically examine our methods. Has our action led to some change in the situation, ourselves, or our understanding of the situation? What is happening now?
How do you currently go about your work for social justice? Does your way of working touch on the main elements of the Pastoral Cycle? What are the critical elements in determining Christian action as part of our whole life discipleship in our communities?
We have a distinctive and critical role to play as Christians in responding to the social, spiritual and material needs of our communities. The Pastoral Cycle offers us a unique methodology for analysing, reflecting theologically and acting as disciples of Christ in hopeful and transforming ways. We do not need others to determine the role of Christians or the church; we have a clear mandate from Christ to act as humanising agents in Gods world.
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