By Gerry Hutchinson
Each year the COMISS Network promotes Pastoral Care Week. It is an occasion to recognize the different disciplines who offer spiritual care to persons. The theme for 2015 is Spiritual Care Together.
- Thomas Beckner writes that “to be identified as a chaplain is to be part of a rich tradition that finds its roots in the fourth century. The word itself is derived from the Latin cappellanus, a title given to the priest who served as a custodian of sacred relics, which in turn derived from capella, a “short cloak.” The use of the term appears to have been first applied to the clergy in charge of the cloak of St. Martin of Tours (c. 316-397)
Legend has it that St. Martin met a ragged beggar on the road, and out of compassion, tore his own cloak in half and gave it to the beggar. Later Martin had a vision in which Christ appeared to him wrapped in the beggar’s half cloak. Martin’s half was later preserved, initially carried into battles by Frankish kings and later kept in a building that became known as a chapel. Eventually, anyone assigned to watch over the sanctuary where this cape, or any other relic was housed, came to be called a chaplain – the keepers of the cloak.”
During Pastoral Care week we have invited several CBF endorsed chaplains and pastoral counselors to share their perspective on providing spiritual care in their specialized setting. These men and women are contemporary “keepers of the cloak” who provide spiritual care to people in specialized settings: the military, hospitals, prisons, university campuses, and pastoral counseling centers, etc. Indeed, we provide Spiritual Care Together.
Beckner, Thomas W., Correctional Chaplains: Keepers of the Cloak, pages 1, 2 (Orlando: Capella Press, 2012)