The Pallium

This morning I read John 15 – the chapter where Jesus says ‘I am the good shepherd’…

When I started teaching there were two possible career paths for me. My emphasis could be on the academic – teaching and learning, the school curriculum, exams… Alternatively I could concern myself more with the pastoral side of schools – the welfare, well-being and holistic care of the children.

I’d already met the notion of ‘pastor’ and ‘pastoral’ in church… I remembered from my schoolboy Latin that ‘pastor’ was Latin for shepherd. So in school and church there were pastors – shepherds who cared for their sheep.

Roman Catholic archbishops wear a ‘pallium’, a vestment made of lambswool that they wear around their shoulders.

Pope Benedict explained its symbolic significance during the mass at his inauguration in 2005: ‘The lamb’s wool is meant to represent the lost, sick or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life.’

Benedict talks about Jesus as the Good Shepherd and then applies it: ‘What the Pallium indicates first and foremost is that we are all carried by Christ. But at the same time it invites us to carry one another. Hence the Pallium becomes a symbol of the shepherd’s mission…’

For many years I had a romanticised picture of pastoral care in school or church – gentle shepherds wearing washed, sweetly smelling dressing gowns caring for clean, white, fluffy sheep.

The more realistic picture that Jesus presented, that’s reflected in good schools and churches, is of robust, dedicated, strong, determined shepherds, caring for sheep that are smelly, thoughtless, stupid, stubborn, wilful…


…We all need to be better at pastoral care… to friends and family, to neighbours and acquaintances…

…Today I shall put on my metaphorical pallium and seek to be a caring shepherd whose shoulders are strong enough to carry whichever sheep I’m called to care for… whether they be washed and biddable or stubborn and awkward…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: