A new roman catholic archbishop has come to our area and has appeared in a newspaper with the headline new flock to tend. Chaucer insists that the Parson
This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf,
That first he wroghte, and afterward he taughte...
I have bad daydreams about a priest speaking while being filmed without his knowledge by a documentary maker. He said "we're," and then he either said "special" or "set apart," I don't know, nor can I remember his connection to any of the abuse victims profiled in the film. The rest of his words were and are a blur- something like communication from another (higher!) species.
Pastor and flock imply two species, one of which walks upright and can put together ingenious explanations for terrible things. Chaucer is onto something with his Parson, but I hope that there is a some way to separate the actions before words from the notion that the one doing the teaching is a Superior Being to the one being taught.
Do Pastor/Sheepherders learn anything from the animals in their flock? Imagine such a Superior Being sitting at the four feet of the animals- learning about, say, being provided for and being cared for. First, she or he would have to give up the Pastor (superior species) title. Pastor and flock might be satisfying to those parts of us that want to line ourselves up in ranks, but the words are getting in the way today.
What is being done and taught by that Parson? He is living simply and frugally, sharing what he has, walking everywhere to connect with people. There is more:
And though he holy were, and vertuous,
He was to sinful men nat despitous,
Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne [maybe "arrogant"]
But in his teching discreet and benigne.
To drawen folk to heven by fairnesse
By good ensample, this was his bisinesse.
But it were any persone obstinat,
What-so he were, of heigh or lowe estat,
Him wolde he snibben sharply for the nones.
Chaucer is describing a humble person serving sinners, a follower of Jesus. Humble, serving Jesus often 'snubbed' or 'reprimanded' obstinate or arrogant people. What are the Parson's neighbors seeing and learning? Certain behaviors to avoid, others to copy, but those appear to be symptoms or consequences of humility.
Parson and "flock" are not thought of as members of two different classes of being. The parson lives at eye-level with the "sheep." There is a strong possibility that he is learning something vitally important from them every day. I am hoping that this does not only happen in fiction.