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The term chaplain comes to us from a fourth-century legend of Martin of Tours. St. Martin of Tours was a member of the Roman army who was born about 316 A.D in Pannonia, a Roman province that includes modern Hungary, to a pagan family. Approximately, at age 21, one very cold day he passed the gates of Amiens in Gaul (what is today France) and saw a man freezing on the side of the road. Martin moved with compassion after seeing and hearing the pleas of the beggar being ignored by several others who had ridden by on their horses, he decided to help. Martin had little himself, he took the one valuable possession he owned-his cape-and cut it in half. He kept half as his own shelter from the cold and gave the other to the beggar.

That night, as the story goes, Martin had a vision in which he came to understand that the beggar was none other than Christ Himself! The vision shook Martin to the core. After that experience he decided to follow the Christian faith and was baptized by Bishop St. Hillary When he related the story to others, the remaining half of the cape became a relic and an object of value as a reminder of the event. The cape (Latin cappa) was kept in a special container made for it. The container was called the cappella. Thus, we get the term chapel-that place where the robe of Christ is shared, not stored. The keeper of the cape was known as the cappellanus (the keeper of the cape). The cappellanus, is where we get the word chaplain, for chaplains are the ones who share God's love and care with those in need wherever people are. Thus, pastoral care refers to the ministry offered by men and women committed to foster the psycho-social-spiritual growth and shalom of each human being God sends to them.

Chaplain. Encyclopedia Britannica
Originally a priest or minister who had charge of a chapel, now an ordained member of the clergy who is assigned to a special ministry. The title dates to the early centuries of the Christian church. Click here to read the entire article.


A Biblical Paradigm of Chaplaincy

The Chaplain as Priest:

► The chaplain may direct the worship of the people under his or her care, planning and leading public services or activities.

► The chaplain provides care through the power of deep and private communion as he or she leads persons in receiving bread and wine, anointing, reconciliation, laying of on hands, baptism or marriage.

► The chaplain incorporates all expressions of worship into her or his ministry including singing or other music, readings, play, dance, drama and art.

► The chaplain models that praying is the indispensable foundation for receiving the care that only God can provide.

► The chaplain respects and ministers to the private and confidential layer of persons who desire it, including their deepest longings, secret sins and private fears so that complete its work in them.

► The chaplain, as a representative of God, faithfully accompanies people as they begin or continue their spiritual journey.

The Chaplain as Prophet:

► The chaplain acts as a prophet as he or she speaks clearly on moral, ethical and spiritual issues.

► The chaplain acts as a prophet as he or she exercises pastoral authority to empower all people and offer a voice for those who are at risk of being neglected by the establishment.

► The chaplain also reconciles believers and communities of faith as they listen, mediate differences and clarify commitments.

► The chaplain as a prophet calls people back to God and to their commitments with their Creator and Redeemer.

The Chaplain as Wise-Counselor:

► The chaplain functions as a wise-counselor as he or she offers ethical clarification and counsel concerning issues of the Christian life and personal conduct.

► The chaplain motivates and facilitates people to exercise faith and to make decisions that will enable them to grow toward their own spiritual maturity.

► The chaplain assists in the process of empowering self-defeating people to become free and responsible for their own actions.

► The chaplain reaches out to victims who bear the marks of pain: the dispossessed, lonely, alienated, unwanted, rejected, abused and discriminated against, and so on, to serve them and to enable them to grow from and through their pain.

► The chaplain listens attentively to nonverbal and verbal communication.

► The chaplain will listen for hidden conflicts, unspoken desires, unspeakable fears, and faint hopes. he or she will communicate acceptance and nonjudgmental care in response to all self-disclosures of persons.

► The chaplain attentively and responsively listens to people's life stories as they connect their lives to God through the remembering process.


Copyright © 1999 International Association of Christian Chaplains Inc. All rights reserved.