Bénédict Pictet (1655–1724): A Case Study in Pastoral Care

Bénédict Pictet, largely an overlooked figure of Reformed orthodoxy, is most often remembered as the one who delivered the funeral oration for his uncle, Francis Turretin. And yet, considered in his own right, Pictet was an influential and important theologian and pastor within the Swiss early-modern context of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Not only did Pictet take over the Professorship of Theology (Genevan Academy) from his uncle, and hold this position for nearly 40 years, he was also a prolific writer, most notably composing his Medulla theologiae christianae (1711) and an eight-volume Christian Morality (La morale chrétienne ou l’art de bien vivre [1709]). Contrary to those who believe the Reformed orthodox were cold, sterile, and dispassionate in their theology, this paper argues that Pictet’s writings evidence a sensitive and caring pastoral theology that was attuned to the needs of his local congregation. To demonstrate this argument, this paper focuses on three neglected works from Pictet: his unique Fivefold Catechism (Cinq catéchismes [1715]), Pious Conversations of A Faithful One and his Pastor (Entretiens pieux d’un fidèle avec son Pasteur [1710]), and a posthumously published collection of prayers entitled Prayers for Each Day of the Week and Various Occasions (Prières pour tous les jours de la semaine, et sur divers sujets [1746]). In addition to teaching theology, preaching, and administration of the sacraments, Pictet used a variety of other methods (i.e., catechetical instruction for young and old, an imagined dialogue between an inquiring congregant and his pastor, and encouraging models of prayer for various occasions) to disciple his flock and care for their spiritual needs, thus demonstrating a pastoral heart that cared deeply for his parishioners.