Ad Gentes 25

Ad Gentes now gives a list of ideal practices and qualities to have or to be developed by the missionary. I’ll outline them from the text below.

To start with, we have seven practices, or “habits,” including a “special” formation:

- For such an exalted task, the future missionary is to be prepared by a special spiritual and moral training.

- For (the missionary) must have the spirit of initiative in beginning, as well as that of constancy in carrying through what (she or) he has begun;

- (the missionary) must be persevering in difficulties, patient and strong of heart in bearing with solitude, fatigue, and fruitless labor.

- (The missionary) will encounter (people) with an open mind and a wide heart;

- (the missionary) will gladly take up the duties which are entrusted to (her or) him;

- (the missionary) will with a noble spirit adapt (her or) himself to the people’s foreign way of doing things and to changing circumstances;

- while in the spirit of harmony and mutual charity, (the missionary) will cooperate with his (or her sisters and brothers) and all who dedicate themselves to the same task, so that together with the faithful, they will be one heart and one soul (cf. Acts 2:42; 4:32) in imitation of the apostolic community.

These habits of mind should be earnestly exercised already in (her or) his time of training; they should be cultivated, and should be uplifted and nourished by the spiritual life. Imbued with a living faith and a hope that never fails, the missionary should be a (person) of prayer.

The council bishops also add these particular spiritual attitudes:

- Let (the missionary) have an ardent spirit of power and of love and of prudence (cf. 2 Tim. 1:7).

- Let (the missionary) learn to be self-sufficing in whatever circumstances (Phil. 4:11); always bearing about in (her or) himself the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may work in those to whom (she or) he is sent (2 Cor. 4:10ff.), out of zeal of souls,

- let (the missionary) gladly spend all and be spent (her or) himself for souls (cf. 2 Cor. 12:15ff.), so that “by the daily practice of … duty (the missionary) may grow in the love of God and neighbor.”

Thus obedient to the will of the Father together with Christ, he (or she) will continue His mission under the hierarchical authority of the Church.

Obviously, these are considerations which anyone, any believing Christian, would be well-served to have or to adopt. Are missionaries marked by having a generous portion of many or all of these? Has anyone any other comments?

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Ad Gentes 25

  1. Brendan Kelleher SVD says:

    Todd
    Since I am still on a break from school a few more comments, but this time more specifically on Ad Gentes 25.
    As I sit down to write these lines we are adjusting our schedules so as to mark the passing of a veteran missionary, an 84 year old Hungarian SVD who had been here for over fifty years. Sadly his last years were marked by various illnesses and ailments, and even more tragically by Alzheimers; life was very hard on his care-givers. Also, along with two of our young Indonesian confreres who were his classmates, we are trying to take on board the news that a young Indonesian missionary working in the Philippines, was shot and killed. He was only thirty one.
    While the remarks in Ad Gentes 25 could easily be considered part of any expression of Christian spirituality, whether they are found in each individual missionary or not, are areas of particular concern and commitment for anyone involved in missionary work. As I mentioned previously, the Church is mission, so all spirituality should have a missionary element, should encourage and enable each Christian to be open to missionary witness wherever they find themselves.
    As Ad Gentes has been received by missionary societies and communities in the years since the Vatican II, each community has striven to deepen the spirituality that is the life of their work. Within my own community we have discovered that our own founder, St Arnold Janssen, and one of the first SVD sent to China, in 1879, St Jospeh Freinademetz, have left us a rich resource in their own lives and writings. Given the role that our Superior General at the time of the Council, Fr. Johannes Schuette, had in the formulation of Ad Gentes, echoes of the spirit of Janssen and Freinademtz will soon be recognized by any SVD.
    You and your readers may be interested in some of the themes we have focussed on in the past 40 years. I present them in summary form:
    A Divine Word Missionary is someone who is called and then sent –
    1) To Proclaim the Word of God,
    2) To Foster New Communities of the People of God,
    3) To Foster their Growth in a Communion of Churches.
    He is sent as an Envoy – sent as a bearer of Good News in the Name of the Lord, and the Coming Reign of the Father –
    1) Ready to Receive
    2) To Dialogue,
    3) To Serve.
    Above all he is called and sent as someone who has made the Paschal Mystery, the Passover of Jesus a pattern and paradigm for his life.
    As one called to Passing Over he is called –
    To Passover to the Culture he is called/sent to
    To Passover to the Poor
    To Passover in Dialogue.
    A missionary’s life is about loving and sharing, loving the Lord and sharing the Love of the Lord with all those who are ready to receive it.

    Our Constitutions close with the following words:
    In following the Master we commit our lives on a venture that can only be understood and attained through faith and love. We accept this challenge, placing our trust in the Word of the Lord and the Power of the Spirit given to us by the Father.
    If I have time over the next couple of days I shall try and offer a few reflections on the remaining sections you have commented on to date.

  2. Todd says:

    Fr Brendan, your comments will be most welcome. Let me offer an additional possibility. If time permits, perhaps you would care to summarize Ad Gentes and the work of renewal in the missions since the Council. It would be a sort of “last word” to wrap everything up neatly. Neil and I would not mind a guest blogger, certainly for a topic like that.

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