Ad Gentes 11

Chapter II is further divided into three “articles,” the first is “Christian Witness,” and here it begins:

The Church must be present in these groups through her children, who dwell among them or who are sent to them. For all Christians, wherever they live, are bound to show forth, by the example of their lives and by the witness of the word, that new (person) put on at baptism and that power of the Holy Spirit by which they have been strengthened at Confirmation. Thus other (people), observing their good works, can glorify the Father (cf. Matt. ES:16) and can perceive more fully the real meaning of human life and the universal bond of the community of (humankind).

Life’s example first, “witnessed” word second as the examples, the first examples of the Christian orientation for non-believers.

In order that they may be able to bear more fruitful witness to Christ, let them be joined to those (people) by esteem and love; let them acknowledge themselves to be members of the group of (people) among whom they live; let them share in cultural and social life by the various. undertakings and enterprises of human living; let them be familiar with their national and religious traditions; let them gladly and reverently lay bare the seeds of the Word which lie hidden among their (neighbors).

This would seem to be somewhat different from keeping in protected cloisters, and seems clearly designed to be a lay enterprise. Note again the sense of optimism in the council bishops: they expect “seeds of the Word” to be uncovered among non-believers. And that lay people, by their immersion in the local culture, will be doing the uncovering.

At the same time, however, let them look to the profound changes which are taking place among nations, and let them exert themselves to keep modern (humankind), intent as (it) is on the science and technology of today’s world from becoming a stranger to things divine; rather, let them awaken in him a yearning for that truth and charity which God has revealed. Even as Christ Himself searched the hearts of (people), and led them to divine light, so also His disciples, profoundly penetrated by the Spirit of Christ, should show the people among whom they live, and should converse with them, that they themselves may learn by sincere and patient dialogue what treasures a generous God has distributed among the nations of the earth. But at the same time, let them try to furbish these treasures, set them free, and bring them under the dominion of God their Savior.

If anything, this is even more true today: the disconnect between human life and the divine. The formula, according to the council bishops is twofold:

  1. Life’s example by believers in the midst of non-believers.
  2. Immersion in the culture, especially with dialogue, not for the intent of preaching, but to learn and absorb how and where these people are already close to God.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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