Ad Gentes 18

Concluding chapter II, the bishops address religious life in mission lands. Reading it:

Right from the planting stage of the Church, the religious life should be carefully fostered. This not only offers precious and absolutely necessary assistance to missionary activity, but by a more inward consecration made to God in the Church, it also clearly manifests and signifies the inner nature of the Christian calling.

All good stuff, I’d say. Religious assist in the life and ministry of evangelization, offer the same Christian witness, though in a more intense and particular way that the laity.

Religious institutes, working to plant the Church, and thoroughly imbued with mystic treasures with which the Church’s religious tradition is adorned, should strive to give expression to them and to hand them on, according to the nature and the genius of each nation. Let them reflect attentively on how Christian religious life might be able to assimilate the ascetic and contemplative traditions, whose seeds were sometimes planted by God in ancient cultures already prior to the preaching of the Gospel.

I suppose one would say that Christian monasticism in Asia would take on some of the characteristics of Buddhist or other traditions. Indeed, if the apostolic ministry reach India with Thomas as legend suggests, it may well be that other Middle-Eastern mystical elements from Christianity have already seeped into the religious culture of the East. Certainly, the common yearning for God in a life apart would produce many commonalities, given the nature of human community, longing for meaning, living apart, and so on.

Various forms of religious life are to be cultivated in the young churches, in order that they may display various aspects of the mission of Christ and of the life of the Church, and may devote themselves to various pastoral works, and prepare their members to exercise them rightly. On the other hand, the bishops in their conference should see to it that congregations pursuing the same apostolic aims are not multiplied to the detriment of the religious life and of the apostolate.

Sensible advice, one would think: not to waste effort and resources where and when resources are already thin.

Worthy of special mention are the various projects for causing the contemplative life to take root. There are those who in such an attempt have kept the essential element of a monastic institution, and are bent on implanting the rich tradition of their order; there are others again who are returning to the simpler forms of ancient monasticism. But all are studiously looking for a genuine adaptation to local conditions. Since the contemplative life belongs to the fullness of the Church’s presence, let it be put into effect everywhere.

Fr Brendan’s comments were insightful on the other thread. If we had more commentary from actual missioners on this topic, it would be even more rich. One of the few times I wish we actually had a larger and more diverse readership.

About catholicsensibility

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