Redemptoris Missio 87: Missionary Spirituality

Are we ready to explore a final chapter? Pope John Paul II, by titling this “Missionary Spirituality” implies there is a place for the mystic in the mission. That notion is intriguing, as it suggests an orientation outside of human ambition to convert the whole world to Christ.

Missionary activity demands a specific spirituality, which applies in particular to all those whom God has called to be missionaries.

Can we say we are “Being Led by the Spirit”?

This spirituality is expressed first of all by a life of complete docility to the Spirit. It commits us to being molded from within by the Spirit, so that we may become ever more like Christ. It is not possible to bear witness to Christ without reflecting his image, which is made alive in us by grace and the power of the Spirit. This docility then commits us to receive the gifts of fortitude and discernment, which are essential elements of missionary spirituality.

While I’m not skeptical of docility as a virtue, I do have doubts about it being presented )(as it often is) as docility to leadership. Presumably every Christian, leaders as well as followers, are in a mode of discernment. The monastery offers an apt model, of listening to all the members as leaders weigh the insights and chart a path forward. The institutional aspects of the Church handicap themselves by not listening to women, young people, lay people, clergy, and even seekers and those outside of the community.

The New Testament  Church was prepared for growth:

An example of this is found with the apostles during the Master’s public life. Despite their love for him and their generous response to his call, they proved to be incapable of understanding his words and reluctant to follow him along the path of suffering and humiliation. The Spirit transformed them into courageous witnesses to Christ and enlightened heralds of his word. It was the Spirit himself who guided them along the difficult and new paths of mission.

If the fruitfulness of the generation of Saint Paul were repeated today, the world would be amazed. Sadly, we do not listen to the Spirit. We settle for an impoverishment, and a maintenance of old structures. (And I don’t mean buildings.)

Today, as in the past, that mission is difficult and complex, and demands the courage and light of the Spirit. We often experience the dramatic situation of the first Christian community which witnessed unbelieving and hostile forces “gathered together against the Lord and his Anointed” (Acts 4:26). Now, as then, we must pray that God will grant us boldness in preaching the Gospel; we must ponder the mysterious ways of the Spirit and allow ourselves to be led by him into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13).

This document is available online here and is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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