Redemptoris Missio 90: The True Missionary Is The Saint

Pope John Paul II affirms the baptismal call to holiness. People make the error that ordination or religious vows defines holiness. They do not. That baptized persons do not readily shoulder the mantle of holiness is an impoverishment in the Church, and not only for the mission of evangelization and discipleship.

The True Missionary Is the Saint

The call to mission derives, of its nature, from the call to holiness. A missionary is really such only if he commits himself to the way of holiness: “Holiness must be called a fundamental presupposition and an irreplaceable condition for everyone in fulfilling the mission of salvation in the Church.”(Christifideles Laici 17)

This is not something novel. The citation is the pope’s own document on the laity from 1988. He ties holiness and mission together:

The universal call to holiness is closely linked to the universal call to mission. Every member of the faithful is called to holiness and to mission. This was the earnest desire of the Council, which hoped to be able “to enlighten all people with the brightness of Christ, which gleams over the face of the Church, by preaching the Gospel to every creature.” (Lumen Gentium 1) The Church’s missionary spirituality is a journey toward holiness.

Are you convinced? Pope John Paul II didn’t seem to be convinced of the aspiration to holiness in some people of the Church. The past three decades since this has rather convicted groups, classes and categories from bottom to almost at the top. But he is right that the mission at root, must have people who aspire to holiness:

The renewed impulse to the mission ad gentes demands holy missionaries. It is not enough to update pastoral techniques, organize and coordinate ecclesial resources, or delve more deeply into the biblical and theological foundations of faith. What is needed is the encouragement of a new “ardor for holiness” among missionaries and throughout the Christian community, especially among those who work most closely with missionaries.(Cf. Address at CELAM Meeting, Port-au-Prince, March 9, 1983; Homily for the Opening of the “Novena of Years” promoted by CELAM, Santo Domingo, October 12, 1984)

This is a key passage in the document:

Dear brothers and sisters: let us remember the missionary enthusiasm of the first Christian communities. Despite the limited means of travel and communication in those times, the proclamation of the Gospel quickly reached the ends of the earth. And this was the religion of a man who had died on a cross, “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles”! (1 Cor 1:23) Underlying this missionary dynamism was the holiness of the first Christians and the first communities.

We’ve never recovered this fruitfulness. Looking back and looking around, the first few centuries seem miraculous. Since, we’ve been stuck in molasses. And it’s not very sweet.

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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