CHAPTER IV: MISSIONARIES
Now after laying down the doctrinal principles of the Ad gentes missions (Chapter I), speaking about work in the missions (Chapter II), and about the new Churches founded there (Chapter III), our document turns its attention to the missionaries themselves. No. 23 tells us from whose ranks these missionaries can come: “Natives of the place or foreigners, priests, religious or lay people.” They can be drawn from all classes of the Catholic faithful, for “the obligation of spreading the faith falls individually on every disciple of Christ,” as the first sentence says.
Nevertheless, the Lord chooses certain ones to do this work fulltime: “Still the Lord has always called from the number of his disciples those whom he has chosen that they might be with him so that he might send them to preach to the nations (cf. Mk 3:13ff).”
“So the Holy Spirit, who shares his gifts as he wills for the common good (cf. 1 Cor. 12:11), implants in the hearts of individuals a missionary vocation and at the same time raises up institutes in the Church who take on the duty of evangelization” (ibid.). By our religious life we Missionaries of Mariannhill believe that we have answered the invitation of the Lord to come stay with him, so that he can then send us out to preach to the nations. It is the Holy Spirit who has given us this calling individually and placed us in a religious congregation that has that same kind of apostolate.
No. 23 goes on to enumerate certain qualities that God gives to those whom he calls to be missionaries: “Those people who are endowed with the proper natural temperament, have the necessary qualities and outlook, and are ready to undertake missionary work, have a special vocation.” Besides physical gifts (“proper natural temperament”), he must give the future missionary spiritual qualities, especially faith (“necessary outlook”) and courage (“readiness to undertake missionary work”).
Lastly, to be true “ministers of the Gospel,” missionaries must be “sent by legitimate authority,” the document says. When our congregation sends us, we can be sure that it is by legitimate authority, for we are an “institute of pontifical right” (cf. our Constitutions no. 101), which means we are directly subject to the Holy See: “By reason of our vow of obedience we are bound to render obedience to the Roman Pontiff as our highest superior (Constitutions no. 240).
We can also consider ourselves as sent by our own individual home diocesan bishops as part of the contribution they ought to make to poorer dioceses and the missions (Cf. Christus Dominus, the decree on the pastoral office of bishops in the Church, no. 6). Once in the missions, of course, we must have the consent and mandate of the bishop in whose diocese we work, for he is in charge of the pastoral work of all in his diocese (Cf. Ad gentes, no. 30).
O Mary, Queen of the Missions, open our hearts to our brothers and sisters who do not yet know you and your Son, so that we can bring them the Good News courageously and lovingly. Amen.