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No. 26

In no. 26 of Ad Gentes the Council Fathers speak of the content of the doctrinal training that every missionary, layman or cleric, should be given so that he or she will be truly a person of “faith” and “good doctrine” (cf. 1 Tim. 4:6).  After all, training in doctrine is training in faith.  It should make one a more firm believer.

Therefore the student missionary should learn to base his faith and theology more and more on the words of Sacred Scripture as he studies the “mystery of Christ, whose preachers and witnesses they will be.”  All theology is ultimately a study of the mystery of Christ.  Jesus was a historical person, verifiable by all natural historical means, but His teaching, the economy of salvation that he set up for us, is a mystery, a mystery of love.  How should His suffering and death, for example, bring salvation to us, except that the Father out of love for us willed it to be so?

Within that economy of salvation, established by Jesus for all of us, there are some things that pertain especially to missionaries.  In no. 26 the Council Fathers point out two of them: “From the very beginning their doctrinal training should be such that they understand both the universality of the Church and the diversity of peoples.  This holds for all the studies which prepare them for their future ministry.”

For the rest of no. 26, however, the Council Fathers draw attention only to the second of these two truths, namely the diversity of peoples.  The missionaries should be given “a general knowledge of peoples, cultures and religions, not only with regard to the past but also with respect to the present time.  Whoever is to go among another people must hold their inheritance, language and way of life in great esteem.”

The future missionary should study missiology in order to learn past methods of evangelization and to know the most effective methods for the present time.  His training should be pastorally oriented, “both in the means of instruction and in pastoral exercises.”

“The greatest possible number of brothers and sisters should be well instructed and prepared in the art of catechetics.”  All these studies should be undertaken in the countries to which the missionaries will be sent, so that they may come to a complete understanding of the people among whom they will work.

Finally, the Council Fathers recommend: “Some should be more thoroughly prepared in missiological institutes, and other faculties and universities, that they might exercise certain special duties more effectively,” like helping the bishops and the rest of the missionaries with pastoral problems, or the use of the media in their work.

The picture the Council Fathers draw of missionaries is a group of highly qualified evangelizers working in harmony with the bishops for the conversion of the nations to Christ.  Let us pray that they always live up to these expectations.  Mary, Queen of Missionaries, pray for us.  Amen.