CHAPTER IV: MISSIONARIES
This number closes Chapter IV of Ad Gentes. At its beginning it gives the reason
why missionary institutes came into existence: no one individual by himself could ever
acquire all that the individual missionary is asked to possess in nos. 23-26. Religious
congregations sprang up, or older orders and congregations turned to missionary work, in
order to gather together persons with the same missionary ideals. These institutes were able
to give persons the preparation they needed to do missionary work, in large part simply by
having them live religious life well.
In fact, if we look back at nos. 23-26, we see that the spirituality necessary for the
missionary is to a great degree the same as the spirituality of a religious.
Religious too feel themselves among “those whom [the Lord] has chosen that they
might be with him so that he might send them” (cf. Mk. 3:13ff) (no. 23), for no. 44 of
Lumen Gentium, the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, says this about
religious in its Chapter VI: “To the extent of their capacities and in keeping with the
particular kind of religious life to which they are individually called, whether it be one of
prayer or of active labor as well, they have the duty of working for the implanting and
strengthening of the kingdom of Christ in souls and for spreading it to the four corners of the
A true religious feels that he (or she) too, just like the missionary, “Enters upon the
life and mission of him ‘who emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave’” (Phil. 2:7) (no.
24), because religious life “Constitutes a closer imitation and an abiding re-enactment in the
Church of the form of life which the Son of God made his own when he came into the
world to do the will of the Father” (Lumen Gentium, 44).
The religious too is “prepared to remain faithful to his vocation for life (no. 24),”
mainly through his profession of the vows, especially that of obedience: “By their profession
of obedience, religious offer the full dedication of their own wills as a sacrifice of themselves
to God, and by this means they are united more permanently and securely with God’s saving
will” (Perfectae Caritatis, 14).
No. 25 says that the missionary, in his dealings with his confreres, co-workers in the
mission and the laity, should “imitate the apostolic community” and “be of one heart and
one soul” (cf. Acts 2:42; 4:32) with them. No. 15 of Perfectae Caritatis, the Vatican II
decree on the renewal of religious life, says practically the same thing about religious life:
“Common life, in prayer and the sharing of the same spirit (Acts 2:42), should be constant,
after the example of the early Church. Indeed, the unity of the brethren is a symbol of the
coming of Christ (cf. Jn. 13:35; 17:21) and is a source of great apostolic power.”
Thus our Constitutions, no. 219, can say confidently: “The spirit of the evangelical
counsels (i.e. religious life) must permeate our missionary activity.” May God and Our Lady
of the Missions make it so. Amen.