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No. 39b

The first paragraph of no. 39 of the Vatican II decree on the Church’s missionary activity, Ad gentes divinitus, presents the theology of the priest as missionary.  The second and third paragraphs give priests practical instructions on furthering the missionary spirit wherever they work.
Paragraph two begins with the statement: “In their pastoral work pastors will stimulate and maintain among the faithful a zeal for the evangelization of the world by teaching them through preaching and religious instruction of the Church’s duty to proclaim Christ to the nations.”  This is the kind of zeal that Archbishop Allen Vigneron would like to see in the Archdiocese of Detroit as a result of the recent Archdiocesan Synod.  Notice that the Council Fathers say that this spirit must be maintained among the faithful by preaching and seeing that it is passed on in the religious instruction classes of the parish.

Pastors will also encourage missionary zeal “by impressing on Christian families the honor and the need for fostering missionary vocations among their own sons and daughters.”  Our Catholic families must become truly Catholic families, raising children for the Kingdom of God.  Then they will not find it strange that one of their children will want to go into a Church vocation, whether it be the diocesan priesthood or the consecrated life.  In fact, they will consider it a blessing of God and a sign of his approval of their family.

Priests will also bring the message to the youth of school age “by promoting missionary fervor among young people from Catholic schools and associations so that future preachers of the Gospel might spring from them.”  Our Catholic schools should be fertile ground for missionary vocations.  The document goes on: “They should teach the young people to pray for the missions and should not be ashamed to ask them for alms, being made beggars for Christ and the salvation of souls.”  Here a footnote to the text takes note of the fact that Pope Pius XI used this phrase, “being made beggars for Christ and the salvation of souls” already in his mission encyclical Rerum Ecclesiae of 1926.

Are we afraid to ask young people to donate from their earnings or allowances to the missions?  The Church isn’t and has been doing so for over a century through the Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood (cf. article 49 of this series).

The third paragraph of no. 39 is addressed to university and seminary professors.  They should bring out the missionary aspects in every field of learning, e.g. history, dogma, biblical studies.  Above all, in their teaching they should make the young students aware of the real condition of the world and the Church.  If they do this correctly and well it will lead the students to a clear understanding of “the need for a more intense evangelization of non-Christians.”  This in turn will feed the young people’s missionary zeal.  Mary, watch over our Catholic schools so that, under the vigilant care of pastors, they may instill true faith and missionary spirit in their pupils.  Amen.