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No. 41

This number is, for all practical purposes, the last one of Ad Gentes Divinitus.  It is followed only by a very short no. 42 as conclusion.  Drawing heavily on chapter IV of Lumen Gentium about the laity, it describes their role in the mission activity of the Church.  They “should share in its saving mission both as witnesses and living instruments,” that is, as witnesses who show forth the Faith in their moral way of life, and as living instruments who by their words and activity help to spread the Faith and build up the Church (cf. Lumen Gentium 33, 35).

Then in six following paragraphs the Council Fathers point out ways laypeople can and should share in the work of evangelization.  In lands that are already Christian they can foster love for the missions and promote mission vocations, especially in schools and in their own families.

In missionary lands, by living and working as good Catholics in all fields of human activity, they encourage the new local Catholics to assume their role as full and mature members of the Church.

Lay people should also be generous in assisting “peoples in the process of development.”  This is especially helpful, the Council Fathers say, when the assistance takes the form of establishing institutions that train future leaders in mission countries.

Then the Council Fathers insert a paragraph to give special praise to “those lay people who promote the knowledge of peoples and religions, by their historical or scientific-religious investigations in universities, and scientific institutes.”  This type of studies, the document says, is especially useful for those who have to preach the Gospel and those who are preparing to enter into dialogue with non-Christians in those countries.

Laypeople should not be afraid to work in a brotherly way with other Christians, with non-Christians, or “with members of international associations” on projects that benefit the human family, but they must never forget “that the structure of the earthly city should be founded on the Lord and be directed toward him,” and do everything they can that this goal be reached.

The final paragraph of no. 41 stresses the need for laypeople to be trained for missionary work.  They should be given “the necessary technical and spiritual preparation,” which should occur “in institutes designed for this purpose,” in order that their way of life be not “a stumbling block to Jews and Greeks and the Church of God” (1Cor 10:32).   Here the Council Fathers were thinking not of all laypeople, but only of those who are going to do mission work full time, those, as it says in the first paragraph of this number, who are “called by God [and] accepted by the bishop for this work.”

Here again we see how Vatican II calls all in the Church to full membership in all fields of the Church’s activity, including the missions.  Mary, Mother of the Church, help us all, clergy and laity, to take seriously Jesus’ call to bring the Gospel to all nations.  Amen.