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Nos. 15-18 of Ad Gentes make up Article 3 of Chapter II.  The whole article astounds
us with its vision of the neophytes, i.e. the new converts to the Faith.  It sees them as capable
of forming full, adult, active, independent Catholic communities as soon as they are baptized. 

No. 15 states that, from the beginning, the newly baptized are formed into one people of
God, and so should be able to carry out the priestly, prophetic and royal offices entrusted to
them by God (cf. 1 Pet.2: 9).  The new communities “should be so organized that [they are] able
to provide for [their] own needs as far as possible.”  Missionaries should be conscious of their
duty to form the new Christians into such independent communities.
The reason given by the Council Fathers for the necessity of this full Christianity among
the neophytes from the very beginning is also striking.  It is not so that they will thus more
likely persevere in the Faith.  No, the reason given is already missionary in nature: “In this way
the Christian community will become a sign of God’s presence in the world.”  The new Christians
must shine as lights of Christ from the beginning.

Filled with missionary, apostolic spirit, they will root themselves as deeply as they can in
the cultural riches of their own nation.  They will become as native to their own land as they can
without losing their identity and their unity in essentials with the Universal Church.  “As good
citizens they should sincerely and actively foster love of country and, while utterly rejecting
racial hatred or exaggerated nationalism, work for universal love among men.”

They will nourish an ecumenical spirit toward separated Christians and cooperate with
them wherever and whenever they can for religious reasons: “Their brothers who believe in
Christ are disciples of Christ, and having been reborn in baptism, share in many of the blessings
of the people of God.”  They can also cooperate with them in “a common profession before the
nations of faith in God and in Jesus Christ.”  “Let them cooperate,” the document says
encouragingly, “especially, because of Christ their common Lord.  May his name unite them!” 
Not just individuals should be ecumenical, but also parishes and Catholic organizations, after
consultation with their local bishop.  But even this is not enough.  “[The Christian people is]
present so that it might by word and deed proclaim Christ to non-Christian fellow countrymen
and help them towards a full reception of Christ.”

Where is all this maturity in the Faith supposed to come from?  From the Faith itself,
the Council Fathers say, especially from the very sacrament of Baptism and then from the Holy
Eucharist: “Through the eucharistic sacrifice [the community] goes continually to the Father
with Christ, carefully nourished with the word of God it bears witness to Christ, it walks in
charity and is enlivened by an apostolic spirit.”  What power there is, then, in these sacraments
when we receive them worthily!