Congregatio Discipulorum Domini
01 August 2007
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XI ON CATHOLIC MISSIONS
TO OUR VENERABLE BRETHREN, THE PATRIARCHS, PRIMATES, ARCHBISHOPS, BISHOPS,
AND OTHER ORDINARIES
IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC SEE.
1. In reviewing attentively the history of the Church, one cannot fail to notice how, from the first ages of Christianity, the especial care and solicitude of the Roman Pontiffs have been directed to the end that they, undeterred by difficulties and obstacles, might spread the light of the Gospel and the benefits of Christian culture and civilization to the peoples who “sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.” The Church has no other reason for existence than, by developing the Kingdom of Christ on earth, to make mankind participate in the effects of His saving Redemption. Whoever, by Divine Commission, takes the place on earth of Jesus Christ, becomes thereby the Chief Shepherd who, far from being able to rest content with simply guiding and protecting the Lord's Flock which has beer; confided to him to rule, fails in his special duty and obligations if he does not strive by might and main to win over and to join to Christ all who are still without the Fold.
2. It is a well-known fact that Our Predecessors fulfilled at all times the Divine Commission wherewith they were charged of teaching and baptizing all nations, that the priests sent by them (many of whom the Church publicly venerates because of the holiness of their lives or because they so courageously suffered martyrdom) zealously strove with varying results to enlighten by the Faith first Europe, and, later on, even unknown lands, and this almost immediately after their discovery. We say “with varying results,” for it sometimes happened that the missionaries after laboring with little or no effect were either put to death or driven out of the country. As a result, the field which they had begun to cultivate, at times a mere wilderness but at other times already converted by them into a veritable garden of roses, when left to itself was once again overrun with thorns and briars. In spite of all this, it is a great consolation to see how in recent years the Congregations which are devoted to foreign missionary work have actually redoubled their labors and have gained such memorable fruits from their work, and how the faithful, on their part, have so generously responded to this increased missionary effort with a great increase in the amount of alms given for such holy purposes. There is no doubt that this renewed activity was greatly promoted by the Apostolic Letter of November 30, 1919, entitled, On the Propagation of the Catholic Faith Throughout the World, which Our Predecessor of happy memory directed to the episcopate of the whole world. In this letter, while the Pontiff on the one hand stimulated the diligence and zeal of all the bishops in the work of obtaining help for the missions, he did not fail to point out, and very wisely, to Apostolic Vicars and Prefects, the obstacles to be avoided and the methods to be followed by their clergy in order to render more fruitful the exercise of the sacred apostolate.
3. As for Ourselves, Venerable Brothers, you well know that, from the beginning of Our Pontificate, We determined to leave nothing undone which might, by means of apostolic preachers, extend farther and farther the light of the Gospel and make easy for heathen nations the way unto salvation. It seems to Us that two special objectives ought to be aimed at in all missionary work, both of which are not only timely but necessary and closely connected with each other; namely, that a much larger number than heretofore of missionaries, well trained in the different fields of knowledge, be sent into the vast regions which are still deprived of the civilizing influence of the Christian religion; and secondly, that the faithful be brought to understand with what zeal, constancy in prayer, and with what generosity they too must co-operate in a work which is so holy and fruitful. This is precisely the object We had in mind when We commanded that the Vatican Missionary Exhibition be held. We thank God that many young hearts (a fact which has been called to Our attention) at the sight of these proofs of divine grace and of the nobility and greatness of the missionaries, received there the first call to the missionary life. So unbounded, too, was the admiration for the missionaries on the part of those who visited the Exhibition that We have every reason to believe that it will not be without lasting fruits for religion. That the weighty lessons which this Exhibition in its silent eloquence preached may not be forgotten, We ordered, as you perhaps know already, that a permanent museum be established wherein there may be conserved and shown to the public the more noteworthy objects exhibited at the Vatican Missionary Exhibition. This Museum will be established in our Palace of the Lateran on the very spot where, after peace had been restored to the Church, so many apostolic men celebrated for holiness of life and zeal for religion were sent forth, century after century, by Our Predecessors into regions “already white for the harvest.”
4. It will also come about that all the officers in the mission army, and the privates too, if We may so speak, who shall visit this Museum, after having compared the conditions of their respective missions and their methods of work, will draw from it inspiration for even better and larger projects. The faithful who visit the Museum will, We believe, experience the self-same feelings as did those who attended the original Vatican Exhibition. Meanwhile, in order that the interest of the faithful in the missions, which has been aroused already, may be even further developed We make a special appeal for your assistance in this task, Venerable Brothers. If your assistance may rightly be employed in any undertaking, certainly the dignity of your station in life, to say nothing of your filial affection for Us, will impel you to tender such aid particularly in this work and that with all zeal and diligence. For Our part, so long as Divine Providence shall preserve Our life, this duty of Our Apostolic office will always be a special obligation to us, for when We ponder over the fact that the pagans number, even in our day, almost a billion, “We have no rest in our spirit” (II Cor. vii, 5) and seem to hear sounding in Our ears the words, “Cry, cease not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet.” (Isaias lviii, 1)
5. There is no need to insist how foreign it is to the virtue of charity, which embraces both God and men, for the members of Christ's Church not to think of those unfortunate souls who live in error outside the Fold. Surely the obligation of charity, which binds us to God, demands not only that we strive to increase by every means within our power the number of those who adore Him “in spirit and in truth” (John iv, 24) but also that we try to bring under the rule of the gentle Christ as many other men as possible in order that “the profit in his blood” (Psalms xxix, 10) may be the more and more fruitful and that we may make ourselves the more acceptable to Him to Whom nothing can possibly be more pleasing than that “men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy ii, 4)
6. Since Jesus Christ has proclaimed that the special sign of discipleship with Him is that we “have love one for another” (John xiii, 35; xv, 12) can we give a mark of greater love for our neighbors than to assist them in putting behind themselves the darkness of error by instructing them in the true faith of Christ? As a matter of fact, this type of charity surpasses all other kinds of good works inspired by love just as the mind surpasses the body, heaven surpasses earth, eternity surpasses time. Every one that acts thus, inspired by love and according to the full measure of his ability, demonstrates that he esteems the gift of faith in the manner that one should esteem it. Moreover, he manifests his gratitude toward the goodness of God by thus sharing this same great gift, precious above every other gift, with the poor pagans. He also shares with them, at the same time, all the other graces which are intimately connected with the virtue of faith. If none of the faithful is exempt from the obligation of charity, can the clergy who, by their truly marvelous election and holy vocation, participate in the very priesthood and apostolate of Jesus Christ, claim such exemption? Or can you, Venerable Brothers, you who possess the plenitude of the priesthood and are, each in his own diocese, the divinely constituted pastors of the clergy and Christian people, claim to be exempt from the same law of love? We read that Christ commanded not only Peter, whose chair We occupy, but all the Apostles whose successors you are: “Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark xvi, 15) It evidently follows from this that the responsibility for spreading the faith falls upon Us, but on condition that you share with Us the burden and assist Us as much as your own pastoral duties permit. Therefore, Venerable Brothers, do not look upon compliance with this Our paternal exhortation, as an irksome duty, for you must know that God Himself shall one day ask of us a strict accounting of this tremendous obligation which He has laid upon Us.
7. In the first place, both in sermons and by your writings, strive to have introduced and gradually to extend the pious custom of praying “the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matt. ix, 38) and of asking for the heathen the light of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. We say that these prayers should become habitual for it is evident that prayers said in this manner cannot but have more efficacy before the seat of Divine Mercy than prayers said but once or only occasionally. Even though the missionaries labor most zealously, though they work and toil and go so far as to lay down their very lives in order to bring to the pagans a knowledge of the Catholic religion, though they employ every means known to human ingenuity and spare themselves in nothing, all this will avail them nothing, all their efforts will go for naught, if God by His grace does not touch the hearts of the heathen in order to soften and attract them to Himself.
8. Everyone can pray, of this fact there can be no question. Everyone, therefore, has at hand and can make use of this all-important help, this daily nourishment of the missions. For these reasons you will act according to Our desires and will also do something in keeping with the religious spirit and feelings of the faithful, if you order that special prayers for the missions and for the conversion of the heathen to the true Faith be added, for example, to the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin or to the other prayers which are customarily recited both in the parish and other churches. It would be well, Venerable Brothers, to make a special point of inviting and encouraging children and the religious orders of women to take up this holy practice. We are particularly desirous that in all institutions, orphan asylums, parochial schools, colleges, and convents of Sisters there should daily arise to heaven the prayer that the Divine Mercy may descend upon so many unhappy beings, inhabitants of the densely populated pagan countries. Can the Heavenly Father refuse anything to the innocent and chaste who ask it of Him? On the other hand, such a pious practice leads to the hope that these children, who have been trained to pray for the conversion of the heathen from the first moment when the flower of charity begins to bud in their young and tender hearts, may, with the help of God, themselves receive a vocation for the apostolate, a vocation which if it is nurtured with care may perhaps in time supply capable workers for the mission field.
9. At this point, Venerable Brothers, We wish to touch upon in passing a matter which is worthy of your most serious thought. All are acquainted, no doubt, with the grave damage which was done to the propagation of the faith as a result of the late War. Missionaries recalled to their own countries fell in the terrible conflict. Other missionaries were compelled to leave the field of their activities with the result that missionary work suffered greatly thereby. These damages and losses to the missions have to be made good if we hope to bring them back to the state in which they were before the War and to insure their further progress.
10. Moreover, when we stop to consider the vast territory which remains as yet unopened to the blessings of Christian culture, the immense number of those who are still deprived of the fruits of the Redemption, or the obstacles and difficulties which beset and impede the best efforts of the missionary, it is absolutely necessary that the bishops and faithful work together in order that the number of the ambassadors of Christ be increased and multiplied. If there should be in your dioceses, any young men, seminarians, or priests who seem called by God to this sublime apostolate, far from putting obstacles in their way, you should encourage them both by your favor and authority in their leanings and desires. Though you are surely permitted in regard to these vocations “to try the spirits if they be of God” (I John iv, 1) still if you are convinced that their holy resolution springs from and is fostered by the Spirit of God, then neither scarcity of priests, nor any special need of your own diocese ought to discourage you or keep you from giving your consent to the vocation of anyone, since your own faithful have at hand, if We may use the phrase, the means to salvation, and are less further removed from them than the heathens, especially those who are still savages or are only semicivilized. If, therefore, the occasion should arise, suffer patiently for the love of Christ and of souls, the loss of one of your clergy, if indeed it can rightly be called as loss.
11. If you deprive yourself of a co-laborer and sharer of your toils, the Divine Founder of the Church will surely supply every such deficiency by showering more abundant blessings on your diocese and by bringing into existence more and more new vocations to the sacred ministry.
12. In order that this particular work may be joined intimately to the other duties of your pastoral office, see to it that the Missionary Union of the Clergy be established in your diocese, and if this has already been done, encourage the organization by your counsels, your exhortations, and your authority to renewed activity. This Union, founded providentially eight years ago by Our immediate Predecessor, has been enriched by numerous indulgences and put under the special jurisdiction of the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda. In these last years it has spread through many dioceses of the Catholic world. We Ourselves have bestowed upon the Union, and this more than once, testimonials of Our pontifical well-wishes. Great is the number of priests, as well as ecclesiastical students, who belong to the Missionary Union and who pray, each according to his particular state in life, especially at the Holy sacrifice of the Mass, and encourage likewise others to pray, that the gift of faith be bestowed upon the almost limitless number of pagans. On every possible occasion they preach to the people about the apostolate which is carried on among the heathen. They also see to it that at certain specified times conferences, which are of great and lasting value, are held on mission work. They distribute mission literature and wherever they discover some one who gives indications of possessing a vocation to the missionary life, they assist him in obtaining the preparation necessary for such work. They encourage and promote, too, in every possible way, each within the limits of his own diocese, both the work of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and its two allied and subsidiary activities.
13. You are assuredly aware, Venerable Brothers, of the large amounts of money which the Missionary Union of the Clergy has already collected to help these good works, and what wonderful prospects they have in the future of collecting even more, due to the increased generosity of the faithful from year to year. Some of you have been patrons and sponsors of the Missionary Union in your dioceses. It is Our supreme desire that from now on it will be impossible to point to a cleric who is not literally burning with love for the missions.
14. All Christian people should assist, and generously, the work of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the principal mission organization of the Church. With due regard for the very pious woman who was its foundress, and the City of Lyons, its seat, We have transferred to Rome the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. We have also reorganized it, conferred upon it, as it were, Roman citizenship, and given it charge of meeting all the present needs of the missions, as well as those that will arise in the future. How many and how great these needs, how poor the great majority of missionaries was assuredly made plain by the Vatican Missionary Exhibition, despite the fact that many who visited the Exhibition, dazzled by the abundance, novelty, and attractiveness of what they saw, did not sufficiently appreciate this fact. Do not be ashamed, Venerable Brothers, to make yourselves even beggars for Christ and the salvation of souls. Both by your writings and the eloquence of your words, which come from the depths of your hearts, insist that your people by their renewed interest in and generosity toward the missions, increase and render more abundant the harvest which the Society for the Propagation of the Faith is gathering every year. Since no one can be thought so poor and naked, no one so infirm or hungry, as he who is deprived of the knowledge and grace of God, so there is no one who cannot understand that both the mercy and the rewards of God shall be given to him who, on his part, shows mercy to the neediest of his fellow-beings.
15. With the head organization, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, there are affiliated, as We have written, two other societies - the Association of the Holy Childhood and the Society of St. Peter the Apostle. Since the Holy See has made these latter organizations in a peculiar manner its own, the faithful from all over the world ought to help and maintain them by their offerings, and this in preference to other pious works whose aims are more or less specialized.
16. The object of the Association of the Holy Childhood is, as is well known, to train children so that they will accustom themselves to set aside a certain amount of their money allowance in order to give the same for the redemption and Catholic education of heathen babies who have been abandoned by their parents or have been exposed to death as often happens in certain lands. The object of the Society of St. Peter the Apostle is, by means of prayers and free-will gifts, to make it possible for certain specially chosen native ecclesiastical students to receive the required seminary training preparatory to the taking of Holy Orders. Given these native priests, people of their own race will the more easily be converted to Christ or be confirmed in their Faith.
17. Recently, as you know, We assigned to the Society of St. Peter the Apostle as its heavenly patroness St. Teresa of the Child Jesus. This Saint who, during her life here below as a religious, made herself responsible for and adopted, if We may use the phrase, more than one missionary in order to assist him in his work as was her custom by her prayers, by voluntary and prescribed corporal penances, but, above all, by offering to her Divine Spouse the dreadful sufferings resulting on the disease with which she was afflicted. Under the protection of the Virgin of Lisieux We, too, look forward to more abundant fruits in this work. We, also, greatly rejoice that many bishops have been pleased to enroll themselves among the perpetual patrons of this Society, and that seminaries and societies of young Catholic men have undertaken the task of meeting the expenses incident on the maintenance and education of several needy native clerical students. These two Societies are customarily called, and rightly so, branches of the principal work of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. As they were recommended very specially to the bishops by Our Predecessor of happy memory, Benedict XV, in the apostolic letter referred to above, so We also cannot but recommend the same Societies to you, hoping that because of your exhortations and your interest in this work the Catholic people shall never permit themselves to be outdone in generosity by non-Catholics who are wont to assist so liberally the propagators of their false beliefs.
18. It is now time, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, that We speak to you who, because of your long labors and wise service as missionaries among the heathen, have been found worthy to be promoted by Apostolic authority to the office of Vicars and Prefects. First of all, We speak of the general progress which the missions have made in the last few years due to your charity and zeal, for which progress We offer congratulations both to you and to the missionaries under your charge. What your principal duties are and what you especially have to guard against in the discharge of these duties, has already been set forth with such wisdom and eloquence by Our immediate Predecessor that nothing along that line needs be added to his words. However, over and above that, We deem it well, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, to make known Our own mind on certain matters.
19. Before everything else, We call your attention to the importance of building up a native clergy. If you do not work with all your might to attain this purpose, We assert that not only will your apostolate be crippled, but it will become an obstacle and an impediment to the establishment and organization of the Church in those countries. We gladly recognize and acknowledge the fact that in some places steps have already been taken to provide for these needs by the erection of seminaries in which native youths of promise are well educated and prepared to receive the dignity of the priesthood, and are trained to instruct in the Christian Faith members of their own race. But in spite of all this work, we are still a great distance from the goal which we have set for ourselves.
20. You certainly have not forgotten how Our Predecessor, Benedict XV of happy memory, was saddened by this fact. He wrote: “It is a matter of genuine sorrow that there still exist countries to which the Catholic Faith was brought centuries ago but where, in spite of that fact, one does not find even now native priests except possibly those occupying minor posts; also, that there are races who were converted long ago and who have risen from a state of barbarism to such a high degree of civilization that they have produced men of standing in every profession and walk of civil life; yet these very people, despite the fact that they have lived under the saving influence of the Gospel and of the Church for centuries, have not been able to produce a bishop to rule them or priests whose teaching authority is respected as it should be by their fellow citizens.” (Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud)
21. Perhaps it may be said that sufficientattention has never been paid to the method whereby the Gospel began to be preached and the Church of God established all over the world. We touched on this subject briefly at the closing of the Missionary Exhibition and recalled the fact that from a study of the earliest monuments of Christian antiquity it is clearly evident that the clergy placed in charge of the faithful in each new community by the Apostles were not men brought in from the outside but were chosen from the natives of that locality. From the fact that the Roman Pontiff has entrusted to you and to your assistants the task of preaching the Christian religion to pagan nations, you ought not to conclude that the role of the native clergy is merely one of assisting the missionaries in minor matters, of merely following up and completing their work. What, We ask, is the true object of these holy missions if it be not this, that the Church of Christ be founded and established in these boundless regions? How can the Church among the heathens be developed today unless it be built of those very elements out of which our own churches were built; that is to say, unless it be made up of people, clergy, and religious orders of men and women recruited from the native populations of the several regions? Why should the native clergy be forbidden to cultivate their own portion of the Lord's vineyard, be forbidden to govern their own people? In order to enable you to progress in winning from heathenism new converts to Christ, would it not be of great assistance if you would entrust to the native clergy the people already converted so that they could minister to them and preserve their faith? As a matter of fact, the native clergy will prove to be most useful (more useful than some people imagine in extending the Kingdom of Christ “for since the native priest,” to quote Our Predecessor, “by birth, temper, sentiment, and interests is in close touch with his own people, it is beyond all controversy how valuable he can be in instilling the Faith into the minds of his people. The native priest understands better than any outsider how to proceed with his own people. Such being the case, he can often gain access to places where a foreign priest would not be permitted to enter.” (Apostolic letter Maximum Illud)
22. Moreover, the foreign missionary, because of his imperfect knowledge of the language often finds himself embarrassed when he attempts to express his thoughts with the result that the force and efficacy of his preaching are thereby greatly weakened. In addition to the aforementioned difficulties there are others which must always be taken into account, notwithstanding the fact that these difficulties are of rare occurrence and can oftentimes be overcome easily. Let us suppose, for example, that either because of the fortunes of war, or because of certain political happenings in a mission field, the ruling government is changed in that territory and that the new government decrees or requests that the missionaries of a certain nationality be expelled; or let us suppose - something which rarely, if ever, occurs - that the inhabitants of a particular territory, having reached a fairly high degree of civilization and at the same time a corresponding development in civic and social life, and desiring to become free and independent, should drive away from their country the governor, the soldiers, the missionaries of the foreign nation to whose rule they are subject. All this, of course, cannot be done without violence. Everyone can see what great harm would accrue to the Church in that land in the circumstances, unless a native clergy had been spread beforehand throughout the country like a network and were, by consequence, in a position to provide adequately for the population which had been converted to Christ.
23. Moreover, since the words of Christ “the harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few” (Matt. ix, 35; Luke x, 2) are true, even in the present condition of affairs, Europe from whence most of the missionaries have come is itself in need of priests, and this at a time when, with the help of God, it is most important that our separated brethren be led back to the unity of the Church and that non-Catholics be convinced of and delivered from their errors. It is a well-known fact that today the number of young men called to the priestly and religious life is not less than in former times, still the number of those who obey the call of God is certainly much smaller.
24. From what We have written, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, it follows that it is all-important to supply your different fields of labor with as many native priests as shall be sufficient, by their individual efforts, to extend the conquests of Christianity and to rule the faithful of each nation without the necessity of depending upon the help of a foreign clergy. In some places, as We have already pointed out, seminaries for the native clergy have been opened. These seminaries are being erected in points central to the nearby missions and entrusted, as a rule, to the same religious order or congregation which has charge of the missions. At these central institutions the Vicars and Prefects send their chosen men and pay for them while they are being trained, to receive them back one day ordained priests ready for the sacred ministry. This policy, which has been followed in some places, We sincerely wish, nay, We command, shall be followed likewise by the Superiors of all missions, so that it cannot be said that any native youth has ever been kept out of the priesthood and the apostolate, provided, of course, he exhibits the mark of a true vocation and is a young man of genuine promise.
25. It need scarcely be added that the greater the number of students you select for this training (there is need of greater numbers) the greater will be the expense. Do not lose heart because of this fact, but have confidence in the most loving Savior of men to Whose Providence We must look to find ways and means whereby the generosity of Catholics shall be stimulated so that there may come to the Holy See the increased funds required to aid more adequately such worthy enterprises. If each of you must do all he can to obtain as large a number as possible of native ecclesiastical students, you must also strive to mold and form them in that sanctity which is becoming to the priestly life and in the true spirit of the apostolate. Filled with these virtues and with zeal for the conversion of their brothers, they should be ready even to lay down their lives for the salvation of the people of their own tribe or nation. It is also important that simultaneously with this priestly formation these seminarians receive a scientific education both in the sacred and profane sciences. This education should follow the most approved methods. The course of study should not be unduly shortened or curtailed in any of its important features. The students as a matter of fact should follow the general accepted course of studies. Have no fear that if in the seminary you educate subjects conspicuous for the integrity and purity of their lives, men well prepared for the work of the sacred ministry and skilled teachers of the law of God, that you will not have turned out men who will not only attract the attention of the leading and learned men of their own country but also priests who will be destined one day to govern parishes and dioceses which shall be erected when it pleases God, and all this with the prospect of lasting gain for the Church.
26. Anyone who looks upon these natives as members of an inferior race or as men of low mentality makes a grievous mistake. Experience over a long period of time has proven that the inhabitants of those remote regions of the East and of the South frequently are not inferior to us at all, and are capable of holding their own with us, even in mental ability. If one discovers an extreme lack of the ability to understand among those who live in the very heart of certain barbarous countries, this is largely due to the conditions under which they exist, for since their daily needs are so limited, they are not often called upon to make use of their intellects. You, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, can bear testimony to the truth of what We write, and we Ourselves can testify to these facts since We have here under Our very eyes the example of certain native students attending the colleges of Rome who not only are equal to the other students in ability and in the results they obtain in their studies, but frequently even surpass them. Certainly you should not allow the native clergy to be looked upon as if they were a lower grade of priests, to be employed only in the most humble offices of the ministry. These priests have been admitted to the same priesthood that the missionaries possess, they are members of the selfsame apostolate. On the contrary, you should prefer the native priests to all others, for it is they who will one day govern the churches and Catholic communities founded by your sweat and labor. Therefore, there should exist no discrimination of any kind between priests, be they European missionaries or natives, there must be no line of demarcation marking one off from the other. Let all priests, missionaries and natives be united with one another in the bonds of mutual respect and love.
27. Since it is necessary in order to organize the Church in these regions, as We have already remarked, that you make use of the very elements out of which under Divine Providence they have been composed, you ought as a consequence to consider the founding of religious Congregations of men and women made up of natives to be one of the principal duties of your holy office. Is it not meant that these newly born followers of Christ be able to follow a life of evangelical perfection if they feel themselves called to take the vows of religion? With reference to this point, the missionaries and nuns who labor in your dioceses should not permit themselves to become prejudiced out of sheer love each for his own religious Congregation, a love which in itself is undoubtedly sound and legitimate. They should learn to view this matter broadly and to act accordingly. Therefore, if there are natives who desire to join one or other of the older Congregations, it assuredly would not be right to dissuade them or to prevent their joining, provided, of course, they give signs of being able to acquire the spirit of these Congregations and of establishing in their own countries houses of the Order which shall not be unworthy of the Congregation of which they are members. Perhaps it would be well if you would consider seriously and without admixture of selfinterest, if it would not be more advantageous all around to establish entirely new Congregations, which would correspond better with the genius and character of the natives and which would be more in keeping with the needs and the spirit of the different countries.
We cannot pass over in silence another point most important for the spread of the gospel, namely, the necessity of increasing the number of catechists. Catechists may be Europeans, or preferably natives, who help the missionaries in their work especially by instructing and preparing catechumens for baptism. It is quite unnecessary to write of the qualities which these catechists should possess in order to be able to draw to Christ those who do not believe in Him; this they can do more by the example of their lives than by word of mouth. You, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, make a firm resolution to train them with all possible care in order that they may acquire a profound knowledge of Christian doctrine, and that in teaching the Faith they may be able to adapt themselves both to the natural abilities and the level of intelligence of their catechism classes. In this catechetical work their success will be in exact proportion to the intimate knowledge which they possess of the mental ability and habits of the natives.
28. Up to this point We have written of the selecting and recruiting of those who are to share with you your labors. There still remains for Us in this context to commend to your zeal a plan which, if it should be put into operation, We believe would greatly help in the wider diffusion of the Faith. In what high esteem We hold the contemplative life is made abundantly clear in the Apostolic Constitution of two years ago, whereby We most gladly confirmed by Our Apostolic authority the rule of the Carthusians which had been revised to conform with the new Code of Canon Law, a rule which had been approved by Pontifical authority from the time of the origin of the Carthusian Order. Now, as We exhort from Our heart the Major Superiors of similar contemplative orders, so you too in like manner give them repeated evidences of the fact that they, by founding such houses in the mission field, can spread and promote the more austere types of contemplative life. These contemplatives, too, will obtain from heaven for you and for the work to which you are devoted an abundance of graces. Nor is there any danger that such monks will not find conditions for their mode of life satisfactory. The inhabitants, particularly in certain places, although pagan in large majority have a natural inclination towards solitude, prayer, and contemplation. In this special connection may We call to your notice that great monastery which the Reformed Cistercians of La Trappe founded in the Vicariate Apostolic of Peking. In this monastery there are nearly one hundred monks, the major portion of whom are Chinese. As they, by the exercise of the most perfect virtue, by constant prayer, by the austerity of their lives, by manual labor placate the Divine Majesty and bring down the mercies of God both upon themselves and their pagan neighbors, so also by the force of their example they win these very pagans to Jesus Christ. It is, therefore, not to be questioned that these hermits, while they guard intact the spirit of their holy Founder and therefore do not engage in an active life, nevertheless they prove themselves of great assistance in the successful work of the missions. If, perchance, the Superiors of any of these Orders should heed your requests and establish houses for their subjects in places judged best by common agreement between you, they shall do something which will be, in the first place, very beneficial to the great multitudes of pagans and which will be, secondly, more pleasing to Us personally than any words can express.
29. We may now pass, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, to the consideration of a matter which has to do with the better management of the missions. Although on this subject Our immediate Predecessor has already given his advice and instructions, We desire to repeat them here because We rightly think them to be of the utmost importance in the fruitful exercise of the apostolate. Because in great part the success of Catholic missions among the heathen depends upon you, We desire you to have a better organization of your mission work than formerly, an organization which may serve to make easier for you in the future the work of propagation of Christian beliefs and the increase of converts to the Faith. Therefore, you must see to it that the missionaries are so distributed about that no part of the territory assigned you shall be neglected and that no part shall be left to be evangelized at some future and remote date. To accomplish this purpose, found many new stations (allowing the missionary to live in some central place) in the vicinity of which you may establish smaller houses, which can be left in charge of at least a catechist, each of which should have a chapel so that the missionary may from time to time come on certain fixed days to visit the people and exercise his ministry.
30. Missionaries should remember that in preaching to the natives they must follow the same methods which the Divine Teacher used while He was on earth. Before He began to preach to the crowds, He first healed the sick: “and all that were sick he healed; and many followed him, and he healed them all: he had compassion on them, and healed their sick.” (Matt. viii, 16; Matt. xii, 15; Matt. xiv, 14) He commanded the Apostles to do likewise and bestowed upon them the power of healing: “And into what city so ever you enter . . . heal the sick that are therein, and say to them: The Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you,” (Luke x, 8, 9) and “going out they went about through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere.” (Luke ix, 6) Neither should the missionary ever forget how kind and loving Jesus always showed Himself to babes and little children, or how when the apostles remonstrated with them, He bade them to “suffer little children to come unto Him.” (Matt. xix, 13, 14) Apropos of this, let Us recall what We said on another occasion, namely, that the missionaries who preach to the heathen know only too well how much good-will and real affection is gained for the Church by those who look after the health of the natives and care for their sick or who show a true love for their infants and children. All of which only goes to prove how readily the human heart responds to charity and to kindness.
31. To return to a subject which We discussed above. If it is necessary, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, in the cities where you have your residences and in other more important centers, to erect large churches and other mission buildings, you must, however, avoid building churches or edifices that are too sumptuous and costly as if you were erecting cathedrals and episcopal palaces for future dioceses. This type of structure will come in due time and when the need really exists. Assuredly, you are aware of the fact that there exist dioceses which have been canonically erected, and that a long time ago, and yet only now are they constructing or have just finished the construction of churches and buildings of this kind. Moreover, it would be neither right nor advisable to bring together, really to crowd together, in one of the principal cities or in the town where you reside the various institutions erected for the welfare of both the souls and bodies of the people. If such institutions are really large and important they will need on the spot both your presence and that of the missionaries, and thus your visits in the interests of the propagation of the faith to the remainder of the territory committed to your charge will necessarily cease. Since mention has been made of such good works, over and above hospitals and institutions for the care of the sick and for the distribution of medicines, and elementary schools which you ought to open in every town, it is important that you found other types of schools for the young people who do not intend to take up agriculture, and thus by these schools open the way to them to acquiring a higher education, particularly in the arts and sciences and in the professions. We also exhort you not to neglect in this work of education the better classes, especially the rulers of the locality and their children. It is beyond question that the word of God and its ministers are received more readily by the poor and humble than by the proud and rich. It is also true that Jesus Christ said to Himself, “the spirit of the Lord hath sent me to preach the Gospel to the poor.” (Luke iv, 18) Yet, at the same time, We must not forget what St. Paul writes: “to the wise and unwise, I am a debtor.” (Romans i, 14) Both history and experience teach that when once the rulers of a people have been converted to Christianity, the common people follow closely in the footsteps of their leaders.
32. Finally, Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons, receive, in the wellknown spirit of zeal for religion and the salvation of souls which consumes you, with docile minds and with the will to obey promptly, this, Our last but most important recommendation of all. The districts confided by the Holy See to your care and labors in order that they too may be added to the Kingdom of Christ the Lord, are for the most part vast in extent. It may thus happen that the number of missionaries belonging to your particular Institute is much smaller than your actual needs require. In this case, just as in well established dioceses members of different religious families, priests, laymen, and nuns of many different Congregations, are accustomed to come to the aid of the bishop, so you also, where there is question of spreading the Faith, of educating the native youth or other similar undertakings, ought not to hesitate to invite and to receive as companions of your labors religious missionaries, even though they be of a different Institute than your own, and also priests or others though they are members of lay Institutes. The Orders and Religious Congregations may well be proud of the missions given them among the heathen and of the conquests made up to the present hour for the Kingdom of Christ. Let them remember, however, that they do not possess the mission fields by a peculiar and perpetual right, but that they hold them solely at the discretion and pleasure of the Holy See which has both the duty and the right to see to it that these missions are well and adequately taken care of. The Roman Pontiff would not be doing his full Apostolic duty if he limited his interest solely to the distribution of missions of greater or lesser extent to one or other Institute. What is of much more importance is that he must always, and with great care, see to it that these different Institutes are sending into the regions confided to them as many qualified missionaries as are needed to carry on in a thorough manner the task of diffusing the light of the truth over the whole extent of these countries.
33. Therefore, since the Divine Pastor shall demand of Us an accounting of His Flock, We, without hesitation and whenever it shall appear to be either necessary, more opportune, or useful for the larger growth of the Catholic Church, shall transfer the mission territory of one Institute to another Institute; We shall also divide and subdivide a mission territory and shall confide it to the care of native priests or shall assign new Vicariates and new Apostolic Prefectures of other religious Congregations than those occupying the original territory.
34. It but remains for Us now to exhort you again, Venerable Brothers, all the bishops of the Catholic world, to share with Us the cares and consolations of Our pastoral office and to come to the aid of the missions in the enthusiastic manner and with the methods We have suggested in order that the missions themselves, quickened as it were by this renewed strength, may bring forth a more abundant harvest in the future. May Mary, the Most Holy Queen of Apostles, graciously look down with favor upon this our common undertaking; that selfsame Mary who, since she keeps within her motherly heart all men committed to her protection on Calvary, cherishes and loves not only those whose fortune it is to enjoy the fruits of the Redemption, but all those others likewise who do not yet know that they have been redeemed by Jesus Christ.
In the meantime, Venerable Brothers, as a pledge of heavenly favors to come and a mark of Our fatherly love for you, We most lovingly bestow upon you, your clergy, and your people the Apostolic Blessing.
Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, the twenty-eighth of February, in the year 1926, the fifth of Our Pontificate.
On the Propagation of the Faith Throughout the World
Apostolic Letter of Benedict XV
November 30, 1919
Role of Superiors of Missions (09)
The Superior and the Success of the Mission (10)
A Primary Concern (11)
An Effective Means (11b)
Local Clergy (14)
Church Not Alien (16)
Concern for Training of Local Clergy (17)
Three Ways to Help (32)
Role of the Apostleship of Prayer (33)
Fostering Vocations (34)
Economic Help (36)
Society for the Propagation of the Faith (37)
Association of the Holy Childhood (38)
Missionary Union of the Clergy (40)
1. Before He returned to His Father, Our Lord Jesus Christ addressed to His disciples the words: "Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15). With these words He committed to them a duty, a momentous and a holy charge, that was not to lapse with the death of the Apostles but would bind their successors, one after another, until the end of the world - as long, that is, as there remained on this earth men whom the truth might set free. Entrusted with this mandate, "they went forth and preached everywhere" (Mark 16:20) the word of God, so that "through all the earth their voice resounds, and to the ends of the world, their message" (Psalm 18:5). From that time on, as the centuries have passed, the Church has never forgotten that command God gave her, and never yet has she ceased to dispatch to every corner of the world her couriers of the doctrine He entrusted to her, and her ministers of the eternal salvation that was delivered through Christ to the race of men.
2. Even in the first three centuries, when persecution after persecution, inspired by Hell, fell upon the infant Church in a raging attempt to crush her, even then when the whole of civilization was deluged with Christian blood, out on the far frontiers of the Empire the heralds of the gospel journeyed, announcing their tidings. Then, after peace and religious freedom had been officially granted to the Church, her apostolate to the world made far greater progress. In this achievement a number of men of striking sanctity played outstanding roles. One of them was Gregory the Illuminator, who brought the Faith to Armenia. Another was Victorinus, the apostle of Styria. Frumentius, who evangelized Ethiopia, was a third. Later on Patrick brought forth the Irish in Christ; Augustine introduced the Faith among the English; and Columba and Palladius preached the gospel to the Scots. Later still Clement Willibrord, the first Bishop of Utrecht, brought the radiance of the gospel to Holland; Boniface and Anagar carried the Faith to the Germans; and Cyril and Methodius won Slavonia for the Church.
3. With the further passing of time, a far wider field for missionary work began to appear. William of Rubruck pointed it out when he carried the fire of the Faith to the Mongols. Soon afterward Blessed Gregory X sent out the first missionaries to China. Disciples of Francis of Assisi followed them and founded there in China a sizable community of Christians, a community that a short time later, unfortunately, went down under the blows of a persecution.
4. Upon the discovery of America, an army of apostolic men set out for the New World. This great host, which included that glorious son of St. Dominic, Bartholomew de Las Casas, undertook there the twin tasks of protecting the unfortunate natives from human oppression and wresting them from their grinding subjection to the powers of darkness. To the same period belongs the work of Francis Xavier, a missionary worthy of comparison with the Apostles themselves. For Christ's glory and the salvation of souls he spent himself relentlessly in the Fast Indies and in Japan. And when he died he was on the threshold of the Chinese Empire, attempting to enter it. It was as though, at the price of his death, he was breaking open for the Gospel a way into those vast territories that in years to come would be the arena where the sons of numerous religious orders and missionary congregations would, in the pursuance of their apostolate, contend with all the formidable obstacles thrown against them by shifting conditions and varying circumstances.
5. More recent years have seen the last of the unknown territories - Australia and the interior of Africa - yield to the relentless assaults of modern exploration. These years have also seen the emissaries of the Church follow the newly blazed trails into the new lands. In all the vast reaches of the Pacific it would now be difficult to find an island remote enough to have escaped the vigilance and the energy of our missionaries. In speaking of all these achievements, however, we must not overlook a very significant fact about the men who performed them. Very many of these men, while they were working for the salvation of their brethren, themselves attained the heights of sanctity, just as the Apostles did before them. And many of them too, crowned their apostolate with the glory of martyrdom, entrenching the Faith at the cost of their blood.
6. Anyone who studies the facts of this great saga cannot help being profoundly impressed by them: by all the stupendous hardships our missionaries have undergone in extending the Faith, the magnificent devotion they have shown, and the overwhelming examples of intrepid endurance they have afforded us. And to anyone who weighs these facts the realization must come as a shock that right now, there still remain in the world immense multitudes of people who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death. According to a recent estimate, the number of non-believers in the world approximates one billion souls.
7. The pitiable lot of this stupendous number of souls is for Us a source of great sorrow. From the days when We first took up the responsibilities of this apostolic office We have yearned to share with these unfortunates the divine blessings of the Redemption. So We are delighted to see that, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, efforts to promote and develop the foreign missions have in many quarters of the world increased and intensified. It is Our duty to foster these enterprises and do all We can to encourage them; and this duty coincides perfectly with Our own most profound desires. Before writing this letter, venerable Brethren, We begged the Lord for His light and His aid. While writing it, We had two purposes in mind: to encourage you, your clergy, and your people in these efforts, and secondly, to point out methods you can adopt to further the fulfillment of this momentous undertaking.
8. First We want to address those who are in charge of the missions, whether as Bishops or as Vicars or Prefects Apostolic. All the responsibility for the propagation of the Faith rests immediately upon them, and it is to them especially that the Church has entrusted her prospects of expansion. We know very well the burning intensity of their zeal for the apostolate, and We are also well aware of the immense difficulties they have had to overcome and the crises they have had to face, especially in the last few years. This was the price they had to pay to remain at their stations and outposts and to go on extending the Kingdom of God. And so they paid it willingly.
9. Cognizant as We are, however, of their respect for this Apostolic See and their devotion to it, We do not hesitate to act as a father with his sons, and open Our mind to them. We want them to make this their guiding principle, that each of them must be, so to speak, the soul of the mission in his care. They should interest themselves deeply in the work of their priests, and in the work, too, of all others who assist them in the fulfillment of their duty. They should use every means they have - speech, action, writing - to encourage and stimulate these aides of theirs to ever higher achievements. Everyone who works in any capacity in the particular vineyard of the Lord over which He has authority should know by personal experience, and should know with complete conviction, that the government of the mission is in the hands of a true father - an alert, efficient man, a man filled with charity, deeply interested in everyone and everything, a man who rejoices when things go well with his subjects and sympathizes when things go badly. They must see him favor and promote those of their projects and undertakings that merit his approval. To put it briefly, they must see that he looks on everything that concerns his subjects as something that concerns him personally.
10. It is indisputable that the condition and success of the missions depend on the way they are governed. They can suffer very severely if a man is put in charge of them who does not have the ability for the office or who is in some other way unsuitable for it. The individual missionary has given up his country and his family in order to aid in the extension of the Faith. When he sets out on his long and often dangerous journey he is, as a rule, eager and ready to brave the most grueling hardships, and all he asks is an opportunity to win for Christ as many souls as possible. Now if a man like this encounters an attentive superior who always treats him with prudence and charity, his work cannot fail to be fruitful. But if the contrary occurs, then there is every reason to fear that the labors and hardships he meets will gradually wear him out, until he finally loses heart and gives himself over to idleness.
11. Furthermore, the superior of a mission should make it one of his primary concerns to expand and fully develop his mission. The entire region within the boundaries of his mission has been committed to his care. Consequently, he must work for the eternal salvation of every person living there. If, out of an immense populace, he has converted a few thousand people, he has no reason to lapse into complacency. He must become a guide and a protector for these children he has brought forth in Jesus Christ; he must see to their spiritual nourishment and he must not let a single one of them slip away and perish. But he must do more than this. He must not consider that he is properly discharging the duties of his office unless he is working constantly and with all the vigor he can muster to bring the other, far more numerous, inhabitants of the area to partake of the Christian truth and the Christian life.
In this connection, the preaching of the gospel can be brought more immediately and more effectively to everyone in an area if more mission stations and posts are established as soon as it is practible to do so. Then, when the time comes to divide the mission, these will be ready to serve as centers for new Vicariates and Prefectures. While We are on this subject, We wish to single out for commendation some Vicars Apostolic who have richly earned it: those who have kept this future development steadily in mind and are constantly engaged in the work of readying new provinces for the kingdom of God. If they find that their own order or congregation is not supplying enough manpower for the task, they are perfectly willing to call in helpers from other religious groups.
12. On the other hand, We can hardly commend a man who takes the section of the Lord's vineyard that has been allotted to him for cultivation, and proceeds to treat it as a piece of private property, a domain not to be touched by the hands of an outsider. Dwell for a moment upon the severity of God's judgment on a man like this, particularly if the case is like some that have been brought to Our attention at different times - a rather small community of the faithful surrounded by an immense population of infidels, infidels whom the superior cannot catechize because he does not have enough men for the work and refuses to accept the help of others. The man entrusted with a Catholic mission, if he is working single-mindedly for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, goes out whenever it is necessary and searches, searches everywhere, for helpers in his holy ministry. He does not care who they are; he does not care whether they belong to his order or to another, or whether or not they are of his nationality, "provided only that, in every way .. . Christ is being proclaimed" (Philippians 1:18). And he does not limit his welcome to men, either. He will bring in sisters to open schools, orphanages, and hospitals, to found their hostels and establish other charitable institutions. He is happy and eager to do this, because he realizes how remarkably works of this kind, with God's help, contribute to the spread of the Faith.
13. In the pursuit of his objectives the conscientious mission head refuses, too, to limit his interests to the boundaries of his omission and to act as though he considered everything going on elsewhere as no concern of his. Fired with the charity of Christ, he feels that anything that affects Christ's glory affects him, and he does all he can to develop close and friendly relations with his colleagues in neighboring districts. For situations frequently arise that affect all the missions in some particular area, and that demand joint action if they are to be handled successfully. But even apart from this, the Church would benefit a great deal if the men in charge of missions met at fixed intervals as frequently as they could to confer and to encourage one another.
14. There is one final, and very important, point for anyone who has charge of a mission. He must make it his special concern to secure and train local candidates for the sacred ministry. In this policy lies the greatest hope of the new churches. For the local priest, one with his people by birth, by nature, by his sympathies and his aspirations, is remarkably effective in appealing to their mentality and thus attracting them to the Faith. Far better than anyone else he knows the kind of argument they will listen to, and as a result, he often has easy access to places where a foreign priest would not be tolerated.
15. If, however, the indigenous clergy is to achieve the results We hope for, it is absolutely necessary that they be well trained and well prepared. We do not mean a rudimentary and slipshod preparation, the bare minimum for ordination. No, their education should be complete and finished, excellent in all its phases, the same kind of education for the priesthood that a European would receive. For the local clergy is not to be trained merely to perform the humbler duties of the ministry, acting as the assistants of foreign priests. On the contrary, they must take up God's work as equals, so that some day they will be able to enter upon the spiritual leadership of their people.
16. The Catholic Church is not an intruder in any country; nor is she alien to any people. It is only right, then, that those who exercise her sacred ministry should come from every nation, so that their countrymen can look to them for instruction in the law of God and leadership on the way to salvation. Wherever the local clergy exist in sufficient numbers, and are suitably trained and worthy of their holy vocation, there you can justly assume that the work of the missionary has been successful and that the Church has laid her foundations well. And if, after these foundations have been laid and these roots sunk, a persecution should be raised to dislodge her, there need be no reason to fear that she could not withstand the blow.
17. The Apostolic See has always urged the directors of missions to realize that this is a very serious obligation of their office and vigorously to put it into action. Here in Rome the colleges - both the old colleges and the newer ones - that train clerics for the foreign missions, have already shown their earnestness in the matter. This is particularly true of those training men for the Oriental rites. And yet it is a deplorable fact that, even after the Popes have insisted upon it, there still remain sections of the world that have heard the Faith preached for several centuries, and still have a local clergy that is of inferior quality. If is also true that there are countries that have been deeply penetrated by the light of the Faith, and have, besides, reached such a level of civilization that they produce eminent men in all the fields of secular life - and yet, though they have lived under the strengthening influence of the Church and the gospel for hundreds of years, they still cannot produce Bishops for their spiritual government or priests for their spiritual guidance. From these facts it is obvious that in some places the system ordinarily used in training future missionaries has up to now been feeble and faulty. To correct this difficulty, We are ordering the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith to apply remedies adapted to the various regions of the world, and to see to the founding of seminaries for both individual regions and group of dioceses. Where seminaries already exist, this Congregation will see to it that they are adequately administered. However, the task to which the Congregation is to devote itself with particular care is the supervision of the growth and development of the local clergy in our Vicariates and other missions.
18. Now We turn to you, beloved sons, the working-men of the Lord's vineyard. In your hands lies the immediate responsibility for disseminating the wisdom of Christ, and with this responsibility the salvation of innumerable souls. Our first admonition is this: never for a moment forget the lofty and splendid character of the task to which you have devoted yourselves. Your task is a divine one, a task far beyond the feeble reach of human reasoning. You have been called to carry light to men who lie in the shadow of death and to open the way to heaven for souls that are hurtling to destruction. Assure yourselves that God was speaking to you, to each one of you, when He said: "Forget your people and your father's house" (Psalm 44:11). Remember that your duty is not the extension of a human realm, but of Christ's; and remember too that your goal is the acquisition of citizens for a heavenly-fatherland, and not for an earthly one.
19. It would be tragic indeed if any of our missionaries forgot the dignity of their office so completely as to busy themselves with the interests of their terrestrial homeland instead of with those of their homeland in heaven. It would be a tragedy indeed if an apostolic man were to spend himself in attempts to increase and exalt the prestige of the native land he once left behind him. Such behavior would infect his apostolate like a plague. It would destroy in him, the representative of the Gospel, the sinews of his love for souls and it would destroy his reputation with the populace. For no matter how wild and barbarous a people may be, they are well aware of what the missionary is doing in their country and of what he wants for them. They will subject him in their own way to a very searching investigation, and if he has any object in view other than their spiritual good, they will find out about it. Suppose it becomes clear that he is involved in worldly schemes of some kind, and that, instead of devoting himself exclusively to the work of the apostolate, he is serving the interests of his homeland as well. The people immediately suspect everything he does. And in addition, such a situation could easily give rise to the conviction that the Christian religion is the national religion of some foreign people and that anyone converted to it is abandoning his loyalty to his own people and submitting to the pretensions and domination of a foreign power.
20. We have been deeply saddened by some recent accounts of missionary life, accounts that displayed more zeal for the profit of some particular nation than for the growth of the kingdom of God. We have been astonished at the indifference of their authors to the amount of hostility these works stir up in the minds of unbelievers. This is not the way of the Catholic missionary, not if he is worthy of the name. No, the true missionary is always aware that he is not working as an agent of his country, but as an ambassador of Christ. And his conduct is such that it is perfectly obvious to anyone watching him that he represents a Faith that is alien to no nation on earth, since it embraces all men who worship God in spirit and in truth, a Faith in which "there is no Gentile, no Jew, no circumcised, no uncircumcised, no barbarian, no Scythian, no slave, no free man, but Christ is everything in each of us" (Colossians 3:12).
21. There is another failing that the missionary must scrupulously avoid, and that is the desire to make any profit beyond the acquisition of souls. There is, of course, no need to delay on this point. If a man is the victim of a craving for financial gain, how can he fulfill his obligations of working single-mindedly for the glory of God? And how can he, for the increase of God's glory, hold himself ready to sacrifice everything he has, even his life, to the work of calling other men back to a state of spiritual health? There is also the fact that this weakness would cost him a great part of his influence with unbelievers - a fact especially cogent if his craving should descend, as it tends to do, to the level of avarice. For as men judge things, this is the meanest of vices. Nothing is more unworthy of the kingdom of God. In this matter then, the truly apostolic man will again follow the advice of the Apostle of the Gentiles, who in a wellknown passage wrote to Timothy: "Let us be content if we have food and clothing" (I Timothy 6:8). He will remember too, that St. Paul set such great store by self-denial that, despite the demands of his arduous ministry, he used to provide for his own needs by manual labor.
22. Before he enters upon his apostolate the missionary should have a very careful training. This is true despite the possible objection that a man destined to preach Christ in places far removed from civilization has no need of a broad education. It is beyond dispute, of course, that for the work of converting the minds of men the refinements of virtue are more valuable than a knowledge of the fine points of literature. If, however, a man has not been supplied with a creditable provision of learning, it is going to be brought home to him quite frequently that he lacks what could have been an important asset in the fruitful fulfillment of his ministry. It is not a rare occurrence for a missionary to find himself without books and with no opportunity to consult someone more learned than himself. Yet he has to reply to any arguments against the Faith that are brought to him and he is often required to provide answers to very difficult questions. The more learned he proves himself in circumstances like these the greater will be his reputation and his authority, especially if he is dealing with people who hold scholarship and learning in high regard. In such a situation it would be a shocking anomaly to see those entrusted with the message of truth bested by teachers of error.
23. Because of these demands of the apostolate, the students whom the Lord has called to sacred studies must acquire proficiency in all the branches of learning while they are being trained for their future work. These branches will include both sacred and profane subjects, anything they might need on the missions. We want this precedure adopted, as is proper, in the courses given at the Urbanianum, the Pontifical College of the Propagation of the Faith. We also enjoin the directors of this College to. make adequate provision for the teaching of the science of missiology , a branch of study that from now on is to be included in their curriculum.
24. Among the attainments necessary for the life of a missiopary, a place of paramount importance must obviously be granted to the language of the people to whose salvation he will devote himself. He should not be content with a smattering of the language, but should be able to speak it readily and competently. For in this respect he is under an obligation to all those he deals with, the learned and the ignorant alike, and he will soon realize the advantage a command mand of their language gives him in the task of winning the confidence of the populace. If he is earnest about his work, he will be particularly reluctant to delegate the explanation of Christian doctrine to his catechists. He will insist upon reserving this duty to himself. Since he has been sent to the missions for no other purpose, after all, than to preach the gospel, he will even come to look on these instruction periods as the most important part of his work. There will also be occasions when, in his position as representative and interpreter of our holy Faith, he will have to associate with the dignitaries of the district. Or he may be invited to appear at scholarly gatherings. How will he maintain his dignity under these circumstances if he cannot make himself understood because he does not know the language?
25. We made some provision for this need a short time ago when We were planning for the increase and expansion of the Church in the East. We established here in Rome a special house of studies for those who are destined for the apostolate in that part of the world. There they will acquire fluency in Eastern languages and an intimate acquaintance with Eastern ways, along with a thorough mastery of various other skills that will be of use to them. Our enthusiasm for the advantages afforded by the work of this institute prompts Us to take this opportunity to urge the superiors of all religious orders doing mission work in the East to take advantage of this training and use it to bring to full maturity the abilities of those of their students who have been chosen for these missions.
26. But for the man who enters upon the apostolic life there is one attribute that is indispensable. It is of the most critical importance, as We have mentioned before, that he have sanctity of life. For the man who preaches God must himself be a man of God. The man who urges others to despise sin must despise it himself. Preaching by example is afar more effective procedure than vocal preaching, especially among unbelievers, who tend to be more impressed by what they see for themselves than by any arguments that can be presented to them. Give the missionary, if you will, every imaginable talent of mind and intellect, endow him with the most extensive learning and the most brilliant culture. Unless these qualities are accompanied by moral integrity they will be of little or no value in the apostolate, On the contrary, they can be the cause of disaster, both to himself and to others.
27. Let us have him, then, an example to those he deals with. Let him be humble and obedient and chaste. And especially let him be a devout man, dedicated to prayer and constant union with God, a man who goes before the Divine Majesty and fervently pleads the cause of souls. For as he binds himself more and more closely to God, he will receive the grace and assistance of God to a greater and greater degree. Particularly applicable here are the words of St. Paul: "Therefore, as God's chosen ones, holy and well beloved, clothe yourselves with sentiments of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering" (Colossians 3:12). With these virtues the missionary will open for the Faith he preaches a smooth and unobstructed entrance into the hearts of men. All obstacles will melt from his path, for no man's will is obdurate enough to oppose their attraction with equanimity.
28. Like his model, the Lord Jesus, the good missionary burns with charity, and he numbers even the most abandoned unbelievers among God's children, redeemed like everyone else with the ransom of the divine blood. Their lowly difference does not exasperate him; their immorality does not dishearten him. His bearing toward them is neigher scornful nor fastidious; his treatment of them is neither harsh nor rough. Instead, he makes use of all the arts of Christian kindness to attract them to himself, so that he may eventually lead them into the arms of Christ, into the embrace of the Good Shepherd. He makes it a custom to ponder the thought expressed in Holy Scripture: "Thy kindly influence, Lord, Thy gracious influence is all about us. At the first false step, none is so ready to rebuke us, to remind and warn us of our error, bidding us come back and renew our loyalty to Thee... With such power at Thy disposal, a lenient judge Thou provest thyself, riding us with a light rein, and keeping Thy terrors in reserve" (Wisdom 12:1-2, 18). What obstacle can arise, what annoyance or danger exists that could deter this emissary of Jesus Christ from fulfilling the task he has begun? There is none. This man, who has attained great favor with God by his free choice of the lofty work he has taken upon himself, will cheerfully endure whatever adversity or hardship befalls him. Toil, scorn, want, hunger, even a dreadful death - he will gladly accept them all, as long as there remains a slight chance that he can free even one soul from the jaws of hell.
29. The missionary who is motivated and inspired by the example of Christ Our Lord and of the Apostles can go out confidently to his ministry. But he must recognize that the basis of his confidence rests entirely on God. As We have said before, this whole work is a divine work. Only God can enter men's hearts and illumine their minds with the radiance of truth; only God can enkindle their wills with the spark of virtue; only God can give them the strength to pursue the truth and do the good they have seen. The emissary will spend himself in vain unless his Lord helps him as he works. Yet he has every reason to go bravely on with the task allotted to him, for he can rely on divine grace that grace which is never withheld from the man who asks for it.
30. We must not go further without saying something about the work that is being done by women, for since the very earliest days of the Church they have always been remarkable for their diligence and zeal in assisting the preachers of the gospel. We want to single out here, and single out for Our highest praise, those many women who have vowed their virginity to God and have gone to pursue their vocation on the missions. There they have devoted themselves to the education of children and to a great many other works of charity and devotion. This recognition of their achievements will, We hope, encourage the sisters and inspire them to further efforts on behalf of the Church. We hope too that they will hold fast to the conviction that the usefulness of their work will increase in proportion to the care they give to their own spiritual perfection.
31. And now We would like to address all those who, thanks to the mercy of God, possess the true Faith and participate in the innumerable benefits that flow from it. First We should like to point out the fact that the sacred obligation of assisting in the conversion of the infidels applies also to them. For "He (God) gave to every one of them commandment concerning his neighbor" (Ecclesiasticus 17:12); and the strictness of this command varies in proportion to the seriousness of the neighbor's need. Now what class of men is more in need of fraternal help than unbelievers, who live in ignorance of God, and consequently, bound by the chains of their blind and violent desires, are enslaved in the most hideous of all the forms of slavery, the service of Satan? Anyone then who contributes whatever services he can to the work of bringing the light of faith to them - and helping the work of the missions is the best means - would accomplish two purposes at the same time. He would be fulfilling his obligation in this important matter, and he would also be thanking God in a particularly appropriate way for the faith that has been given to him.
32. There are three general ways in which a Catholic can assist the missionary effort, and missionaries themselves constantly remind us of them. The first is within everyone's capacity. This first means is prayer, prayer that God may grant the missions His merciful aid. We have already insisted that the toil of our missionaries would be futile and barren unless divine grace rendered it vital and fruitful. St. Paul referred to this fact when he said, "It was I who planted the seed; it is Apollo who waters it; but it is God Who makes it grow "(I Corinthians 3:6). We must remember, however, that we have a way of obtaining this grace - the way of humble and persevering prayer. As Our Lord said, ". .. regarding anything they ask for, their prayer shall be granted by My Father in heaven" (Matthew 18:19). This kind of prayer cannot fail, especially in this cause. For no cause is dearer or more pleasing to God than this one. While the Israelites fought their battle with Amalech, Moses took his stand on a great hill and, lifting up his hands, implored God's aid for his people. The teachers of the gospel are manfully at work in the Lord's vineyard, and it is the duty of all the faithful to follow the example of Moses and grant them the support of their prayers.
33. It was to carry out this duty properly that the organization called The Apostleship of Prayer was established, and We take this occasion to recommend it warmly to all devout Christians. It is our hope that none of them will neglect to join this organization. We pray that they will all want to participate in the mission effort, and if they cannot assist in the field, they will, nevertheless, be willing to contribute their zeal and their devotion.
34. Secondly, something must be done about the scarcity of missionaries. Their number was small enough a few years ago; but now, since the war, it has been so reduced that many areas of the Lord's vineyard are without laborers. We appeal to you, venerable Brethren, for a particularly vigorous approach to this problem. You will be performing a service eminently worthy of your love of the Faith if you take pains to foster any signs of a missionary vocation that appear among your priests and seminarians. Do not bedeceivedby the claims of a false prudence; do not let human reasoning deter you with the plea that what you send to the foreign missions you will be subtracting from the resources of your diocese, To fill the place of each priest you send to the missions, God will give you many priests, and very able priests, for your work at home.
35. To the superiors of religious orders and institutes that serve the missions We address a most earnest request that they choose for this critical work only the best of .their men, those who are outstanding in virtue, in devotion, in zeal for souls, And whenever it becomes evident that their missionaries have succeeded in converting a particular people from superstition to the divine wisdom of Christianity, and that the Church has been securely established there, then it is time for superiors to send their men on, so that these picked troops of Christ can wrest still another people from the clutches of the devil. What they have won they won for Christ. Do not balk now at leaving the harvest to be reaped by others. And remember that this type of procedure, this continual preparation of harvests, will bring down upon your congregations the richest gifts of God's divine goodness.
36. Finally, the missions need economic help, and a substantial amount of it. The war has enormously increased their difficulties. It has wiped out a great number of schools, hospitals and hostels, has destroyed organized charities and put an end to many other types of foundation they once operated. In this crisis We appeal to all good Christians for whatever liberality they can afford. "How can the love of God abide in him who possesses worldly goods, and, seeing his brother in need, closes his heart to him?" (I John 3:17) . When he said this the Apostle John was referring to people who suffer physical need. But does not the law of charity bind even more strictly when there is even more at stake than the rescue of enormous numbers of people from hunger and destitution and the other forms of physical suffering? Does not this law bind us more stringently when the issue is also, and primarily, the rescue of this stupendous multitude of souls from the arrogant domination of Satan, and their entrance into the freedom of the children of God?
37. We warmly urge Catholics to give generous assistance to the organizations that have been established for the support of the missions. The first of these is the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, an organization that has repeatedly earned the commendation of Our predecessors. In the hope that its work will be even more fruitful in the future We recommend it to the particular attention of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. For this organization has to supply a goodly proportion of the funds needed for the missions, both the missions already established and those that will be organized in the future. We are confident that in times like these when spokesmen for erroneous doctrines are numerous and affluent the Catholic world will not permit its own missionaries, the sowers of the seeds of truth, to go without resources.
38. A second organization that We strongly recommend to the charity of all Catholics is the Association of the Holy Childhood, a group that arranges for the administration of Baptism to dying children of non-Christian families. This organization is particularly commendable because of the fact that our Catholic children can take part in it and in this way learn to appreciate the value of the faith that has been given to them. If they learn this, they will also learn to associate themselves with the work of sharing this gift with others. Still another organization We wish to mention is the Society of St. Peter the Apostle, an organization that aids in the education and training of local clergy for the missions.
39. Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, prescribed a means of assisting these various organizations, and it is Our will that this prescription be faithfully observed. We are speaking of the custom of taking up in all churches on the Feast of the Epiphany, a collection "for the ransom of captives from Africa," and sending the proceeds to the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.
40. But if these hopes of Ours, venerable Brethren, are to be assured of very great success, you must adopt some special measure to direct the thoughts of your clergy toward the missions. The faithful are generally ready and willing to come to the assistance of this willingness so that the missions will gain as much as possible by it. To accomplish this end, We desire the establishment, in all the dioceses of the Catholic world, of the organization is called the Missionary Union of the Clergy. This organization is under the direction of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, and We have given the Congregation all the authorization necessary for its work. The Union was organized a short time ago in Italy, and has rapidly taken root in other places. Its work has Our complete approval, and We have already demonstrated Our pontifical approbation by granting it a number of privileges. With good reason, for the Union's methods are admirably suited to the task of fostering among the clergy the readiness and ability to instill in Christian hearts a concern for the salvation of the non-Catholic multitudes and to promote the various enterprises that the Holy See has approved as effective channels for assistance to the missions.
41. We have now said, venerable Brethren, what We wanted to say to you about the work of propagating the Catholic Faith through the world. If all Catholics, both the missionaries in the field and the faithful at home, meet the obligations of this task as they should, then We have good reason to hope that our missions will quickly recover from the severe wounds and losses inflicted by the war, and that they will in a short time again show their old strength and vigor. As We look into the future, We seem to hear the Lord's voice, urging Us to "Launch out into the deep water" (Luke 5:4), as He urged Peter long ago. Our paternal charity spurs Us to the work of leading into His welcoming arms the multitudes now living with Us in this world. For the Church is sustained by the Spirit of God, and under the influence of this Spirit she remains always strong and vigorous. Then too, the work of the thousands of apostolic men who have labored in the past and are laboring now to promote her growth cannot fail to have its effect. And their example will attract numerous others to imitate them, and to go out, supported by the generosity and devotion of the good Christian people, to reap for Christ a rich harvest of souls.
42. May the great Mother of God, the Queen of Apostles, hear our united prayers and call down upon the heralds of the gospel the graces of the Holy Spirit. As a token of these graces, venerable Brethren, and as a proof of Our cordial good will, We very affectionately impart to you, and to the clergy and people in your charge, Our apostolic benediction.
Given in Rome at St. Peter's, on the 30th of November, 1919, the sixth year of Our Pontificate.
Benedict XV. Maximum Illud: Apostolic Letter on the Propagation of the Faith Throughout the World. 30 November 1919. Translated by Thomas J. M. Burke, S.J. Washington, DC: National Catholic Welfare Office.