What makes an MG doing the above different from others in the Church is that the work is animated by the charism of St. John Paul II whose personal, experiential, joyful, hopeful, propositional and ‘heuristic’ [1] approach proved to be effective in the modern era.Ricketts kids watch Dads concert


The Missionaries of the Gospel- MGs (and later John Paul II Sisters, Brothers and Priests) have been called to follow Christ in the footsteps of St. JPII, to continue the work that the Holy Spirit began in our late Pope. This involves carrying out the same mission with fidelity to his charism (and spirituality). JPII’s gift for the Church was not a particular type of work, a specific document or activity, but his ‘way of being’ (not a way of doing or having[2]) with God, others and himself (it underpinned and animated all his great work), ushering in what Pope John 23rd at the opening of the Second Vatican Council referred to as a ‘new order of human relations.’

It is not just about learning certain skills such as empathy or effective communication. We need to take a step back and begin by looking at how we view God and man because these will have an impact upon how we relate to both. To understand how JPII was able to interact so well with people and have such a deep prayer life, we need to begin with his understanding of God and the human person.

JPII witnessed firsthand the consequences of failing to appreciate the dignity of the human person, under both the Nazi and Communist regimes. “The deportation of my fellow Polish citizens to extermination camps has profoundly marked my existence. From that time, the mystery of human existence has occupied the first place in my reflections, and I feel irresistibly moved to speak in defence of human dignity, sustained by the mysterious action of Christ, who is our God, but who became our brother to save us’ (18 Feb 1982, trans FSP- from ‘The Story of my life’. See also G&M p66-67).Jane and Maryanne

We don’t have time to articulate what St. John Paul II referred to as an ‘adequate anthropology’ or ‘integral vision of man’ here. Suffice to say that human dignity is innate and not something we have to achieve.[3] We need to learn to see the person for who they are and not just the problems or benefit they present us with (utilitarian attitude). They are entrusted to me[4], created for their own sake (GS 24) never to be used or manipulated etc. In Chapter 1 of Love and Responsibility, Wojtyła described what he called the ‘personalistic norm.’ Once we understand who man is, the only adequate response is love (CTTOH p. 201). We cannot help but approach others with a sense of reverence for all that God has done and will continue to do in them (RH 33), we want to pour out our lives in service of others. This helps us to understand why St. JPII returned to the subject of human dignity so often- it was not to just make us feel good, He knew that it could lead to a radical shift in civilization.

St John Paul II’s special focus on man[5] which is clearly articulated in his first encyclical (‘man is the way of the Church’ RH 37-42)[6] is not limited to offering theoretical content about human dignity. He understand that we are perfected in the context of relationships,[7] especially the I-thou relationship.[8] ‘The thou assists me in more fully discovering and even confirming my own I… far from leading me away from my subjectivity, in some sense more firmly grounds me in it’ (PC p242-243). ‘Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself (C.f. Lk 17:33)’ (GS 24).

 In this way of being with people, we can see that John Paul II both welcomed Christ in others and presented Christ to them at the same time – which he saw as an encounter with the mystery of the Holy Trinity (he has also referred to it as a ‘spirituality of communion’). 

Human dignity can only be realized within the context of authentic community. We need to be open to entering the lives of others, understanding their experiences, their joys and suffering. Even as a younger man attending a party, Karol would often be found in the corner deeply engrossed in conversation with someone. St John Paul II was an expert at remembering important details of people’s lives. There have been critics who argue that when the faithful chose to enter into the human experiences of others especially as a first step in evangelizing, they run the risk of becoming enmeshed in subjectivism and relativism. ‘Is it not possible one could get so caught up in another’s experience and get stuck without a point of reference, that is, the objective truth which is needed to ground and guide us?’

In responding to this question, it is important to remember that when Saint Pope John Paul II turned his attention to man, the first and primary focus was on Jesus Christ (The Man). He was never alone with people, he understood that relationships unfold in the presence of the Holy Trinity and that we are being called to imitate and participate in this communion of persons. St. JPII understood that a relationship with God is the primary I-Thou relationship each person needs. When touching on the subject of who man is (or of Christian humanism, philosophical anthropology etc.), the most important message that JPII repeated constantly, was that it is ‘Christ who reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear’ (GS 22). He understood that only the Creator knows the heart of his creature[9] and is able to bring him to Perfection. So Christ was His point of reference, guiding his interactions. This leads us straight to the heart of JPII’s charism and spirituality- the fact that he is Christocentric. He knew that Christ was the answer to the questions and suffering of the many people he met and he strove to both recognize the Lord’s presence and work in the other person and to introduce them to Him.

What does this focus on Christ look like in JPII’s way of being with others? His prayer life was certainly not limited to his private Chapel. He showed us that it is not enough to have devotions, routines, or blocks of prayer as bookends at the beginning and end of our day, where prayer is a separate compartment of our life. JPII sought to be constantly in the presence of the Blessed Trinity and to bring others into this Divine Exchange of Love. Though he desired to be a cloistered contemplative when he was younger, he learnt to be a contemplative active and he showed us that it is possible to be in union with Christ throughout the busyness of our day. ‘In every age consecrated men and women must continue to be images of Christ the Lord, fostering through prayer a profound communion of mind with him (cf. Phil 2:5-11), so that their whole lives may be penetrated by an apostolic spirit and their apostolic work with contemplation’ JPII, Vita Consecrata (25 Mar 1996) 9. JPII encountered God within each person attending his audiences, when he was lying prostrate in prayer in his chapel and when he was writing a document (with a short prayer in the top corner of the page). At each moment of his life, he was seeking communion with God.

As we strive to ‘pray constantly’ (1 Thess 5:17), we learn to hear and respond to the Holy Spirit in the many ways He is communicating with us throughout our day, through each event that happens, through our emotions, thoughts and body, as we receive the Sacraments, as we sit before a magnificent waterfall, or listen to a piece of music, or in an encounter with a person or group of people that challenges us. God is constantly revealing himself through our experiences. When we learn to perceive what God is saying to us, we encounter His love and gentle guidance. We also receive the grace to turn away from sin and be transformed into a new creation, to put on the mind of Christ and allow Him to bring His work in us, to perfection. It is only in learning the art of contemplating Christ ourselves that we can hope to introduce others to Him and help them to perceive what He might be saying to them too. At the beatification of Mother Teresa (19 Oct 2003), Pope John Paul II said that “unless the missionary is a contemplative, he cannot proclaim Christ in a credible way.”

If we say that God speaks through human experience, we must offer a clarification. There might otherwise be an understandable fear that the contemplative might nevertheless become stuck in worldly affairs and focused on their subjective view of what God is saying/doing. We can run the risk of interpreting God’s direction in whatever way suits us at the time, unless we broaden our view of experience beyond that which is immediately before us. We know that God’s communication to us is not limited to our personal experience. He has been speaking to us throughout human history. This is why we can learn something about our dignity and how to live it out for example, by studying the works of various authors and disciplines over time. Our perception must take into account the experiences of the broader human family.

Most importantly, the fullness of God’s communication was in Christ, the Word made flesh. His example and teaching have been passed on to us through the Church. This is why Scripture and Tradition are not a luxury, but a necessity if we want to learn to be more contemplative. Thus, this contemplative way of being involves abiding in the heart of the Church, receiving her treasures and participating in her mission. We don’t just want to present a particular teaching to someone struggling; we want them to see how they can encounter the person of Christ and be personally nourished by participating in the life of the Church.

So we are starting to see that this Charism not only involves having a comprehensive philosophical anthropology and understanding of human dignity, becoming contemplative and perceiving how God speaks through human experience, it also involves a particular method in bringing the Good news to others. Pope John 23rd said in his opening speech at the Second Vatican Council, “The greatest concern of the ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously… the substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into account.”

JPII’s particular method of presenting the faith informs how we evangelize (the first part of our apostolate). Evangelization for an MG is not simply about finding the most persuasive or entertaining way of conveying the Truth. We are open to learning about different cultures, religions and means of communication (languages, music, dance etc.), certainly. This is very important. Saint John Paul II spoke 12 languages fluently, but would also try to learn some of the language of each country he visited, he would be briefed about their culture and political situation, etc.  He would try to get to know his sheep. ‘’I know my sheep (John 10:14)’… a bishop should try to ensure that as many as possible of those who, together with him, make up the local Church can come to know him personally. He for his part will seek to be close to them, to know about their lives- what gives joy to their hearts and what saddens them. Such mutual acquaintance cannot be built through occasional meetings: It comes from a genuine interest in what is happening in their lives regardless of age, social status, or nationality, whether they are close at hand or far away’ Cf. Vatican Council II, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church, 16.CP and JPII

‘It is difficult to formulate a systematic theory on how to relate to people, yet I was greatly helped in this by the study of personalism during the years I devoted to philosophy. Every human being is an individual person and therefore I cannot program a priori a certain type of relationship that could be applied to everyone, but I must, so to speak, learn it anew in every case. Jerzy Liebert’s poetry expresses this effectively: ‘I study you, my friend…Slowly I study you, slowly… This difficult task, its gain… brings joy to my heart and pain’… I never felt that I was meeting an excessive number of people. Nonetheless, I was always concerned to safeguard the personal quality of each relationship. Every person is a chapter to himself’ (Rise, Let us be on our way, p. 65-66).

An MG also learns to preach the Gospel in such a way that relates to the person’s lived experience. Speaking of St John of the Cross, John Paul II said, “He knew how to introduce people to familiar conversation with God by teaching them to discover His presence and His love in all circumstances, whether favorable or unfavorable, in moments of fervor and in periods of apparent abandonment alike” Apostolic letter, 14 Dec 1990. When you not only appreciate the ethnicity and culture of a person, but also are aware of their joys, hopes and struggles, the Gospel can be preached in a way that is not only relevant and attractive, it is personal.

This method is not however simply a process of matching problems with the right teaching or Scripture. It involves giving yourself to Christ to use as an instrument- being open to being led by the Spirit. We don’t go in with a preconceived agenda or series of solutions, instead, we give ourselves. Through us the Lord will help the other person identify Truth present already in their circumstances. ‘The Holy Spirit ‘enables one to discover the contemporary value of the gospel for all human situations. He adapts the understanding of the truth to every circumstance, so that this truth does not remain merely abstract and speculative, but frees the Christian from the dangers of duplicity and hypocrisy. To this end, the Holy Spirit enlightens each one personally, to guide him in his conduct, by showing him the way to go and by giving him just a glimpse of the Father’s plan for his life’ General Audience, 24 April 1991.

Even when we are confident that we know something that will help someone else, we are called to take up the challenge of helping the other person to see this for themselves. As we have already said, it is not enough to speak the truth and expect someone to be instantly won over and change their life. JPII knew that growth in holiness is a dynamic process and not an instantaneous event. We have learnt nowadays that expecting RCIA members to simple memorize the Churches teaching is not sufficient. The person must be receptive and seeking Truth. In order to own, accept, or give ones assent to a hard teaching, the person must be involved in the process (this is the heuristic approach that he suggested the Second Vatican Council adopt). We cannot rely on the Churches teaching authority or even the witness of the faithful (though these can be powerful in themselves and JPII speaks a great deal about them too). JPII drew our attention to the importance and role of self-determination. He recognized that if a person uses their self- efficacy, their free will to choose to search, to understand and apply what is learnt, then deep conversion is possible. They do not believe simply because the Church says so, or because they know a good Catholic, but believe because they have consciously explored the matter, and came to discover the answers. They claim these answers and are motivated to integrate or assimilate them into their daily lives, putting what they believe into action.

Let’s turn now to look at some of the aspects of JPII’s art of sharing the Gospel in an age that is resistant to religion and arguably to God too.

  • Make time for[10] and learn about the other.[11] Be present to them,[12] learn to dialogue effectively,[13] always ready to share in the joys and sorrows[14] of the other (learning to suffer with others[15]).Acga
  • Create a safe space for the other to open up, listen to the data of their consciousness and understand what this says about them.[16] This helps them to see the reality of themselves and what is happening within them. At the same time they experience that we see them and we welcome and accept who they are as a person, affirming what is good[17] and what we have in common.[18]
  • Help others to be confident[19] and trust that they have the capacity to know and follow what is truly good,[20] whilst at the same time- being ready to discover truth yourself,[21] don’t go in with an agenda or be wary of the temptation that you have all the answers.[22]
  • Identify when the person is open to truth (e.g. when existential questions arise) and invite them to connect their subjective experience with objective truth when they are not able to,[23] proposing (never imposing) what God might be saying to them.
  • Learn to present the truth in a beautiful way through our authentic witness/example,[24] using words that can paint a picture of the ideal that corresponds to the persons innate inclination towards goodness, truth and beauty. This involves drawing upon the work of God throughout history (especially in the Church, e.g. JPII often referred to the stories in the Scripture[25] where the questions of one’s heart find answers from Revelation Himself). In this approach, one overcomes the obstacles of fear[26] and indifference (even to the point of being ready to lay down our lives). ‘Every person has the right to hear the ‘good news.’[27]
  • To recognize the importance of our own conversion and growth in being able to carry out this mission effectively.[28]

Through this process we are helping people mature in their thinking and acting. This involves an interior formation of their consciousness and attitudes.[29] Others learn to effectively integrate[30] the Gospel into the depths of their being, and thereafter in every level of culture and society.

As we touched on above, the training school, where we learn to be a gift in this way, is our relationships (with God, others (especially our families) and ourselves). Here our hearts are transformed. Properly understood and lived out, this way of being does not just help the individual to grow in their relationship with God and others, it can lead to a renewal of every aspect of the Churches activity and mission, every way the faith is lived out and presented to others. We can recognize the urgency of this process when we understand the necessity of hearts needing to be transformed in order to address the source of society’s problems.[31]

It is a brave move to try to describe any charism which is so new in the Church. As we have said, it usually takes the witness of many lives over a period of time, to gain a fuller understanding of the specific gift. For now, those of us called to be involved can work together, asking the Holy Spirit to bring to completion the work that has begun in us.


[1] At the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Wojtyła suggested that the Council adopt a heuristic method in its documents, that is, that the Church help others discover the truth for themselves rather than simply giving them the answers. Archbishop Wojtyła addressing his fellow bishops on GS on 24 Sept 1964 said, ‘It is appropriate that the Council speak in such a way that the world see we teach not only in an authoritative way, but that we seek together with it a just and balanced solution to the difficult problems of human life. The question is not whether we already know the truth well, but rather how to enable the world to find the truth and make it its own’ (Acta Synodalia, III:5, p298-300).

[2] ‘A culture of being does not exclude having: it considers it as a means to seek a true integral humanization, in such a way that ‘having’ is put at the service of ‘being’ and ‘behaving’ (L’Osservatore Romano, 4 May 1987, 5). ‘When progress is not directed towards helping man to be more, rather than have more… man cannot [help to] become the slave of things, the slave of economic systems… the slave of his own products” (RH 50).

[3] ‘Who the human being essentially is derives primarily from within that being. All externalizations- activity and creativity, work and products- have here their origin and their cause… a rational and free being’ (Person and Community p. 178). ‘Man is more valuable for what he is than for what he has’ (GS 35; 1 May 2000, trans. LOR- ‘The story of my life’ p. 195).

[4] ‘As soon as I meet people, I pray for them, and this helps me in all my relationships. It’s difficult for me to tell how others perceive this. You would have to ask them. Yet I always follow this principle: I welcome everyone as a person sent to me and entrusted to me by Christ’ Rise, let us be on our way p66-67.

[5] I want to confide to you, on this subject, that the reflection on man and, first then, a peculiar and direct interest in the concrete man- each individual man- as a creature with natural and supernatural dignity, thanks to the convergent and provident action of God the Creator and the Son of God, our Redeemer- is for me a mental habit that I have always had, but that has acquired a clarity after the experience of my youth and the call to priesthood and pastoral life’ 3 November 1979, trans. FSP – from ‘The Story of my life’ p 41. ‘I must say that my concern for ‘the acting person’ did not arise from the disputes with Marxism or, at least, not as a direct response to those disputes. I had long been interested in man as person. Perhaps my interest was due to the fact that I had never had a particular predilection for the natural sciences. I was always more fascinated by man… the development of my studies centred on man- on the human person- can ultimately be explained by my pastoral concern. And it is precisely from a pastoral point of view that, in Love and Responsibility, I formulated the concept of a personalistic principle’ CTTOH p 199-200.

[6] ‘The Church’s fundamental function in every age and particularly in ours is to direct man’s gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity towards the mystery of God, to help all men to be familiar with the profundity of the Redemption taking place in Christ Jesus’ RH 27. The person “is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission: the individual is the primary and fundamental way for the Church, the way traced out by Christ Himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption.” (CL 36)

[7] “Human perfection, then, consists not simply in acquiring an abstract knowledge of the truth, but in a dynamic relationship of faithful self-giving with others”(Fides et Ratio, 32)

[8] “In the I-thou relationship, an authentic interpersonal community develops (regardless of its form or variety) if the I and the thou abide in a mutual affirmation of the transcendent value of the person (a value that may also be called dignity) and confirms this by their acts. Only such a relationship seems to deserve the name communio personarum (GS 12)’ p246 PC.

[9] 2:25, Rev 2:23, Acts 1:24. “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ! To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “what is in man”. He alone knows it. So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has the words of life, yes, of eternal life.” JPII, First homily, 22 October 1978.

[10] During his pastoral visitations he followed a personal pattern which included a separate meeting with the clergy. ‘I wanted to give an opportunity to each of them to confide in me, to share the joys and concerns of their particular ministry’ Rise let us be on our way p76. ‘My opportunities to meet the people came not only during pastoral visitations and other public events. The door of my residence at 3 Franciszkanska Street was always open to everyone. A bishop is a shepherd; so he should be with the people, for the people, and at the service of the people. Everyone had direct access to me at all times. All were welcome to my home… you might say that the residence was throbbing with life’ Rise, let us be on our way p131-132.

[11] This is not just true when we are physically present but at other times, it is important for us to learn about the people we are serving. ‘The Church must be aware of mans ‘situation’, his possibilities, the threats that oppose the endeavor to make human life more human [PPVI: Populorum Progressio 21: AAS 59 (1967) 267-268], that oppose the process of him living according to his dignity (Redemptor Hominis (RH) 42).

[12] Speaking to a group of young people, Pope John Paul II said, ‘’If I had not already learned to be ‘with you’ something so beautiful and difficult that I learned a long, long time ago, most probably I would not have been able to do this, and you would not reach out to grasp my robes as you do, as you say, ‘Come!’ ’Stay with us!’ 10 June 1987, trans. FSP- ‘The story of my life’ p86-87.

[13] We can see this in the way JPII spoke to students in the classroom or on camping trips, how he related to people of other faiths, leaders of other countries, and people who had hurt him or others. He tried to not only speak their native language, but also the ‘language of their heart.’

[14] Gaudium et Spes, opening line.

[15] Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi 39-40. This entails learning to be compassionate- ‘Speaking from experience, I can tell you that as an adolescent, I was above all intimidated by human suffering. There was a time when I was afraid to approach those who were ill: I felt a sort of remorse when confronted with this suffering that I had been spared. In addition, I felt embarrassed; I thought that all I could say to the sick was like a ‘bounced check’… the pastoral ministry, by leading me more and more often to meet the sick, has enabled me to emerge from this period of timidity. I must add at this point that I have emerged from it mainly because the sick themselves have helped me to do so’ Frossard, ‘Be not Afraid’ p80-81. See also Rise, Let us be on our way p75. In SoR, Archbishop Wojtyła called this an ‘attitude of identity and solidarity’ p274.

[16] ‘Action reveals the person… action gives us the best insight into the inherent essence of the person and allows us to understand the person most fully’ The Acting Person p11. ‘The efficacy of the person, therefore, ultimately brings to light the subjectivity proper to the person, and it does so every time it is exercised: in every action, choice, and decision, it somehow brings this subjectivity out of the dark and makes it a distinct ‘phenomenon’ of human experience’ Person and Community p230.

[17] Christifidelis Laici, 37

[18] Nostra Aetate 2; CTTOH p77, 82, 146-149; RH 29,70; SoR p30

[19] We see this not only in the way he spoke to people, especially the young (‘’Why do you so often meet them [young people]?… My answer is very simple: I have confidence in young people. I see in them the future of the world, the future of the Church. I believe that the youth of today want to build a world of justice, truth, and love; and with God’s help they can do so’ 22 November 1986, trans LOR,- ‘The story of my life’ p87-88), but also in writings such as The Acting Person and Person and Community, where he provides key insights into how we can help people to work through overwhelming emotions, memories etc., that seem to determine our behavior.

[20] We must resist the drive to provide solutions as we come to see and understand the other person, adopting what Archbishop Wojtyła called a ‘heuristic method’ we learn how to help the other person to discover what Pope Benedict XVI has called ‘God’s handwriting’ in their life so that in so far as is possible, they come to discover and own the truth themselves, accepting the responsibility this involves. This both respects their freedom (self-determination) and puts them in greater contact with the Source of their freedom. Their freedom (GS 17, VS 38) to choose what to do cannot be taken from them (it is inalienable). ‘By its nature, because it is what it is, the person is its own master (sui juris), and cannot be ceded to another or supplanted by another in another in any context where it must exercise its will or make a commitment affecting its freedom (it is alteri incommunicabilis)’ (L&R p125). People need to learn to exercise this gift in order to develop a sense of confidence that ‘all things are possible’ with God, to develop a sense of responsibility… for Redemption to become a reality in their lives.

[21] See Novo Millenio Inuente (NMI) at 45 and CTTOH p125-126. “In the young there is, in fact, an immense potential for good and for creative possibility. Whenever I meet them in my travels through the world, I wait first of all to hear what they want to tell me about themselves, about their society, about their Church. And I always point out: ‘What I am going to say to you is not as important as what you are going to say to me. You will not necessarily say it to me in words; you will say it to me by your presence, by your song, perhaps by your dancing, by your skits, and finally by your enthusiasm.’ The Pope speaking about the establishment of WYD’s on 20 December 1985 in CTTOH p125-126.

[22] Speaking of the gathering in Assisi, JPII said, ‘Nor was it a matter on the part of the representatives of the great religions, of negotiating upon convictions of faith in order to arrive at a syncretistic religious consensus among ourselves. On the contrary, it was a matter of together turning, in a disinterested way, toward the capital objective of peace among men and among the peoples, or rather it was a matter of turning, all of us, toward God, in order to implore this gift from him’ 10 January 1987, trans. LOR- ‘The story of my life’ p142.

[23] ‘In every place and circumstance, consecrated persons should be zealous heralds of Jesus Christ, ready to respond with the wisdom of the Gospel to the questions posed today by the anxieties and the urgent needs of the human heart’ Vita Consecrata 81

[24] See for example GS 21; SoR p33, 207; AGD (Decree of Missions) 11; Vita Consecrata (VC) 9, 81; NMI 16; Redemptoris Missio 42, 46-47.

[25] The more we pray with the Scriptures and assimilate the teaching of Christ, the more we ‘Put on the mind of Christ’ and are better ready to give ourselves and others and answer to the questions they have (1 Peter). ‘An essential element of spiritual formation is the prayerful and meditated reading of the word of God (Lectio Divina), a humble and loving listening of him who speaks… it will make conversion easy… in the sense of nourishing our heart with the thoughts of God, so that the faith (as a response to the word) becomes our new basis for judging and evaluating persons and things, events and problems.’ Pastores Dabo Vobis n.47, 25 March 1992. ‘We are often faced with the very simple and elementary question of what we should be doing with our lives. We can find the answer in the Gospel, by looking at Jesus Christ’ The Way to Christ p24.

[26] ‘From the beginning of his pontificate, then, John Paul II did nothing but fulfil the same mission as the Apostles, the mission, that is, of proclaiming, of communicating, the message of the Gospel everywhere. And not once did he ever water down the message out of fear that the media might inflate the “unpopularity” of what he was saying’ Cardinal Dziwisz, A life with Karol: my 40 year friendship with the man who became pope’ p94-95.

[27] ‘Nowadays the call to conversion which missionaries address to non-Christians is put into question or passed over in silence. It is seen as an act of ‘proselytizing’; it is claimed that it is enough to help people become more human or more faithful to their own religion, that it is enough to build communities capable of working for justice, freedom, peace, and solidarity. What is overlooked is that every person has the right to hear the ‘good news’ of the God who reveals and gives himself in Christ, so that each one can live out in its fullness his or her proper calling’ Redemptoris Missio (7 Dec 1990) 46

[28] ‘The first step to evangelization is to accept the grace of conversion into our own minds and hearts, to let ourselves be reconciled to God. We must first experience God’s gracious mercy, the love of Christ which has ‘reconciled us to himself’ and given us ‘the work of handing on this reconciliation’ (2 Cor. 5:18)’ Homily 15 Sept 1988. To be a Missionary of His Gospel, means learning to be authentic in our living and preaching of the Gospel. Only then do we become credible disciples and the ambassadors of hope the world so desperately needs. ‘The proclamation of the Gospel carries with it the constant call to an attitude of conversion on the part of all Christians and must penetrate not only personal and family life but also the social structures, to make them more in conformity with the demands of justice. Let us never forget that only hearts converted and renewed interiorly will improve the moral and human tone of society.” JPII, Homily, 4 Feb 1985.

[29] Presupposing ‘the truth of faith and pure doctrine… [there is a] call for that truth to be situated in the human consciousness and [this] calls for a definition of the attitude or rather the many attitudes… this seems to be the primary theme in the implementation of the Council’ SoR p412.

[30] ‘It is not sufficient, for instance, to know in an abstract way that there is a God and that we ought to do the good and to avoid the evil. This knowledge becomes efficacious for life when a subject builds his interior world according to it and develops an attitude which corresponds to it’ (Rocco Buttiglione, The thought of the man who became Pope John Paul II (1997) Eerdmanns Publishing Company USA, p 366, citing Part III of SoR). In RH, JPII talks about ‘assimilating and appropriating the whole of reality’(25). When speaking about faith, JPII says that ‘it is not merely the response of the mind to an abstract truth’ (p20 SoR), it is the acceptance of revelation and the response to it’ (p53 SoR) which he says involves a free disposal of himself (DV 5) or ‘self-abandonment to God’ (p20 SoR)- it requires grace and our cooperation with grace (both a conscious attitude and God’s gift). This process ‘constitutes a new stage in the Churches advance towards the ‘fullness of divine truth’ (p18 SoR). This process ‘constitutes a new stage in the Churches advance towards the ‘fullness of divine truth’ (p18 SoR). So it is not enough to think or do the right thing, it has to become part of us, something we believe with our heart and are ready to live out. This is the only way we can be true witnesses, living the faith authentically as ‘Witnesses of the Resurrection’.

[31] Apostolic letter- Redemptionis Donum (25 March 1984) 9