Where Is My Mission?
Franciscan Formation – Inspirations (Part 8)

“All the friars are to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world and to every creature, following the example of Christ and St. Francis by actively participating in the Church’s mission of evangelization. Their entire religious life, therefore, is to be imbued with an apostolic spirit and all their apostolic work is to be informed by a religious spirit”[1].


I remember during one Provincial Chapter, the newly elected Minister Provincial blessed two of our confreres who volunteered to go to the missions. They were friars with extensive experience and were already about sixty years old. After they received their missionary crosses, all of the Capitulars began to applaud and came forward to congratulate them on their decision. The atmosphere was solemn and one could sense the conviction that “it is never too late to go on a mission.” A friar next to me said, “Look, what a paradox; the old grandfathers are volunteering for the missions and we young men just congratulate them and clap.”

One might say we relatively young men were put to shame. I thought we were supposed to remain where we were because there were things that had to be done at home in order for the missions “out there somewhere” to continue. Besides, we needed to carry out evangelization and pastoral care here as well. Is our mission wherever “here” is? After all, we know we are called to be Christ’s disciples and missionaries in every place and time. This, by the way, is the task for all Christians. However, not everyone can go on a mission. We realize that wherever we live, we are to proclaim the Good News in various ways. This is what qualifies us to be called disciples of the Lord[2].

We generally define a “mission” as an important quest that must be fulfilled. All Franciscans have this quest. It is not about performing some function or doing some job. Sometimes our energy is consumed by side issues: the institutions we are responsible for, the educational, cultural, renovation, social, therapeutic, and charitable activities we carry out, etc. Then, that “something” in the background of our life can become our main mission and the most important thing we do. It is easy to switch from being a missionary to being an official, a researcher, a social worker, a celebrity, an activist for renewal, and so on.

Even when we concentrate our activities on evangelization, other matters may intrude over time and take precedence. Then something changes in us; we end up focusing on other priorities; we wonder if it is profitable to conduct some retreat. We worry if the offering for our ministry is too small. We get agitated if we have not received a stipend for Mass. We justify ourselves by saying, “A worker deserves his pay”[3]. The important thing is what is in our hearts. Do we fail to consult the Lord before taking up a ministry and instead choose it to make money? This is probably a frequent temptation in our pastoral ministries.

When we think about our own formation, and therefore, about having a deeper relationship with Christ, it is worthwhile to purify our motives and actions. To do this, we need to see what is truly important in our ministry, work and lives. We may ask ourselves, “Well, I already know all that, so what?” We can change our internal motivations, but such transformation requires a process: surrendering everything to God in prayer, in the sacrament of conversion, and continually inviting the Holy Spirit to come to us with His holy activity[4]. Even if the change in us does not happen immediately, the very act of giving our lives to God has spiritual significance. Otherwise, we start justifying ourselves, “It’s not possible,” “It can’t be done any other way,” “You have to live on something,” etc. That is when our focus shifts and we end up carrying out another mission, one which is no longer evangelization.

For example, in the meeting between St. Francis with the Sultan of Egypt, Francis visits Melek-el-Kamel in order to convert him. He greets him, speaks kindly and courteously to him and establishes a friendly relationship. However, these are secondary activities. Francis’ primary goal is different and he does not hide it; he is a missionary and wants the Sultan to convert, to accept the Gospel and be saved[5]. However, if we accept (in line with prevailing trends) that the reason for this visit was to have a fraternal and peaceful interreligious meeting, then we must acknowledge that it was a diplomatic mission. As important as such meetings are, the Church constantly reminds us that our mission is to preach the Gospel. Anything related to our other activities and work is secondary and should only be in the background of our preaching.

We carry out this task in a variety of ways: through evangelization (so that people can come to know and love Jesus); catechesis (to help them develop their faith); pastoral care (so that they can grow and be formed); re-evangelization (to revive faith that has died); or the mission inter-gentes (going forth to those who have already come to us but do not know Christ). Christians make up 31% of the world’s population (Catholics are 18% of the world’s Christians). Non-believers comprise 16% of the world’s population and the remaining 53% are followers of other religions. If we consider that the number of Christians in Europe is steadily decreasing, we know that we have work to do[6].

Let us go back to our opening scenario about the decision made by our confreres. For many years, they served in the missions and performed various ministries at their friaries. However, they chose something that is a special task in the Church – a special mission for the Church “ad gentes,” going forth to areas where the Church is just taking root and needs gentle nurturing in order for those roots to grow more deeply[7]. I think the mission “ad gentes” requires a fairly radical response, leaving the places we have grown accustomed to and heading out into unfamiliar situations. The radical responses we give to God are developed in ourselves, through our daily responses, in the places where He has sent us.

General Delegate for Formation

[1] Friars Minor Conventual, Constitutions, Rome 2019, art. 91 §3.
[2] Cf. Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM), Aparecida, Concluding Document: Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, So That Our Peoples May Have Life in Him, Gubin 2014, no. 153.
[3] 1 Timothy 5:18.
[4] Cf. Later Rule X, 8 FF 104.
[5] Cf. St. Bonaventure, Sermons on Our Father St. Francis. Sermon 7, 19-23; Thomas of Celano, Vita prima no. 57 FF 422; Dzieje błogosławionego Franciszka i jego towarzyszy, 27.
[6] Bartłomiej Kulas, Religie na świecie, https://geografia24.pl/religie-na-swiecie/; Serwis Informacyjny eKai, https://www.ekai.pl/129-mld-katolikow-najnowsze-statystyki-kosciola/.
[7] Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, no. 32 et seq.