On November 27-29, 2023, a series of Franciscan formation days for the friars of the Province of St. Anthony and Bl. James of Strepar in Poland (Cracow) took place in Rychwałd, Sanok, and Wrocław, Poland.
Friar Jacek WALIGÓRA, OFM Cap., Director of the Padre Pio Aid Foundation in Cracow, offered meditations and gave homilies. In addition, he prepared a list of questions for personal reflection.
In his invitation to this event, the Minister Provincial, Friar Marian GOŁĄB, told the friars that “this is an initiative to help us effectively celebrate the jubilees [of the Franciscan Centenary], namely, the Approval of the Later Rule (2023), the Stigmata of St. Francis (2024), the Canticle of the Creatures (2025) and the Death of St. Francis (2026).” “During this formation event we want to strengthen our spirit by praying together, listening to meditations and having discussions.”
Friar Jacek explained that, to St. Francis of Assisi, living according to the Gospel meant following Christ through his own actions and words and maintaining the fundamental attitude that permeated his entire life: humility, poverty, mortification and selflessness.
Friar Jacek went on to talk about the clearly declining number of vocations to religious and priestly life: “There are certainly outside factors at work, such as anti-Christian culture, the promotion of an anti-vocational mentality, mass secularization, the constant undermining of the Church’s authority, and finally demographic decline. However, beyond these reasons, there is a factor that depends largely on us and has a significant impact on the number of candidates interested in pursuing life according to our charism. This factor is our own lives. The number of vocations to our Order largely depends on how concretely we live the grace of the vocation we received from God, and the extent to which we live out our charism.”
He added, “If our charism is not lived out, it is destined for extinction! If it is not lived out, it loses its attractiveness, and then, not even the best vocation campaign or formation program can stop the falling number of vocations. The number of new vocations is one of the indicators that, in a way, determines how vibrantly we are living out our charism. The community of St. Francis’ first companions was formed thanks to the attractive example the friars set by their lives. Their joy and enthusiasm could clearly be seen.”
Friar Jan M. SZEWEK