And so the man in white approached the man in brown. The doctor asked the friar if he could become a Franciscan. “Yes indeed” was the warm and welcoming reply offered by the friar with a gentle smile. He continued with, “Perhaps you might like to learn about the Secular Franciscans?” This was all that was spoken, and all that was necessary. Little did the friar know that for some time now, he was being observed, that his way of dress and way of life was making inroads to a heart longing to know more, longing to love more.
“Come and see” was all the Master had to say to John and his brother James in reply to their “Where do you stay?” Two or three words were enough to start them on a journey that would last a lifetime––and culminate in eternity. But was that really such a different time and a different era? Surely, in today’s complex world and modern times the same heart-yearning questions are being asked of the Lord by those who sense the gentle invitation to follow the Master.
As with all things, good or bad, one thing led to another and soon the doctor was on his way to first profession as a Secular Franciscan. This only served to further ignite his heart burning with the desire to serve the Lord especially in the poor and marginalized. For reasons known only to the Holy Spirit and to the doctor himself, he chose to abandon his lucrative and highly prestigious practice in a large city hospital on the east coast of North America, and venture forth to an impoverished town on the west coast of South America. Unable to speak Spanish, and armed with only a stethoscope and a scale, he nonetheless was well endowed with good will, faith and courage––all the antibiotics and equipment one needs in order to accomplish the will of God. Years have passed and the number of children that have benefitted from his skill and love had gone beyond counting. Beginning with house calls, then the establishment of a medical clinic, and then an orphanage, this mustard seed took root and grew into a large shrub where the birds of the air nested in its protective branches.
From such small beginnings, may great destinies depend.
And to the unassuming friar who first spoke those inviting words to the doctor, it was just another ordinary day in the hospital. Nurses bustled about, interns with their scribbled charts and colored pens walked briskly from room to room, and the soft spoken chaplain made his daily rounds imparting calm to the nervous, comfort to the pained, and peace to the troubled––all the while quite unaware of the torrents of grace that washed ashore in his gentle wake.
* This true story was recounted by the friar himself, who asked that his name be withheld.
The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries,” but rather that we are always “missionary disciples.” If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!” (Jn 1:41). The Samaritan woman became a missionary immediately after speaking with Jesus and many Samaritans came to believe in him “Because of the woman’s testimony”(Jn 4:39). So too, Saint Paul, after his encounter with Jesus Christ, “immediately proclaimed Jesus” (Acts 9:20; cf. 22:6-21).
So what are we waiting for?
Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, no. 120.