The gospels tell us about those things that Jesus did while here among us. Feeding people, teaching, healing, comforting, raising from the dead, and who knows what more that was not later written down. Of course, we believe that Jesus is still here among us, within us. Franciscans, as well as all Christians, are called to continue the work of Jesus in the world. Teresa of Avila put it well when she wrote, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” We are the Body of Christ. It is our place to continue the work of creating the kingdom of heaven now, here on Earth. From the very beginning of his conversion experience Francis saw the need in himself to help others in need. He worked with the lepers, the most outcast of his time. He helped the poor. When other men began to join him he taught them the importance of ministering to those in need.
In the Order of St. Francis each brother looks at the community in which he lives and determines what ministries he will perform. We are all called to serve within the church and outside the church. All of the friars serve in some manner within the churches they attend. They serve as Eucharistic ministers, acolytes, lectors, prayer leaders, rectors, and many other services within the church. Some of the brothers are priests and deacons and function as such within their parishes.
However, all of the friars are also called to minister to those in need outside of the parish community as well. Many of them work at feeding the hungry in various forms, such as breakfast or lunch programs, food banks, or distributing food to people in poor communities. Many also work with the homeless in a number of ways providing shelter, helping them find other services, and just being present to them and letting them know they are not alone.
There are several brothers who work in healthcare in various forms such as a physician, nurses and those who provide other services to the sick. Some provide counseling, and others hospice care or just visiting the sick, offering comfort. We have brothers who focus their ministry on the elderly, checking on those who are alone, or providing spiritual sustenance to those in retirement homes. A few brothers also expend their energy on fundraising efforts to support various charities. We have friars who work with children in various capacities as well, tutoring, counseling, or special needs.
Often some of the most personal ministry is simply with that person the brother meets on the street, or on the bus, or at any place, being the presence of Jesus to someone in need. This is who we are who we are called to be. This is the building up of the kingdom of God.