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Mission Monday: Anointing of the Sick as Mission


Continuing our series Sacraments and Social Mission: Living the Gospel, Being Disciples, current missioner Nate Mortenson writes today about his faith’s relationship to the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and his call to mission. 

Our calling to be present with those around us requires a lot more of me than I often realize. It’s a call to be present with those who are glad and rejoicing, but also with those who are sick and are in misery (thinking of the passage in Romans 12). On mission and back home in our own communities, we are called to accompany the sick, the lonely, the elderly, and the marginalized, in addition to the people we find it very easy to be around.

All of us are connected and united in God’s creation. We are all leveled to the same playing field, the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, the old and the young – we are all human. Thinking about the way St. Francis held such great honor and respect for all of God’s creation (people, animals, and everything else) is a great inspiration for us to remember the dignity God has given to all of His creation, not just to those who have “dignified” living conditions.

A very Franciscan photo by Nate Mortenson

The process of ongoing conversion is a true gift from God. We see how that played out in St. Francis’ life as he experienced several conversions along the way to eventually becoming recognized by the church as a saint. It’s easy to forget all of the experiences, doubts, and feelings of loneliness he may have had along the way. It’s a healing comfort knowing that God understands that our journey of faith is filled with challenges.

One of the biggest challenges for me in fulfilling my ministry is knowing that I won’t be able to do my best every single day, that there will be hard days and then there will be days filled with grace and love and generosity. While Mary and I are still in language school, our ministry right now is to learn Spanish and be present with our wonderful host family. My challenge is making it through the hard days when I’m just so exhausted from trying to communicate or just feeling absolutely defeated after a long day of miscommunications.

The biggest grace of healing I experienced with my relationship with Franciscan Mission Service has been the opportunity to spend time with the people who have gone before us in the mission field. There was something healing about the conversations we were able to have that allowed me to understand how beautiful mission work can be when I felt like I was in times of doubt or fear.

I think St. Francis would encourage people to live in constant contemplation. And I would say the same thing. Live in a sort of way that allows you to constantly consider your life and its surroundings and consequences in a prayerful way. Everything should be done with purpose and hopefully be inspired by prayer.

Mary and Nate recently returned from two years of mission at the rural Carmen Pampa University in Bolivia.

Nate, the youngest son of nine, hails from La Cross, Wisconsin. Mary grew up picking strawberries in small-town Minnesota. The couple met at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, where Mary studied sociology and outdoor leadership and Nate studied Spanish and geology. They share a passion for food and bicycling, and a desire to set their marriage on a foundation of service, simplicity, and a deeper global understanding.