Growing up, I loved reading the saints’ parables. I even had a whole book of saint biographies (St. Cecilia was my favorite!). But even among all those beautiful tales, the storied life of St. Francis of Assisi stood out.
Born in 1182 to a wealthy merchant family, Francis, as a youth, lived a charmed life, and he seemed to want nothing more than to continue living it. He was charming and well liked, he aspired to wealth and nobility, and he even sought glory in battle. He was on his way to join the Crusade—yes, the Crusade—intending to become a famous, powerful man, when God spoke to him in a dream, telling him to go home. At 25 years old, Francis felt the shame of his self-involved life, and with time (and one compassionate encounter with a leper), he became closer to God.
One day, Francis found himself in an ancient church, and it was there that God spoke to him directly, instructing him to repair His church. Though the Catholic church as a whole was experiencing corruption and upheaval, Francis thought God meant the literal church he was in—sometimes things get lost in translation—but he eventually figured it out, after fixing that old church anyway. He also renounced the life he knew and all his worldly possessions, lived as a beggar, and began to preach. He lived the Gospel to the letter and instructed his followers to do the same, living in poverty, caring for others unconditionally, and sharing his profound love of nature (see the Canticle of the Sun, AKA Canticle of the Creatures).
God helped Francis find his calling, and that’s what Franciscan colleges and universities hope to do for their students. They also promote the saint’s values, such as celebrating the Earth and its resources; respecting all people, regardless of their background; and giving to the most destitute and marginalized. Students at Franciscan schools learn to be ethical professionals, and like the man who inspired their education, leaders with a respect for the dignity of all mankind.
And here it is, a partial list of Franciscan colleges and universities, so you can seek out this education for yourself!