"Preach the Gospel, and, if necessary, use words." (St Francis of Assisi)
Being a man of limited education Francis had little time for the need for academic learning. For him, the best form of education was the education that life could teach you.
When seeking St Francis' approval to teach the friars, St Anthony was told that he could teach them only as long as it did not interfere with their spiritual work and prayer life. Franciscan work for justice, then is rooted in the Gospel and based on action. That is the case for the staff and students of Padua College. Working for justice at Padua requires a ‘conversion’ of heart much like that occurred to St Francis and his experience with lepers. On first meeting a leper, Francis was revolted and ran away. But on later understanding that each person and creature was indeed his brother and sister, Francis embraced the leper and began a life time of service to the poor and marginalised.
While leprosy, as a disease, is no longer common in the twenty-first century, symbolically it still remains while there is violence, war, disease and injustice in the world. As modern Franciscans we are encouraged to be on the look-out for these modern ‘lepers’ and to be moved to do something to alleviate them. At the core of all that we do St Francis challenges us to be peacemakers, thus echoing the words of Jesus in his famous sermon. His challenge is not easy, or to be taken lightly if we are to work in the creation of God’s kingdom here on earth.