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Given the apparent contradictions of Francis' life, it should come as no surprise that this unlettered son of a medieval Italian cloth merchant, sometime socialite, sometime soldier, has inspired the founding of a philosophy and a way of life. The richness and complexity of his vision, the constant tension in his own thirteenth-century world-view: these translate into challenges for Franciscan Institutions of higher learning.In an ever more competitive context of student recruitment, program development, institutional advancement, and faculty/staff selection and retention, the present and the foreseeable future demand of us one thing very clearly: a profound sense of identity ( "who we are" ) and a sense of mission ( "what we do" ) that flows from it. That requires a "language, " a way of explaining our identity and mission to a broader public. And to learn that language well, so that we may express our vision clearly, requires immersion in its culture, a universe of symbols and gestures, a worldview.In order to do this, as in any "Language 101" class, we must begin with some basic information about the culture we are entering, and for us this means understanding something of the texts and context of the founders of the Franciscan tradition, Francis and Clare. Fortunately, excellent resources about them are available, in contemporary English, including their complete writings ( Armstrong, 1993 ; Armstrong 2000 ). Instead of anything like a full description here, I would prefer to outline some major contours of the tradition Francis founded, and to name the challenges he presents to higher education, from my point of view, as a member of the Franciscan educational institution for twenty years, and as one who has spent the last decade exploring the issue of the Franciscan Intellectual endeavor.Franciscan School of Theology 1712 Euclid Avenue, CA 94709 Berkeley, Tel. ( 510 ) 848-5232 Fax. 510 ) 549-9466
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