You may think that as a university president I have possessed a life-long love for education. Well, not so. As a young girl I constantly complained about school and its drudgery. Nevertheless, my demanding mother, a first generation American of Japanese parents, took academic achievement very seriously. Her constant reply was, “School is work. Work is good. Now get to work!” As a point of honor, I obeyed. It was not until later in life that I began to sincerely appreciate the real value of education. And, it was not until I began my work as a professional and a scholar in higher education that I could honestly define school in the loftier terms so often used by college educators and serious students. Rather than “work,” I now find myself characterizing the college experience in such high expressions as “the joy of learning,” “the search for truth and beauty,” “understanding the human experience,” and “faith seeking reason.”
These lofty aspects of education are important and too often overlooked. Nevertheless, they are not enough to fully describe an authentically Franciscan college experience. For St. Francis and other leaders of the early Franciscan religious and educational movement, learning was not meant to be solely intellectual. Knowledge was not gained simply for its intrinsic value. Education was not valuable as an end unto itself. Rather, education was to be a means to serve others, to build and strengthen relationships among God’s people and to build the human community. Now, that requires work!
The life of St. Francis is a beautiful example of hard work. In fact some Franciscan scholars assert that he seemed always to learn things the hard way. For example, when St. Francis was praying in the broken-down church at San Damiano, he heard God’s call to rebuild His church. St. Francis immediately embarked on a long and grueling building project “full of actual sweat, humiliation and hardship.” It wasn’t until much later that he understood that he was being called to build the broader church, the Kingdom of God on earth. This education for St. Francis was work in its most literal sense.
Yes, “School is work, and work is good.” Like St. Francis, we as educators and as students are commanded to “get to work” as we create living stones of each other. And, it is with these living stones that we are to build His church. Through education and formation we are called to do His work, a true labor of love for all whom we serve.
Tina S. Holland, Ph.D.
President, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University, formerly Our Lady of the Lake College