Saint Thomas Aquinas by Fra Bartolomeo, circa 1510. Wikimedia Commons

Speaking Out: No better classmate than a real saint

By  Kathleena Henricus, Youth Speak News
  • March 4, 2020

As February rolls into March, one of the biggest academic hurdles for high school and university students will be long gone: first semester.

While it may seem unimportant, second semester offers a chance to reset; to unwind — at least for a few days — from all the undue stress exam season brings. Essentially, it gives students an opportunity to try again, to start anew.

However, the second semester isn’t any less of a challenge than the first. Many students, involved in multiple extracurriculars or holding part-time jobs, are already drained and burnt out.

The coming academic months often leave us unmotivated, lacking time management and stumbling towards the finish line. Along the way, there are a lot of things we neglect because we deem school more important. It can be difficult to set aside one hour a week for Mass, let alone time to clear our minds to focus on it.

The world is constantly at work, and, in the thick of it, we need all the help we can get. Who better than a saint?

As a generation, I feel like our faith education is lacking in that we really don’t know much of the saints. We know they were great people, but often we lack that connection that would make them more relevant to our own lives.

Fortunately, there are plenty of saints built for the student population, if only we’d take a little time to know them. They are the patron saints of learners and studying, and getting to know them certainly doesn’t hurt in giving us a head start in battling all that life throws our way. Here are three that definitely should be on the reading list:

1. St. Thomas Aquinas: As the patron saint of students, St. Thomas was one of the first to relate theology and philosophy, to believe that both had a part to play in our lives; something that we are called, as students to do every day. He believed that science was not meant to overtake the faith, but that understanding and learning is what the faith calls us to do, to learn what we can and help others to the same.

2. St. Ursula: She is the patron saint of the Ursuline Order, known for educating girls in the 16th century, a time when women weren’t seen as worthy of education. Although she isn’t part of the mainstream saints we are taught about, she’s someone to call upon when we feel overwhelmed or undeserving. Schools have become an increasingly competitive place, where people are constantly fighting for limited spots to top programs, and even small failures can make you feel like an imposter. St. Ursula dedicated her life to forming an institution to educate those the world felt didn’t deserve to be, which makes her the perfect saint to call upon whenever we feel we are not measuring up as students.  

3. St. Joseph Cupertino: This 17th-century Franciscan friar lived a life thinking he was unintelligent and couldn’t do anything right, much like students can feel when we can’t understand what a teacher is trying to explain. However, we all know the issue isn’t not understanding; it’s the consequences, failing a test, getting a bad grade, potentially failing a course.

Our whole education system is measured on how well we do on a specific day, regardless of circumstance, and the same was asked of St. Joseph Cupertino. As the patron saint of test takers, he understood the pressures and got through the only test that mattered, by the Lord’s grace, to become a priest. As someone who spent his life constantly failing before success, he is exactly the person to call upon, both before an important test and after a failure.

The next couple of months will not be easy. With tensions rising between teachers’ unions and the government, we do not know what will happen next. By calling on our patron saints, we needn’t rely on just ourseleves to be successful and, by God’s grace, make it to summer break in one piece.

(Henricus, 16, is a Grade 11 student at Cawthra Park Secondary in Mississauga, Ont.)

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