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Speaking Out: Embrace your student vocation

By  Mary French, Youth Speak News
  • September 9, 2020

With new public health regulations in place to combat COVID-19 in school boards nationwide and many of our exciting activities shut down or limited, there is no doubt this school year will be unlike any other.

Yet it’s a year that has already excited me, and that began early, with my college orientation weekend. We were assigned an excerpt from The Intellectual Life by French philosopher A.G. Sertillanges and this passage changed my perception of school and made me excited to start the academic year, not just for the time I was going to spend with my new friends but also for the act of studying. 

So, what’s the secret this book held? It explained education not just as a pathway towards our futures but also an influential part of our lives. School strengthens our will, our understanding, our God and our receptiveness to His will. 

“If you are designated as a light bearer, do not go and hide under the bushel,” wrote Sertillanges. “Love truth and its fruits of life, for yourself and others; devote to study and to the profitable use of study the best part of your time and your heart.”

Sertillanges describes student life as a vocation. This may seem at first odd since, in the Church, the word vocation generally refers to choosing the married, single or religious life. Yet, the word vocation means “a calling.” It is how we spend our time and where we place our attentiveness. Understood in this sense, we can have many vocations throughout our lives, since God puts us in many situations throughout our time on Earth.

“We must give ourselves from the heart, if the truth is to give itself to us,” Sertillanges writes.

By putting our heart into our studies, we can understand the vocational calling of student life. We start to realize the gift of learning; it can expand our understanding of life’s meaning. By embracing our student vocation, we praise and serve God by merely living out our life and present duties.

The life story of brother and sister Francisco and Jacinta Marto clearly illustrates the student vocation’s power. These siblings, and their cousin Lúcia dos Santos, began seeing heavenly manifestations of an angel and then Mother Mary in 1917 at Fatima in Portugal, visions that inspired increased worldwide devotion to Our Lady and the rosary.

During one of these apparitions, the Blessed Mother revealed to the Marto siblings that they would not live past their schooling years. For Francisco, this made concentrating on his studies all the more difficult: why put effort into studying if he would never use his education? 

Ironically, this very question shows just how vital Francisco’s student life was: it is not merely a gateway to the “big part” of one’s life — it was a vocation that glorified God. Who knows the treasures Francisco built up in Heaven and the people he touched during those final school days. And now he is a saint.

Everything, whether it be geometry, biology, literature or any other subject, brings us to a greater understanding of the world God has made for us. Because of that, our work as students is essential and blessed. By studying, we are praising and thanking God for the things He has made and the mind He has given us. 

If we keep waiting for the “good part” or the “big part” of our lives, we will miss out on the journey. The hours a student spends studying can be filled with great love, focus and acceleration towards God.

So, go forward, embracing this school year and your present vocations.

(French, 22, is a fourth-year liberal arts student at Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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