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As the new semester gains momentum, it is easy for students to find themselves swept up in the current. It does not take much for the excitement of new classes and professors to be overshadowed by detailed syllabi, mountains of new textbooks, and the apathy that often accompanies the frigid winter months, which sometimes endure well beyond spring break.
At the start of each semester since my sophomore year—and often following mid-semester breaks—I have found that one of the best ways to properly orient my studies is to read Simone Weil’s essay Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God. A literature professor assigned it as class reading my sophomore year, and the profundity of the piece has resonated deeply with me.
“Only he who is capable of attention can do this.
“The solution of a geometry problem does not in itself constitute a precious gift, but the same law applies to it because it is the image of something precious. Being a little fragment of particular truth, it is a pure image of the unique, eternal and living Truth, the very Truth which once in a human voice declared “I am the Truth.”
“Every school exercise, thought of in this way, is like a sacrament.
“In every school exercise there is a special way of waiting upon truth, setting our hearts upon it, yet not allowing ourselves to go out in search of it. There is a way of giving our attention to the data of a problem in geometry without trying to find the solution, or to the words of a Latin or Greek text without trying to arrive at the meaning, a way of waiting, when we are writing, for the right word to come of itself at the end of our pen, while we merely reject all inadequate words.”
Intense focus on our schoolwork will help us learn to be more attentive in our prayer, faith, and service. Our grades and enjoyment of class material will likewise benefit. Let us pray for blessings upon our academic work in this new semester, taking Weil’s words to heart as we strive for holiness as attentive, focused, and Truth-seeking students.
Lilia Draime is a junior at a Catholic university in the United States, and her column, Living Christ on Campus, will appear every other Thursday. Aleteia has decided to keep Lilia’s institution anonymous so as to keep the focus on what she has to say about issues that impact all young students struggling to live their faith on college and university campuses, whether those institutions be Catholic or not.