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3 Saints for back-to-school

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Michele McKenna - published on 08/14/22

As you get ready to begin a new academic year, take these saints with you for help and inspiration.

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The start of a new school year is a uniquely stressful time of transition for most families. Whether you have small children getting ready for kindergarten or high schoolers preparing to move into dorms for the first time, the fall is a time of changing routines and establishing new habits. 

Change can be challenging. Like most things in life, though, the good news is, we have a saint for that! There are actually many saints who lived lives devoted to education in some form, but here are a few to get you started.

St. Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican who studied and taught theology, is traditionally considered the patron saint of students. When he was a student himself, he was large and slow to speak, and so he was originally thought to be rather dull minded, and his fellow classmates even nicknamed him the “Dumb Ox.” But this “Dumb Ox” went on to become one of the most brilliant theologians in the history of the Church. Here is a prayer St. Thomas Aquinas wrote for students:

Come, Holy Spirit, Divine Creator, true source of light and fountain of wisdom! Pour forth your brilliance upon my dense intellect, dissipate the darkness which covers me, that of sin and of ignorance. Grant me a penetrating mind to understand, a retentive memory, method and ease in learning, the lucidity to comprehend, and abundant grace in expressing myself. Guide the beginning of my work, direct its progress, and bring it to successful completion. This I ask through Jesus Christ, true God and true man, living and reigning with You and the Father, forever and ever. Amen.

St. Joseph of Cupertino

Joseph of Cupertino, the patron saint of studying, was born in Cupertino in the 17th century. As a young boy, he was frequently absent-minded and had a great deal of difficulty learning. It is now thought that he must have lived with some kind of learning disability, but at the time, his challenges only caused others to become impatient with him. He was not well-liked, even by his own family members, and he struggled to find his way in the world. He eventually wound up with the Franciscans and there, in community, he grew in holiness and humility.

Here is a popular prayer to St. Joseph of Cupertino, to be said before taking an exam:

O humble St. Joseph of Cupertino, help me especially in the decisive moments of this examination, protect me from forgetfulness and disturbing anxiety which often debilitates me. You struggled with forgetfulness and anxiety. I implore you to pray for me that I may receive the grace to calmly and thoughtfully take this examination and for these my intentions (mention your intentions here). Amen.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first U.S. citizen to become a saint. She was born in a well-to-do family in New York City in 1774. She was the mother to 5 children of her own, but also raised her late husband’s younger siblings after his death. She founded a religious order for women and the first Catholic schools in the United states. As the founder of the American system of Catholic education, she is considered the patron saint of Catholic schools.

Here is a teacher’s prayer to St. Elizabeth Seton:

Holy Father, You called Elizabeth Ann Seton to educate your children. Inspire us, by her example, to find your will in the present moment. Through her prayers, may we learn to teach others how to love like you. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Teacher.

Amen. 

When you’re packing your backpack for back-to-school this year, don’t forget to pack along a prayer or two. Remember to pray for students, teachers, and all families. May all the saints, our heavenly helpers, pray for us as we learn and grow in the year to come. 

– Michele McKenna is Director of Admissions for Magdalen College, a liberal arts college nestled in the mountains of Warner, New Hampshire, that prepares students to “go out into the deep.”

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