In this day and age, education is a necessity. And as a necessity, it often causes a lot of stress and turmoil. Because of the strife, it’s sometimes hard to remember that an education is also an incredible privilege, as access to education has not always been the norm. In fact, it was the efforts of Catholics throughout the centuries who saw to it that everyone was educated regardless of personal wealth or social status.
A Litany of Saints for Students
Despite the immense privilege, life as a student comes with all different kinds of challenges. A truth that even the Saints know! The following is a litany of Saints (handpicked because of their experiences and difficulties as a student) that we hope will blanket your academic efforts with buckets of grace!
Blessed Peter Kibe
I am not sure I have ever heard of a student more devoted to pursuing God’s will in the face of rejection.
Born in 17th Century Japan to Christian parents, Blessed Peter Kibe attended Jesuit Seminary with the goal of becoming a priest. However, after graduation he was denied entrance to the Jesuit Order as the superior was not convinced Peter had what it took to be a priest in such a hostile environment. Despite the rebuff, Kibe knew the priesthood was his vocation so he persevered.
For almost a decade he continued to work alongside the Jesuits before traveling to China, then India, unsuccessfully seeking ordination in both places. From Goa, Kibe walked to Jerusalem (becoming the first Japanese person to see the Holy Land) and then to Rome—a journey of roughly 3,700 miles (the rough equivalent of walking from the east coast to the west coast in the United States).
After making his case to the ecclesial authorities, Kibe was finally ordained. His return home was an adventure itself, but he eventually made it back to Japan where his life ended in martyrdom.
Let’s ask God for the same grace of perseverance granted to Blessed Peter Kibe when we face rejection while pursuing His calling in our own lives.
Blessed Stanley Rother
An American farmer from Oklahoma who flunked out of seminary because of difficulties with Latin, Blessed Stanley Rother understood the sting of failure. However, when an opportunity to attend a different seminary arose, Rother accepted the invitation.
He was ordained in 1963 and five years later became a missionary in Guatemala. One of the greatest gifts Fr. Rother was able to bring to the locals in his parish was his extensive knowledge of farming—most of which he had learned in the years working the family farm after he failed seminary the first time. A decade into his assignment, civil war broke out. Rother saw his deacon and many of his parishioners killed before he himself was also martyred.
May Blessed Stanley Rother’s story serve as a reminder that sometimes “failure” is a part of God’s plan for our lives.
Saint Augustine of Hippo
In his Confessions, St. Augustine of Hippo describes his frustration with school as a child. He hated many of the subjects and thus hated having to spend time and energy learning them. Though he had no difficulties intellectually, he felt his teachers were educating with the wrong end in mind (that of wealth and glory). Looking back on his life, Augustine believed it was the vain stories and incorrect morals of his teachers that lead him to his sinful life. As a part of this litany, may St. Augustine guard our hearts and minds, redirecting them towards God when we encounter immoralities within the halls and walls of our schools.
Saint Isidore of Seville
Saint Isidore came from a very holy family with high expectations. His older brother, Leander (also a canonized Saint), was Isidore’s teacher and had such high demands that Isidore literally ran away because he could not handle the pressure. He hid in a forest, embracing the solitude, when he noticed a rock that was being worn down by droplets of water. Drip by drip the water was cutting into the stone and Isidore had a revelation. To this point, his studies and desire for complete understanding had stressed him. However, the water and the rock made him realize that he only had to take each concept “drop by drop” and that complete comprehension all at once was not necessary to be successful.
He returned home with this new mindset, applied it to his studies, and made more progress in his education than anyone ever thought possible.
May Saint Isidore remind us continually that mastery of a subject is gradual, and provide us with relief and comfort when we feel overwhelmed by the expectations of others.
Saint Thomas Aquinas
A quiet student, socially awkward, and of rather large size, the classmates of Saint Thomas Aquinas gave him the nickname, “Dumb Ox.” His teacher (who we know now as Saint Albert the Great), recognizing the potential of Aquinas, reprimanded the class by prophesying that this “dumb ox” would bellow so loudly that the whole world would hear.
May we turn to Saint Thomas Aquinas for solidarity and wisdom when we feel misjudged and misunderstood by our peers.
Saint Therese of Lisieux
The Little Flower actually describes her years of schooling as the saddest of her life. As an eight-year-old, she was far more capable than her classmates and the nuns who ran the boarding school advanced her to the classes with the fourteen year olds. Therese was still bored by those classes, and in addition, was hated by the rest of the students because of her great abilities.
In addition, she struggled greatly with two rather crucial subjects: mathematics and spelling. Her struggles became so unbearable that her father eventually withdrew her from school and hired a private tutor.
Saint Therese—a Doctor of the Church—understands the isolation and boredom that can often result from genius, as well as shame when certain subjects make you feel shame.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
A great Saint for anyone who has started or gone back to school later in life, Saint Ignatius of Loyola had to attend grammar school and learn Latin with school-boys half his age before he was able to be ordained.
Thank goodness for his humility and willingness to do so, or the world may have never been graced with the Society of Jesus, which he went on to found.
Saint Joseph of Cupertino
Saint Joseph of Cupertino was slow, awkward, and quite honestly no good at anything. His inability to grasp easy concepts, as well as finish a sentence when speaking, made it incredibly difficult for others to be around him—even his own mother.
He decided to join the Franciscan Friars when he witnessed one of them begging for food (something of which he thought he was capable). They taught him to read and write, though he was never proficient, and when it came time for his “final examination,” Joseph of Cupertino knew he was in grave danger of failing.
Though unintelligent, the man really had given all his effort to his schooling, so he prayed that God would help him pass his exam. The next day, the instructor asked him to expand on the one Gospel passage he had memorized and always felt comfortable expanding upon.
For this reason, Saint Joseph of Cupertino is the patron Saint of test-takers; however, we should not ignore the lesson of doing everything we can to pursue our callings while ultimately placing our trust in God.
Saint John Vianney
Saint John Vianney began his studies at the seminary, only to have them halted because of the French Revolution when he was recruited to join Napoleon Bonapart’s army. A series of events made him an unintentional deserter who then had to remain in hiding until granted amnesty.
At that point, he returned to seminary, but struggled greatly as his meager education had not prepared him well enough. Vianney made it through only because of the help of a tutor, massive amounts of effort, and prayer to sustain his perseverance. He was eventually ordained not because of his intelligence, but because his growing holiness and virtue was simply undeniable.
When “life” interrupts our studies and makes things harder, may we rely on the intercession of Saint John Vianney, and follow his example of relying on grace and developing skills and knowledge simultaneously.
Saint Bernadette Soubirous
Saint Bernadette was such a sickly girl that she spent more time out of school than in it, and thus knew almost nothing about her catechism.
However, it was precisely because of her ignorance that the parish priest immediately believed her when Bernadette revealed the name given to her by the mysterious Lady. Bernadette memorized the words Mary had given her, “I am the Immaculate Conception,” but she had no idea what they meant. She also had no idea that just four years earlier, the Magisterium had declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. To her, they simply sounded like two big words. When she spoke them to the priest, who knew of Bernadette’s ignorance, he became convinced that the girl was indeed having visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
May Saint Bernadette serve as a reminder that God can do just as much with our ignorance as He can with our intelligence. All He needs from us is faithfulness.
Saint Dominic Savio
Saint Dominic Savio was twelve years old when he began attending Saint John Bosco’s oratory for boys. He was dutiful and virtuous, enjoying both school and play. Well-liked by his peers, he used his influence to organize a club that strived for holiness—of which almost all the members went on to become Salesian priests themselves.
We pray that as a result of utilizing this litany, that we all become a little more like Saint Dominic Savio who was a positive and loving influence on the entire school.
Blessed Zepherin Namuncurá
The son of a Mapuche Chief of the Araucanian-speaking Indians (a native tribe of the Argentine Pampas), Blessed Zepherin sacrificed much for the benefit of his people. Believing it would make his son a better advocate for their nation, Namuncura’s father enrolled the eleven-year-old boy in a military school where he was the one and only native. Unsurprisingly, it did not go well for Zepherin and a family friend who was a Salesian priest suggested the boy transfer to their mission school in Buenos Aires.
There, the environment was less hostile and, as years went by, Namuncara made friends and grew to enjoy the school. When classmates said offensive things, he showed true meekness (which is not the same thing as weakness) though it often made him cry in private.
The more time he spent in prayer at school, the more he desired greatly to bring “the true religion” to his native people. Sadly, he died of tuberculosis before reaching his thirtieth birthday.
May Blessed Zepherin Namuncura intercede for us all, that we may grow in meekness when friends (or enemies) show insensitivity and offend us. May he also intercede for us all as we grow in understanding of cultures that are not our own.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
This popular blessed failed an entire academic school year—twice—and felt great shame because of it. He wrote letters to his parents and a teacher apologizing.
After each failure, his parents enrolled him in the Istituto Sociale, a private school operated by the Jesuits. This allowed him to complete two years of schooling in one academic year and thus not fall behind peers of the same age. Though emotionally a bit of a blow, it was Frassati’s time spent with the Jesuits that helped him develop a deep relationship with Jesus.
His struggle with education lasted until his death, when two exams remained before he could obtain his degree. However, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Royal Polytechnic Institute of Turin passed a special resolution posthumously granting Pier Giorgio his beloved degree in mining engineering.
May Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati’s story remind us that our studies are not the most important part of life, but our journey towards Love is.
Saint Gemma Galgani
Saint Gemma went to live at a boarding school from a very young age. Despite enduring the loss of the lives of three siblings and her mother, Gemma was known to always be reliable, conscientious, with a smile on her face.
In a letter, the prioress noted Gemma’s use of reason from a young age, as well as the depth of her spirituality. When a whooping cough epidemic wrecked havoc through the town, the prioress asked Gemma to intercede on everyone’s behalf. Almost immediately, the epidemic ceased and no one at the school got sick.
May Saint Gemma’s intercession help us all to be a calming and encouraging present to our school communities.
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
Famous because of the great love she displayed for her unborn child, Saint Gianna Beretta Molla displayed that same love for others throughout her entire life.
Within her family, Gianna’s parents encouraged all their children to obtain higher degrees of education—but not for security, wealth, or power. The entire Beretta family pursued education for the sake of serving others.
Gianna was not a natural student, and she struggled greatly with her studies. Still, she pressed on, receiving passing marks until she finally obtained her degree. All this she endured with the goal of serving others.
When we find ourselves struggling with our classes, may Saint Gianna intercede and remind us that we only need to pass so as to serve God and others with our knowledge.
Keep These Friends Handy
It’s easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle of the school year and forget that the grace to get through any difficulty abounds.
To help keep this reality at the forefront of your mind, we made a free printable of the litany that can be printed and kept someplace convenient (like an academic planner). Pray it routinely so that you can be reminded of the solidarity of the Saints!
Which of these Saints will you be turning to for intercession this academic year?
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