The Catholic Church highly values education. In fact, it was the efforts of Christians and professed religious throughout history who made major advances in the fields of mathematics, science, and many others. Additionally, it was the actions of Catholics that brought about the education of the masses. Prior to their collective efforts spanning centuries, only the rich could afford to educate their children.
It should come as no surprise then that many of the canonized Saints within the Church possess college degrees.
Saints Who Went to College
If you or someone you know and love is off to college, check out these Saints who could serve as heavenly intercessors throughout your post-secondary studies! The Saints below were heavily influenced by their educators and those they met during their studies.
Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and Saint Peter Faber
Francis Xavier was a rich young man in his twenties who was highly interested in athletics (specifically the high jump). He attended the Collège Sainte-Barbe of the University of Paris. His worldly goals were of great contrast to that of Ignatius of Loyola who enrolled at the school at the age of thirty-eight in order to gain the skills necessary to found the Order of Jesus. The pair became roommates, but Francis regarded Ignatius as a fool and ridiculed his attempts to help students spiritually. Peter Faber was a third roommate of the pair. Contrastingly, Peter was intrigued by Ignatius’ message and converted. Francis Xavier later followed suit after some soul-searching. All three men are credited with founding the Jesuit order.
This trio would be great to turn to when seeking holy, supportive friendships.
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Also known as Saint Edith Stein, she became a leading philosopher of the 20th century. She studied to obtain her degree from the University of Breslau (now Wroclaw University) and the University of Göttingen. Though her dissertation on empathy awarded her a doctorate with summa cum laude (the highest honor a school could bestow), the university rejected her qualification for a teaching office at the institution based on the fact that she was a woman. She worked as an assistant to her mentor professor until the summer holiday during which she came across the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila. Those pieces eventually led to her conversion to Catholicism. Not long after, she entered the Carmelite order.
This philosophic Saint would be a great intercessor for women pursuing degrees in male-dominated fields. She would also be great for all those seeking the fullness of Truth.
Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago
At age thirteen, faith-filled Carlos was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a crippling digestive issue. His ailment was so depleting that it took him until the age of twenty-one to earn his high school diploma. Seven year later, he enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico to continue his education. Once again, his health failed him and he was forced to withdraw near the beginning of his sophomore year. Carlos did not accept defeat. His grades had been excellent, so he continued to study and learn on his own. For the next fifteen years, Carlos sought knowledge as he could, but always with the goal of using it to serve the Church. His passion was evangelizing and catechizing, and he was one of the first people to translate the Latin prayers into Spanish so that his local community would understand them better.
This determined Blessed is a great example to those who start school on a non-traditional timeline, or those who have health issues that foil original plans.
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
Gianna was the tenth of thirteen children within the Beretta family. Generous service and virtue were values that were instilled by the Beretta children from a young age. In fact, Gianna’s parents strongly encouraged their children to obtain professional degrees at a high level, not to gain a level of prestige, but so that they could be of service to their communities. Gianna chose to study medicine at the University of Pavia, but she was not a natural student. She greatly struggled through her classes, but she persevered to become a pediatrician serving the small town of Mesero.
Gianna can be called upon as an intercessor for many reasons, including by those who truly struggle to obtain their degrees.
Blessed Zepherin Namuncurá
Zepherin was the son of a Mapuche Chief who was sent to a military school in order to better advocate for his native people. Unsurprisingly, he was not well received and transferred to a mission school run by the Salesians. While he did experience more acceptance in the faith-filled environment, some of the students were not without their prejudice. However, others loved him and compared him to Saint Dominic Savio. Through it all, Zepherin grew to love Catholicism, one of his favorite devotions being the Rosary. He enrolled in the minor seminary in Viedma, Argentina (the equivalent of going to college). He desired to bring the Faith back to his people and was such a good student that he ranked second out of his whole class. Sadly, he died of tuberculosis before finishing his degree.
This courageous Saint can be called upon by all those attending schools where they feel like “outsiders.”
Transforming the World
Saint Catherine of Siena famously said, “If you are who you should be, you will set the world on fire.” In a similar fashion, political activist Nelson Mandela claimed, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” As followers of Jesus, we would add certain elements to that sentiment: Christ and His grace.
While God can use anyone to change the world (and often uses the weak to lead the strong), there is no doubt that educated Christians have contributed considerably to bringing the Gospel message to our cultures around the world.
Do you have a favorite Saint who attended college? Add to our list in the comments below!