It’s that time of year again. Yellow school buses travel the roads bringing happy and cheerful students to school. There, students gleefully and attentively participate in their classes, led by amazing and energetic teachers. Right? Although some of that is exaggerated, it is the time of year for school to begin. Life once again is busy for youth.
When I attended college, our mascot was the Saints. I loved attending sporting events, seeing my friends and roommates, and even getting back to classes. Reflecting back on that time, I am also reminded of our friends and family in faith who have gone before us, the Saints in Heaven. Often Saints are given a patronage for those that they are especially apt to pray for. I want to share a few of my favorites with you to kick off the school year.
Saint Joseph of Cupertino had very little education during his lifetime. He was known to have a violent temper, and was very forgetful when he was young. After unsuccessfully trying to become a Franciscan and Capuchin as a young teen, he was accepted as a servant for the Franciscans when he was 18.
While serving the Franciscans, his demeanor began to change. St. Joseph became more gentle and successful in his work. His superiors declared that he was worthy to study for the priesthood. Studying was extremely hard for St. Joseph but he always tried his hardest. During his test for the Diaconate the teacher only asked him questions about his best topic. This allowed him to become a Deacon and later a Priest.
St. Joseph often would have grand visions and experience levitation while praying or saying the mass.
Saint Francis de Sales was born into nobility. After many years of study and discernment, against his family’s wishes, he became a priest. He felt that it was his mission to travel across Switzerland in order to convert Calvinists to Catholicism.
St. Francis would often have doors slammed in his face and rocks thrown at him. So he had to try different techniques to reach people he wished to speak with. Highly educated, he would often write sermons and slide them under the doors of homes for people to read. He would also begin speaking and playing with children in order to show parents and adults that he served no threat to them.
St. Francis’ patronage of teachers comes from his devotion to leading common people in spiritual direction. His letters to St. Jane de Chantel, now collected in the Introduction to the Devout Life, are the start of his teaching that anyone, not just priests and nuns, can live a holy life.
What school day would be complete without lunch? Saint Lawrence was a Deacon in the early Catholic Church, entrusted to spread wealth among the poor and the needy. When the Prefect of Rome claimed all the Church’s wealth in tribute, Lawrence told him to be patient and he would have it in three days.
After distributing as much wealth as possible in that time, St. Lawrence gathered all the poor and crippled that he could. He presented them to the Prefect, saying, “This is the Church’s treasure!” The emperor seized St. Lawrence and had him attached to a grate placed over a fire, essentially grilling him to death. As he was dying he joked, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.” and when about to die, he said “It’s cooked enough now.”
Saint Sebastian was the Captain of the Roman Guard under the Emperor Diocletian. Saint Sebastian was able to keep his beliefs secret during DIocletian’s persecution of Christians. Using his status, he worked in secret to free many Christians.
Once it was revealed that St. Sebastian was Christian, Diocletian called for his execution. His method of choice was to have St. Sebastian shot by arrows. Miraculously, St. Sebastian survived, aided by a widow who found his body and helped him to recover. Once healthy, St. Sebastian encountered the Emperor again and condemned him for his intense persecution of Christians. Emperor Diocletian had St. Sebastian beaten to death for the strength of his beliefs. This, and the enthusiasm St. Sebastian had for his faith, led him to be the Patron of Athletes.
St. Catherine was a beautiful, young woman who was greatly educated in many different disciplines, primarily philosophy and mathematics. The local ruler, Maxentius, offered her a royal marriage if she would refuse her faith. St. Catherine’s constant refusal resulted in her arrest and imprisonment. While imprisoned, she converted Maxentius’ wife and 200 soldiers with her elegant, honest evangelization. All of them were martyred.
Maxentius, not wanting to be further shamed by St. Catherine, wanted a gruesome and unusual death for her. He had a spiked wheel built for St. Catherine’s execution. She would be tied to it and then rolled over. However, when the went to execute her, the wheel fell to pieces. She was later beheaded and according to legend her body was taken to Mount Sinai by angels. You can read more here.
Saints have great stories, and do not have to be limited to a specific day or intention to look for them. They are intercessors, friends, and allies in our pursuit of Heaven, role models for our daily lives. So, whether you are a student, teacher, unsure about math, or a parent (like the blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, St. Monica), there are Saints in Heaven who can say, “Been there, done that” and help you everyday. If you want to read more on these Saints click their headings.