Dr. Edward Mulholland, an assistant professor of classical and modern languages at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, recently discussed a prayer for students composed by St. Thomas Aquinas which the Angelic Doctor prayed before studying:
Creator of all things, true source of light and wisdom, origin of all being, graciously let a ray of your light penetrate the darkness of my understanding.
Take from me the double darkness in which I have been born, an obscurity of sin and ignorance.
Give me a keen understanding, a retentive memory, and the ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally. Grant me the talent of being exact in my explanations and the ability to express myself with thoroughness and charm.
Point out the beginning, direct the progress, and help in the completion. I ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Commenting on this prayer as it concerns college students, Dr. Mulholland describes parents and educators some of whom believe education is only about academics, others of whom believe it’s all about money, and yet others of whom believe it’s about prestige. And, yes, there are those parents and educators—almost certainly a very tiny minority in today’s world—who could care less about all of that, believing as they do that education is all about getting young people to persevere in morality.
As St. Thomas’ prayer reminds all of us, education and the virtue of humility are inextricably related: The proper attitude toward learning—whether in an elementary or secondary school or a college or university—is to allow God to form one’s mind to grasp the light of truth and, then, to will it in one’s life from the beginning through its completion. With that attitude, other utilitarian ends—academic success, money, and prestige—are put into proper perspective with morality becoming an imperative.
In 2008, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life/U.S. Religious Landscape survey reported the prayer habits of Americans. Of particular interest, note the habits of U.S. Catholics:
Among U.S. Catholics who report they do pray and broken down by political ideology, the following pattern emerges:
Of those Catholic parents who report they do pray—irrespective of political ideology—how many pray for their children ?
With the new academic year now underway in many locales, wouldn’t it be wonderful if parents wrote down St. Thomas’ prayer on a notecard and presented it to each of their children, asking them to say the prayer at the start of each day of school? Better yet, to tell their children they will be saying St. Thomas’ prayer for each of them at the start of each school day?
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