It is that time of the year again: finals are looming and stress is building. Well, I have a story that you might enjoy—and perhaps might even find useful.
Last semester, I took the not-so-wonderful required philosophy course, Formal Logic. I thought that I had seen the end of math-like things back in high school, but I was sorely mistaken. Having not been in this math mode for several years, I was growing increasingly frustrated while studying for the second exam of the semester.
In an attempt to remember that I am not self-sufficient when it comes to learning, that I cannot solve everything myself, I decided to try out this prayer that I had received the summer before from a friend. It was addressed to Saint Joseph of Cupertino, about whom I knew absolutely nothing.
Saint Joseph, a 17th-century figure, had nothing going for him in his early years: he was born in a stable, his family was poor, he was a sickly child, he was not intelligent, he did not have the skills of a craftsman. He had ecstatic visions as a child and throughout his life, for which he was mocked.
After a friar visited his town, St. Joseph tried joining the Conventual Franciscan friars, but they would not have him because of his lack of education. The Capuchin friars dismissed him because his visions left him unable to do even simple tasks. Eventually, the Conventual friars relented and allowed him to join the Third Order, living in the stable as the keeper of the mule.
Saint Joseph became known for his lightheartedness and his joy, not seeming to mind his poor living conditions and taking delight in the simplest things. People were drawn to him, and noticing his selflessness, the Franciscans welcomed him into the Order. He then began studying for the priesthood, but his every effort was useless. His lack of intelligence was a formidable obstacle. There was, however, one Gospel passage on which St. Joseph was able to preach eloquently. According to God’s providence, this was the exact passage that the bishop selected for the exam before ordination. Saint Joseph was to be a priest.
To continue my story, I decided to take another stab at doing some practice problems. I copied some from online and asked my roommate—a computer science major—for help. I studied for a while longer, and then I went to bed on time.
Our logic tests were split into three parts: the first part I always struggled with and made note to give myself more time, the second part was fairly straightforward but could be time-consuming if a simple mistake was made, and the third part was completely new material with which I was struggling the night before. The tests were also open-notes.
Test day arrived, and as I sat down, I murmured a quick St. Joseph of Cupertino, pray for me! before starting. A quick glance at the third part of the test, and—yes! the exact problems I had done the night before with my roommate and had copied down in my notes! Easy. Done. Thanks be to God.
The second part of the test also proceeded without a hitch, giving me plenty of time to think through the first part, the hardest section for me. Thanks to the intercession of St. Joseph of Cupertino, I was able to do quite well on that exam.
I hope that by sharing this story we could consider two things. First, prayer works. The intercession of the saints works. Prayer is not magical: we are in communion with our brothers and sisters who are very close indeed to our Father Himself.
Second, faith elevates and perfects reason. Our lives as students without faith is a sign of selfishness and pride, thinking that we on our own merits without the grace of God can do anything whatsoever. Even—or, rather, especially—in our studies, let’s give ourselves over to Christ so as to be made more into His image.
I have included the prayer here because in it we promise to make St. Joseph of Cupertino—and through him, Christ—better known. I hope this article counts.
O great St. Joseph of Cupertino, who, while on earth, did obtain from God the grace to be asked at your examination only the questions you knew, obtain for me a like favor in the examinations for which I am now preparing. In return, I promise to make you known and cause you to be invoked. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
St. Joseph of Cupertino, Pray for us!
John VanBerkum is a senior studying philosophy and theology. He wonders why the theology department can’t be more like the philosophy department and give fewer exams. He can be reached at email@example.com.