AS we move through the month of May, thousands of students are preparing for exams.
Young people have been particularly affected by this pandemic, especially third-level students who have been engaged online for over a year. Think of the social isolation and emotional consequences they have gone through.
Online learning for secondary students has also been extremely challenging. Exam time brings with it many mixed emotions and feelings. Soon, leaving certificate and third-level exams will take place. Exams can be stressful occasions, when young people can feel pressure and anxiety.
The leaving certificate is an important milestone in the lives of our young people. The vast majority sits this state exam which, in many ways, is a rite of passage into a more adult and responsible life. But despite the pandemic, the Department of Education has had to reflect on how best to assess students’ academic performance.
This is a time of great opportunity for the class of 2021. There are many pathways that can bring us to our chosen college places. There are many noble careers, where vocational training is another option. For all students, you cannot be defined by the number of points you will receive. Gifts and talents, character and personality will never be simply measured by a points system. These days, candle shrines burn brightly in many of our churches, representing the prayers offered by parents and students at this time.
St Paul once said: ‘With God on our side, who can be against us?’
Essentially, being open to the love of God in all our lives is surely a great gift. The life that this young generation now enters more fully is a vibrant one, full of energy and yet very challenging. It isn’t easy to be a young person in the current culture we find ourselves in. All of these young students will now experience the competitive environment that is the points’ race, finding the right college course and career path in a volatile global economy, where so often only the fittest and leanest survive.
At times, the ‘burden of youth’ can be tragic, manifesting in addiction, anxiety and mental health issues. However, the enthusiasm, resilience and sense of hopeful optimism that is so real for young people will carry them through the difficult weeks ahead.
I believe faith in the living God is a great source of strength and love for our young friends. Yes, there will always be difficulties and disappointments in life, but faith gives us a confidence and inner peace that allows all of us to live life to the full. God invites us to manifest our hopes and dreams into the realties of our day-to-day lives. Faith is grounded in the knowledge that our God abundantly loves us for who we are, not for who we may like to present ourselves as. Faith allows us to hope, even in the face of adversity and human struggle.
Essentially, faith informs us that we are not alone. Our God resides in the depth of our human experience, even in the stress of getting ready for the leaving certificate or third-level exams.
Over the coming weeks, pray for young people that the good Lord will bless them with strength, happiness and peace. A prayer I always prayed as I faced exam time and never let me down was ‘Holy Spirit, send your power, help me to remember all that I have learnt, inspire me with the gift of knowledge’. Amen.
Prayer for preparation to study
***Lord, I know you are with me and love me.
Give me peace of mind as I prepare for this time of study.
Help me to focus on my books and notes,
Keep me from all distractions so that I will make the best use
of this time that is available to me.
Give me insight that I might understand what I am studying,
and help me to remember it when the time comes.
Above all, I thank you for the ability to be able to study
and for the many gifts and talents you have given me.
Help me always to use them in such a way
that they honour you and do justice to myself.
Prayer before an examination
***Dear Lord, as I take this exam, I thank you that my value
Is not based on my performance, but on your great love for me.
Come into my heart so that we can walk through this time together.
Help me, not only with this test, but the many tests of life that are sure to come my way.
As I take this exam, bring back to my mind everything I studied
And be gracious with what I have overlooked.
Help me to remain focussed and calm, confident in the facts and in my ability,
And firm in the knowledge that no matter what happens today, you are there with me. Amen.***