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At this very moment there are thousands of young people, God bless them, across Ireland about to take the Leaving Cert or Junior Cert exams. Each of these young people have studied and sacrificed for the past several months and indeed for the last 5 or 6 years of secondary school just to get them to this very moment.  Over the coming weeks, part of my daily prayer will be for every young person taking each of these exams and I will be lighting my daily candle and praying for them along with the many other people who want the best for their loved ones during exam season.


I remember well the stress and tension of exam time, the constant reminders from teachers that ‘these are the most important exams you’ll ever take’. But I want you to hear some positive messages that are not based on whether you have achieved As, Bs of Cs or whatever in your exams.  This isn’t about taking away from the importance of exams, or going against what your teachers are saying! These exams are very important, revision and study is vital, but what I’m trying to say is that there is more to life than just these exams.

Firstly, before you take your exams each morning, remember this simple fact – you are a truly amazing, unique and genuine young person and you are so loved and adored by your family and friends no matter what may befall you.  You have great gifts, savvy, skills, intelligence, knowledge, flair, know-how, talents and abilities that are unique just to you and only you.  You have something to offer our community, our city,our county, our country and our world, something that cannot be taken away, or added to, by these exams.  Please always remember that. Your worth, your value, your youth, your person-hood, your life in God’s eyes and in the eyes of the people who love you and adore you is not affected by your performance over these next few weeks.  He and your loved ones already think you are amazing and one of a kind.

Also please don’t give up on your faith or whatever and wherever it is that you connect with God, please don’t give up on it. Right now, in this intense period of your life, you need God more than ever, and you need the support of those around you, especially you family, your friends and your community, to pray for you, to light a candle for you, to offer up a petition to you and to support you.  I promise you that they are already doing those things in their own unique ways because they love and care for you so much,  You also need times of fun, times of laughter, times of complete relaxation to not only enjoy yourself but alto to help your brain process what you’ve been revising and also helping it to rest and to get you ready for the next upcoming exam. It is natural to pray before difficult situations, and many people have found comfort in prayer before an exam.


‘One day a professor entered the classroom and asked his students to prepare for a surprise test.  They waited anxiously at their desks for the test to begin.  The professor handed out the question paper, with the text facing down as usual. Once he handed them all out, he asked his students to turn the page and begin.  To everyone’s surprise, there were no questions.  Just a black dot in the centre of the page.  The professor, seeing the expression on everyone’s face, told them the following: “I want you to write what you see there.” The confused students got started on the inexplicable task. At the end of the class, the professor took all the answer papers and started reading each one of them aloud in front of all the students.  All of them, with no exceptions, described the black dot, trying to explain its position in the middle of the sheet etc.  After all had been read, with the classroom silent, the professor began to explain@ “I am not going to grade you on this, I just wanted to give you something to think about.  No one wrote about the white part of the paper.  Everyone focused on the black dot – and the same happens in our lives.  We have a white paper to observe and enjoy, but we always focus on the dark spot.  Our life is a gift given to us by God, with love and care, and we always have reasons to celebrate, such as nature renewing itself everyday, our friends around us, the job that provides our livelihood, the miracles we see everyday. However, we insist on focusing only on the dark spots, the health issues that bother us, the lack of money, the complicated relationship with a family member, the disappointment with a friend and many other dark spots in our lives we focus on.  The dark spots are very small compared to everything we have in our lives, but the are the ones that pollute our minds.  Take your eyes away from the dark spots in your life.  Enjoy each one of your blessings, each moment that life gives you.  Be happy, try your best and live a life positively!’


So when a new day begins, dare to smile gratefully.  When there is darkness, dare to be the first to shine a light.  When there is injustice, dare to be the first to shine a light.  When there is injustice, dare to be the first to condemn it.  When love hurts you, dare to love again.  When someone is hurting, dare to help them heal.  When the day has ended, dare to feel as you’ve done your best. Dare to be the best you can be.  Always remember that every morning is a fresh beginning.  Every day is the world made new.  I have lived all my life up to this moment, to come to this day.  This moment – this day – is as good as any moment in all eternity.  I shall make of this day – each moment of this day – a heaven on earthy.  This is my day of opportunity.  Dare to be the best you can be during these weeks of examinations and the very best of luck with everything.


As your thought for this week, dare to dream, but, every more importantly, dare to put action behind your dreams and be the best you can be in your exams over the coming weeks. Parents, grandparents, loved ones and friends say this prayer written by Bill Turnball each morning for your loved one before they head off to the exams hall.

-‘Dear Lord, You have given wisdom to those who seek knowledge and you have blessed us with strong, healthy minds that hunger to learn.  Bless my children this day, and this week, as they see the fruits of their labours culminate in the writing of exams that are designed to test their knowledge.  I pray that you would guide them to study those areas most important.  Help them to discern wisely what time they spend on each subject and when it is necessary to put the books away and just rest.  I pray that as they sit at their desks, with pen in hand, that you would give them pause to breathe, to concentrate and to recall all that they have learned.  Help them to not be flustered or panicked.  Give them sharp minds and clear focus.  Sharpen their memories and give them the right words to lay out on that paper to answer the questions before them.  I pray that you would bless the work of their minds over this past year and that all of their late nights, long projects, marathon reading and difficult questioning would not be in vain but that you would multiply what they already know into good marks for solid effort. Give them peace about finishing and handing in their completed exams, knowing that they did what they were asked to to the best of their abilities. And help them to shake off any concerns or worry so they can focus on the next.  And Lord, bless their summers, that they would be renewed in mind and body and challenged for the next year’s work. And bless all those who are graduating and writing for the last time.  I pray that they would be filled with humility at all that they have learned and understand that this has been the groundwork laid for what is to come but not the end-all and be-all of their lives.  Bless all that they do, that they would use their gifts, talents and knowledge to bring goodness and peace to our world. Amen’