Stories from Real Families

Set the Culture of Life Ablaze

“Be who you are meant to be and you will set the world ablaze.” – St. Catherine of Siena

We have all heard this quote, maybe even spent time meditating on it. This quote is what originally drew me to St. Catherine. This quote got me through some tough times and tough decisions. It has led my personal choices in so many ways, but lately, I have been thinking about it in a different way. I have been reflecting on it in how I relate to my children.

I grew up with certain expectations about how my life would go, not that I put on myself, but that society put on me. I would graduate high school, go to college, and then I could get married and have a career. My parents never pushed this on me, the world did, and they went along with it. I, like many other Millennials, followed this path. The expected path, the right of passage, the way it was supposed to be done.

But why? Why was everyone supposed to go to college right out of high school? Why was this the expected path and those who took a different one were said to have done things “alternatively” or “wrong”. I never questioned it. Until I had kids.

When our first child was born, we counted out what her graduating class would be at our beloved university. We thought about saving for her college and what type of savings account was best for that. We automatically began thinking of her life following the same path we had.

I don’t know when it happened, it was probably a gradual shift, but I began to question that idea and consider other options: trade school, seminary, a religious order, or just learning a skill. All of these are viable options that don’t necessarily require college.

I realized what St. Catherine was saying: be who you are meant to be. Not anyone else, but YOU. And that means following your path. The one God has chosen just for you. That He planned before you were even in your mother’s womb. If you try to be someone else, follow someone else’s plan, you are missing out on the impact you were meant to have.

This is what I now emphasize with my children: you can be anything God wants you to be. I will be proud of whatever they do, as long as they are following God’s will for them. (As best as they can, I don’t anticipate any burning bush revelations or anything.)

What does that look like: well, right now, our daughter is planning on joining a religious order as soon as she graduates high school (though, we aren’t even through elementary yet, so that may change), one son is going to college to be an engineer like daddy, and one son plans to be a builder. (Subject to change of course, just ask again in 5 minutes.) When they tell us their plans, we encourage them to work hard and we encourage them to pray about it.

Because we want them to set the world ablaze, which they can only do if they are who God meant for them to be.

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