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What Will Your Child Do in Life?

by Fr. George Kelly, The Catholic Family Handbook, 1950’s

Not long ago, newspapers told the story of a twenty-seven-year-old man who had shot and killed his father. In prison, the man defiantly explained why he had done it.

Throughout his life, he had been interested in teaching as a career. But whenever he mentioned his aspiration, his father ridiculed it and told him that he must enter the family business. After completing a college course in business administration at his father’s dictation, the young man was placed at work in the family store.

It was evident that he was not equipped to do the kind of sales work necessary for success in the business, but his father drove him on with ridicule. Finally, he could stand it no longer and in frustrated rage performed the deed which shocked the public everywhere.

Like most occurrences which reach print, this was an extreme case. Few men kill their fathers because of differences over their careers, and few fathers callously demand that their children pursue vocations unsuited to them. Yet this story serves the useful purpose of pointing out that parents should give intelligent and sympathetic consideration to their child’s ambitions.

Another moral of the tragedy cited is, of course, that every person should decide his own course in life.

A consistent objective of his training as a child, adolescent, and young adult should be to enable him ultimately to be completely free in the sense that he can make his own decisions and accept complete responsibility for them.

Thus he alone should choose his life work, because its success or failure will depend upon him only. He alone has the intimate knowledge of his talents, motives and aspirations required to make a choice and to succeed in what he chooses.

But while your child must in the final analysis select this vocation by himself, you can help him to determine what his objectives should be.

Indeed, as a conscientious parent, you must do so. You must take a part in formulating standards which will guide him regardless of whether his future station, in the eyes of the world, is high or low.

Your child will often ask you what you want him to be when he grows up.

By your answers, you can implant ideals which will serve as his own guideposts. Moreover, you can help him recognize the importance of high objectives by your own daily conduct.

A father will strongly influence his son’s choice of a life work by his attitude toward his own occupation; by the respect he shows to priests, brothers, doctors, teachers and others who give of themselves to serve mankind; by his own attitudes about the monetary rewards of work and the things that money will–and will not–buy.

Likewise, a mother will influence her son and daughter by the amount of cheer she radiates as she does her daily household tasks; by the way she greets the nuns at school, whether it be with deference or indifference; by her attitudes toward neighbors and acquaintances with greater or fewer material possessions than she has.

Any worthy vocation should fulfill three requirements.

  1. It must help your child save his soul. At the very least, it must not, by its nature, constitute a hazard to salvation.
  2. It should serve mankind in some constructive way. As an extreme example, the young man who inherited a large sum of money and decided to devote his life exclusively to his own pleasure could hardly be said to have a worthy objective. Nor could the young woman who hoped to marry and practice artificial birth control so that she could lead a social life unhampered by the responsibilities of parenthood.
  3. The work should be within his capabilities. The youth who is helped to select a kind of work in which he has a reasonable chance of making progress is also more likely to achieve his first and second objectives as well.

It is worth noting carefully that this listing of basic objectives omits such goals as wealth, glory, power and similar allurements. For implicit in this listing of worthy objectives is the teaching of Jesus:

“For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?” (St. Matthew 16:26)

The emphasis is on true and lasting values–“treasures in heaven, where neither rust nor moth consumes, nor thieves break in and steal.” (St. Matthew 6:20) The Bible teaches us that “covetousness is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10) and that it is “easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (St. Matthew 19:24)

Not only does an ambition to achieve wealth for its own sake violate Our Lord’s repeated teachings; it is not even suitable as a worldly ambition. One can search in vain for the man whose riches have brought even earthly happiness; the rich who achieve the serenity of those less favored financially usually do so only by using their wealth to serve others.

When you encourage your child to keep these three objectives constantly before him, you do not limit his number of choices in any substantial way. He can achieve all of his great goals–attain salvation, perform tasks which benefit mankind, and properly use his God-given talents–in either the religious or secular life.

“Sometimes the wife is tied to her mother’s apron strings and is emotionally immature. She refuses to shoulder the normal responsibility of a wife and mother.

Some married women harm their homes, their husbands, their children, and themselves by too much external activity: organizations, societies, luncheon groups, clubs, and civic committees.

Birth control is a cause for too much social life. A childless or almost childless home can drive women to expend their God-given energies for motherhood on vain external affairs.

Other causes are too much wealth and, therefore, too much leisure, so that even mothers of sizable families can hire people to do most of their work; and the appeal of social prominence.”

-Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik. The Catholic Family Handbook (afflink)

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