As a professional Catholic speaker I visit dozens of parishes every year. In addition to giving general talks, I am sometimes asked if I would be willing to speak to the children in the parish school. I always welcome the opportunity, especially when speaking to the lower grades, since I have five young children of my own.
I always ask the schoolchildren for a show of hands if a grownup has ever asked them,“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Invariably, all hands go up. I then ask them to share with me their answers. Some want to be doctors, others want to be firefighters. Some want to be professional dancers, others want to be veterinarians. I have so much fun listening to them share their young and adventurous aspirations.
Once I have fielded a variety of their answers, I ask if an adult has ever posed to them a different question:
“What does GOD want you to be when you grow up?”
In all of my years of asking this question, never once has a single hand ever been raised.
I follow up with the children by asking them what they think God is calling every one of them to be when they grow up. What does God want all of his children to be?
I then ask them to think about Jesus and all of the the things he taught us when he was here on earth. What did Jesus teach us about what God wants each of us to be?
The answers usually vary:
"God wants me to be a good person."
"God wants me to be his follower."
"God wants me to be his disciple."
I usually keep fielding their responses until someone answers, "God wants me to be a saint."
I then spend the rest of my time with them unpacking what it means to be a saint and friend of God and how we all share this universal call to holiness. I share this wonderful vision with them from Scripture, the Catechism, and from the lives of young saints, and I must tell you—they eat it up!
After laying out this basic catechesis, I conclude by asking them to share what they learned with their parents and siblings and to ask them for their help as they strive to be holy.
Over the years, I have heard from many of the parents of these children, sharing with me how they were profoundly touched, challenged, and even convicted by what their children shared with them. For many, it served to remind them that they are the primary teachers of the Faith and spiritual formators of their children. It served to motivate them to deepen their own spiritual life and knowledge of the Faith so as to be better witnesses to their children. What a blessing, indeed.
How about your children? Do they know what God wants them to be when they grow up? If not, it's never too early or too late to teach them.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." —Proverbs 22:6