Faith in the Family

Faith in the Family

What sort of you will you be?’ – that is the title of a book that caught my eye just now. Today our youngest finishes secondary school and will shortly sit his exams for the Leaving Cert. It feels like a momentous step. For nearly 20 years I have been baking bread rolls for school lunches. My mother-in-law warned me that time passes quickly but I cannot get my head around the idea that 20 years of school days have come to an end.

That book which caught my eye is for younger children but it seems very appropriate for this group of 17- and 18-year-olds who are finishing up with their school Mass this evening. They will arrive for the Mass in their school uniforms – I have been sewing Diarmuid’s school jumper together for the past few months trying to nurse it through to the middle of June!

After the Mass they will disappear to get changed while we parents have a cup of tea. When they emerge, dressed for a night out, they will be transformed, young women in glamorous dresses and young men handsome in smart suits and blazers. For some reason it is always the lads who are the biggest surprise. Maybe we are more used to seeing the girls dressed to the nines. But these lads are just big cubs and to see them suddenly as the men they have become is wonderful and emotional and slightly scary – perhaps because beneath the sharp clothes we can still see the vulnerable young boys.

I will be glad to be done with the Leaving Cert. Fifth and Sixth Year are tough going and the structure of our exam system puts huge pressure on young people. The idea that everything you have learned about a subject can come down to one exam is just madness. The points system is a very blunt instrument. Many of these kids still haven’t any notion what they want to do with their lives and yet they are expected to make those choices. We don’t put enough emphasis on the value of apprenticeships and trades or encourage youngsters who are unsure to take a few years out, work and then figure out what direction they want to go in.

And so, I want to be able to say to all our sons and daughters who are about to do their Leaving Cert – you are more than the sum total of points you come up with at the end of all this. This exam does not measure the value of you or capture a sense of the person you are so don’t define yourself by it.

In the readings for the Ascension which we celebrate this Sunday, Paul says to the people of Ephesus, “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you” (Eph 1:17-18).

I feel that as parents we have a responsibility to help our children discern what God’s call is for them”.

I feel that as parents we have a responsibility to help our children discern what God’s call is for them. It’s back to that question, ‘What sort of you will you be?’. Yes, there is the academic side and the reality that you need certain abilities to do particular things but there are also deeper questions. What gives you life and energy? Where is your passion? What’s your motivation? Are you attracted by the promise of large pay cheques or the kudos of a particular job? What will help you to become more fully and truly yourself, the person God created you to be?