Information for Parents on Vocations
A few words from Pope Benedict to the parents of seminarians:
Dear parents, you are probably the most surprised of all at what is happening in your sons. You probably imagined a different career for them than the mission for which they are now preparing. Who knows how often you find yourselves thinking about them: you think back to when they were children, then boys; to the times when they showed the first signs of their vocation or, in some cases on the contrary, to the years in which your son's life seemed remote from the Church. What happened? What meetings influenced their decisions? What inner enlightenment guided their footsteps? How could they then give up even promising prospects of life in order to choose to enter the Seminary? Let us look to Mary! The Gospel gives us to understand that she also asked herself many questions about her Son Jesus and pondered on him at length (cf. Lk 2: 19, 51).It is inevitable that in a certain manner, the vocations of children become the vocations of their parents too. In seeking to understand your children and following them on their way, you too, dear fathers and dear mothers, very often find yourselves involved in a journey in which your faith is strengthened and renewed. You find yourselves sharing in the marvellous adventure of your sons. Indeed, even though it may seem that the priest's life does not attract most people's interest, it is in fact the most interesting and necessary adventure for the world, the adventure of showing, of making present, the fullness of life to which we all aspire. It is a very demanding adventure; and it could not be otherwise since the priest is called to imita te Jesus, who "came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20: 28). - February 1, 2008
As Catholics, we believe that God has a special plan for everyone. Life is not a random haphazard existence, rather there is special meaning and purpose to life. The meaning of life is a question that philosophers and scholars have debated for years. As people of faith, we believe that we are called to know, love, and serve God. All people are called to holiness (that is our common baptismal call), but then God calls each us to live out our lives in specific and meaningful ways. For many that ultimately means to marry and raise a family; for some it means living a good holy single life in the world; for still others it is a call to live as a priest or religious. As a parent, you want what is best for your child, but (obviously since your call from God was not priesthood or religious life) are not sure what to do if your son or daughter mentions this possibility. What should I say or do? Even if they never mention it, is this something that you ought to bring up for them to consider? Whatever the case, this section is for you!
A Few Thoughts to Consider
As a parent, you try to instill values, to encourage your children in the pursuit of positive goals, and to assure them of your unconditional love. The first step is understanding the differences between your experiences and theirs.
The “millennial generation” is immersed in remote-controlled, high-tech, competitive-edge materialism.
Lifetime commitment may seem like an irrelevant notion, whether in marriage or priesthood.
Do you go to Mass every weekend, just like your parents did? Today’s high school and college students may find spirituality in places you never thought to look.
Be careful of “vicarious living” that is, trying to relive your life through your children. You have been given your children by God to nurture and guide, but not to make all their decisions for them. When thinking about your children, which is most important: “What do I want for them? or “What does God want for them?”
Balancing Interfering with Interfacing
If your son/daughter does begin to wonder about the priesthood or religious life, at some point he/she should contact a vocation director to assist him/her in this process. More than likely friends, teachers, and coaches may provide advice as well (not all of it good either). Each life is a gift from God, discerned (discovered and affirmed) by an individual AND the Church. As much as you love and cherish your children, it is impossible for you to know 100% what God wants for them. Your support and approval is very important for your son/daughter (even if they say it isn’t). You do not (and should not) decide your son’s or daughter’s future for them. As long as your son/daughter knows that they have your support, they will have the freedom to make good and sound decisions.
Career vs. Lifetime Commitment
Sometimes parents are reluctant to encourage their sons/daughters to consider priesthood or religious life, not because they don’t want him/her to make a difference in the world, but rather because they see the lifestyle connected with it as limiting. After all can’t they make a difference in the world and still have a family? A priest or religious dedicates himself/herself to a life of service to God’s people. By living a celibate life, the individual is free to respond to people’s needs without being torn between commitments to a nuclear family and the larger family of God. A commitment to priesthood or religious life forever makes sense. Consider this in priesthood, at ordination, a man is changed—forever. In the sacrament of Holy Orders, a priest is ordained to act in the person of Christ Jesus. A priest cannot put on and take off this identity any more than Jesus could be just a spokesperson for God, nine to five, until retirement. Likewise, for a religious sister or brother, they take solemn vows before God (similar to marriage vows). The individual promises to dedicate himself/herself to God and service of God’s people forever (good times & bad!). Just as Christ is always faithful to us so must we remain faithful to him!
Not that your son or daughter would ever keep you in the dark, but here are answers to some commonly asked questions by parents...
It's natural for a parent to want the best for a child – a good education, a strong faith, friends and realistic goals for the future.
When your child was very young, he or she saw the future through the eyes of a child. "When I grow up, I’m going to be a doctor/lawyer/nurse/fireman..:' is the typical response from a young child when asked about the future. But as children get older, they start to seriously look at their future. They begin to recognize their own talents, their likes and dislikes. They begin to think about what they really want to be when they grow up. As a parent, you are concerned, wondering if they are choosing the right path.
How should I react if my son/daughter talks about becoming a priest, nun, or brother?
If this has happened yet, maybe you ought to ask yourself the question of “How would you react?” or “How would your spouse react?” Would it be shock? Concern? Skepticism? Would this be a dream come true for you or your worst nightmare? Knowing and understanding your own feelings and why you feel that way is an important step in knowing how to respond to your son or daughter. The vast majority of teens today feel that if they told their parents they were even “just thinking” about priesthood or religious life, their parents would be completely opposed to the idea, laugh at them or think they were on drugs or something! This could not be further from the truth as local studies here in the Diocese of St. Petersburg consistently show that approximately 30% of Catholic teenagers have considered the possibility of priesthood or religious life!
A vocation is quite simply a call from God. God gives each one of us a vocation and has blessed us with certain abilities and talents. Some of us are called to be married. Others are called to be single. Still others are called to the priesthood or to religious life. One vocation is not better than another. We hope that if your child shows an interest in religious life or the priesthood you will be supportive and encouraging.