As a relatively young priest, many people ask me how they can encourage vocations in their homes. God does most of the work, but we need to work with Him!
Here are my five ways we can work with God to encourage our children to become a priest or religious:
1) Pray for vocations.
The best place to begin is prayer. It is not surprising that our vocation is from God, and He is the primary actor in making it grow. However, we have to cooperate with His grace so generously given. Pray for each child’s unique vocation, that they are open to the Holy Spirit’s invitation—whatever it may be. As a family, pray for the Church’s need for vocations. As a parent ask directly that the Lord would take one of your sons or daughters to be a priest or religious. If you, as a parent, are not practicing your faith, not praying, and not leading your kids in prayer, then don’t be surprised if they follow your example! However, if you show them how to pray and be a disciple by your example, chances are they will follow after you in that as well; thanks be to God!
2) Get to know the saints.
Among the communion of saints, there are wonderful examples of various vocations. Within your family, look to the litany of saints to discover how many vocations are represented. For example, name your children after the saints: priests, religious sisters, married saints, and consecrated persons. Call upon these saints to pray for your children and their vocational call. Learning about the lives of the saints will help show your children that holiness is possible and comes in a variety of forms.
3) Befriend people in various vocations.
A simple way to get to know people in various vocations is to invite them over for dinner. Begin with your parish priest. If your parish has a permanent deacon, invite his family over for game night. If sisters teach at your Catholic school, consider inviting them over, too. Or bring them flowers for their convent’s chapel. Another idea is to ask your local seminary if there is a way to “adopt” a seminarian. This gives your family an opportunity to get to know—and pray for—a future priest, while he is in formation, and he receives insight into Catholic family life. Seminarian An, Deacon Christopher, Fr. Philip, and I are always in the mood for food!
4) Encourage service within the Church.
Being in and around the local parish immerses children in the Catholic Faith. They grow in their love of Jesus and His Church. It also helps them foster faith-based friendships with other children. For example, ask your son to be an altar server at Mass. This is a wonderful way for him to spend time with the priests and deacons. He also has the opportunity to grow in appreciation of the Mass and be close to Jesus in the Eucharist. Other ways children can be active in parish life include singing in the choir, committing to a Eucharistic Holy Hour, joining a youth group, and volunteering at youth events.
5) Converse with your kids.
Above all, be open to the idea of your children becoming a priest or religious. Over 60% of vocations are actively discouraged in the home. Don’t be that for your kids. It is important to talk directly to your children about their unique vocations, and to assure them that you are open to them becoming a priest or religious. Gently build up to vocational talks by first and foremost teaching them how to listen to God. Encourage their openness to receiving the immense love God has for them. Show them how He desires a relationship with them. Don’t be too surprised if they are not interested in certain vocations. Even if they love their parish priest and admire the sister who teaches in their school, they may not want to see themselves in such counter-cultural roles. They may not even want to talk about it. This is normal and understandable, and where prayer comes in.
All in all, vocational conversations can be quite simple, because at the very heart of it is our universal call to holiness. At the end of the day, whether our kids become priests, sisters, or married parents, we want them to be holy and happy, living God’s will to the fullest. Most importantly, emphasize that God has a plan of sheer goodness for each of us; better than anything we could imagine. And all He desires is for us to be open to honoring His plan and following it as closely as we possibly can.
So, how will you encourage vocations within your family?
– Fr. Mark