Did your child ever get lost in a store? If so, do you remember the sense of panic in your heart when you turned around and saw he/she was nowhere in sight? After frantically looking through the aisles you likely went to a store employee and had your child paged on the intercom. Many times, it ends up that the child is oblivious to all this and is simply enjoying a toy or item that they discovered somewhere. But your feeling of relief and joy in finding him/her knows no bounds!
When it comes to our children, it’s always personal. After all, they are our very flesh and blood. We brought them into this world and are responsible for them. They belong to us…or do they?
This week is National Vocation Awareness Week. A week in which we promote and encourage consideration of the calling that God has for many of His children to become priests, religious brothers or sisters. At such times, it is easy as parents to think, “Oh, that’s great! We need priests and Sisters. I support vocations and love having Sisters in our school.” But sometimes, it doesn’t strike home that God could be calling your son or daughter to dedicate his/her life totally to Him. If He does so, how will your heart respond? It’s not unusual for parents to feel like they are “losing” their child who is following a religious vocation. After all, he/she won’t be able to be there for every family gathering, you may not get to see or talk to him/her as frequently, and, worst of all, there won’t be grandchildren to spoil! 🙂
But the reality is, no matter what vocation your child is called to follow, you will need to let go. After all, even married children sometimes move far away and you seldom see grandchildren. The key is to look at your child and ask yourself, “Whose child is this?” Deep in your heart you know the answer is, “God’s.” You have been given a huge gift and responsibility in raising and forming your child, but ultimately, he/she does not belong to you. And part of your role is to help your child realize this also. The other key factor – actually, the most important one – is to remember that the vocation to which God calls your child is the one that will be the most fulfilling.
A very special “vocation” event to which you could bring your child is coming up the end of this month. On Sunday, Nov. 26, the Solemnity of Christ the King, our entire Community of the School Sisters of Christ the King will be raised to the status of a religious institute of the Diocese of Lincoln. This step is once-in-a-lifetime for a religious community and will be celebrated with a 2:00 p.m. Mass offered by Bishop Conley at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ, during which each of the Sisters will proclaim her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. (This Mass fulfills your Sunday obligation.) There will be a reception afterward as well. I guarantee, you will never experience a ceremony like this again!
So, as parents, you can begin even now, no matter what the age of your child, to prepare him/her to respond to the vocation to which God is calling. I came across this “ABCs of Fostering Vocations” which has very practical ideas (I especially like A, F, J, O, S and W):
A: Answer your children’s questions about priesthood or Religious life; never discourage them or ridicule them if they bring it up.
Ask your child to identify a talent which he or she has, and imagine together what work or ministry God might want someone to do with that type of talent. Also talk about what good things can be done with the talent right now. For instance, singing talent could be used to sing a baby brother or sister to sleep. Talent at soccer could be used to help someone on the team who needs extra practice.
B: Bring your family to the next ordination Mass or prayer vigil for religious.
C: Challenge teens and young adults to consider a Church-related vocation. Tell them about the gifts in ministry you see in them. Encourage them to participate in at least one special vocation event (ordination, vocation retreat, religious profession, etc.).
Cultivate an attitude of service by responding as a family to the needs of others. Seek out those in need and find ways to care for them.
D: Discuss your own vocation to family life, explaining that God calls some people to priesthood or religious life, some to marriage, and some to life as single laypeople. You can talk about vocations firsthand!
E: Encourage your children to be involved in the liturgical life of the parish as servers, lectors, musicians, etc. (and see to it that they get there on time).
Explore the feelings you might experience should one of your children choose to give his or her life to Church ministry and discuss with your spouse your feelings and reactions if one of your children decided to become a priest or nun.
F: Find opportunities to affirm the gifts and talents of your children, and help them relate their gifts to various career and life choices (including priesthood and religious life).
G: Guide your junior high child to pray that he or she might discover and use the gifts God has given.
H: Have a priest come and bless your home. Have your younger children make a cross to hang in each bedroom in your home.
I: Include the diocesan vocation prayer in your personal and family prayer, especially on Wednesdays. Invite a priest, brother or sister to dinner or to an outing with your family.
J: Join together in prayer as a family; include a short vocations prayer when you pray before meals (especially on Wednesday).
K: Keep an eye open for TV shows and movies that present Gospel-centered role models. Watch them with your children and engage in a discussion.
L: Let your children see their Baptism pictures. Have the children make and send a card or note to the priest who baptized them promising him they will pray for them.
Let your children notice an attitude of openness to God’s will in you.
M: Make time for teenagers in your life: your children and their friends, nieces and nephews, babysitters, etc.
N: Name the gifts of each family member on their birthday. Express gratitude for these gifts.
O: On the date of your child’s baptism, talk about the life of the saint for whom the child is named (or the saint’s day it is). There is plenty of information about the background of saints on the Internet. The saints are people from all walks of life who tried to make a positive difference in the world–a goal as real today as it was for the saints.
P: Pray for the seminarians of the diocese by name if you can find out their names; you may want to “spiritually adopt” one of them.
Q: Quiz your children and discuss with them stories of calls in Scripture (e.g. Mary’s response to God in Luke 1:26-39, Jesus’ calling the Apostles in Mt 4:18-22, etc.).
R: Remember in prayer by name those who minister to your family and include in your family prayers petitions for those called to priesthood and consecrated life.
S: Set aside a “family time” each week for kids to talk about what is happening in lives. Let them share about their day.
Share the story of your own vocational choice with your children. Celebrate the occasion of your wedding anniversary as you share the story of your vocation to married life.
Support and participate in any school or parish vocation activities.
T: Talk about your family’s ethnic or cultural heritage at supper, while driving in the car, or at some other time when family members are all together. Pass along memories of cultural aspects of holiday and other celebrations that you remember.
Talk positively and enthusiastically about the priests, sisters, brothers, and deacons in your parish and share with your children the stories of the priests or sisters who have inspired you and how (e.g. priest at your wedding, or baptized your children, priests or religious from school, etc.).
Tell your children why you chose your particular profession. Who helped you form your decision?
U: Use books and videos to familiarize your children with saints who are priests or vowed religious. Use these lives of the saints as a springboard for discussion on these lifestyles.
Utilize opportunities to share your vocation as parents: what you value, how you came to that decision, and the importance of faith in your life.
V: Visit Churches and Shrines while on vacation and offer prayers together as a family.
W: Witness to your own vocation by telling stories about how you fell in love. Let the children see the love and care that parents have for each other.
XYZ: The end of the alphabet, but certainly not the end of ways or ideas to foster vocations at home!
May God bless you in your vocation as parents and the in the future vocation of your child!