Parent's Page: Parenting a Vocation
"The world looks to the priest, because it looks to Jesus! No one can see Christ; but everyone sees the priest, and through him they wish to catch a glimpse of the Lord! Immense is the grandeur of the Lord! Immense is the grandeur and dignity of the priest!" - Blessed Pope John Paul II, October 13, 1979
Parenting a Vocation to the Priesthood
by Rev. Carl Fisette, Director of Vocations
“Children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward” (Ps 127:3). Parents are filled with such joy and at the birth of their child and rightfully so since children are “a gift from the Lord.” You want the best for them. You care for them and help them to grow and mature as human persons and as Christians. You are their first catechist.
Recognizing that parents are the first teachers of the faith, Blessed John Paul II noted that parents and extended families have a significant role in fostering vocations to the priesthood. He stated:
A very special responsibility falls upon the Christian family, which by virtue of the sacrament of matrimony shares in its own unique way in the educational mission of the Church - teacher and mother. As the synod fathers wrote: "The Christian family, which is truly a 'domestic Church' (Lumen Gentium, 11), has always offered and continues to offer favorable conditions for the birth of vocations…Families themselves, generously accepting the gift of human life, may be 'as it were, a first seminary' (Optatam Totius, 2) in which children can acquire from the beginning an awareness of piety and prayer and love for the Church. (Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 41)
Along with this unique responsibility that parents have in fostering vocations can come conflicting emotions and concerns about encouraging their own son to consider and respond to a call to the priesthood. It is only natural because you have questions and you want what is best for your son. Children are such a precious gift from the Lord and all the varying emotions and reactions that parents experience are based on their love for their child. Some parents will be enthusiastic and will wish that their son could be ordained tomorrow; other parents actively discourage a vocation to the priesthood, fearing that their son will be lonely or will not achieve success in the eyes of world; and most parents’ reaction will fall somewhere in between. Even the saints faced the gamut of reactions from their own families.
Will your son make sacrifices if he is ordained a priest? Yes—but a greater sacrifice for him would be to ignore God’s call since the vocation to which God is calling us is where we will find our greatest joy and fulfillment. There are sacrifices in each and every Christian vocation just as there are blessings. Husbands and wives make sacrifices for one another and the good of their marriage; parents make sacrifices (great and small) throughout their children’s lives. Our society often views chaste celibacy as a great sacrifice; priests and religious see chaste celibacy as a great gift which allows us to freely love God and neighbor because this is how God is calling us to live.
Will you, as a parent, make sacrifices if your son is ordained a priest? Perhaps. You may not have grandchildren or someone to carry on the family name (there is also no guarantee that you will have these things if your son is not a priest), you may be concerned about who will care for you as you get older or if you will see your son as often. These are reasonable and valid questions and concerns. Will you receive blessings if your son follows his vocation to the priesthood? Yes! Jesus assures His disciples that they will receive much more than they sacrifice in order to follow His will. This promise applies to all His disciples—not only those who are called to a religious vocation. Recall Jesus words, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive [back] an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come” (Luke 18:29-30, emphasis added).
So what are parents who want the best for their son to do? Here are some tips:
- Be Supportive and Sincere: It takes courage for your son to discern and discuss a vocation which many see as counter-cultural. Be sincere in your support; don’t overreact positively (which may cause your son to feel pressured into the priesthood to make you proud) or negatively (which may cause your son to abandon his vocation). One priest relates that upon telling his mother that he was considering entering the seminary and becoming a priest, his mother beautifully replied, “That’s wonderful. Know that I will pray for you and support you and your vocation in any way. If this is where God wants you then that is great. But if you enter the seminary and then find that God is calling you to something other than the priesthood, then I will be just as proud of you for doing whatever He calls you to do.”
- Pray: Pray for your son as he discerns God’s will, but don’t neglect praying for the other members of your family. Pray also for your own docility to how God is calling each of your children to use their unique gifts and talents to serve Him.
- Ask questions: There may be questions that you have about your son’s discernment or about the Church. Don’t be afraid to ask him or to call the Office of Vocations for more information about the priesthood. Understand if your son is not ready to get into all the details of his discernment right away; it is really a very personal process with the Lord.
Parents only want what is best for their children. Remember that we are God’s children and our loving Father desires only what is best for us. You son is discerning abandoning his will to God’s, trusting that this is what God is calling him to do. Trust that if God is calling your son to the priesthood then this is what is best for your son and abandon your will to God’s.