Helpful Tips for Parents and Friends
Are you a parent of a child or young adult who has told you that they are interested in becoming a priest, deacon, or joining a religious order? Or perhaps you are a good friend of a person who has said, "I am joining a seminary in order to be a priest?" Most likely, many thoughts are running through your head. Perhaps you are not excited at the prospect, maybe even a bit angry or sad. This is normal! When your loved one is discerning God's call in his or her life, you are inevitably drawn into his or her discernment process precisely because this is your child, or your friend, and you want only the best for them.
Fear not! Be not angry or sad!
In fact, when your loved one expresses to you that they are discerning God's call in their lives, this is a time to rejoice. It is not merely that someone one day chooses to be a priest, monk, or nun - rather, God chooses them in His own mysterious way and calls them to explore the blessed and holy life of service to the Church. So often, we see such a religious call as something that is not clearly understood. This is perfectly normal, since God's ways are mysterious to us. Look at the first book of Samuel in the Old Testament - when Samuel was called by God, he thought that Eli the priest was calling him, and even Eli thought Samuel was making this call up in his head. But Samuel answered the call and was persistent, and both realized that God was indeed calling out to Samuel, for he was chosen by God to serve the Israelites. Even Samuel's mother, Hannah, who was childless, had her burden relived from her, and for this and the blessings she received, she offered her only son in service to God and the Israelite nation (1 Samuel 1:1 - 3:21).
Realize that God has a way of rewarding a family whose son or daughter answers God's call to service. When you encourage your son, daughter, or friend, to explore their vocational call, you are directly blessing God by offering him your love in sharing your family with the Church and with the world. Just as Hannah and her husband Elkanah (again refer to 1 Samuel 1:1 - 3:21), and many other families were indeed blessed by having their son or daughter answer God's call, you too can share in this blessing.
By encouraging your son, daughter, or friend, to listen to God's voice, you are enabling growth in the Church. The uncertainty of where God is leading them is certainly unsettling, but look at it as a genuine test of your faith and love. By facilitating vocations in your own families, you ensure that we have future generations of priests, monks, and nuns that will continue to faithfully serve not just our Church and people, but YOU as well. By allowing your children to follow God's call, you ensure that you still have a Church that will address your spiritual and temporal needs (clergy to hear your confessions, bury your dead, instruct your children, and so much more). We pray that you open your own hearts to God's mercy, love, and blessings. So when you hear that special someone in your own life say to you, "I want to be a Priest!", or "I want to be a nun/sister!", or "I want to serve the church as a monk!", listen to them! Be that encouraging voice in their lives! And above all else, PRAY FOR THEM! Don't be afraid, and let God work in their lives - you too can reap the blessings that they bring!