As I noted last time, the vocation directors we’ve heard from indicated that young men today need to form solid connections in order to be encouraged to follow God’s call to the priesthood. When you think about that, it makes perfect sense. Christianity is not a “me and Jesus” religion, as some might believe. Rather, we’re a community — a family — whose purpose is to support one another on our way to Heaven.
I was talking with Fr. Scott Raef, Vocation Director for the Diocese of Amarillo, recently. He shared a great story about how important it is to offer that encouragement to those whom we think might have a priestly vocation. He told me how he had made such comments to a fellow he knew, and that those comments came back to the young man years later, after he had spent time in school and starting a career.
I’ve always made a point of asking boys and young men if they’ve thought about becoming a priest. Once, it even got a good laugh. When I was hosting Catholic Answers Live, we produced a monthly show for kids to ask questions. When we had answered the question of a young caller named Alex, I took the opportunity to pose the question: “So, Alex, have you ever thought about being a priest when you get older?” To my – and, I’m sure, our listeners’ – great surprise, Alex replied, “I’m a girl!”
At least Alex had her theology right. And, while I was sorry I mistook Alex for a young boy, to this day I’m not sorry I asked the question. Neither should you be when you ask the same question of boys or young men you know. It could be just the thing they need to lead them to give their lives to the Church as priests!
It’s often noted that we get to choose our friends, but not our family, a reference to the fact that we sometimes find it easier to relate to our buddies and acquaintances than we do our own parents or siblings. True enough, perhaps.
But, to be totally honest, the latter are in a position to do much more for the cause of priestly vocations than the former. It doesn’t always turn out that way, but in an ideal world, it would.
It’s within the family that the seeds of a vocation to the priesthood are to be planted and watered. A Godly father, a loving mother, and supportive brothers and sisters can do wonders for a boy or young man who is feeling that gentle nudge in his heart to follow in the footsteps of the holy priests he encounters regularly.
Let’s face it, though, with the breakdown of the traditional family, and the absence of many things that used to encourage young men to think frequently about becoming a priest (schools with numerous priests and religious as teachers, and so on), it’s often not one’s family of origin that fosters and nurtures his sense of a priestly vocation.
We’re no doubt seeing a resurgence of traditional family life, but it could take several generations before it attains the prominence in our society that it once held. In the meantime, Pope Benedict XVI has recently addressed this critical issue.
Every child born into the world has a vocation, a specific calling from God. If you’re raising young children, particularly boys, be sure you do all you can to encourage them to seek God’s will in their lives, and provide what Pope Benedict calls “spiritual terrain for vocations.”
If Vocation Boom! has one objective, it’s to promote an understanding of the vocation to priesthood as the Church has always understood it. And, we want to provide assistance and resources to those who are on the “front lines” in the Church’s efforts to bring about an increase in vocations.
That’s why, before the site even launched, we sent out a link to the site along with a short survey to all of the diocesan vocation directors in the United States. We are grateful to the many who took time out of their busy schedules to answer our survey questions. The feedback they gave will continue to supply us with guidance as we enhance the web site.
Among the feedback we received were three key points. Based on the experience of vocation directors, young men today, in order to be able to adequately discern a call to the priesthood, need to:
Later this week, I will begin a series of posts dealing with these overarching points, as well as some of the other critical areas noted by the vocation directors. I invite you to offer your comments on any of these important matters, especially if your own experience has helped you come to a solid understanding of how to address them.
In the meantime, please help us spread the word about Vocation Boom! We’re hearing from people everywhere that they are discovering the site and referring it those who might be interested in knowing more about the priesthood. Your help in doing that is greatly appreciated!
For years, I’ve made the comment that I believe all young men – and women – have a moral obligation before God to at least “ask the question.” Ask what question? Undoubtedly, the most important question any person will ever ask – what am I supposed to do with my life?
I say this because as Catholic Christians, we understand that every person has a vocation, a “calling” from God on his life to follow a particular path, the one that will make him happiest, and the one that will bring the greatest glory to God. When you think about it, this is really an awesome gift from God to each one of us.
Often, the answer to “that question” doesn’t come easy. It can take quite a while in fact. And knowing the steps to take can be a challenge. I remember discerning – even agonizing – for a few years before I made the decision to enter formation for the priesthood in 1989. And I recall even more vividly the difficulty with which I left the seminary.
So many thoughts went through my mind and heart. What would my family think? What about all the friends who were supportive of my priestly vocation? Most of all, was I letting God down and no longer following his will?
It’s taken many years, but I have such a peace in my heart that I am right where the Lord wants me. And you, too, can have that same peace, as long as you honestly “ask the question,” and more honestly respond to whatever it is the Holy Spirit prompts you to do.
In a sense, you really can’t make a “wrong” choice when it comes to your vocation if you are listening attentively to the voice of God, are open to doing whatever it is he asks of you, and are getting good advice from holy people you trust.
All of that, I believe, is a great recipe for vocational happiness. And, even though the majority of men who “ask the question” are not called to the priesthood, a certain number are.
Might you be numbered among those who are being invited by God to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as a priest?