Fostering Vocations in the family
The seedbed for vocations is the family. The family is the first seminary and domestic Church. Children from an early age wonder what they will be when they grow up, what job they will have. What excites them as they grow up forms their decisions, their choices, their education and their interests. They all want to do exciting things when they get older and not boring things.
A vocation is God’s special plan for each person. It can be Marriage, the Priesthood, Religious Life or Single Life. A vocation is given to us by God and it is through prayer we discover what God has planned for us. Prayer is the water which assists the seed of a vocation to grow. A family which prays together grows vocations.
Our first calling is to become Saints, to live good and holy lives, to go to heaven and take others with us.
Parents have the job of fostering and encouraging vocations in their children and this begins with the practice of the Catholic Faith.
Nothing inspires children more than the example of their parents, faithfully practicing their Catholic faith and showing a good example. What comes from the lips of parents is more powerful than what is spoken by others.
Children need inspiration, to be shown a good example, to have people to copy and model themselves on. The example of parents attending Mass, going to Confession, praying in the church and at home and making sacrifices for Christ are powerful influences on children’s faith and formation.
It is the parent’s job to teach their children how to pray, to teach them about the teachings of the Catholic Church, the Saints, devotions and practices of the Church, the Scriptures, the Traditions of the Church, the Pope and the Priesthood and especially to treasure the Mass. Weekly lessons at a set time are to be encouraged. Sunday is often an excellent day to set aside some time for teaching your children about the faith.
The Catholic shop at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton, ‘Rosa Mystica’ provides many resources from prayer cards, holy medals, Rosary Breads, books on Saints and children’s books, to assist parents in the job as the first educators of the faith.
This formation begins at an early age. The practice of bringing children to Mass, reinforces the faith they received at their baptism. ‘No crying infants at Mass is a sad Church with no future’. It is difficult for children to understand the faith, if they are not practicing it. Faith grows by practice.
Regular reading of the lives of the Saints is a powerful tool for fostering vocations and especially our first vocation, the call to holiness and to become saints. The saints are powerful examples for children and all people. Their lives, their sufferings, how they lived, can and will give inspiration and encouragement to all who learn about their lives.
Vocations grow out of prayer. A set time of prayer is essential, in the evening, after tea or before going to bed. For example praying the Rosary, reading the Scriptures, the lives of the Saints, formal prayers, prayers of thanksgiving and petition and a time of silent prayer.
Making time to pray together is the challenge for families competing with the pressures and noises of the world, TV, the internet and many other distractions.
Vocations grow from the example of other vocations. Invite your Parish Priest regularly for a meal and get to know him as a person.
Teach your children how to address him. ‘Good morning Father’, ‘Kia ora e Pa’ and ‘Good bye Father’, etc.
Spend a moment after Mass talking to the priest. After Mass, is a very valuable time for your children to meet up with other children, and for them to have a brief chat with the priest.
Encourage your sons to become altar servers. These days both boys and girls may serve. Boys are better to serve with other boys as they can’t compete with the girls’ enthusiasm!
Many priestly vocations have grown from being Altar Servers. It is a privilege to be an altar server. It teaches them about prayer, the sacred vessels, the Scriptures and the different things that are used at Mass. They learn about the vestments worn by the priest. Altar servers learn discipline as they need to be early for Mass and to be reverent and prayerful. Altar servers learn commitment, responsibility and they especially learn about the sacredness of the Mass, as they are working in the Sanctuary.
During the major feasts of the Church, (the Triduum, Christmas, All Saints and All Souls etc) altar servers can’t help but be touched by the beauty of the Church’s liturgy, a reminder of heavenly things. This must make an impact on their lives.
There are many other opportunities which can also touch children and young people, for example the Chrism Mass or an ordination of a Priest. These are beautiful Masses and reminders of the wonder of the Church’s liturgy. We need continuous reminders so we don’t forget. Hence the Liturgical Season of the Church is always changing, so we are continually focusing on Christ and on our salvation.
Universal and Local Church
When children get older there are other opportunities provided for them from the Universal and Local Church to encourage their vocation. (See ‘Fostering Vocations in the Parish‘)
The mystery of a vocation is in the hands of God, who has a unique plan for each one of us.
We pray to the ‘Lord of the harvest’ for more vocations and that he will use families to encourage and foster future vocations to the Priesthood.