Facing Up to the Vocation of Their Children

By Sister M. Beata Ziegler, FSGM

Vocation Director for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George

Just a few weeks ago, I attended a Confirmation Retreat focused on vocations. During a session with parents and sponsors of the Confirmation candidates, two young ladies from a local university were sharing about their experience of feeling called to religious life and the subsequent reactions of their various family members.

One Mother's first words were, "Are you gay?"

(I think my jaw hit the ground at that one!)

Then there is the old adamant stand-by, "We want grandchildren!"

Or even, "We want you to make something of your life."

Honestly, my tolerance with some parents has reached a low ebb as I work daily with young women and see the opposition that many of them face from their parents. So, I've had to step back and look at the reasons parents oppose their children embracing a vocation to the religious life or priesthood.

Parents have a very big responsibility in raising children and helping to carefully guide them in life. Asking questions and exploring life's options with your children is an important duty. However, I have a few suggestions for parents, grandparents or anyone who is giving advice to a young person who is thinking of a religious vocation.

1. Analyze your initial gut-reaction to a child or loved one who has announced they are thinking of entering religious life or the priesthood. Did the words you used reflect any sort of selfishness on your part? If you said, "I want," during the conversation, think about this:

"Parents must regard their children as *children of God*..."
Catechism of the Catholic Church #2222

If the main reason for opposing a vocation for your children is because of your own desires, be it for grandchildren, prestige or financial security, then you must begin to see your children as separate from yourself. Pray to see them as a GIFT that God has given to you. Ultimately they are children of the Heavenly Father.

2. Is your reaction based on your own past experience with priests or religious?

Often if parents have been hurt in the past by priests or religious, then they see that vocation in a negative manner and don't want their child to "turn out that way." Each individual makes choices about how they will live their lives, whether they are religious or married. A vocation in itself does not make someone sinful. People in religious life or priesthood have sometimes not chosen to follow Jesus as they vowed they would do. Pray for healing of past hurts and try to see a vocation as a gift to your child.

3. Are you hesitant because you know very little about religious life or the priesthood?

For most people, at the root of their concerns is a lack of understanding of religious life. It is good to ask questions and find out more about each religious community that your child may be exploring. Our Lord wants us to use our free will and educate ourselves in the truth, so that an embrace of our life's vocation may be done in full knowledge and in love. Encourage your children to learn more and to lovingly follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

"Family ties are important but not absolute. Just as the child grows to maturity and human and spiritual autonomy, so his unique vocation which comes from God asserts itself more clearly and forcefully. Parents should respect this call and encourage their children to follow it. They must be convinced that the first vocation of the Christian is to follow Jesus: "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Mt. 10:37; CCC 2232

The vocation to the consecrated life or priesthood is a gift. This gift is given to some but not just for her or himself, but for the whole Church. Time and time again, I have seen families benefiting more than they ever could have imagined because one or more of their children embraced religious life. God will not be outdone in generosity. If your hands are open, freely giving your children back to God to follow in His ways, then your hands will be open to receive the blessings that He will in turn pour out upon you!

As you look at your child, young or old, may your heart sing...

"May these little feet not wander from You.

May these little hands be raised in worship.

May this little heart be hungry for You.

May this gift of life be given back to You!"

(From the song *Gift of Life* by Andy Cloninger)

Check out this book: *The Meaning of Vocation: In the Words of John Paul II*. Scepter Publishers, ISBN 0-933932-99-5.

For more on the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, visit [www.altonfranciscans.org](http://www.altonfranciscans.org/).

For information on the priesthood and religious communities in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, visit [www.stlvocations.org/directory/](http://www.stlvocations.org/directory/index.html).