How can I encourage my children to consider a religious vocation?

Altenhofen family. Photo: Stephen Brashear Altenhofen family. Photo: Stephen Brashear

Q: I am a mother of three young children, two boys and one girl. Both my husband and I would feel incredibly blessed if they all had vocations to the religious life. I pray for this intention, but what else can we do to encourage our children to consider religious life?

A: Thank you for your generosity in desiring and praying for vocations within your family. I think it is important for Christian parents to pray for their children that they discover what God’s will is in their lives, especially if they have the calling to the religious life. Fostering a culture of openness to religious vocations within the family is one of the most important things that parents can do for their children.

If they have religious vocations, your children will find their greatest happiness and fulfillment in life precisely in discovering and living them. Some of the happiest people I know are priests and religious.

There is a family in my parish that has five children. Incredibly, three of them are in consecrated life or actively pursuing it through the initial stages of formation. The parents are hoping that their remaining two children still living at home will follow in their siblings’ footsteps.

I asked them what their secret was. They said that they pray daily together as a couple for their children, that they follow God’s will wherever it leads them. They also pray together as a family almost every night and make weekly Mass a priority. It seems almost natural that a religious vocation would spring from such a prayerful environment.

When children see and experience an active faith and prayer life in and through their parents, it makes a lasting impression on them and inspires them to consider a vocation if they are called to it.

For children to seriously consider religious life, they also should be in contact with clergy and consecrated men and women. They need to see that priests and religious are real people who have chosen freely and joyfully to leave everything to serve the Lord and God’s people within the church. The example of real people living their vocations can inspire young people to follow in their footsteps. There are some amazing local opportunities for teens to bump shoulders with priests and religious (see box).

Children also should be encouraged to be active in the life of their local parish and community — through a youth group, altar serving and other faith formation and service opportunities. When children are actively involved in the life the church beyond Sunday Mass, they are more likely to fall in love with it.

Our culture of materialism and consumerism influences many young people to choose career paths based solely on how much money they might earn. Living a simple life at home teaches children by example that stuff can never be the source of ultimate happiness and fulfillment, which comes only from God. A spirit of Gospel simplicity in the home is crucial in fostering religious vocations.

Jesus says to Peter and Andrew, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) Jesus calls specific people to follow him as priests, deacons and religious — people just like your children. Creating a culture of openness to religious life that makes space for God to speak to your children — and giving them the freedom to respond — is at the heart of inspiring vocations in your home.

May God’s blessing be with you today and always!  

Opportunities to discern and promote vocations

Viva!, a retreat for single women ages 20–40, will be held May 14–15 at The Priory Spirituality Center in Lacey. Learn about religious life from several participating communities. Contact Sister Lucy at 360-438-2595.

Quo Vadis Days, a free camp for young men ages 13–18, will be held June 26–29 at Camp Don Bosco near Carnation. Learn more about the priesthood, deepen your faith and better discern God’s call in your life. Visit qvdays.org.

Steubenville Northwest, a weekend of spiritual growth for high school youth groups, will be held July 29–31 at Gonzaga University in Spokane. Visit spiritusnw.org.

Ignite Your Torch Northwest, a high school Catholic youth conference, will be held Aug. 4–7 at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey. Meet young priests and religious and learn ways to build a culture of life. Visit ignitenw.org.

Serra Club promotes and supports vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Now a worldwide organization, Serra got its start in Seattle in 1935.
Visit seattleserra.org.

Archdiocese of Seattle vocations news, information and photos are at facebook.com/seattlevocations and instagram.com/seattlevocations.

Northwest Catholic - May 2016

Father Cal Christiansen

Father Cal Christiansen is pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Mountlake Terrace. Send your questions for “Ask Father” to [email protected]

Website: www.nwcatholic.org/spirituality/ask-father