It’s vocations week! Since Pope St. John Paul II told us that “families are the seedbed of vocations,” what are some of the ways we can help our kids find theirs?
1. Teach them to seek Christ, not themselves. The world offers a lot of self-centered paths to happiness, but Christ offers true joy.
“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” – Pope St John Paul II, World Youth Day, August 19th, 2000
2. Teach them to be a gift of self. Your vocation is not found in what you get, but in what you give. We try hard to teach our kids that they are special and unique, and we push them to excel in academics and athletics. We also need to teach them humility, and that they are here to love and serve others above all. If they learn to give themselves in service of others as children, they will more naturally find how they are called to be a gift of self in their vocation.
“Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self. This might appear to be a contradiction, but in fact it is not. Instead it is the magnificent paradox of human existence: an existence called to serve the truth in love. Love causes man to find fulfilment through the sincere gift of self.” –Pope John Paul II, Letter to Families, 11
3. Love your spouse. Seeing a love that is faithful, selfless, and stronger than human weakness gives kids a sense of security in the sacrament of marriage and a sense of the permanency of God’s love for them. When their parents love each other, it gives them the safe space to follow the path of love God calls them to, whatever it is, knowing that fidelity to a vocation is possible, and beautiful. Old school wisdom said that you should never fight in front of your kids. A healthier rule would be to real about what marriage is, arguments and all, but to show them that love, and your marriage, is stronger than any disagreement. That way, when they marry and have their first fight, or if they embrace consecrated life and have their first disagreement in community life, they won’t be shaken to the core and will know that their vocation is stronger than any storms.
4. Make a variety of vocations present in their lives. Go out of your way to have them interact with priests, religious, consecrated and single people so that they can see how people live these vocations in real life, and so that they can build a familiarity and resonance with whatever God is calling them to.
5. Pray for them. Pray that their hearts will be open and sensitive to whatever God asks of them. Pray that they have the wisdom to follow his voice and not the distractions of the world. Pray that he will always lead them back to himself when they wander (and they will). Pray for their future spouses. Pray for all priests, religious, and consecrated, because your child may become one. Pray for God to help you love, cultivate and nourish, but not dictate or force your child’s vocation. Pray for them to have empathetic servants’ hearts that are strong enough to protect the weak and meek enough to serve all people.
6. Live generosity in your marriage. Vocations require generosity. Model generosity by being open to life in your marriage. Having children, or another child, requires generosity. It also enables (forces) the other children in the family to live generosity in a way that nothing else can. Be detached and generous with your material possessions so children learn their value in service to the good of others, not simply as stuff to acquire. Give your time to serve the needs of the church and the community.
7. Be an apostolic family. Serve others as a family, whether it is the poor downtown or the friends down the street. Be active in your parish and look for missionary works in your local area that resonate with you and what your family has to offer. Check out the Regnum Christi webpage to find family missions in your local area.
8. Live the Sacraments together. Go to Mass as a family. Make family trips to confession followed by ice cream to celebrate. Christ encounters us personally and impactfully in the sacraments. Make them an important part of your family life so kids will continue to live them after they leave for college.
9. Visit religious communities. Make family pilgrimages and missions to places where religious orders are present or carry out ministries. Some ideas are:
• Mission Youth Missions, run by Regnum Christi, these local and overseas missions are run by lay members, Legionaries of Christ and Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi
• the urban missions of the Missionaries of Charity, which welcome families to join them in serving the poor
• the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, run by the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word
• check your diocesan website to find out what religious communities are present near you and contact them to see what events they hold that are open to families
10. Give them a strong Catholic formation. Whether through solid Catholic schools, faith-based homeschooling, parish-based faith formation or other programs, give your kids the irreplaceable gift of catechesis as a foundation for their worldview. ECYD supports the formation parents give their kids with a built in positive peer community and a missionary element. Many rich online formation materials are also available. RCSpirituality.com, EWTN, Word on Fire, Ascension Press, and The Augustine Institute all offer great resources for families, and for different ages and interests of children, from little ones to young adults.