Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Domestic Church: Encouraging Vocations


Vocations are the lifeblood of the Church. The Church needs people to consistently respond to God's call to the vocation to the priesthood or religious life to flourish and fulfill its mission on earth to spread the Gospel and to be a conduit of God's grace for the salvation of souls. But, it's no secret that people willing to respond to this unique calling don't simply fall out of the sky, but require an environment suitable to fostering vocations. Even more importantly, someone who is willing to simply suggest that a young man would consider the vocation to the priesthood, or that a young man or woman consider the vocation to the religious life, is ultimately required.

There was a period in the second half of the last century where mothers and fathers often abandoned such conversations and encouragement with their own children, with some parents viewing vocations as a waste of potential, or not stopping to consider that it is they who are the primary teachers of their children in the faith and it is they who needed to openly encourage discernment of vocations in their children. This lack of encouragement in families, among other factors, played a large role in decreasing numbers of men entering the seminary to study for the priesthood, and decreasing numbers of women religious in formation. Thankfully, we are in the midst of, as John Paul II predicted, the "new springtime" of the Church, and this trend is being abruptly reversed (at least in the United States). Here is a great article (entitled "Filled to Overflowing") on the "problem" at the minor seminary in my own Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis; they can barely house all of the young men who have enrolled to discern the priesthood! Likewise, vocations to the religious life are increasing in some very faithful communities who practice the Faith with zeal, such as the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist in Michigan (they're having a hard time keeping up with housing for all of their new postulants as well). This trend needs to be magnified, and the time is now for Catholic families to reclaim their role as the primary incubators of vocations, and that means parents need to step up.

Molly and I would love to see many vocations come out of our family. Ultimately that's up to God's calling for any one of our children, but we will make darn sure that any potential calling has a chance to reach one of our children with clarity. Through homeschooling and home educating in the Faith, explicit discussions of the beauty of the priesthood and religious life (and their necessity) will be frequent, just as discussions of the beauty of the sacrament of marriage (a vocation in itself) and the necessity of Godly marriages and families will be frequent. But this is really the tip of the iceberg of what really needs to be done. I found a site, randomly, which is maintained by the diocese of St. Petersburg, FL, and it is the BEST page on encouraging vocations in the family that I have ever seen. Every dicoese should have a page just like this on their website. It has a whole list of pointers on how vocations can be encouraged in family life.

Check it out here, and let's start fostering vocations in our families!

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