Posts filed under vocations

10 Ways to Discourage Your Boys from a Priestly Vocation

Priestly vocation: The holy grail of Catholic motherhood. Which of us doesn't harbor the tiny hope that at least one of our boys will become Alter Christus and give us that coveted first blessing on ordination day? I used to think all Catholic moms held such secret dreams but as my boys have grown taller and closer to the age of serious discernment, the truth becomes more alarmingly apparent. That is that we, as a Church, say we want vocations; but what we sometimes really mean is that we want vocations from other people's families. On top of that, some people are not content to undermine their own kids' priestly vocations but also want to scuttle your kid's as well. 

This revelation was alarming to me at first but since I wouldn't want it to be said that I'm a stumbling block to unity in the Church, I put together this little post. It will be a companion piece to my recent article about Igniting a Child's Passion for Vocation in the home. Both sides of the church aisle will be happy. And the Catholic mommy wars? They will be so over on this blog. I happily introduce you to...

10 Ways to Discourage Your Boys From Discerning a Priestly Vocation
{aka What Not To Do If You Want Healthy Happy Catholic Boys}

1. Act like priestly vocations are the dodo birds of Catholicism. Make sure your boys know that hardly anyone becomes a priest. Only "special" people explore that extraordinarily unusual idea. Make sure to attend Catholic events so infrequently that it will indeed seem to your kiddos that priest truly are rare birds. No kid wants to be that weird. 

2. Make sure that they never have the opportunity to serve at the altar under the tutelage of a joyful and faithful priest. If they insist, make sure that they only get the chance to serve alongside girls who really are much better at serving. This will ensure that they not only feel like dopes, but also serve as a natural deterrent to altar serving -- since boys don't really want to be like girls. At all. They just want to be liked by girls.... which is also a great way to distract from attentive, prayerful, focused time in the presence of their Eucharistic Lord. Instead of praying and serving alongside other boys probably discerning the priesthood (danger! danger!), they will be in the same social situation they are always in at school and in their neighborhood. Nothing special to see here boys! This is a girls gig. 

3. Give them unfettered access to all forms of electronic media, internet, and video games. Because a better distraction from a healthy interior life could hardly be devised. If they have no interior life, they will not pray. If they will not pray, they will not be able to enter into serious discernment and develop a strong relationship with God. If they do not develop a strong relationship with God, they will never hear His call over the noise of the world. 

4. Let them date young. Let them date often. Encourage their inner stud as soon as possible. By doing so, you completely avoid that annoyingly significant and productive period of sexual latency in the younger years. In the teen years, it prevents the youth from exploring their  productive energy, creativity, and undistracted discernment. This is key. A young man in danger of discerning a possible priestly vocation must not be allowed to be alone with his serious thoughts. Having a girl attached like a shadow is critical to this success.

5. Talk constantly about their future wives and children. Tell them that you will be the most miserable woman on the planet if they do not produce your grandchildren. Make sure those boys know how important it is to you that they carry on the family name (especially if you only have one son!) You've got the power to inflict insane doses of maternal guilt. Work it! If anyone brings up the thousands of spiritual grandchildren you'll have as the mother of a priest, just let the tears well up... and then send the boys for tissues for their sadly afflicted mother.

6. Make sure you belong to a parish full of joyless priests. A priest who is in love with God and filled with the joy of his vocation will be enormously attractive to a young man seeking God's will for his life. Priestly mentors of choice should appear to be completely bored and more interested in their Sunday supper than Sunday liturgy. 

7. Choose a faith community that is antagonistic toward priests in general and specifically, vocations in your children. Listen for these key phrases and invite the people who speak them to dinner at least once a week. (Also, encourage your sons to take these people as their Confirmation sponsors.)

"You? A priest? That would be such a waste of talent and good looks!"
"I don't think any man should be ordained until they allow women to join them!"
"There's something wrong with a good looking man who chooses not to marry."
"What a pity... so many broken hearts sure to be left behind."
"Well, I guess the good news is that you have siblings to give your parents grandchildren."
"What a great, great sacrifice. Such a martyrdom you are about to face. Lonely, lonely life. But we need those men willing to be miserable for us. Yes, we do. *sigh*"

You get the idea. Subtle little poison darts. Poke, poke, poke. 

8. Totally neglect their spiritual formation and teach them absolutely nothing about a life of virtue. After all, a priest is a servant. His life is completely wrapped up in service to God and God's people. Are you following me here? If you raise boys who are completely self-absorbed, there will be very little chance of them giving their lives completely to others. Do not under any circumstances give them access to the lives of the saints. Ain't nobody got time for poor, persecuted, martyred (!) children.

9. Surround them with the secular culture and allow them to fill up their ipods with a bunch of music that glorifies sin. Every once in a while, make a lame pretense of limiting their access to soul trash (you are Catholic, after all) and throw a mom fit about that one song. They will peg you immediately for a hypocrite, erase it after giving you an earful, and download it again a week later. This pattern keeps you both from engaging in serious discussion of moral choices but totally saves face for you. Having their minds completely cluttered with filth also works seamlessly with the goals of #2, #4, #7, and #8. 

Not sure if you're doing a good job with this one? Try this experiment: Create a fill-in-the blank test that includes partial lyrics from Katy Perry songs and partial verses from Scripture. Their answers should enlighten you. 

10. Keep your boys ignorant of Scripture. St. Jerome famously said that "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." Since the priest is in persona Christi... well... this just makes sense. If the boys are clueless about Scripture, they will be that much more deaf to the depth of the Eucharistic liturgy. And why would someone become a priest if they don't love the liturgy?

This is not a complete list but it should give you a very solid start. Follow it closely for best odds of having numerous grandchildren and the relief of never having to listen to a homily on virtue delivered by the boy who once tried to make a bomb out of sparklers and who poked his sister 142 times with a pencil on your car trip to Myrtle Beach. The world will thank you and you will be able to continue to comfortably bemoan the lack of vocations (from other people's families) while kissing your grandbabies. 

Not sure you're into this kind of Catholic parenting? Then do read my post Igniting a Child's Passion For Vocation.

Have any tips to add? Feel free to share them in the comments! 

Posted on June 8, 2015 and filed under Family Life, parenting, vocations.

Igniting a Child's Passion for Vocation

We picked my oldest son up at the seminary last Sunday after his weekend "come and see" visit. With all our littles, middles and bigs in tow, we joined the community for Sunday Mass and then for a brunch in the dining hall. It was a typical Mass for me, chasing my 1-year old up and down halls and encouraging her to "touch it gently" but "don't grab." I saved a precariously placed statue of Mary from meeting the floor half a dozen times (apparently, toddlers are not a general concern in seminaries) and went on a long chase down a hall I'm pretty sure I wasn't meant to go down. But we made it.

I watched my 17-year old son in between distractions and as always, was startled that the word "boy" hardly seems to fit anymore. I noted his tired eyes -- he had taken a 3am holy hour and been up early for a meeting with the vocations director. I also noted that his tired eyes were shining. I know that look. His soul had been stirred. And I realized with more than just my intellect that my place in this journey had changed. Whatever concrete measures I have taken to prepare for this period of discernment up to now will have to suffice. My time is almost up. I am now a supporter, a counselor (if called upon) and a pray-er... come what may.

It is not my job to make sure that any one of my children becomes a priest or religious. Not at all. It is my job - my vocation - to make sure that the foundation has been laid for an openness to doing God's will, wherever that may lead. My job is to lead them to holiness... and to do what I have to do to clear the path to grace.  

We already have all of the resources that we need to pursue sanctity in the home. We could immerse ourselves in Scripture, the documents of the Church, and the lives of the saints and never exhaust them in our lifetimes. When it comes to encouraging an openness to priestly or religious vocations, it hardly involves more. We are simply teaching them to love the Church, to hear the call of God, and to say yes to His will. But if I had to make a list, this is what it would look like. This is not a checklist. Our children will not respond to a formula, but to radical love...

  • Enter into the sacramental life and liturgical year.
  • Teach Virtue.
  • Keep trash out of the home and heart.
  • Foster an interior life.
  • Live a life of service and radical discipleship.
  • Pray out loud.
  • Encourage service at the altar.
  • Find opportunities for your boys to serve with only boys.
  • Expose your kids to joyful and faithful priests and religious.
  • Find a parish with beautiful and correct liturgy. Be willing to drive to find it. 
  • Teach them to read well and give them access to the lives of the saints and Church documents.
  • Model a joyful married life.
  • Don't give away your parenthood.
  • Teach healthy interpersonal behaviors.
  • Discourage exclusive dating before an age of marriage discernment.
  • Introduce them to sacred music.
  • Limit exposure to people who tear down the seeds of vocation. 
  • Be a dad who leads.
  • Be a mom who speaks joy.
  • If your kid's school undermines Christian joy and the seeds of vocation... homeschool. Even if it's hard.
  • Sing as a family.
  • Study the liturgy.
  • Be willing to confiscate the ipod/ipad/iphone/laptop etc. for as long as you need to.
  • Teach them to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
  • Visit convents, monasteries and seminaries as energetically as you visit college campuses.
  • Make friends with faithful priests and religious.
  • Don't let sports become a family idol.
  • Keep them away from priests who are tepid and who lack masculine virtues.
  • Frequently ask people for prayers.
  • Buy or make your boys a play Mass kit and small vestments
  • Make sure your daughters get to wear a religious habit at least once on All Saints' Day.
  • Teach your kids to pray about their vocation.
  • Don't let the world have your teens.

This is a long list but it is still wildly incomplete (and admittedly heavy on male vocations). I could write an entire post on each of these points. This is simply a summary of what I have seen produce fruit in our home. Again, this is not a checklist. Our focus should be on living authentically and dynamically Catholic wherever God has placed us. My family has not done this perfectly. Not. at. all. I am not sharing these things from a place of authority, because I have none to speak of. The only success I can claim (by the grace of God) is that we somehow managed to pass on the joyful respect we have for the various vocations. When they dream of possibilities, they don't exclude religious vocations or the priesthood. Our kids may have preferences (and a long road ahead of them), but for now, they all ask the question: What does God want me to do? And we can't ask for more than that.

For those of you interested in knowing more about my kids' vocation journeys, I must tell you that most of that information will never make it to these pages because their stories are becoming less and less mine to tell. But I can offer you a brief glimpse right now into the heart of a discerning young man (my oldest)... and ask that you read his story, pray for him, and perhaps share it with someone who might be able to offer him some material assistance. Read more here: Priestly Discernment Pilgrimage

And if you would like to read more parental perspectives on "Talking Vocations With your Family," click on over to visit Gina at Someday Saints who is hosting this great blog hop!

Posted on February 17, 2015 and filed under Faith, Family Life, parenting, vocations.