Vocations And The Family
In the Gospels, our Lord tells us that many are called but few are chosen. We can apply this saying of our Lord to the subject of vocations. We suffer today from a crying penury of vocations. Too few young men and women desire to consecrate their lives to God and the Church. Fewer still find in themselves the resolve necessary to persevere in their religious formation, whether at seminary or in the convent. God remains as generous as in times of old. Divine love continues to call and to beckon souls to come and follow Him. He never tires in seeking to share a special friendship with souls entirely dedicated to Him. Why is it that His si- lent voice seems no longer to be able to conquer souls so that they submit and surrender their lives to Him and to the service of the souls for whom He shed His blood?
Without a doubt, the family is the primary soil in which a vocation first germinates and takes root. If the family is happy and healthy, the children will be happy and healthy. If the family is unhappy and disorganized, the children will be unhappy and unruly.
Healthy families are those where parents strive to create an atmosphere of order, discipline, and piety in the home. They endeavor to shape family life in such a way that it offers the children an environment of structure and routine. Although children are sometimes slow in accommodating themselves to family discipline and seem only to delight in the unexpected and the unforeseen, in reality their natures crave security and reassurance. Children are by definition unprepared to face the big, wide world, and although they are in- trigued and enticed, they remain unconsciously aware of their incapacity to comprehend and to deal with the unknown.
Healthy families are, therefore, those that provide children with a setting that is made of regularity and routine. This, in turn, calls for discipline and perseverance which alone allow for the growth of virtue and good habits. The good example of their parents is of paramount importance. Most often, a child will only be as virtuous as his parents. Their behavior sets the tone. This is why children are so often shocked and disappointed when they perceive imperfection in their parents. Parents are, to them, oracles of honesty and truth. Children expect, therefore, their parents to prac- tice what they preach and to practice it to perfection. Good example is the parent’s primary educational tool.
Good habits perfect nature. They make us good men and women. When divine grace meets a well-trained mind and will, it is able to work divine wonders.
Piety is not an addition but an essential ingredient in the education of children. Family prayer and family participation in the liturgical life of the Church are vital elements in a child’s formation. They open the soul to the workings of God’s grace, which will eventually flower into fruits of holiness and generosity.
Family piety is first ordained to the sanctification of the family itself. A child prays not just for himself, but for his parents and siblings. He assists at Holy Mass, not just for himself, but as a member of his fam- ily, for his and their sanctification and safeguard. Such an outlook instills in the child an awareness and con- cern not just for personal good, but for the greater good of the community. In short, the child grows into an adult who is aware of his duties not just to himself, but to the great church community of which he is member: the Catholic Church.
Too often youngsters possess only an individualistic understanding of their duties to God. They remain oblivious and ignorant of their obligation not just to sanctify their own souls, but also the souls of their fellow members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Holiness is a corporate endeavor, not just an individual undertaking.
By creating in a child an awareness of his duties to God, to family, and to the Church, and by offering him an opportunity of practicing those duties, the child is able to see past his own spiritual needs and embrace those of souls further afield. This is an essen- tial component of the decision process that leads to the choice of a priestly or religious vocation.
Parents must, therefore, be in earnest to open their children’s minds to the spiritual duties and needs of their fellow men. This can only happen if the parents themselves set out on their own quest for holiness, for the good of their family, the Church, and the world. Piety must be a visible element in the life of all fathers and mothers.
It is no mystery that vocations are born most often to families whose parents are serious about their own sanctification. Whenever possible, they try to attend Holy Mass and other church services, in order to furnish their own contribution to the building up of the Mystical Body of Christ. Such parents are wise to include some of their children in their regular visits to church. Their family and their church need their prayers and their presence before the altar of divine sacrifice.
An ordered, disciplined, and pious family thus prepares the soul of the child by attuning it to the silent sound of God’s call. Like the young Samuel, the child will hear God’s voice and spontaneously respond: “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” (1Sam.3:9) Of a now trained and disciplined disposition, the young man or the young lady will be able to embrace the life of abnegation and restraint required to persevere through training up to the moment of irrevocable consecration and oblation.
The sacrifice of one’s life requires much courage, determination, and dedication. It is in and through the family, and through the example of dedicated and disciplined parents that a child is able to acquire the strength, understanding, and commitment necessary to respond to God’s invitation. Most importantly, a good and healthy family is one where the child is taught the art of love. In their parents, children must see charity in action, between the parents themselves and between the parents and God. Blessed are those born and reared by parents who understand that their children belong first to God, who may wish to associate them in His work of redemption. They must, therefore, prepare their children for a possible calling, by giving them an ordered home, wise counsel, and good example.