Parents and the Discernment of a Religious Vocation
I received the inspiration for this post from Monday’s meditation in the book “In Conversation With God” by Francis Fernandez. The meditation was so timely because I returned from my home visit on Sunday afternoon. It had me thinking about my relationship to God and to my parents. I think that parental opposition to a vocation to the Priesthood and the Religious Life is a significant factor in the failure or delay of young people(and the not so young-like myself) to follow Christ’s call.
Here is an excerpt from Monday July 14th’s meditation:
Complete freedom to follow Christ. A vocation is a great honor.
He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, we read in the Gospel of today’s Mass.(1) When one freely decides to follow Christ completely it takes preference over other plans: one’s father or mother, boyfriend or girlfriend. God’s call comes first, and everything else has to take second place to this.
Christ’s words don’t create any incompatability between the First and Fourth Commandments, but rather highlight their mutual relationship. But love for our parents cannot take precedence over love for God. Ordinarily there will be little reason for conflict to arise, but should it ever happen, that would be the moment to recall the words of the adolescent Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem: How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?(2) Jesus’ reply to Mary and Joseph, who had sought him anxiously is a very good example for both children and parents: for children it teaches them that they shouldn’t put affection for their family before love for God, especially when Our Lord asks them to follow Him with a total self-giving; for parents, it helps them see that their children belong above all to God, and that He has a right to do with them as He wishes, even though in certain circumstances it may require sacrifice on their part.
It would be very sad if someone were to turn a deaf ear to God’s call so as not to upset his or her parents. And even worse would be the situation of the parents, for, as St. Bernard says, the source of their consolation is the death of their child.(4) It would be difficult to cause that son or daughter greater harm.
It is, on the contrary, an immense honor, a motive for a great and holy pride, a mark of predilection, a very special affection that God has shown at a particular time, but which has been in His mind from all eternity.(5) It is indeed a great honor and a great blessing from God to that family.
There comes a time for everyone when they have to leave home and parents.
When someone gives their heart completely to God, it is returned more youthful and enlarged, with a greater capacity to love others. Love for one’s parents, brothers and sisters is then enriched by being passed through the Heart of Christ. St. Thomas Aquinas points out that James and John, in following Our Lord and abandoning their father, were praised. They were not praised because he had incited them to do something evil, but because they realized that their father would be able to spend his life some other way, while they followed Christ.(6) The Master passed by and called them, and from that moment on, everything else paled into insignificance. In heaven their parents will surely have received a special reward, in large measure due to their sons’ response to the divine call: vocation is a blessing and a great good for all concerned.
Vocation is God’s initiative; He knows well what is best for the person called, and for the family. Many parents accept God’s will for their children joyfully and unconditionally and are happy when one of them is called to follow Christ. There are some though , who react quite differently, for various reasons, some logical and understandable and others tainted by selfishness. They forget that they are God’s collaborators, and that it is inevitable that sooner or later their children will leave home anyway, either to form a family of their own, or for work or study reasons.
Wanting the best for one’s children.
Good parents always want the best for their children. Since they are capable of making great sacrifices for their material welfare, why not too in the case of their supernatural well-being? They sacrifice themselves so that their children grow up healthy , and do well at their studies, and have good friends; and likewise so that they live as God wants them to, leading a life that is Christian and honorable. This is the mission that God has called parents to in matrimony – the education of their children. It is the express will of God for them, and a consequence of the Natural Law.
Parents ought to ask for the best for their children, and the best is for them to follow the vocation that God has forseen for them. This is the great secret of being happy on earth and of attaining the boundless joy of Heaven.
Our Lord makes use of parents to create a suitable climate in which the seed of vocation may develop and flourish. Christian couples are, for each other, for their children and their relatives, cooperators of grace and witnesses of the Faith. They are the first to pass on the Faith to their children and to educate them in it. By word and example they form them to a Christian and apostolic life; they offer them wise guidence in the choice of vocation, and if they discover in them a sacred vocation they encourage it with all care. (14)
A vocation in a family is a special sign of God’s love and confidence for all its members. It is a privilege and a great treasure that ought to be protected, especially with prayer. God blesses the place where a faithful vocation is born: giving up one’s children to the service of God is not a sacrifice: it is an honor and a joy. (15)
(1) Matt 10:34 – 11:1 (2) Luke 2:49 (4) St. Bernard, Letters, 3, 2 (5) J. Escriva, The Forge, 18
(6) St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, 2-2, 101, 4, 1 (14) Second Vatican Council, Apostolicam actuositatem, 11
(15) J. Escriva, Furrow, 22
I thought that is was a very inspiring and thought provoking meditation. Anyone care to discuss it?