I guess that parents would want a formula on how to talk to their kids about vocations — I’m right with you there! I would like one on how to talk to my parishioners about Jesus — but we do not get one either. And yet, this lack of an easy, pre-canned, downloadable, method seems to be the way with most of the most important things in life.
As a kid, did you ever get a presentation on how to talk, or how to cook, or how to clean your room? Is there an app that can tell you how to go to school, or get your first job, or how to be a friend? No! These things are just parts of life, and a child naturally learns from Mom or Dad about how to do them. I would watch my mom prepare for dinner, and gradually began to pick up on the different nuances of it. I have never cracked a book to learn those skills, I just saw how to chop vegetables, season meat, and mix up pancakes. I watched my dad grill, or my mom mix something up, and as I helped them, I naturally absorbed how to do all those things myself.
The same principle applies with vocations! As I learned the faith from my parents, it naturally came up that God loved each of us so much that He had a plan for us. What might that plan look like? Well, it might look like Mom and Dad, or Abraham and Sarah, or Joseph and Mary or St. Gianna Beretta Molla — married, raising a family. Or, it might look like Father Carberry (our pastor), or St. Paul, or St. John Vianney —a priest, caring for his flock. Or, it could be like the Franciscans or Benedictines, something like Moses or Elijah, or St. Francis, or St. Benedict — a monk or friar, devoted to prayer and poverty. Or, it might be like St. Mother Teresa or St. Elizabeth Ann Seton — women religious who were devoted to the poor and teaching young people the faith.
What is crucial? That the parent engages those topics! Do you cook for your children? Do you invite them to help? Do you answer their questions when they ask them? Do you challenge them to try to make something themselves, or plan one dinner a week, or choose groceries based on a recipe? If you do not, they won’t learn how to cook. That knowledge must come from somewhere.
This same principle is true in talking about vocations. You do not need a presentation. You do not need to know everything about every vocation. But you do need to tell your kids that God loves them, and you do need to talk about how you knew when God was calling you to marriage. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to pop into church after t-ball practice every once in a while — or pray a family rosary while you drive across town. You do need to give them examples of good married people, and priests, and religious, and invite people living those vocations into your home and into your child’s life.
There is one silver bullet: Live a holy life, and your children will see that holiness is awesome, and they will find where God has holiness planned for them.
Father Dominic Rankin is Master of Ceremonies and priest secretary for Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, is an associate vocations director for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, and has a license in Theology of Marriage and Family from the John Paul II Institute in Rome.