This is the fifth column on Catholic vocations (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) and what parents can do to help children discern their vocation. We continue this series on the role of family in the promotion of vocations by considering the priesthood. Because the title "Father" is given to priests, we don't have to search too hard for a way to explain to our children the important role of priests within the Body of Christ or our Catholic Vocational Village. As loving, biological or adoptive fathers tend to the growth and wellbeing of their families, so do priests, our loving, spiritual fathers, tend to the growth and wellbeing of our Village. Although most priests wear clerical collars, not Australian bush hats, and carry crosses instead of machetes, I also envision these courageous men like jungle guides keeping clear for us the often overgrown path that leads to heaven. First cut through the wild and dangerous world by Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, the path of salvation and sanctification was originally traversed by the Twelve Disciples. As Christ commissioned these good men, so it has been handed down to today's priests to safely shepherd us Villagers on our journey along this path through this world and into the next.
For the good of the entire Village, priests and bishops have been given unique abilities and gifts to help us on our communal and individual journeys. These include supplying us with the nourishment of the Eucharist, giving us absolution of sin thorough Reconciliation, and requesting divine healing for us through the Anointing of the Sick. Along with deacons, priests and bishops care for our souls through baptizing, preaching the Gospel, witnessing marriages, counseling, comforting, and educating, just to highlight a few of their gifts to us.
If I could personally introduce readers to just one of the happy, holy deacons and priests our family is blessed to know, it would be worth a thousand-word essay on this vocation of love. Let me present a snapshot of this vocation, however, through the words of a transitional deacon and a priest.
"If my mother had not been a woman of prayer, I wouldn't be here. My stole is woven with her tears. She told me, ‘with your ordination I will give birth a second time. This time spiritually.' I believe that a healthy family is the backbone of any vocation. A healthy family is a family that does normal activities together like hiking, biking, and visiting museums. If you want your children to have strong vocations, do these things together, and avoid the TV. If a man feels called to the priesthood he should increase his prayer life, protect his vocation by having healthy friends and activities, avoid places of temptation, and, really, God will take care of the rest" — Deacon Andreas Davison, to be ordained on May 26, 2007.
"I love being a priest! I always tell people this, because it is true. Parents can have a positive influence on their children's vocations by the way they speak about priests and religious (positively!), by introducing them to happy priests, by having a faith that is growing themselves, and by making their kids a part of that growth. Homes where these things are happening will provide the climate needed for a rich harvest of priestly and other vocations" — Fr. Marc Montminy.
In the social environment of our time, it is paramount for us to defend our faithful priests, because the truth is, we have many more faithful, devoted priests than not. Braving uncharted waters and forging across unmapped lands with explorers or without anyone at all, Catholic priests have crisscrossed the globe to rescue souls from pagan beliefs and practices by introducing them to the Good News of Jesus Christ. What child wouldn't be in awe of such inspiring heroes of Catholicism? With this in mind, reading age-appropriate biographies with our children about priests from all walks of life, from all eras, and from all around the globe is another way I highly recommend parents cultivate respect, admiration, and love for priestly vocations at home, and foster an openness in our sons to the possibility of this call on their lives.