Everyone’s first vocation is to holiness, so parents should strive to create a home environment where Christian virtue can flourish. Here are a few other ideas:
Sometimes, as every parent knows, children ask very insightful questions that aren’t easily answered! When this happens, look for the answer online together. That shows that you take their inquiry seriously, and that it is worthwhile to get a good answer.
Many parents, when their young son expresses an interest in seminary, will dispense well-meaning advice: “Get some life experience first—and at least a college degree—then think about seminary later.” Mom and dad envision that with a nice girlfriend and a good job, the idea of priesthood will fade away.
The problem is, they may be right. That’s why it’s crucial that when God moves the heart of a young man to explore the priesthood, parents should trust God that the timing may be right. True, in some cases an 18-year-old may not be mature enough to enter seminary right out of high school. But many are ready. College seminaries are places of joy, camaraderie, and deep spiritual growth. Even if your son goes to college seminary and eventually discerns he is not called to priesthood, don’t think he’ll have to “make up for lost time.” Thousands of former seminarians look back on their seminary days with great affection and gratitude!
This is an easy myth to dispel. Priests are surrounded by people! After all, their job is to bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus. They are continually working with parish staff, youth, and a myriad of people who come to them for spiritual advice. Seminaries today are very deliberate in teaching men how to form good, healthy relationships with people in their parishes and the priests of their dioceses. Sure, there can be lonely moments—but the same is true in any vocation, marriage included. Most priests have healthy friendships with brother priests, lay people, and family that keep them grounded and connected.
For couples who enjoy a healthy sexual relationship, it can be difficult to image their son choosing “life without a wife.” Society would have us believe that celibacy is impossible, or at the very least, unreasonable. The truth is that sexual love is indeed one of God’s greatest natural gifts, but that thousands of saints have experienced tremendous joy living the supernatural vocation of celibacy. Today’s seminaries offer superb formation in how to live celibately with peace and joy.
When a mother of a priest was asked at her only child’s ordination if she was sad she would never have grandchildren, she responded, “It’s not about me.” She was simply grateful that her son had found God’s will for his life. Many parents of priests are surprised to find that they gain “spiritual grandchildren”—thousands of people whose lives have been profoundly influenced by their son’s priesthood. There is a special joy in meeting people who exclaim, “You’re Fr. Jacob’s mother? He’s such a great priest!”
Some parents think that if their son becomes a priest, they’ll never see him. One young priest laughed at this idea. “When Thanksgiving rolls around and my brothers and sisters are busy with their children and in-laws, guess what? As a priest, I don’t have any of those ties. It’s me carving the turkey with mom and dad!” His point is that diocesan priests are able to spend a healthy amount of time with family. If the priest’s assignment is far from home, in the Internet age, social media and Skype make it easy to keep in touch.
This is the “umbrella fear” that encompasses all the others. It’s also the easiest to dismiss, because the facts prove otherwise. A number of studies about happiness invariably find one profession ranked number one: clergy. In fact, 92% of priests report being happy, and that the key factor in this happiness is an “inner peace.”