“Dad, I Want to Be a Priest When I Grow Up!”
Imagine asking your young son what he wants to be when he grows up, and him answering, “I want to be a priest!” What would your reaction be? Would you be worried or elated—or somewhere in between?”
Dad may worry about passing on the family name. Mom may be proud of her son, but concerned about him being lonely. Grandma may start sewing priestly vestments right away. And grandpa may remember an unkind word from a priest, and discourage his grandson about even thinking of a vocation to priesthood.
All of these reactions are deeply influential for a young child. The truth is that God has a plan for each of your children; he wants them to be happy even more than you do! And their true happiness is found in discovering God’s plan for their lives and following it wholeheartedly. So if you’re truly concerned about your children’s well-being, it makes sense to help them discern God’s call. A person’s occupation—professor, salesman, pilot, writer—can change many times over a lifetime, but a vocation is a deep part of a person’s identity.
Parents play a critical role helping their children discern their vocation. However, surveys over the past 10 years have consistently shown that only about half of active Catholic families speak with their children about religious vocations. It may be that parents don’t know what to say, or that they are fearful for their children’s future happiness. One survey of priests taken in 2001 by the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, put some of these fears to rest. 98% of priests surveyed describe priesthood as life-giving. 91% reported close friendships. 100% said presiding at Eucharist is a great privilege. 94% said they would recommend priesthood to a young man.
Most people, of course, are called to the vocation of marriage. But if your child feels called to a life of service in the Church, don’t be afraid. The vast majority of priests, sisters and brothers live happy and fulfilling lives. While they experience sorrow and hardship like every other person, they also experience great joy serving others.
So as parents, what can you do to help your children discern their calling in life? The primary thing is to foster openness to God’s will; let your sons and daughters know that God has a plan for them. The next time the topic comes up, consider asking a new question: “What do you think God wants you to be when you grow up?”
Videos for Parents: U.S. Bishops’ Vocation Web Site