Many children are drawn to the priesthood and religious life as they see it lived out so beautifully! To give your child and the Holy Spirit every opportunity to connect and grow their relationship which can be done a million different ways. Pick the ideas that work for your family, maybe it is as simple as encouraging your priest in front of your children each week or maybe it is time for your son or daughter to go on a retreat. At a minimum, I ask you to pray for your child and his or her vocation and focus on teaching your children to love God, to do his will through a happy childhood, and to know that true happiness comes from doing God’s will. Let’s create a vocation-friendly environment in our homes by living an authentic Catholic life. Here are some concrete ways to encourage vocations in your family:
Our focus should be on living authentically and dynamically Catholic, which will allow our children to see the joy of living a sacramental life, and much of that happens at the parish.
1. Prepare for Mass at Home by discussing the readings ahead of time at breakfast, discuss the reverence that is expected at Mass – If we want our children to act appropriately we must convey, even to the youngest child, that the church is Holy Ground, and those discussions happen before and after Mass.
2. Go to MASS.Children take their cues from you, so if this is important to you, then deep down it will affect your child. Most Vocation Directors say that one of the ways you can tell that a person has a vocation is that they are DRAWN to the sacraments, especially the Holy Mass, and that typically starts in the family.
3. ATTEND AN ORDINATION OR PROFESSION OF VOWS as a family, especially if you know the person receiving Holy Orders or professing vows. This is a powerful experience to see all of the priests of a diocese in one place, witnessing the bishop laying on of hands, singing the litany of the saints. This is normally a 2-3-hour Mass, so plan accordingly, but it is so worth it!
4. CONFESSION – If you want your child to continue to receive the grace from this sacrament long after he or she has spread their wings and left your home, make it a part of your family routine, whether that is monthly or every 2 months, or more frequent.
5. Be a part of ACTIVITIES AT THE PARISH, especially if they involve your priest or consecrated sisters or brothers or are vocation related. Maybe it is a Saintly Costume Contest or the parish festival where your priest is in the dunking booth. Let them feel the love of being part of a parish.
6. Attend RETREATS FOR FAMILIES, MEN, WOMEN, OR YOUTH, giving God time to speak to you and your children in the silence that normally can happen more easily on retreat.
7. Allow your children to be ALTAR SERVERS – 77% of newly ordained priests say they participated in the Mass by altar serving, giving them a glimpse of serving God in this special way. This is important. Encourage them to serve as long as possible, too.
Pope Francis says that “Vocations make their first steps in the family.” Knowing this is difficult in today’s society, I would propose for your family is to be counter-cultural, living the opposite way that society says to live. We need to make our families a Domestic Church where God is at the center of our lives and our children are inspired to live an authentically Catholic life.
1. WORDS: A priest recounted that the one thing he remembers his Dad always saying is that it would be good if every Catholic family had at least one religious vocation from among its children, and he hoped the same for his children. He never targeted any one child, he just made the blanket wish for one vocation in his family.
If it is truly your wish that one of your children becomes a priest or consecrated sister or brother, then say so with a general wish. No pressure applied. This just spurs our children to think, “What does God want for my life.” AND they know that you will support whatever they choose. The reality is that 23% of the newly ordained were discouraged by family members, 10-15% were discouraged by their mother or father. I am sure you would never do that.
If you do encourage your children with your words to think about a religious vocation, you never know if it will be your child, grandchild, or somewhere down the line that answers that special call from God to give his or her life in service to the Church and His people.
Speak well of priests and sisters as they are worthy of great respect. Don’t let your children only hear you complain about how long your priest’s homily was on the way home from Mass… Speak well of your spouse and the sacrament of marriage, too, as the majority of children will be called to married life.
2. PLAY: Let your children have fun with vocations, which may come from playing Mass. I know large families, where they have enough members to have a choir, lectors, along with a priest and consecrated sisters, including a play habit for the girls. The children who “play Mass” can already picture themselves in these roles. I know many priests and consecrated men and women who played Mass, too. An added benefit can be that your children MAY be more engaged in the Mass on Sunday, as well.
Watch 3 year old Isaiah “saying” Mass:
Mass kit for children encourages creative play and opportunity to educate.
Maybe this happens by playing make-believe with bears and dolls that remind us to strive for holiness.
Dolls/Bears for Girls
Dolls/Bears for Boys
Maybe this is through watching videos or playing Apps on your phone. Here are a few good ones!
There is a new app that is coming out to teach children about the Catholic Faith, too, with interactive games and stories. You, as the parent, are also informed of how your child is progressing through the levels. Go to www.littlesaintadventures.com to be notified when it is launched.
Watching videos about the lives of the saints is much easier now with You Tube. Videos such as “The Day the Sun Danced” or “Francis: The Knight of Assisi” are great options for your children. You never know what God will use to speak to your child.
Like the scripture reading, “Some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit yielding a thirty, sixty, and hundredfold,” By creating the environment where God can easily plant seeds, Vocations can blossom.
3. READ: So many parents, who have a son or daughter who said YES to serving the Lord, said they read the lives of the saints to their children and put stories of saints into the hands of their children when they could read.
Through these stories, you can more easily teach about living a Virtuous Life and how to counteract Vices when they arise.
Also, talk about the saints that were married like Sts. Anne and Joachim and St. Therese of Lisieux’s parents, Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin.
Here are some books to read:
Books for Girls
Books for Boys and Girls
What Does a Priest Do / What Does a Nun Do?
Books for Boys
4. INVITE PRIESTS/SISTERS TO YOUR HOME: Consider Inviting your priest and sister friends to dinner or to a family celebration or to a park to play games. Let your children see these men and women as fun-loving and God-loving at the same time. This goes for married couples who love well! Have couples over to your home and around your children who model the vocation of marriage well.
5. HOME ALTAR: Have a place of prayer set aside in your home, a home altar, with statues, pictures of saints, and maybe a relic. Anything that will inspire you and your children to pray, think about, and talk to and about God throughout your day.
Mary, is an awesome intercessor for your child’s vocation as the Queen of vocations. Pray the Rosary, asking Mary to pray for our children’s vocation. Have your children pray for their own vocation. The word vocation does not need to be in this prayer. Teach them to ask God what He wants for their lives. His will not ours.
6. SERVE OTHERS: How can a young man or woman think of giving their lives, totally serving God and others, if they have never served others before. Most of you are married. Do you serve one another? Maybe daily, hourly, every minute? No matter the vocation, our children need to learn to serve others.