A vocation is not ‘a job’. it is a life commitment to a person (in marriage) or a people (in priesthood or religious life). It is a love relationship defining one’s entire being; giving life to others. we all have ‘jobs’ to doing life, however, a key question we need to ask ourselves is: What is our vocation? A job is a means to an end and does not define who we are as a person; a vocation does!
As parents our vocation is typically marriage. In living this vocation we have several jobs; we work for money to support the family, we work in the home to provide a safe place to nurture our children, we work in our faith and social community to contribute to the world in which we live. However, as a wife or husband, our primary reason for being, our primary calling, is to be the most passionate couple we possibly can.
In the Church we usually identify four broad categories of vocations: marriage, priesthood, religious (brothers and sisters) life and committed single life. For a vocation to be nurtured and recognises, children need to grow up breathing in an atmosphere of faith, love and generosity of heart.
“When I fill out a survey form that asks ‘occupation’, I write ‘husband, father, mechanic’… Just to remind myself where my real priorities should be.”– Mechanic, 3 years married
“As a husband I see my primary role in life is to reveal to my wife, as best as I can in human terms, God’s unconditional love and desire for her. It’s a big ask but when we both live with this mindset we find our marriage is a lot more fun!”– Company Director, 19 years married
Our children are powerfully formed by the influence of their home environment. However, a child is never a programmed product of their parent’s desires and priorities; they are a unique child of God with His gift of free will. As parents and guardians, this is the tension we live with as we nurture our children towards mature, faithful and productive adults.
As parents and guardians, part of our role is to create the environment where our children can discover their life’s calling, their vocation, and to lay the foundations for their vocational journey through life. In these early years this starts indirectly by the witness of our own lives, the atmosphere of our homes and the things we value and hold dear.
|At a parish Confirmation dinner
I asked the Bishop what the
Church was going to do about
the lack of priestly vocations,
expressing my real sense we were
losing a key part of who we are as a
Catholic Community. He asked me
“How many priests has your parish raised
up in the last twenty years?”
When I answered none, he replied,
” You have three sons. Have
you ever told them how important
this is to you?” I never forgot that
moment; it has impacted not only how I
talk to my own sons, but other other
young men who ask my advice on
their career and vocational calling.
- Live your own vocation well. If your vocation is marriage, then the best thing you can do is to live it well. Live it with passion. Don’t just settle for second best. We never stop learning how to live and love each other better. For your anniversary this year, do something different! Surprise each other on how much more you can be for each other. Do a couples retreat or marriage education course or read a book together on the topic. A few ideas on how you can help start your children on this journey include:If you are not married, you have extra challenges. Whether you are widowed, divorced or never married, seek out ways to foster healing, unity and vocational ambition in your children.
- Model a robust faith. when things aren’t going well – in fact, especially when things aren’t going well – the witness of a strong and gutsy faith will have a profound effect on your children. When confronted with challenges (such as financial stress, marital tension, sickness or heartache) pray more, not less; draw closer to the Church, not away; choose forgiveness, not bitterness.
- Celebrate commitment. Talk positively about the obvious commitment in people around you; people devoted to their marriage, their children, their parish, their mission. Celebrate wedding anniversaries, baptisms, renewal of vows. Take your children to an ordination ceremony. Invite a missionary to a family meal. Affirm your own children’s steps in commitment.
- Present all the options. Make ‘vocation talk’ a topic of discussion in your family. For instance, talk about what it means to be married (don’t assume it’s obvious to the kids). Importantly, present all the options. If you would be proud to see your child as a priest, religious brother or sister or a dedicated single, then tell them and be sure to explain why.
- Foster a spirit of generosity. A vocation grows from a generous heart. Teach your children what it means to willingly go that extra mile for a family member or for a neighbour or parishioner in need. Volunteer fro a parish outreach (and if possible, involve your children from time to time). Give generously to charity in both time and money. Stretch yourself beyond your own comfort zone.
- Finally, relax, trust and leg go. We worry so much for our children, and rightly so. However, we also need to remember that their lives are in God’s hands and we have them but for a while. While we are called to do our best, that is all we can do. The mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection – the ultimate story of life and love – is bigger than all of us.
Authors: Francine & Byron Pirola
For more on Vocations, check out:
Some useful resources on vocations of all kinds: