Catholic Activity: Can Catholic Parents Thwart a Religious Vocation?
This question should not need to be asked. But it must be asked, because parents who consider themselves good Catholics in other respects sometimes openly ridicule aspirations toward a religious life or even forcibly prevent their child from entering a seminary or convent.
Many reasons are given for this animosity toward a religious vocation. For instance, their child is "too young to make up his own mind." This suggestion overlooks the fact that a youngster enters a seminary, religious house or convent only to train for a religious course, and never takes final vows until he is old enough to assume full personal responsibility for his decision — usually at the age of 25 or more.
"It is not an appealing kind of life." Parents base this statement upon their own interests and preferences — not upon those of their child. Obviously, the young person finds strong appeal in a religious life, else he would not consider it. Moreover, if the life is as unappealing as the parents picture it, the child has ample opportunity to discover this for himself and withdraw from training with good grace.
"My child knows nothing about life and does not know what he would miss in a religious vocation." If this argument were valid, the person who decided to become a doctor would first be encouraged to spend several years as a sea captain or merchant mariner, visiting the ports of the world. Only then would he know what he was giving up by starting a practice which would confine him to one place. To carry the analogy even further, the girl who intended to get married should first become a nun, for the nun experiences many compensations which the wife misses.
"Once he joins a religious community he will be lost to us for life." This argument also lacks validity, because parents usually do not object to other careers in which a similar loss might ensue. For example, the young man who makes the Army his career might be transferred to overseas bases and would see his parents much less frequently than if he were a priest or brother. Since World War II, Americans have moved around at a faster rate than ever before and it is not uncommon for a young man or woman to marry and set up a home thousands of miles from where the parents live. Few parents would actively object to the marriage of a son or daughter on those grounds.
What should you do when your child expresses an interest in the religious life? In the first place be grateful that God has blessed your own family life by giving you a potential religious. Certainly the presence of a priest, brother or nun in a family is often as much a reward to parents for their efforts in God's behalf as it is due to any special qualification in the candidate himself. If your instinctive reaction to the call is one of joy and thanksgiving, you manifestly possess a healthy Christian outlook. If, on the other hand, you resent or reject the stirring of a religious vocation in the soul of your young one, you should take stock of yourself. In either case, permit him the basic privilege of making up his own mind about so vital a question. Encourage him to think about his vocation and to seek advice from priests, brothers or sisters who can discuss its rewards and difficulties most effectively and intelligently. Provide him with good spiritual reading — Catholic books, magazines and newspapers — from which he will learn about the many kinds of service a religious may perform. See to it that he consults a priest immediately. Pray that he will see God's will and follow it — and that you will accept God's will as well. If he does embark upon a religious life, always remember him in your prayers. For the religious, no less than the layman, must fight against his human nature in order to achieve his own salvation.
Activity Source: Catholic Family Handbook, The by Rev. George A. Kelly, Random House, Inc., New York, 1959