Parents' perspectives on a Catholic vocation journey
If you are reading this, most likely, you and your son have had some contact with the vocations director for your diocese or religious order. There is talk of applying to seminary, but it seems like such a dramatic step at this point in his life.
This post will describe the significant advantages for any young man to go to seminary to continue to discern his vocation.
Do you think he will be wasting his time if he discerns that he is not called to the priesthood? I can assure you, that no time spent in the seminary is ever wasted. It has been said that there should be a lot more former seminarians.
The advantages of attending seminary for any length of time will last a lifetime for your son. If he determines he is not called to priesthood,the time spent in seminary will make him a better man, husband and father. If your son has been thinking about the priesthood and is not sure, he will never know for sure outside of a seminary environment designed to support him on this path of discernment. The goal here is to help your son determine if he is being called to the priesthood. Your son can only discern to a point outside of a seminary environment. Inside, there are significant opportunities and advantages to help him come to an understanding of whether or not he is called to priesthood. The advantages of seminary described here can help you understand that going to seminary may be the next right step. Those who do not take this next step may spend the rest of their life wondering if they were called to be a priest. No one wants their son to live with a lifetime of questions and regret.
The opportunity to have a Spiritual Director walk with your son through the discernment experience may be the biggest advantage in going to seminary. A Spiritual Director is a trusted mentor who cares about your son and helps him grow over an extended period of time in faith, virtue and maturity. This is an enormous advantage that seminarians are privileged to experience. You can think of it as coaching in order to determine what God wants you to do with your life and become a better person. The environment at seminary is conducive to this discernment by having the time and resources available in a structured, positive environment. Every year, seminarians come to the decision, with the assistance of their spiritual director that they are not called to be a priest and decide to leave the seminary. Some refer to this as “discerning out.” When they leave may have more to do with finishing the semester to finish academic credit than anything else.
The vocation director is not a recruiter trying to talk your son into this. A spiritual director will not coerce or brainwash your son into “signing up”. No one, not the vocation director, your bishop or the seminary wants your son to continue in seminary if he is truly not called to it. This is not like an Army recruiter who is trying to get as many recruits as possible to meet a quota. Besides growing up in your family, this may be the only time in life where your son will be surrounded by people who only want what is best for him and determine what God wants him to do with his life.
Several aspects of the seminary environment itself provide advantages to a young man discerning.
“Everybody gets it”
The summer before starting seminary, my son would frequently say that he couldn’t wait to get there so he could stop explaining himself to people all the time. He said “Everybody there gets it. Everyone is there for the same reason.” In seminary, no one thinks you’re crazy or strange. No one gives you that questioning look when you tell them what your major is.
It is true that having a group of young men live together with a common purpose is a positive environment. They study and learn together, pray and attend mass together, play and eat together or just hang out like any other guys their age. Sounds sort of like a college fraternity without the girls, alcohol, drugs and other near occasions of sin.
Seminary has a structured environment designed to grow your son in self-discipline, prayer, virtue, and knowledge of the faith. Which one of these do you not want for your son?
The environment at seminary is not as austere as you may think. Seminarians play sports, watch TV, go to movies, hang out with friends and drink alcohol in moderation if over 21 years old. They aren’t roaming the halls singing Gregorian chant. They do have mass every day and pray the liturgy of the hours together and have curfews. Faculty take note if someone is not in class and they look into it. You can’t hide in seminary. Even as his mother, I am not allowed in my son’s room if he needs something from home.
Does the seminary environment have boundaries, requirements & expectations?
Is this a bad thing?
Compare seminary environment with a typical college environment today
As a parent, you may remember the way that college was back in the day. There were curfews, at least for freshman, and dorms were single sex. Boys were not allowed on the girls’ floor or in the girls’ dorm at all. Students signed in and out of the dorm on weekends and evenings.
Today, it is a complete free for all. No curfews and all dorms are co-ed, so there is no need for rules about “visitation”. In the name of confidentiality, parents have absolutely no right to knowledge about the
student’s grades, academic progress, attendance, health care issues or even situations involving campus or local police. The typical college environment today requires a significant level of self-discipline to manage all the competing activities and opportunities available. It is common for students to “crash and burn” when they cannot manage so much freedom with no accountability.
Sending my older 2 children off to a state university, I had many worries and sleepless nights. When you send a son to seminary you may have different concerns, but you will not have to worry about the following:
I am not worried:
That he will get mixed up with the wrong kind of girl.
That he will end up at a drunken Frat party at 2am.
That he will never go to mass on Sunday.
That he will never go to confession.
That he will cut one too many classes and get behind.
That he will have too many distractions on campus and most of them a bad influence.
Even one year in college seminary can provide your son with a lifetime of perspective on his vocation, an increase in his faith and prayer life as well as personal maturity and character. Every year increases these benefits exponentially. If your son is thinking about going to the seminary, these advantages can help you have more peace about taking the next right step with your son.
Please know that the authors of this blog pray daily for the parents of discerning sons and daughter to find understanding and peace.