Parents' perspectives on a Catholic vocation journey
I have heard my son give his “vocation story” many times in different settings. This is the story of how he decided to go to seminary and how he felt that God may be calling him to the priesthood. I have heard many variations depending on the person asking and the situation.
The first time I heard my son give this talk in public was from the pulpit during a seminary appeal weekend for the diocese where the seminary is located. It was interesting to hear him describe our family and how he grew up. In that situation, I was surprised to hear something I did not know.
He explained that the first time the thought of priesthood came into his head was in 5th grade at the weekly school mass. He said “I thought to myself: A priest? I don’t’ want to be a priest. I want to get married and have a wife, kids, a family.” Then he promptly dismissed the idea. I had never heard that little detail before and realized he never spoke about it while in grade school.
When a friend or acquaintance meets my son and hears that he is in seminary, it is common for them to ask him “How did you know?” When he is in a situation where it is not really appropriate to go into a long explanation, I have heard him say: “Well, there was this burning bush….” Then he pauses just long enough to crack a mischievous smile and say “Just kidding.”
My son’s first serious idea of a vocation started at a high school retreat during his Junior year. In this retreat program, the Juniors from the previous years can act as student leaders the following year. By the spring of his senior year, he was applying to the diocese. Only a small, close circle of friends knew about his plans. He did not want to make the news public until he was accepted by the diocese. As a student leader at the retreat, I am sure it took no small amount of courage to tell his story to his peers who had no idea this was in the works.
I was there when my son told my mother about his plans to enter seminary. He gave great detail and answered her questions. I was sure my mother would say what she always did about priesthood: “It is such a hard life” with an extremely heavy sigh. She didn’t. She just cried and said how happy she was for him. Of course, she said it to me, right after he left the room.
I was there when he told his Aunt, my sister, who is his godmother and confirmation sponsor. She cried through the entire story and kept asking him “Really? Are you sure?” This is where more information about the discernment process was needed to clarify. “No, he’s not sure, that’s why he is going to seminary.” (Note: Aunt Becky was crying because she was happy for him!)
Listening to your son talk about his vocation story gives a parent new insight into his mind and heart. You may be surprised by what you learn as you hear his story repeated over time.
Please know that the contributing authors on the blog pray daily for parents of discerning sons and daughters to find peace and understanding.