Parents' perspectives on a Catholic vocation journey
If you have been following this series, you have seen that the objections have been very specific. At first, I had many of these objections described in this series. When you can’t get resolution on one or more of these objections, it is easy to fall back on the granddaddy of them all: “But, I just want him to be happy!” It is the biggest catch all for every objection rolled into one. Even after addressing all your objections, you may still come down to this one broad, vague objection.
Ask a parent at any point in the life of their child, “What do you want for your child?” Wealth? A great career? A happy marriage and children?
What have you said during your son’s life when this question arises? “I just want him to be happy” is the common refrain. Well, now you have the opportunity to see if you really mean it.
Do you really want him to be happy or do you just want your idea of what happiness could be for him? A wife and children? A good job? A nice house in a good neighbrohood? Whose happiness do you really want? If your son’s true vocation is priesthood, he will find the most happiness in this vocation.
Whether your son was deciding on a college or a major or a job, parents routinely make the “I just want him to be happy” statement…and really mean it. If your son is discerning a religious vocation to priesthood, you will need to take another look at that sentiment.
Understanding the Nature of a Vocation
It helps to understand the concept of vocation to get some clarity on this broad objection. The blog post Everone Has 3 Vocations has a brief video that explains this concept.
If your son is discerning a call to a priestly vocation, you need to come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of a few facts:
I admit, these concepts took time for me to accept on a deeper level. As a parent, I believed that I knew what was best for my son: go to college first and live in the “real” world before you go to seminary. I didn’t want him to narrow his focus at such a young age in a “career” choice. Since my son was only 17 when he started discerning, I was still feeling very protective and wanted to guide him as he entered college and began to explore his options.
What Do You Believe?
Do you believe that the Father loves your son more than you do? Do you realize that the Father wants your son to be happy more than you do? Then you need to trust the discernment process to determine if this is your son’s true vocation. If your son discerns priesthood is not is true voacation, then he will “discern out” of seminary. As previously discussed in the post Advantages of Going to Seminary or What is the Next Right Step?, your son can best discern his vocation in the seminary. You can only discern so far outside the seminary environment.
What Does Happiness Look Like in Seminary?
Have you gone to see the seminary or met any seminarians in your diocese? I am always struck by how happy seminarians look. Once you get to know them, it is easy to see that they seem happy in a different way. It is hard to describe but easy to see. They are not happy because they passsed an exam or spring break is coming. Most priests describe their time in seminary as one of the happiest times of their lives.
If you are not convinced, visit the seminary, ask your vocation director to meet other seminarians or attend an event in your diocese where seminarians are present. This kind of happiness is hard to describe, but plain to see. I don’t know if even the seminarians can explain it.
If your son is attending seminary, step back and look at him. Does he look happy and content or stressed and unhappy? If he is the later, you can be assurred that his spiritual director and/or formation director in seminary will be addressing it.
Just as in the Objection series post I Will Never Have Grandchildren, you will need to reflect on your desire for your son to be “happy” and what that means for you and for him. Ask yourself: “Whose happiness do I really want?” The honest answer to this question will guide you on this path of discernment with your son as you try to support and understand him.
Part 2: But I just want him to be happy… Coming Soon!
If your objection arises from a belief that your son will not be happy as a priest, take a look at the current research published in:
Why Priests Are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests. This book has been described as a “groundbreaking study…(which) finds that American priests enjoy an extraordinarily high rate of happiness and satisfaction, among the highest of any profession.” I will post a part 2 to this objection to explore some of these findings soon.
Please know that the authors of this blog pray daily for parents of discerning sons and daughters to find understanding and peace.