Parents worry about their children. It’s just part and parcel of being a parent.
We’re afraid they’ll make the wrong choices, lose out on opportunities, or have to endure needless suffering. We just want our children to be happy, safe and well.
A call to religious life can be especially terrifying because so few of us have any direct knowledge or experience in that arena. The unknown is always frightening.
In an article I wrote for Area of Effect Magazine*, I recently noted:
Both of my sons have chosen different paths from mine. My eldest is working toward an academic career as a folklorist. My younger is in seminary preparing for a life of teaching. Neither of these is a road I’d choose to travel and both seem risky. Wouldn’t accounting or business be more stable choices?
It turns out that I’m not the first parent in history to worry about my children’s choices. Thomas Aquinas, the theologian and philosopher whose work has influenced Western thought for nearly a millennium, faced serious opposition from his family. At nineteen, he declared his intention to join the Dominican Order. His family kidnapped him and kept him locked in the family castle for nearly a year trying to get him to change his mind. It would have been easy for Thomas to give in.
To keep the article family friendly (it was about Disney’s Moana after all) I didn’t tell the part about Aquinas’ family locking him in a room with a naked prostitute. The legend says that Aquinas was so incensed that he chased the poor girl out with a fire poker.
The details on that may have gotten exaggerated in the telling, but we do know that Aquinas is recognized as one of the great Christian theologians. His parents fears nearly changed the course of western civilization.
Like marriage or a career or a mission trip around the world, a religious vocation is both a journey and an adventure. In the article at Area of Effect, I trace Moana’s journey and her parent’s fears. Like all good heroes her success is bought at the price of risk and hardship. Yet, if she hadn’t taken the risk, her people would have been destroyed.
Will your child be the next Aquinas or Mother Theresa? Will they live a life of heroic virtue? Maybe or maybe not. If you block them, you may find yourself in the shoes of Chief Tui (Moana’s dad) — standing in the way of the future that needs to be explored by our courageous and virtuous sons and daughters.
* Area of Effect is a print and web magazine which explores topics of faith and life through the lens of popular fandoms.
— Dad of Evan