Objection Series: “He will be so overworked” or A vocation vs. a job

This objection is a good example of how the vocation of parenthood and priesthood have different but closely related demands.   You have more in common with your priest than you think.   If you haven’t watched the video in the post “Everyone has 3 Vocations”, click HERE  to get a little background.

 Vocation vs. Job

Your job is what you do to earn a living.  You may love it or hate it.   But your primary vocation is a spouse and parent: it is who you priest and school childrenare.   As your vocation, it is who God created you to be.   For us as laity, your job and your vocation are 2 separate things.  For a priest, they are one and the same.   I don’t know if that is better or worse, it’s just a fact.  The activities of their day are seamlessly woven into who they are as a person.   We can leave our work at the office and switch into parent or spouse mode at home.

Have you ever seen a working mother take a phone call from her child at work?  She completely changes: her voice, her language, her work persona falls away instantly into being “Mom”.

Look at your vocation as a parent.  Do you ever stop being a parent?   No, being a parent is a 24/7/365 job whether you are sick or mom and sick childexhausted from a long day at work.  Every parent knows that the second shift starts the minute you come home from work and open the door.  That shift can go all night if kids are sick or are having a problem regardless if you have to get up and go to work in the morning.

How is this different for a priest who gets called in the middle of the night to go to the hospital to see a dying parishioner, but still needs to get up and say 7am mass?   It’s not.  It is just a different vocation of being a father.

When you look at life from a vocation point of view, you will begin to see more similarities in the vocation of  parent and that of a priest.  Yes, children grow up and the role of a parent changes.  Do you ever stop worrying and supporting them?  If your adult married daughter called you at 3am would you not go to her if it was needed’?

Long Hours

Your job may be a sales manager which is a full time position and then some at certain times of the year.  If you have ever been in a “salaried” position you know that never means a 40 hour work week.  We have a family member who is a tax accountant whom we rarely see between January and the end of April.  As a corollary, no, you probably are not going to see your son the priest between Palm Sunday and Easter.

Do you realize that priests are required to have time off and even go on vacation as well as retreat?   To remain effective in any role, you need time off to relax, pursue hobbies. play sports and spend time with family and friends.  The church is wise enough to know that no one can function in any role without balance.

fireman helping in floodBoth my husband and I work in what are considered “helping” professions.  My husband works far more than 40 hours per week, but loves his job and finds it fulfilling.  At times, he works crazy long hours, but does so with the knowledge that he is helping others.


When you find meaning and purpose in your work, the long hours don’t seem like such a burden.  Knowing that you are making a difference helps you to push through the times of fatigue  and stress.  What you do becomes who you are.

Over the years, both my husband and I have had periods of unemployment with the changing economy.  When supporting a family, unemployment creates tremendous stress and anxiety which only escalates with time.  Growing up, our children have seen the positive and negative impact this can have on day to day life in the family.

It is funny now to think that if our son does becomes a priest, he will never be laid off or down sized for lack-off work!

Please know the authors of the blog pray daily for parents of discerning sons & daughters to find understanding and peace.

Closing Doors, Opening Grace

doorsOne of the comments we hear most often when we tell people about Evan’s discernment is, “That’s quite a commitment.”

Yep.  Sure is.

I’ve got to admit, though, that I often have a less-than-charitable (much less) reaction.

Marriage is quite a commitment, too.  The Church makes this clear in the Catechism when it notes:

Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.

The phrases “can never be dissolved” and “henceforth irrevocable” don’t leave much room for interpretation.  Marriage — properly considered — is a life-long commitment.

I’m not arguing that the religious life is easier than — or even equivalent to — marriage.  Both states have their challenges and blessings.  God’s grace is all that gets any of us through either of them.

What really bothers me about that comment, though, is the modern notion that commitment is a bad thing and maybe he ought to keep his options open.  I don’t think that’s the way God intended things to work and the research backs me up.

I stumbled over this study while preparing a presentation called “Hacking Your Happiness to be more Relaxed, Resilient, and Resourceful.”  The premise of the presentation is that there are simple things we can do to “hack” our own emotional states for the better.  One of the simplest is making choices.

Behaviorist and research Dan Ariely conducted research on making choices using materials you probably have around the house — undergraduates from MIT and a door simulation program that pays real cash awards.  Okay, you probably don’t have those things around your house, so I’ll just give you the lowdown from a New York Times article.

In the M.I.T. experiments, the students should have known better. They played a computer game that paid real cash to look for money behind three doors on the screen. After they opened a door by clicking on it, each subsequent click earned a little money, with the sum varying each time.

As each player went through the 100 allotted clicks, he could switch rooms to search for higher payoffs, but each switch used up a click to open the new door. The best strategy was to quickly check out the three rooms and settle in the one with the highest rewards.

Even after students got the hang of the game by practicing it, they were flummoxed when a new visual feature was introduced. If they stayed out of any room, its door would start shrinking and eventually disappear.

They should have ignored those disappearing doors, but the students couldn’t. They wasted so many clicks rushing back to reopen doors that their earnings dropped 15 percent. Even when the penalties for switching grew stiffer — besides losing a click, the players had to pay a cash fee — the students kept losing money by frantically keeping all their doors open.

Ariely explains the phenomenon this way:

“Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss,” Dr. Ariely says. In the experiment, the price was easy to measure in lost cash. In life, the costs are less obvious — wasted time, missed opportunities. If you are afraid to drop any project at the office, you pay for it at home.

“We may work more hours at our jobs,” Dr. Ariely writes in his book, “without realizing that the childhood of our sons and daughters is slipping away. Sometimes these doors close too slowly for us to see them vanishing.”

It’s that sense of loss, I think, that people are expressing when they talk about the commitment inherent in pursuing a vocation.  And, there’s truth in that.  Choosing a life built on promises does limit your options.  But, as Ariely demonstrated in his experiment, we can experience greater rewards by committing to a choice.  In the final analysis, making a choice and moving ahead in God’s grace is the path to satisfaction.

— Dad


A lovely post over at the Happy Catholic blog captures the truth of this better than I did.  Read it here.


Watch Dan himself explain his research.

Life’s full of tough little choices, isn’t it?