Objection Series: “He Will Have to Give Up So Much!” or Giving vs. Getting

Alright, can we just agree that every vocation has its difficult moments, challenges and rewards?   You can’t compare one to another and say one is more difficult than the other. Perhaps it looks so difficult to you because you don’t have a realistic view of the day to day life of a priest.  YouTube has many videos on “A Day in the Life of a Priest”   Refer to the post HERE: Another Vision of the Future with reflections by a priest of 25 years.

I admit that one of my first gut reactions to my son’s announcement was the politically incorrect comment, “He doesn’t know bishop playing soccerwhat he is giving up!”  My concept of being a priest meant you had to give up so much.   My unconscious bias from childhood imprinted the idea that a priest’s  life was full of sacrifice and suffering.  (I will explain this in another post on exploring where your attitudes and biases originate.)

What helped me understand this objection was the idea of “giving up and getting”.  Every vocation has its own aspects of things you are giving up and things you are getting.   Although as parents, we don’t know the joys and sacrifices of being a priest, the same concepts apply to the vocations of marriage and parenthood.

If you have been married for any length of time, you know that marriage can be filled with sacrifice and suffering. When I got married, I knew that I was giving up every man in the entire world in ordbride and groomer to marry my husband.  Did I see this as a sacrifice?  No!  I wanted to do it. I did it happily, whole heartedly, joyfully.  Did I understand the full implications of those vows?   At the time, I thought I did.  But of course as the saying goes, you have to say “I do” every day, even when you don’t want to, even when it is hard to love.  Did I fully know what that meant?  No, no one does on your wedding day

When I got married, I knew I was giving up my financial independence because I wanted to make a life and a home with my husband.  Was this a sacrifice?  It didn’t seem so until I wanted a new pair of boots, but the car needed new tires.

unncomfortable pregnant woman

Parenthood has a significant amount of giving up.  Giving up control of my body for 9 months of pregnancy and then
another year of breastfeeding was difficult, but I wanted to do it.   The minute you see that little face, you know any sacrifice is worth loving this little person and watching them grow.

Parenthood has incredible bursts of joy on a daily basis, but the proportion of sacrifice and suffering ismom and daughter far greater.   As a percentage, parenthood has far more times of fatigue, sacrifice, frustration, anxiety, and suffering than joy.  Do I regret all the sacrifices and struggles of parenthood?  Absolutely not!  The sacrifice is part of the nature of being a parent and makes you cherish the times of joy.  If I only focused on all the things I was giving up as a parent, I would have missed the everyday joys and the big picture of the vocation of parenthood.

Realize that no matter what a young man gives up to be a priest, he will be getting his own set of joys to cherish that we will never be able to fully comprehend.

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


A Series of Objections

I will be posting a series on common objections parents have surrounding a son’s interest in discerning a vocation to priesthood or religious life. I will take one objection and go deeper on the topic. Some of these objections are things you man-explaining-woman-arguing-living-room-young-men-women-40422131may have already discussed with your son, while others may be too embarrassing or politically incorrect to say aloud or even admit to yourself.

I hope to pull back the curtain on these concerns and help parents reflect on why they may have these objections. Understanding the reality behind an objection with concrete and accurate information can help you gain some perspective on the concern.

In a critique of Fr. Brett Brannen’s book: A Priest in the Family, the reviewer acknowledges that the concerns of parents are legitimate:

…he [Fr. Brannen] explains priesthood, seminary, celibacy, and how a man discerns his vocation—all while keeping in mind parents’ legitimate concerns.

I found this very comforting when I read that. I am not being unreasonable or reactionary in my concerns. They are legitimate and deserve respect, information and time to address.

Every one of the objections below is addressed in either one of Fr. Brett Brannen’s books: To Save a Thousand Souls or A Priest in the Family. These books give good basic information along with stories of how seminarians and their families handled common objections.  These books are introduced in the post HERE: 5 Myths and Facts about Discernment or Isn’t there a book about this somewhere?

I plan to blog on each of these objections over the next few weeks, but from a mother’s point of view. Some of these objections did come out of my mouth early on as I struggled to understand. I will own up to which ones I did say or at least think and how I dealt with them.

• How can you know what you are giving up when you haven’t even lived yet? You are so young, you don’t know what this means

• What if he is falsely accused?  People will be suspicious of him. He will always be under a microscope. People are so critical of priests.

• It’s such a hard life

• He will be lonely

• He will be so overworked

• I just want him to be happy! Part 1: What is happy anyway?

• I just want him to be happy Part 2: Where do my objections come from? Why do I feel so strongly about this? Why am I so angry, frustrated, or emotional about this?

• How/Why did this happen in our family? We aren’t even that religious.

• How can this be real when it has happened so fast: See the post This is just a phase or I don’t want another trumpet in the attic HERE

• What will _____________ think or say?

• I will never see him, especially on holidays

• I will never have grandchildren

If you have an objection or concern that is not addressed here, just leave a comment and we will address it.

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

A Vision of the Future

One of the problems with a son discerning a vocation to the priesthood is the unknown.  What is in his future?  What will his life be like?   If your son was going to be an accountant, you would have a pretty good idea what his life would be like.  An individual’s view of priesthood is limited by their own experiences for better or for worse.

Parents need to see authentic examples of a discernment road that has led to priesthood.  Perhaps you don’t have a view of what a joyful, fulfilling life of a priest looks like.  Knowing that you are doing exactly what God put you on this earth to do yields a peace, contentment and joy that is difficult to describe, but is plain to see.

This video shares the story of 2 young men who grew up with the typical life experiences of girlfriends, sports and school.   They share how, over time, they grew to understand that God was calling them to a different way of life; something totally unexpected and unknown.

Yes, the road ahead is filled with question marks for you and your son.  The difference is that your son wants to take the road of questions with a trust in the Lord that you may not be able to understand at this moment.

So what should you do?  If your son is willing to travel that road with trust; it is your role to trust your son, the vocation director, your bishop, the seminary and the discernment process.

If you want to see more examples of the daily life of a priest, go to Youtube and type in “A Day in the Life of a Priest.”

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

Are You Listening?

HomerListenSo, Pope Francis talked about the internet this week in the context of World Communications Day.  Much of the coverage focused on the Pope’s assertion that the internet is a ‘Gift from God‘.  I’m not going to argue that point; I have a hard time imagining a life without an always-on connection.

What really caught my attention, though, was this little nugget near the end of the Message for World Communications Day 2014.

Effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others “by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence” (BENEDICT XVI, Message for the 47th World Communications Day, 2013). We need but recall the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. We have to be able to dialogue with the men and women of today, to understand their expectations, doubts and hopes, and to bring them the Gospel, Jesus Christ himself, God incarnate, who died and rose to free us from sin and death. We are challenged to be people of depth, attentive to what is happening around us and spiritually alert. To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective. Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute.

DiplomaThis caught me because I’ve trained as a mediator and have a Master’s degree in Negotiation and Conflict Management.  True story.  Also, fun fact: I earned the degree from Cal State Dominguez Hills which means it was signed by the President of the Board of Trustees who is also the Governor of California.  Thus, my degree in Negotiation and Conflict Management was signed by the Terminator.

One of the lessons that they pound into you over and over and over in conflict work is that the key to resolving conflict lies in getting people to listen to one another.  I mean, really listen.  Most of us think that we are good listeners and we’re all pretty much wrong on that point.  Let me give you a little listening test.  Check out these two quotes from Pope Francis.  What do you think he meant?

The ability to compromise is not a diplomatic politeness toward a partner but rather taking into account and respecting your partner’s legitimate interests.

No references to the need to fight terror can be an argument for restricting human rights.

Boy that Pope Francis is pretty direct, isn’t he?  And always consistently on message.  You have to respect that.

Except I lied to you.

Those quotes weren’t from the Pope.  They came from former KGB agent Vladimir Putin. Go ahead and read the quotes again.  I’ll wait.

The ability to compromise is not a diplomatic politeness toward a partner but rather taking into account and respecting your partner’s legitimate interests.

No references to the need to fight terror can be an argument for restricting human rights.

Kinda puts a different spin on them, doesn’t it?  It also raises questions about your skills as a listener.  When you thought the quotes came from Pope Francis, you probably felt warm and fuzzy.  When you learned they came from Putin, you probably wondered what he really meant.

I use this exercise when I lecture on conflict resolution.  It helps to illustrate the truth that most of us are poor listeners.  We aren’t really listening, we’re filtering what someone else says through our preconceptions and expectations.  We’re picking apart what they say with the intent of proving our point by disproving theirs.  Listening means sitting back, being open, and really hearing what the other party is saying.

In western culture we tend to confuse the phrase “I hear what you are saying” with “I’m in complete agreement with you.”  Hearing and understanding a point of view does not mean that you are persuaded by it.  It does mean that you can begin the search for meaningful common ground for dialogue.  Until dialogue beings, we are just shouting at one another over the chasm of misunderstanding.

Pope Francis summed it up better than I can when he said:

To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective.

Now, what does all of this have to with the Paulists?  (After all, this blog should occasionally connect back to the Paulist mission, right?)  One of the key Paulist charisms is the development of interfaith dialogue.  On the Paulist Ecumenism page it’s expressed this way:

The goal of interfaith dialogue is not unity in faith and worship, but mutual understanding and respect, and mutual enrichment enabling us all to respond more fully to God’s call. It includes collaboration wherever possible in response to the societal problems we commonly face. For this reason, the purpose of theological dialogue will not be to prove that one side is right and the other is wrong, but rather to explore respective positions in order to understand them better. When this is done, many prejudices, built on half-truths, will fall by the wayside.

Like all of the faithful, I long for the day when we are not divided.  More to the point, I’m responsible to help bring that about.  From my studies in conflict, the best way forward is to begin by listening to find the places where we can meet and begin our journey together.