SummaryHow can we prepare children to embrace God’s plans for them? Inspired by Pope Francis, Gina Berrios shares practical suggestions to foster kids’ vocation.
Pope Francis recently held a Jubilee Day for Young People in Rome as part of the Year of Mercy.
It was specifically for young teens. He and 150 priests heard confessions in St. Peter’s Square during the day.
That evening, he celebrated Mass with the youth. His homily is beautiful and worth reading and showing to the young people in your life.
It is a great message to teens as they discern what they will do with their lives and the kind of people they will become.
Pope Francis says to the teens,
“At this point in life you feel also a great longing for freedom. Many people will say to you that freedom means doing whatever you want. But here you have to be able to say no. If you do not know how to say ‘no’, you are not free. The person who is free is he or she who is able to say ‘yes’ and who knows how to say ‘no’. Freedom is not the ability simply to do what I want. This makes us self-centered and aloof…Instead, freedom is the gift of being able to choose the good: this is true freedom. The free person is the one who chooses what is good, what is pleasing to God, even if it requires effort, even if it is not easy.”
As parents, my husband and I want our kids to be happy and holy. Each of their paths, their vocations, to that life of holiness remain to be seen, as they are still young (we are just starting to talk of ACT tests and college applications with our oldest).
We hope though to create a home that allows our kids to be open to where God is calling them, whether it be to married life, single life, consecrated life, the priesthood, or religious life.
We do not have all the answers, but here are three things we have made part of our family life to help foster our kids’ vocations.
1. Set an extra plate at dinner
Invite priests and religious over for family dinner. We have many priest friends and we have them over for dinner. We want our kids to see the clergy not just as the priest at Mass or in the confessional, but as a friend of the family.
The priesthood is a full, active vocation, and each priest brings his own gifts to it. We want our boys to see this by getting to know our priests.
We have had seminarians over to the house as well. We ask the priests and seminarians to share their call to the priesthood.
Each one of them has heard the Lord speak to him in such different ways. It is inspiring to hear their stories.
We had a religious sister stay the night with us one night as she was on pilgrimage to the March for Life. She shared with the family about her religious order (which was fairly new), and how she lived her vow of poverty, trusting completely in Divine Providence and the generosity of others to provide for her daily needs.
After an impromptu conversation with her after Mass, we were the ones who provided her bed for the night! The kids talked about her for months afterwards.
You never know what seeds are being sown through conversations at the dinner table and a family game of UNO afterwards!
2. Live your vocation of marriage
We do not have a perfect marriage, and our kids can be the first to give you a long list of our mistakes! We hope, though, that our kids see that we are committed to our marriage and our family.
My husband and I were married at St. Peter’s Basilica. We met Pope St. John Paul II a week later and he blessed our marriage. The kids have heard the story many times (the photo of us with JPII is a great conversation starter).
We have a great video of our wedding Mass that was filmed by “an official Vatican videographer”. We think he only had a handful of English songs on hand as the background music during the montage is Air Supply and the Aloha Wedding Song.
It is a fantastic video full of our breathtaking surroundings and amazing memories! We watch it, as a family, every year on our wedding anniversary. The kids have not been to many weddings, but this is an opportunity every year to witness the sacrament and hear our story of that great day.
Recently, the song we danced to for our “first dance” came on the stereo. The kids turned it up, exclaiming, “It’s mom and dad’s song!” Our oldest told the others, “Watch, Mom and Dad will come out of their room dancing.” Almost on cue, we emerged from our room, saying, “It’s our song!”, and we started dancing. As we danced, we saw the little half smiles from the kids.
We hope our marriage and family life is a small source of inspiration to our kids as they contemplate their future vocation.
3. Live a life of service
Make service a regular habit as a family. Life is crazy, and as the kids get older, we are pulled in so many different directions! We try to make living the works of mercy a part of our life though, however we are called to fit them in.
Sometimes, it is dropping a meal off for a friend or neighbor who has recently had a baby, or a family who is grieving the loss of a loved one. Other times, it is helping out at the parish by altar serving, decorating or cleaning the church, or helping with a parish event.
We have prayed the rosary for an end to abortion outside of an abortion clinic. As a family, we lead bingo once a month for the residents at the Little Sisters of the Poor home.
All of these are graced moments of service that have enabled us to encounter some amazing people who have given their lives to help others. The sacristan at our parish is a devoted servant, always there preparing the church for Mass.
The woman who leads the sidewalk counseling outside of the abortion clinic is an unbelievable woman of prayer and faith.
The Little Sisters of the Poor, with their fourth vow of Hospitality, are great witnesses to God’s never ending generosity. Each of these servants live their vocations uniquely and as inspiring witnesses. I want my kids to know people like them!
By serving alongside of them, I hope my kids see the many ways that the Lord calls us to holiness.
As I teach my kids, some days I look at them and silently wonder, “Am I teaching a future priest, or a future sister?
What stories and experiences from their childhood will they recall as playing a part in discerning their vocation?”
I hope I am doing right by them. It is a big responsibility and I know I need to pray a lot more than I do!
I hope that, through our family life, we are helping foster our kids’ vocations, whatever they may be.
In conclusion, as Pope Francis so aptly states,
“You will do amazing things if you prepare well, starting now, by living your youth and all its gifts to the fullest and without fear of hard work. Be like sporting champions, who attain high goals by quiet daily effort and practice. Let your daily program be the works of mercy. Enthusiastically practice them, so as to be champions in life, champions in love! In this way you will be recognized as disciples of Jesus. In this way, you will have the identification card of the Christian. And I promise you: your joy will be complete.”
c. Libreria Editrice Vaticana Pope’s Homily at Jubilee Mass for Young People, April 24, 2016, Zenit Staff, Papal Texts