The World Day of Prayer for Vocations is a great opportunity for parents to consider how to help children hear the call of God.
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God always calls on us, but He usually does so quietly. To hear this call our children must focus all of their attention on the sole question: What loving plan has God in store for me?
Do not force a child to choose a path that is not destined for them
When a radio station is emitting a weak signal, we are only able to pick it up if the receptors are turned in the right direction and no other station is using the same wavelength. If we raise a child based on our own ambitions, saying “I want you to be a doctor,” we’re like all these powerful radio stations blocking other signals.
God’s plan is always a loving one. So, His call must be answered with love. Family is a privileged environment where a child can discover the greatness of this love. It’s by watching how faithfully our parents love one another and by daily experiencing the love of our siblings that we truly understand (not just with our intellect but with our whole being) that it is not a fleeting emotion. It’s a long, difficult process mobilizing our willpower and all that we are. We love with our hearts, our minds, and our bodies.
God is calling on our free will
One is not ordained as a priest or joins a religious order against their will – it’s a personal decision freely taken. God wants children, not slaves, and there is no real love without freedom. But we must be taught how to be free.
“The person realizes himself by the exercise of freedom in truth. Freedom cannot be understood as a license to do absolutely anything: it means a gift of self. Even more: it means an interior discipline of the gift. The idea of gift contains not only the free initiative of the subject, but also the aspect of duty. All this, is made real in the ‘communion of persons’. We find ourselves again at the very heart of each family,” wrote John-Paul in his Letter to the families on February 2, 1994.
A good priest is mainly someone who was raised well. Of course, nothing is impossible for the Lord, and those who were not so fortunate can also be touched by His grace. They are like those amazing flowers that spring out from desert sands. But as any gardener will tell you, better soil gives better harvest. God plants his seeds but we prepare the soil. If it is rich and has been well worked, the fruit it provides will be hundredfold. A good priest is happy to be a man and a good religious woman is glad she is a woman. No one voluntarily takes a vow of celibacy out of fear or rejection of their sexuality. On the contrary, the better we understand its beauty in God’s plan, the more we perceive the grandeur of consecrated celibacy. The role played by the family in this domain is of crucial importance.
“We are grateful to the Lord for having wished to make us his ministers. We are grateful also to people: most of all to those who helped us to reach the priesthood, and to those whom Divine Providence has placed on the path of our vocation. We thank them all, beginning with our parents, who in so many ways have been a gift of God for us: how many and how precious the teachings and the good examples they have given us!” wrote John-Paul II, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination in 1996.