Catholic parents, encourage your sons to become priests — or at least don’t discourage them — and one of them just might grow up to become pope. It’s a long shot for sure, but consider that the idea probably would also have gotten a warm Bavarian chuckle from Joseph Ratzinger Sr. and his wife, Maria, in the 1930s. Speaking to a German radio station prior to Pope Benedict’s 2006 visit home, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the Holy Father’s brother, told how the family’s practice of the faith helped lay the path along which the two would find their priestly vocations. “We always started the day with morning prayer and we all prayed together at mealtimes as well,” he recalled. “Then the day ended in our home with the Easter prayer.” He added that their parents were pleased to learn that both boys wanted to become priests, but “they did not push us into priesthood and they would have supported us in whatever career we would have chosen.” Meanwhile there’s anecdotal evidence aplenty suggesting that parental support played a key role in many, if not most, answered vocational calls today (see “Focus on the Vocation-Friendly Family,” Aug. 27-Sep. 2, 2006). As Pope Benedict himself has put it: The “example of holy parents is the first condition favorable for the flowering of priestly and religious vocations.”

Kevin Bedan illustration