It’s easy to find people to blame for the vocations crisis.
Whole books have been written about institutional failures of the Church on the part of bishops, priests, cardinals and even popes and councils. These books stop just short of blaming God himself for setting up the Church the way he did.
But the most important group, the one whose influence is absolutely decisive to the question, is often spared the blame for the crisis. It’s this institution that deserves the most praise for the current upswing in vocations, too.
That institution, of course, is the family.
For Vocations Awareness Week, here are some tips on what families can and should be doing to help increase the number of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. Mostly, these things are the parents’ responsibilities. But godparents and grandparents can follow these, too.
1. Speak often of Christ in terms that endear your children to him.
Let his name, spoken with respect, be part of the family vocabulary.
2. Help them grow, according to their age, in their relationship with God and knowledge of their faith.
The lives of the saints are a great source of inspiration for children — and adults. They should also be able to receive the sacrament of reconciliation frequently and have access to spiritual direction.
3. Pray for your children and for whatever vocation God is calling them to, and teach them to do the same.
The greatest and deepest wish of every parent for a child should be that he or she discovers and does God’s will for his life. Finding this will deliver your child his or her greatest guarantee of happiness. But no matter what that vocation is, the child will have difficulties and temptations to overcome, with the help of your prayers.
4. Each morning, place the vocation of each of your children under the protection of Jesus through the hands of Mary.
Be courageous and ask for the blessing that they may be called to a consecrated or priestly life.
5. Teach your children to be open to God by your example.
Try to imitate Mary in the way you deal with your children. Love them (through service and sacrifice) as you teach them to love Christ. They are going to absorb your priorities from the thousand ways you reflect them during your day and, if your example is consistent, they will almost certainly adopt them.
6. Do not push the religious life on them but do not be silent, either.
Answer questions — at times bring them up yourself — and raise possibilities, but do so always with a sense of freedom and love.
7. Enable them to participate in outreach, service or missionary work.
It is in serving the poor that your children will see how much Christ and the Church need them, and begin to understand how much they have received and how much they have to give.
8. Demonstrate a healthy and beautiful married and family life.
Most vocations come from Catholic homes where the faith is practiced fully by the mom and dad, where the children can grow up experiencing in their own homes the beauty and dignity of the married vocation, the fidelity and depth of true love. The importance of this cannot be exaggerated.
You needn’t be perfect — but you need to strive to be holy, and settle for nothing less than the Church’s authentic teachings.
9. Introduce them to priests and nuns.
Seek contact with priests and consecrated persons who can serve as role models. Always speak positively about bishops, priests and consecrated persons. Your respect will give your children the interior freedom to consider a possible vocation.
10. Develop your child’s mind, memory, sense of beauty and joy.
This includes — but is not limited to — knowledge of the Catechism. Help children develop their critical sense, awareness of objective truth, and appreciation for music and the arts. Pay special attention to their use of the media. It is especially important to monitor children’s access to the Internet, giving them reasons for limitations, and teaching them responsible use of this medium.