In honor of National Vocations Awareness Week, a few ideas on fostering vocations:
- Pray, pray, pray. Sure, that’s obvious, but are we really praying for an increase in vocations? I can certainly step up my prayer intentions in honor of vocations. Consider printing off this prayer card and incorporating it into your family prayers. As a parish, do you collectively pray for vocations? One weekend per month, my parish recites a specific vocational prayer after communion. Might be something to suggest to your parish priest if this isn’t a tradition in your parish.
- Develop a devotional life with your children. Fr. John Riccardo, pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, Michigan, has encouraged every parishioner to make a commitment to pray the rosary every day for families and married couples. As Fr. Riccardo says, “Peace on earth is unthinkable. Peace in our families is possible.” This commitment to prayer will certainly build up holy children who love the faith and honor their vocational call.
- If married, your marriage must be a model of holy vocation. Many priests have reminded me this week that marriage is a vocation, too, a call from God. And it is also a sacrament of service, just like the sacrament of Holy Orders. My priest mentioned that those in religious life must be committed to serving the needs of others—the priesthood is about serving, not controlling—being available when needed, not just when scheduled. Do you model this type of service in your marriage? The Catechism teaches us that a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality. What’s the invisible reality in marriage? Christ’s love for His bride. And the visible sign? All those big and little things we do for our spouse and family that make God visible and present to our families.
- Stop asking our children, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Reframe the question and ask, “Who is God calling you to be?” It redirects the question from a state of doing to a state of being. My parish priest reminded me that celibacy, obedience, and low salaries are not values exalted by our culture. Those in religious life need to be strong enough to stand up for values that others may not support. The lay faithful must to be a cultural support for those who are called.
Invite your parish priest over for family dinner and gather around table with him. Jesus did a lot of teaching at table; allow your table to also be a place where your children get to know your priest and our faith better. At the larger diocesan level, the Diocese of Rochester in New York has created a “Fisher Dinner Series,” in reference to their diocesan patron, St. John Fisher, who was a gifted preacher, teacher, and witness to the faith. The Fisher Dinner Series invites potential candidates for the priesthood to enjoy an evening of prayer and fellowship around a table with three or more priests who share their vocational stories.
- Consider giving financial donation to your Knights of Columbus chapter for seminarian tuition assistance. A priest friend once told me that while in seminary he would receive an unexpected $500 check here and there from the local Knights of Columbus. Those checks got him through that month financially. There are other means to give of talent and treasure. I am so proud of a local project in the Des Moines Diocese that raised money for seminarian tuition. In only three months’ time, we have raised nearly $8,000 and that number keeps growing. Curious how we did it? Read more about The Calling: Songs for Seminarians.
- And finally, consider taking leadership to begin or grow a program in your parish that focuses on vocations. Many parishes have a special religious item, a crucifix, chalice, statue of the Holy Family, etc., that travels to a different household each week, symbolizing the need to pray for vocations. It travels with suggested prayers and scripture readings, and during that week, your family is asked to set aside time daily for the program. In the parish I grew up, a chalice was transferred from one family to the next during Sunday Mass so the larger parish could also witness and pray for the family that held the chalice that week. I’ve also seen a program called “31 Club” where 31 people sign up to pray for vocations one day per month for one year, or attend one extra Mass per month for one year. The clubs have 31 members to ensure that on every day of the month, prayers and/or a Mass are being offered for vocations.
What say you … what are your suggestions for fostering vocations?