In the past few years many parishes in our diocese have merged and several Catholic schools have closed. This was due to a shortage of priests to run the parishes and dwindling enrollment at the schools. Many people were very upset that the places their grandparents had been baptized/married/gone to school would be no more.
I wanted to talk to those people and ask them if they had been part if the problem or part if the solution. How many kids did you have? Did you bring them to mass weekly and pray with them at home daily? Did you encourage them to grow in their faith? How many of your children are priests or religious? Did you ever encourage them to discern a vocation? Or did you pressure them to give you grandchildren? How many of your kids and grand kids go to church or Catholic school? You might be upset that parishes and schools are closing, but what did you do to cause it or prevent it?
Therefore my husband and I are trying to be part of the solution. First of all we have four kids and are discerning more.
We take our kids to mass every Sunday and pray before meals and bedtime. We have prayed a decade of the rosary on long car trips and let each child lead a Hail Mary with his/her own intention. As teachable moments pop up throughout the day, we try to use those to infuse religious formation: we pray for Jesus to heal our booboos, we talk about how Jesus protects us while we sleep, we talk about how sin makes Jesus sad so we need to say sorry, etc. My husband and I are not perfect at Catholic child-raising (we watch way too much tv) but we are trying. If a child doesn’t love Jesus or His Church, why would he/she consider a vocation to the religious life?
We also do things to overtly foster vocations. We ask our kids if they want to be priests or nuns. We have had a priest and a nun over for dinner & hoped that the kids would see that professed religious are normal people too/they could be one too. If a child has never met a professed religious, how would he/she know they exist and be able to see if he/she wanted to be one? Thank you, Fr. John, for putting up with their interruptions & questions/stories. They were so excited to see you at mass the next morning. Knowing you made it more enjoyable for them. They felt like they belonged. For the first time they have played mass at home. Kids imitate in play what they see and know to help them understand it better; therefore I didn’t see sacrilege but I saw that we did something right when I watched them hand each other cups of water and pieces of pear & granola bar while saying “The Blood of Christ” and “The body of Christ” (I tried to embed the video but that costs money. Then I tried to get a pic from a video but I’m new to apple products & don’t know how. Sorry)
When our little girl talked about marrying her friend I said she needed to marry someone who loves God & even should ask God if her friend’s the one God wants her to marry.
I also pray for my kids’ vocations. Whenever I see the clock make an unusual time (12:34 or 2:22 for example) I pray for them. I pray that they will be holy. I pray that they will discern their vocation. I pray that at least one of them will be a priest or sister. I pray that if they are called to marriage God is preparing & protecting their spouse.
“What have you done lately to encourage vocations?” we have been asked at church a lot lately. Now I ask you, my readers, the same question. Perhaps you could leave a comment & we could create a list of things parents & parishioners could do (I’m sure I haven’t thought if everything).
Ps-what if you don’t have kids or your kids are older? How can you foster vocations? Well, you could do something like a woman at mass recently did. She came up to me after morning mass & told me that it was nice having the kids there; they aren’t that noisy & it adds liveliness. If you don’t have kids you can still help by giving encouraging words to families to keep them coming to church together. And if course, you can always pray.
“Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” ~Psalm 34:11
“Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord” ~Psalm 22:30