If you’re going to ask an unsuspecting roomful of 20- and 30-something young adults whether they have ever considered becoming a priest or religious, be prepared for some cricket-chirping.
But once the promise of anonymity is made and the discussion starts, one gets an interesting and thoughtful perspective on the Church’s challenge to help young men and women on the road to ordination or consecration.
A small group of people met at the weekly Bible study in the Drexel House before Christmas. Out of 11 men and women, only three had been asked specifically about their calling. Maybe some parents don’t want to or friends don’t think about it, but it doesn’t hurt to ask: What is your vocation?
One young man was told by some friends “you’d make a good priest,” another was asked by his father who had priests in his own family, and a third was asked by his pastor when he was an altar server. Though none of those questions resulted in a spark that fired up a seminary application, they did serve as morsels of reinforcement.
During the discussion, a Bishop England High School alumna said religious sisters had spoken to her class. While she was in awe of them, she never felt that way of life was for her. It was at least presented as an option, however. Her vocation turned out to be the sacrament of matrimony as she attended the Bible study with her husband.
A few others were confused about what God is saying to them exactly. One young man said he would be open to a vocation but was concerned about making the wrong decision— what if he started something he could not finish? Fortunately, that is part of the whole discernment process, which is what retreats and the various vocations programs help determine.
In addition to supporting efforts undertaken on diocesan levels, this group agreed that they would like to see more of an emphasis on a personal, prayerful relationship with God during childhood, both in school and at home. Another astute suggestion showed the interlocking nature of vocations — the focus on faith in marriage. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that it is a parent’s duty to teach their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God (2226). The first place to start is within a couple’s own relationship.
One young man advised people to learn more about what a vocation actually is.
“A friend was feeling bad about not doing enough charitable work and I told her that her vocation was her husband,” he said. “She didn’t know that.”
Christian camaraderie was an important way to foster vocations in this group, and weekly Bible study is just one way to go. Beyond structured programs, they said talking with peers, praying in public such as saying grace before meals, and finding other simple ways to live the Catholic faith in everyday life would have the most influence on society.
“The more we strive to live our faith … the more we’re a living example of it,” as one young man put it. Members of this particular discussion said they study their faith to become better at praying and learn to evangelize in spoken and unspoken ways.
They offered this advice to their peers: Pray for your vocation. Put it in your heart and mind. And at every point, live your vocation as best as possible, whatever that may be.