Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Keeping the Doors Open: Encouraging an open heart for God's call to a vocation

My three and six year-old girls love to point anytime they sees a sister or a nun… which means anytime they see someone in public with her head covered.  It could be an observant muslim woman, a woman who just didn't want to do her hair, or someone wearing a habit.  My girls seem to be on the look out for nuns and sisters.

Clearly if they are mistaking anyone with a head covering to be a nun we aren't doing a great job of exposing them to people who have chosen a religious life!  My husband and I don't have any friends who are nuns or sisters or priests, so outside of mass, our family doesn't  have much experience with these folks. But exposing them 1:1 to individuals who are called to serve God through Holy Orders is a great way to make those vocations realistic as they think of their own future.

We had a favorite priest over one night to bless the house.  We persuaded him to stay a little by tempting him with dessert.  He played soccer with the boys, had root beer floats, and had an open Q/A with the kids.
Turns out he was a professional engineer & a semi-pro soccer player before accepting God's call to the priesthood.  Now my boys can really relate to him!

When talking with our kids about discerning God's call, I can't easily draw from my own experience growing up, and I am very ill-informed about what vocational life looks like.   I came to the faith a little late to entertain the option of becoming a nun - I had already been married seven years and had two children when I converted.

Sometimes I think of what it would be like to actually BE a nun or sister… and it is very romanticized in my mind...but I can't take myself out of my current "real" life long enough to really picture myself there.  I heard a beautiful podcast recently on This Inspired Life.  Sister Faustina was the guest and she discussed her journey and her current day to day life.  It helped me to gain a better understanding of vocational life for a sister so that I can be more informed when talking about it with my daughters.

Exposure to those who choose religious life is important and so is informing oneself about what it is like to live a life "officially" dedicated to Christ and His Church.

What else can we do practically speaking as we raise our children for God?

In our home, we are trying to intentionally raise our kids to be young men and women who serve.

As Christians, we are called to serve God in this life.  Throughout our lives we are all able to serve differently and each child will have his/her own path to service.  But for now, serving one another is a great start, and a great way of showing love.  In our home, our kids all have chores.  When Anthony unloads the dishwasher or takes out the trash, he is doing so (because I am making him) as a sign of love for the rest of us.  When I make dinner for the family (they have to eat again?), I can choose to do this with love and service in my heart, or resentfully.  Rather than saying "Please clean up your sister's mess honey - I owe you one" I should say "Honey, could you please help the family by cleaning up that mess? We need your help".   Serving shouldn't be done on a point system.  It should be rewarding in itself.  Our language communicates our attitudes about service.

We are called to serve God in this life

I recently told one of the kids that they have to do the work anyway, they may as well do it joyfully because that will actually bring them closer to God.   It is kind of hard for me to understand redemptive suffering, so having them "offer it up to God" is too abstract.   Just as I can fold the laundry out of love for my spouse when I really want to be reading novel, they can treat one another with kindness when their instinct is to be mean, - and they can do it out of love for God.   They do understand that being nice to one another when they don't want to can be done out of their love for me.  I tell them all the time that it breaks my heart to see them fight and bring me such joy to see them get along.   As an extension, I hope they grow to understand that doing something hard or unpleasant, can be spiritually beneficial when they know they are doing it for God.

To help our kids see that a life of service is a good life - both in and out of the home - we have helped the older three find a place to serve within the church as well.  Anthony (11) is an altar server, JR (9) likes to be a Lector for the youth services, and Gracie (6) has found a home in the children's choir.  We will see about our energetic Anna.  I am curious to see where her talents and interests lead her!

Some of my kids may be called to religious life, other to married life.  When we talk about marriage and families, I say "if you are called to married life…" I don't assume that they will be.

Novitiate entry of Brother Nicolas  
Just as we have our own roads to travel, their method of service will all be a little different.  My kids are young still ranging 3-11 in age, but they are all forming their understanding of who they are.  I don't want to cram "when you become a nun" or "when you are a mom" down their throats.  I want to set expectations of service, but not of specific vocation.

I don't know if they will all get married.  I don't know if any of them will take up the mantel of Christ in Holy Orders, but I do hope that they will know that God has a path for them, and their job as young men and women is to discover that path.

Being open to God's voice is key however, both in helping them just live healthy christian lives, and learning to listen to God's guidance in their everyday lives.  Hopefully in the years to come, our home will continue to be a place where we pray for the priests and brother and nuns and sisters, where we serve one another, and where we learn to listen to the Lord.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks to Gina over at SomedaySaints for her series called Love's Calling.  It is all about talking with our children about vocations.  She is featuring a different blogger each Tuesday so if you are looking for more on this topic, head on over to her lovely site and see what posts you have missed.

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