My children don't even listen to me...
how do I help them
develop the ability
to listen to God's call?
If I want to ensure that my children are open to vocational life, then (according to a favorite priest of mine), there are two things I need to do make sure my kids know:
1) God will call them at some time
2) They need to be ready and willing
to answer with courage to God's call
It is fine to tell my children this on a regular basis, but how do I help them to internalize these two truths?
* Pray the If. When we pray, we pray for their future spouse IF they are called to the vocation of marriage. By actually saying "if they are called to the vocation of marriage", we make clear that our expectation is not that they grown up, get married, have children. We are leaving open the reality that they may be called to be a Bride/Bridegroom to the Church, and that would be great too.
* Priests are people too. We try to develop personal/family relationships with priests and sisters in our community so that our children can come to see these men and woman as people, not just clergy. This can be really really hard in some communities! For those of us who don't ourselves have personal relationships with those who have been called to Holy Order it can seem impossible. I recommend baby steps. If you don't click with your parish priests, look for a community of religious who have a vocation of evangelization or outreach in your area. Explore a little. Listen to podcasts like Catholic Stuff You Should Know and share them with your teens. The priests are hilarious, personable, and well informed.
* Plan a little and pray a lot. We try not to plan out our child's entire life, nor do we encourage them to plan their entire life. My husband holds two masters degrees, and I hold both a masters and a doctorate degree. We obviously worked hard in school and planned ahead taking all the requisite courses. However, when my son's Jr High announced that they would offer college planning for the young students I balked. There is a season for everything and in childhood I want my child to be a child. I want my child to do what is right - work hard, take interesting courses, explore, dream, play, volunteer. I want him to experience childhood as something more than a stepping stone to prepare him for the next phase of life. Jr. High is hard enough without having to worry about college applications and accumulating the right accolades before high school. There are saints like St. Therese who were called to religious life early, but most 12 year olds aren't listening. By setting our child up for life as an engineer (so make sure you take AP math and do the robotics club and the summer science camp!), we are sending the message that our child's will (to be an engineer) is the will which we should be facilitating, rather than facilitating the will of God for our child.
My job as a mother is to help facilitate my child's call to holiness. Sometimes this involves helping him get to soccer practice (where he learns perseverance and teamwork and pushing beyond his own temporal needs for the greater good), and sometimes it means making him attend mass or adoration when he would rather not. It means helping him attune his ear to God. It means helping him develop a prayer life. It means switching things up and letting him drop out of youth group and instead join an apologetics club because it is a better fit for the way his mind operates. It means letting him choose his own service project instead of making him do one that I think looks fun/is easy/fits my schedule. Facilitating my child's call to holiness means recognizing the unique gifts he has been endowed with and helping him develop and expand those talents. It means helping him to see the possibilities of life without making him choose his path before he has developed the ability to hear God's whisperings.
Who knew being a parent would be this hard or this rewarding? Looking at parenthood from a stewardship approach can help as we really embrace the role of being stewards of their lives rather than as directors. May you continue to listen to our Lord and serve as an example to your little ones!