John MaherFr. John T. Maher, C.M., Director of Vocations reflects on “The joyous family” in this new feature Vocation Viewpoint

The ‘family’ is a hot topic these days. In Rome, the recent Extraordinary Synod of Bishops focused on pastoral care of the family. In Philadelphia, the recent, stirring visit of Pope Francis was due to a triennial meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family. And with a presidential election next year, ‘family issues’ will surely be a theme. Of course, discussions in Rome and Philadelphia focused on the many changes the family has undergone in recent decades and the challenges the Church faces in trying to be pastorally present to the family. The issues are many and complex, but the Church must engage them to better serve God’s people.

Regarding the family, there is some good news pertaining to vocations. The NRVC (National Religious Vocation Conference), in conjunction with CARA, (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate), recently released a study on the correlation between family life and creation of a culture for religious vocations. The study found that recent entrants into religious life and diocesan priesthood often came from families who attend Mass regularly, pray together, and develop active faith lives, all of which encourages them to consider a religious vocation.

Here are some benchmarks from the study on how family life creates a culture of vocations:

  • Private and public religious practices, such as grace before meals and bedtime prayers;
  • Regularly eat dinner together and gather as a family for games or discussions
  • Witness and talk about their faith in their daily lives;
  • Attend Catholic schools or receive parish-based religious education;
  • Actively participate in parish life and charitable services.

Of course, these results make sense to those raised in such families. However, due to a less stable family environment, many young people today find (including our seminarians), faith development in family life often lacking. This survey also indicated that a percentage of parents actually discourage a son or daughter in pursuing a religious vocation. A common objection of parents is that he or she would be ‘wasting’ his or her life by forgoing married life and children.

However, on a happier note, the survey indicated that parents with these concerns changed their minds after they saw the effect a religious vocation had on their children. The happiness apparent in their child’s living out a religious vocation convinced them it was the right choice. As any parent knows, witnessing the happiness of their child is truly the pearl of great price. In his Apostolic Letter on the Year of Consecrated Life (21 Nov. 2014) Pope Francis best captured this reality:

“The old saying is always true: ‘Where there are religious, there is joy.’ We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness… that the authentic fraternity found in our communities increases our joy.”

Perhaps each of us can take some time to reflect on and share with others how our ownvocation has been a source of joy in our lives, especially when we “come to the altar of God, toGod, my delight and my joy.” (Ps.43:4) Tell your vocation story with joy and gratitude!