In the Beginning
The family is the very core of Creation. In the beginning, the LORD, Our Father, spoke the words of creation, which were sent forth by the Spirit, the Holy Spouse, in order to bring forth life. All creatures were brought forth into families--male and female together for the propagation and rearing of offspring. God's crowning jewel of Creation was the first family, Adam and Eve who were instructed to go forth and multiply and fill the earth with their children. Family is the heart of all that we believe, so it is no wonder that every vocation is rooted in the context of family.
When we speak of raising our children for vocation, most often that implies the holy vocations of the priesthood, and holy sisters and brothers. However, every child is created and called for a specific vocation. Every child is sent forth by the Father to construct a family in this world and to lead that family into the Heavenly realms of the next.
Marriage was the first vocation instituted by God. Adam and Eve were given to each other in service and love for the purpose of producing offspring for the LORD. There were no priests before the Fall, for the LORD God walked throughout the Garden of Eden. Man for the first and last time since the dawn of time, could freely meet with God face to face. Adam and Eve's purpose was not only to serve each other, but to lead each other in praise and obedience to God. Their children were meant to be raised up for Heaven and to spread the perfect Love of the Father to the ends of the earth. However, instead they were tempted, turned from God to self, and were forever banished from paradise. Marriage is still a holy and worthy vocation, it is necessary for the Church here on earth to continue and for saints to be brought forth to guide us in this journey, and then stand with the LORD in Heaven.
Once man was cast out and stained with sin, the doors of Heaven were locked and the face of God concealed. Thus, the vocation of the priesthood arose. Priests in the Old Covenant were the people's one link to God, their only means of communicating with their Creator. Priests now are ministers of the mercy and grace of Christ, who celebrate the ultimate sacrifice each day for the Church, the Body of Christ, the family of the Living God. Priests are wed to the Holy Mother Church. Their vocation is to bring forth spiritual children and raise them up for the Kingdom, teaching them to serve God and man. Priests must sacrifice, just as any spouse does, their will for the good of the other. They must be fruitful and multiply in spiritual terms, shepherding their flock. This is why they are called "father."
2. Vocations Abound
In the realm of devotion and service to God, there are many other vocations. Among them are the sisters who spend their life cloistered in prayer are wedded to Christ, the ultimate spouse, and bring forth spiritual children through their works and prayers directed always at the service of God and His Church. Holy brothers, like parish priests, are married to the Church and bring forth children through teaching, prayer, and service. Consecrated virgins live their lives within the world, but joined fully to Christ. They give their bodies, works, and life path fully to the LORD, just as spouses do on their wedding day are expected to be fruitful and loving of life as any mother is. In Christ Jesus' Body, the Church, there are many members all serving the one purpose of sacrifice for others, obedience to God, and the creation and education of children.
3. Raising Children Ready for Any Vocation
Fostering vocations in our home and our parish is done best by strengthening families so that children can learn the model upon which all service to God is based. With the decline of intact families, and general family values, it is no wonder that the rate of vocations--both marriage and consecrated lives--is in decline. Focus your family on the call given by God, and work to give other families the tools they need to run a Godly household. Pray for families everywhere. Support single parents and invite their families into your home. Work and pray for your marriage, let your children see the love between you and your spouse. Address any division or conflict in the home swiftly and justly, reminding everyone of the call to love others as yourself. Ask God for the grace promised through the Sacrament of Marriage when you need assistance or guidance
4. Service- the Path to Vocations
A good and Godly home is not impossible to achieve, however it does take dedication. In teaching our children how to read, write, and excel in math and science; we must not forget to teach the skills of true vocations. Families need to respect and practice service, love, and sacrifice. Start small with young ones, helping out at your parish, taking care of sick neighbors and friends, donating money, time, and talent for good causes, and learning to be good members of your family serving others in work and play. God is Love, there is nothing good apart from Him. He is the source of all Love and in showing love, we serve Him while serving our fellow man. Teach gentleness and patience. Work on compassion for others and love of God, not the world. Lastly, remember to esteem sacrifice. In our modern culture, success and acquisition are esteemed far above humility and self-sacrifice. Read the lives of saints and talk about how what they gave changed the world. Use sacrifice beads or another means of accounting for children to see how many sacrifices they are making and set goals to give more. Pick a favorite charity and, as a family, consciously choose to sacrifice material items in order to give more to the charity. A great charity for this is Mary's Meals (http://www.marysmeals.org) because each meal costs only $0.05, so it is easy to calculate out how many children can be helped by just choosing not to purchase a snack or toy.
Samuel is a seven year old boy who has a knack for selling. He wanted to try his hand at his own business, so his mother paid for a spot at a local craft fair. Samuel made various crafts that would appeal to boys and designed a logo and sign for his company. He has also fallen in love with Mary's Meals charity and became a Mary's Meals Ambassador at his parish school. Samuel wanted to find a way to use his business to help this charity because his parents always emphasized using your talents for God. He placed a can on his table and told everyone who passed about his products and then asked for just a nickel to feed a hungry child. His sales skills were so effective that not only did he nearly sell out of his crafts, but he raised almost $20 for his charity.
5. Fruitful Life
Do not forget the other side of vocation; the first is service, the second is bringing forth life. Teach children to truly love life, all life, as a gift from God and they will be well on their way to being fruitful. Get children excited about the arrival of any new baby within your family, neighborhood, or parish. Let them see that children are special, unique, and something to be cherished. Support charities that help out mothers with babies, or take care of children. Talk about how important it is to make sure every child is well cared for and loved. Discuss adoption and fostering; if you are able, welcome a needy child into your home. Show an openness to life and a reverence for God's Will concerning the arrival of children. However, don't forget the other phases of life as well. Visit the sick and the elderly. Help care for the homebound. Remember to celebrate and show love toward those that are disabled or incapacitated. Let your children see that every life matters and is sacred, a person's worth is not rooted in what they can accomplish, but in the fact that they are loved and created by God.
6. The Whispers of God
We live in a noisy world full of distraction. Jesus walks with us through every day; God is always before us, behind us, and at our side; our guardian angel stands his post at every second. However, with so much vying for our attention and the static of constant background noise, it can be hard to hear the Voice of God, and feel His Grace. It is important to limit the distractions for our children so that God can speak to their hearts, for it is only in fulfilling His Will and pursuing their God-given vocation that they will find true happiness and peace. Choose carefully the media that is allowed into your home. Find programs and music that teach good values, support the family and gift of life, and point toward the One, True God. Limit the amount of time spent watching television, listening to music, and with electronic devices such as tablets, phones, and computers. Remember that even sacred and classical music can be hindrances in seeking God, if they close out the opportunity for contemplation. Encourage quiet prayer time. Bring the children to Adoration, even if it is only for a short amount of time, or only once a year. Placing your family before the Blessed Sacrament in quiet praise and reverence will open doors of your hearts that you never knew were there. Provide reading material that speaks of service and obedience to God; stories about morals, values, and saints. Read the Sacred Scriptures as a family and allow it to speak to each member's heart.
Jena is a Catholic mother of little ones who knows the power of Adoration. Living a half hour from her parish which has weekly Adoration staring right at bedtime, she wondered how she could expose her children to the wonders of resting in God's presence in silence. Through prayer, she discovered that another church in the area offered daytime Adoration on Fridays during Lent. "Our goal was fifteen minutes because I wanted to make sure that it stayed a reverent and focused experience for the kids." explains Jena, "Since it was during the day, there were hardly any other people there. Some Fridays we left and realized we had been in the chapel for over half an hour, other weeks it was more like seven minutes. It wasn't always perfect, but I am happy that my children got the experience of praying and waiting in silence. We plan on making it an annual tradition."
7. I Give an Offering to You
In thinking about vocations, it is vital to remember that our children are God's children first. They are given to parents for a time, but they must ultimately be given back to God. If you have not done so, consecrate your children to the Blessed Mother. When praying after Communion in thanksgiving or a Morning Offering, remember to give over your children to God, not just your mind, body, soul, and works. Pray for His Will to be not only your child's will, but also your own. Pray for direction in raising up your children and teaching them the Narrow Way. Speak excitedly about the great riches that await in Heaven, and how sacrifices here are treasures stored up for eternity. Discuss each of your children's talents and interests and how they can be used to serve God and His People.
"I had always wanted children, from the time I was a child myself, " reminisces Maria, another Catholic mother, "however, God's Plan for our family was not our own and we really struggled to have a family at all. When my first daughter was born, I wanted to just hold her forever so that I could never lose her, but as I would walk the halls with a colicky infant, God would continue to ask me, 'Would you give her back to Me? If I came to take her home tonight, would you still love Me in the morning?' After weeks of the questions weighing on my heart, I realized she wasn't really mine and I had to give her to God's service and His Divine Will. I offered my child for whatever God had planned and held my breathe worried about what that might be. Every time I receive Holy Communion, I pray, 'O Holy God, who from all good things come, You have given me everything that I have and everything that I am, Your gifts, not the least of which are Your Mercy and Grace, are more than I deserve and now You have given me Yourself, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I give myself back to you in thanksgiving. I give you my heart, mind, body and soul, every thought, word, and deed, and every child of my womb. I give you every breath that I take, most especially my last that I may do all things for Your Glory.'
St Matthew wrote, "For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also." (Matthew 6:21) Homeschool parents work tirelessly to provide the best education possible for their children, but remember, our vocation is to guide children to Heaven, not Harvard.