District Superior's Letter: Apr 2011
Having spoken of the principles that must lead us in educating a child from the time of infancy to his coming of age, we will now speak of the age when a young person must make his first major choices in life. A certain step in education has—it is hoped—been accomplished, but the work of education is not complete...
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
We continue our series of letters on education…
Having spoken of the principles that must lead us in educating a child from the time of infancy to his coming of age, we will now speak of the age when a young person must make his first major choices in life. A certain step in education has—it is hoped—been accomplished, but the work of education is not complete. The young man (or woman) has, ideally, received what he needs—the Faith, formation in virtue, willpower, intelligence, etc. It is now time for him to make choices that will affect his whole life. It is time for him to choose a state of life, and possibly to respond to a religious vocation.
For all human beings, God has a general plan and common goal—Heaven. Each one of us is called to save his soul, and we receive the graces for that. “Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in His sight, in charity” (Eph. 1:3-5). This general call starts with the grace of Baptism, is maintained and grows by means of the various sacraments, and ends with the grace of a happy and holy death.
The graces given during our entire adult life and up to our death, however, depend to a large extent on the choices we make as young adults. Although every state of life can, in itself, lead to heaven, for a given soul the state of life that will lead to heaven is the one that God has planned for him. Thus the importance of discerning God’s will as regards one’s state of life, and of choosing accordingly.
God leaves us freedom, and requests that we use our intelligence to discover His Divine will, but He nevertheless does have a plan for each one of us, and the graces He gives us depend on our submission to His Providence. It is therefore in light of one’s eternal salvation that the choice of one’s state of life must be made, because to knowingly deny or reject a vocation or state of life is to deny Providence and to reject God’s plan for oneself. Men must adapt to the graces which are offered to them; they must submit to the plan of God. To refuse a vocation is to disobey God and thwart His Divine plan. This introduces a break in the succession of graces prepared for the soul and effectively jeopardizes nearly all chances of salvation, happiness and success.
Now, in the general plan of God, some are called to give themselves in a special way to the service of God; they have a vocation, a calling to the religious life or to the priesthood. “If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me” (Matt. 19:21). “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (Jn. 15:16). Our Lord repeats these words each time He calls someone to a religious vocation. Every young person has the grave duty to ask himself—without presumption, but honestly in front of God—whether or not God is calling him to this privileged state of life. A retreat made with the desire to discern God’s will is the best way to make a peaceful but honest decision. St. John Bosco maintained that one out of three is called to a religious vocation. If we do not see these numbers in our own times, is it because there are many who never pose the question of a religious vocation for themselves, and others who are not ready to hear God’s calling?
Many young people are not called to a special vocation, but they still face significant decisions, such as courses and places of studies, jobs, etc. Not everyone is meant to be a doctor or a lawyer or, for that matter, a mechanic or a plumber. Nevertheless, God has a plan for everyone, and each person is fitted by Him for what He has in mind. It is the same when it comes to choosing a spouse; there also God has a plan. These choices will go far in determining a person’s life, and therefore every effort must be made to correspond to God’s plan. Each must do his best to use the gifts or talents that God has given him; to fail to do so is to echo the man in the parable: “And being afraid, I went and hid thy talent in the earth.” Let us not forget the answer of Our Lord: “Wicked and slothful servant!…Take away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents” (Mt. 25:26). How disheartening it is to see so many of our youth, especially young men just out of high school, discontinue their studies, many for no more reason than dislike of the effort involved or the convenience of having an immediate job. Are they really asking themselves what the plan of God is for them, really trying to use the talents God has given them?
We remember the story of Jonas in the Old Testament. Jonas was asked by God to go to Niniveh and preach; he was thus given a vocation, a special divine mission. But Jonas refused. He took ship to Tarshish, and the Lord sent a tempest that was so great the ship was in danger of sinking. “Take me up, and cast me into the sea, and the sea shall be calm to you: for I know that it is because of me that this great tempest is upon you… And they took Jonas, and cast him into the sea, and the sea ceased from raging” (Jonas 1:12–15). Jonas knew that, having disobeyed the call from God, he was responsible for the punishment God sent. It is the same for us. We cannot do whatever we want in life without any consideration for God’s will and still hope for His blessings. If we would have true success and happiness in this life, we must be willing to place God’s will before our own inclinations in the major decisions of our lives.
What are the duties of parents with regard to the possible vocation of their child, his choice of a state in life, his future profession, and so on? What are their responsibilities as regards the great choices in their child’s life?
The first parental duty is to want to know God’s will; a parent should often wonder in prayer what God has in mind for his child, and should ask God to make His will known. Too often we would like to impose our own ideas, but it is not for us to advise God; on the contrary, it is for Him to guide us. A parent can exceed his authority in this regard, either in pushing a vocation or in discouraging it. Some parents, especially the mother, so desire a vocation for their child and push it so hard that they manage to convince their children that one exists. This is not the way for God’s will to be known. Let God make the call to the religious life, and let everyone else submit to His Divine Will. On the other hand, it sometimes happens that parents will object to a particular religious calling: “You can become a priest if you want, but not a monk or a brother!” For other parents the idea of any religious vocation at all is so far from their mind, the possibility is simply never brought up. Again, this is not the way for God’s will to be known. A young person should be neither pushed into nor in any way prevented from pursuing a religious vocation.
The second parental duty is to discreetly advise and suggest, based on the signs—or not—of a religious vocation. For this it is necessary to know well the child, discerning his inclinations and his tastes, recognizing both his abilities and his limits. This knowledge is necessary for the discernment of a vocation, but it is also necessary when there is not question of one, for it allows a parent to properly advise his child with regard to his choice of a profession. Again, it is not a question of pushing or forcing, but of discreetly helping.
It would be a great mistake, however common, to think that parents have no responsibilities once the young man or woman has reached a certain legal age. To be sure, the child is now grown up, but that does not mean that his parents no longer have any obligation to supervise, watch, counsel, or guide. Obviously such supervision and guidance cannot be done the same way it was when it was question of a young child, or even of a teenager. It would be very wrong, however, for the parents to wash their hands of all responsibility on the pretext that “He is grown up.”
Another mistake would be to prematurely facilitate, or even push for, the young person’s move from the family home. Parents cannot keep their children at home indefinitely, but it would be a great shame to encourage them to live on their own before it is clear that they are mature enough to do so. How can certain parents do everything to see their children move out on their own, and then be surprised that they start living a life of sin?
These are grave responsibilities, and one can easily see himself as not up to the task. Let us remember the mercy of our God, who gives everyone the graces he needs to fulfill his obligations. And if some look back and realize that mistakes have been made, let them have recourse to God through prayer, asking Him to repair the damage that has been done, confident in the almighty and infinite mercy of God. “Raise your son, despair not” (Proverbs 19:18).
With my prayers and blessing, in the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Mary.
Fr. Arnaud Rostand