Bless us with an abundance of priests, deacons, brothers, and sisters. May there always be enough Redemptorists to preach Your good news to the most abandoned. Give those you have called to married life and those You have chosen to live as single persons in the world the special graces that they need.
And Lord, help me to know and live my vocation. I ask this through Jesus, our Lord, and Mary, our Mother of Perpetual Help.
My parish begins each Mass with this prayer: a prayer for Redemptorists vocations. We have been a Redemptorist (C.SS.R.) parish since our first Mass was offered in 1950, and we have been offering up this prayer for vocations since the 1970s. But by the time you read this posting, we will have recited this prayer during Mass for the final time.
For decades, we have prayed for an abundance of priests, all while we watched the number of active priests decline. For the past few years, we have stretched our resources with fewer priests and more families. But by last summer, we knew. The change was coming.
When the Redemptorists decided in December to recall their priests, turning over management of our parish to the local diocese, our parish felt the shock immediately. Yet, it wasn’t until these past few weeks that the reality of it all set in: new Mass times, new priests, new organizational structures. The man who baptized my daughter will no longer lead our Mass on Sundays. The man whose life’s story caused me to become a stronger Christian will no longer live down the street. The leaders that I always thought would be my mentors and my guides will be absent. Add that to the new liturgy that we are all preparing for, and the change is overwhelming.
I recently asked Father why they were leaving, why now. I knew the “face-value” answer: there aren’t enough priests. But there has to be more, right? He looked at me and said, “What would you do if your only son walked up to you tomorrow and announced that he was joining the priesthood? Could you support him in that life decision?” He knew my background, and his question hit me hard.
Father joined the priesthood in Scotland over 50 years ago. He was one of eleven children. Two of his brothers also became priests, and one of his sisters is a Dominican nun. His story is the story of a generation: large Catholic families with multiple children choosing to take holy vows. But what is the story of our generation?
These days, Catholic (and all other) families are growing smaller. Most families in my parish have only two or three children. Even when I was younger, my mother’s five children stood out during services. Gone are the days when Catholic families routinely contained eight or ten children. So when parents today are faced with the idea that one of their (two) children plans to join the Holy Order, the initial reaction is to recoil.
But to live with no children? To live without marriage? To devote your life to God? To be separated from me for so long? I could never deal with it. How could you? I heard these once…while I was discerning my own vocation. And even though I tell myself I would never say those words to my children, I sometimes find myself caught up in the fear of the unknown.
Nearly 85% of young people say that they have never considered taking Holy Order or becoming a nun. Additionally, over 60% of men who are discerning vocations say they were discouraged from becoming a priest, usually by a parent or family member. We pray for an abundance of priests and sisters, while also discouraging our own children from becoming them. It’s not always direct. Sometimes, we let our personal fears overwhelm us. They flow out of us through our words and actions, planting destructive seeds of doubt in our children or friends.
As parents, it hard to let our children “go” down a path that we cannot follow. But we need to learn to be like Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Hannah wasn’t guaranteed another child after Samuel, nor was she promised another day in his presence, yet she still left him at the temple with Eli. She gave Samuel up to the service of God. We, too, need to learn to give up our children to the High Priest, no matter how difficult it may be for us. We need to trust in God and in His ability to see the larger picture.
Our culture has changed. Our family structures have changed. But if I truly mean the words that I pray, I need to be willing to let my children become the tools of God. My attitude, my focus, needs to change.
Melissa can be found blogging at And Baby Makes Three…