Sunday, January 5, 2020

What's My Vocation?

Seven Steps to Guide our Children to their Vocation

Having published a book on Vocations for children, our local Serra International group asked me to join them for their November meeting to discuss my book, as well as some tips on helping guide our children to God’s call for them – to their vocation. 

Serra International is group of Catholic lay men and women who vigorously respond to the call to promote and support vocations to the ministerial priesthood and consecrated life in the Catholic Church. 

At first, I thought, “Well, I am not very credible, given I don’t have any children who have been called to the priesthood or religious life. In fact, our oldest is eighteen, and his younger six siblings range all the way down to six years.” It then occurred to me that my husband and I are doing the best we can, with God’s grace, to help our children be open to whatever God asks of them, assuring them that this is where they will find true peace and joy. I concluded, “Well, I can share with them how we are trying, though imperfectly, to do just that.”

So, here goes:
The term vocation means, “God Calls.” 1

God calls each of us to a vocation and the primary vocations are as follows:
1.       Marriage
2.       Priesthood
3.       Religious Life (Monk, Sister, Brother, etc.)
4.       Single Life
God has a plan for each of us, and when we follow His call we are assured peace, joy, and God-willing we will grow in holiness by living out the duties of our vocation.

If we can teach our children when they are young to ask God His plans for us, and listen for His call, to whichever vocation He Wills, we have helped, with God’s Grace, put their feet on the path to heaven. 
My husband and I have been blessed with seven children, five boys and two girls (our loaves and fishes).  We know the great privilege and responsibility we have, with God’s grace, guiding their souls to heaven, and helping them to listen for God’s Call and answer with a joyful, “Yes!”  Nate, my husband, supported me in writing the book - So Many Ways to be Holy - A Child's Book about Vocations - intended to open our children’s hearts to God’s Call for them, and invite them to ask God in prayer to help them listen for and answer His Call.  

We know the path to Holiness, as Mother Teresa taught, is by simply saying, “Yes!” to God.  Children today simply need to be able to hear God’s Call and say Yes!  This is the true recipe for joy and success.  
How do we lead our young ones, with God’s Grace to a confident, “Yes!” to God when He calls?
I propose SEVEN simple steps to help our young open their hearts to listen for, and respond obediently, with love to God’s call to a priestly or religious vocation, if that is God’s Will for them:
  1. Childlike Faith
  2. Prayer and the Sacraments
  3. Live Out Faith in Your Home
  4. Mary - the Mother of Jesus
  5. Get to know the Saints, Especially those with a Priestly of Religious Vocation
  6. Spend Time with Holy Priests and Religious
  7. Enlist Consecrated Souls to Pray for Your Children's "Yes!" to God's Call.

1. Childlike Faith - 

Faith is a gift – pray for it! We need to trust that God will hear and answer our prayers if it is His Will. Heaven knows we are all praying for our children to say, “Yes!” to him.

Come to Him as a child, with trust and abandonment – childlike trust.

Picture a child preparing to leap into her daddy’s big, safe arms. She jumps TRUSTING her Daddy will catch her. She has childlike faith that her daddy will catch her.
Picture a child, with his mother’s help, learning to ride a bike for the first time. He starts knowing that if he loses his balance, his Mommy will be there to catch his fall. He has faith that she will support him.

The children who wait, with anticipation for Daddy to come home from work to smother him with a huge hug/kiss. Their faith assures them that Daddy will come home.


In my new favorite bible verse, MT 18:19, Jesus assures us:

"Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.”

If you desire for an increase in vocations, pray, trusting in the Lord as we are taught in Mt 9:37-38: 

“The harvest is abundant, and laborers few. Beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."

Do all with childlike faith.

2. Prayer/ Sacraments –

Prayer and the sacraments said and received with faith 

Pray for vocations! Serra International’s mission is to “Foster and affirm vocations to the priesthood and religious life.” I LOVE THIS PRAYER that can be found on the Serra International site:

Loving Father, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, Queen of Vocations, may our youth joyfully respond to your call to follow Jesus in the priestly or religious life. Amen

A huge thank you to Serra International, as their prayers are working! Many holy souls are entering religious life, and men are entering seminary, leading parishes as holy, spirit-filled priests.

A wonderful example of child-like faith and prayer can be found in the book, Shadow of His Wings - The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM.

Gereon Goldmann was a German medic who served Germany in WWII. He desired to become priest in the Franciscan order at an early age, but when his studies began, he was drafted to serve Germany in WWII – serving in the medical corps. 

During the war, on leave of absence before heading to Russia, Goldmann was praying at the church where he served his first Mass. There he met sister Solana May, the sister who trained him in his youth as an altar server when he was young.

She called him to the sacristy and asked if he desired to be ordained a priest / Franciscan friar next year. Of course, he did, but he protested; his time has been spent serving the war.

He said, “I have not yet studied Theology. I had just finished Philosophy when I was drafted and what I have studied on my leaves of absence is far from theology. I have at least four more years in seminary after the war, assuming I come out alive”

Sister Solana May replied, “Don’t worry – you will be ordained a priest next year.”

BACK STORY - On the day of Goldmann’s mother’s death, nineteen years earlier, Sister Solanus May began praying and making sacrifices for him - that he be ordained a priest of the Franciscan order at the end of 20 years. Every act of devotion (prayer, sacrifice, etc.) in the last 19 years were for the sole purpose of making him a priest. She enlisted 280 sisters to join her in this prayer.

She informed Goldmann, “Since holy scripture assures us, there is no doubt that you will be a priest next year.”

He again protested, “You couldn’t have known of the war 19 years ago. This will prevent it.”

She returned, “Scripture says our prayers will be heard and answered, whether or not there is a war.”

Goldman almost laughed at her childlike / almost childish faith, when she boldly suggested, “Do you not believe that God is not mightier than war? The Pope, who made the laws requiring the studies be met, will dispense them for you.”

Goldman was headed to Russia the next morning, but she assured him he would first need to make a pilgrimage to Our Lady in France to ask to be ordained a priest, and then he would meet the Pope, who would grant him a dispensation. Remember he was heading to Russia the next AM.

What do you think happened?

The next morning he was arrested and sent to France, where *of course* he was able to pray at the Grotto of Our Lady at Lourdes.

Now, at this point two of Sister’s predictions had come true: he DID NOT go to Russia and DID go to France.

Knowing he was next heading to Russia, what did he do? He bought an Italian grammar book, for he knew it was possible that he NOT be sent to Russia and could very well end up in Rome, as Sister Solanus May suggested. His comrades laughed at him as he studied Italian as they were planning to travel to Russia.

In Route to Russia they were ordered to travel via Southern France – to follow along the Riviera to Genoa. They were sidetracked, and passed through where??? ROME!

God IS more powerful than War, as Sister Solanus assured, and on January 3, 1944, Under Pope Pius XII, Goldmann was ordained a priest with a dispensation of 1 year and 6 months of studies.

My point in sharing this story is the faith, prayers, and sacrifices for Goldman, and the childlike faith Sister Solanus May enjoyed. God is bigger than all, and payer in faith, as we read in Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, and Mark 11:23 can move mountains – nothing will be impossible – if it is God’s Will, of course.

Don’t forget about fasting, which multiplies the prayer. Not only is faith a virtue, it is also a gift - pray for it.

3. Live out your faith, through prayer and the sacraments in your home

Inspire your children to holiness through your example.

St. John Paul II said his first seminary was at home with his father. They rose early in the morning for prayer and Holy Mass where he would altar serve, ate breakfast, then school, play, homework, and walks together with his father after supper. Then they would read the Bible, pray the Rosary, and have deep discussions about faith.

As parents we should do our best to know our faith, live it and teach it – Bible before Breakfast, Bible before bed.

Here are some ways we can live out our faith in our home:

  • Teach children to pray, create and consecrate a prayer space in their bedroom (as well as a family prayer space) and provide short-easy prayers for them to use, i.e., morning offering and explain the importance of the words in this prayer.
  • Lectio Divina – let them read scripture and then listen to what the Lord is saying to them based on their reading.
  • Pray with your children for vocations, let them hear you ask the Lord to pick holy priests and religious from your home if it is His Will.
  • Pray the Rosary together.
  • Let your children see you as you say, “Yes!” to God.  As St Mother Teresa encourage us, "Give until it hurts."
  • Go to Mass as often as possible with the reminder from St. Francis of Rome – "Sometimes a married woman must leave Jesus on the altar to find Him in her domestic cares."  We all have times and seasons, and if we can’t make it to Mass, we find Jesus in our home – in our family and duties.
  • Go to Confession as a Family, at least once per month.
  • Commit to a Holy Hour.
  • Bring children in to say, “Hi!” to Jesus any time you can stop by the Tabernacle or Adoration Chapel – even for a simple Hail Mary – GRACE!!!!
  • Celebrate the Liturgical Year and feasts.
  • Celebrate children’s Feast Days – their patron.
  • Read to them the lives of saints – more on this in a bit.
  • Bring them to a traditional Latin Mass – one young man attributes his call to the priesthood as a result of the Latin Mass citing the Latin Mass took away his fear of interior silence, and increased his desire to learn more of the truth. He so beautifully stated" the liturgy:
“ so visibly directed toward God, and because it is suffused with such ancient reverence, quiet, order, and beauty, it immediately stilled my soul." 2

  • Supernaturalze EVERYTHING – communicate everything to you children through the eyes of heaven - sunsets, new babies, a kind person at the store, somebody you meet in need – Jesus is present in all of them.  St. Bernard’s mom, Alice, supernaturalized EVERYTHTING – every member of St. Bernard’s family is either a saint or blessed.

  • Expose your children to beautiful nature, water, hills, mountains, fields, fall colors, nature walks, spring bloom, etc.  Many called to religious life said they experienced God at an early age through Nature.

4.    Mary  

In an article written by Kathleen Beckman about the book, Mary and the Priestly Ministry – Mother of Priests written by Fr. Emile Neubert, S.M,  describes that Mary is the spiritual mother of priests through her “cooperation in the mysteries of the Incarnation, the Redemption, and the distribution of grace.” 

She is their mother and ours, we should ask the Father through Mary for more priests, for more laborers for the harvest.  Jesus came to us through Mary and therefore we are to go through Mary to draw ever nearer to Jesus. 

St. Maximillian Kolbe entreated Our Lady 'what would become of him' and she offered him a crown of purity or martyrdom - he chose both.  She will guide us if we ask (and of course listen).

From the immortal words of Jesus’ dearest friends:
  • Saint Francis de Sales  - "Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence."
  • Saint Louis Marie de Montfort  - "The Son of God became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary." 
  • Saint Augustine - "The world being unworthy to receive the son of God directly from the hands of the Father, he gave his son to Mary for the world to receive him from her."
  • Pope Benedict XVI  - “Her [Mary's] example of faithful perseverance in doing the will of God and her heavenly reward are a source of courage and hope for all of us."
  • Saint Padre Pio  - "May the mother of Jesus and our mother, always smile on your spirit, obtaining for it, from her most holy son, every heavenly blessing." 3
Consecrate yourself and family to Jesus through Mary – many formulas are available: 
  • St. Louis de Montfort - True Devotion to Mary
  • 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley
  • Apostolate for Family Consecration
Saints Consecrated to Jesus through Mary:
  • St. Max Kolbe
  • St. John Paul II – Totus Tuus – Totally Yours
  • St. Louis de Montfort 
"[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus."  – St. Louis de Montfort

Involve your children in Schoenstatt, which is an apostolic movement within the Catholic Church, fostering spiritual renewal with our Blessed Mother as a very special guide and role model.  Who better to emulate as a Christian than the woman that our Lord chose to be His mother?  Just as Mary brought Christ to the world, we as Christians want to bring Christ to others!
  • Schoenstatt girl’s groups – Sleepy Eye, MN
  • Groups in at Holy Trinity in Winsted, Glencoe, and St. Max in Delano

5. Get to know the saints, particularly those with priestly or religious vocations

  • St. John Paul II - Book St. John Paul II the Great – His Five Loves, Great talk on Lighthouse Catholic Media also by Jason Evert
  • St. Charles Borromeo – patron of bishops, cardinals, seminarians, and spiritual leaders, his uncle was Pope Pius IV
  • St. Teresa of Avila – a Carmelite Dr. of the Church - Interior Castle and other great works
  • St. John Maire Vianney – Cure of Ars – a Franciscan patron saint of parish priests & saint of the confessional
  • St. Jose Maria Escriva – Founder of Opus Dei meaning Word of God, proposing that EVERYBODY is called to holiness, regardless of vocation / state in life - reading his books, The Way, Furrow and, The Forge
  • St. Therese of Lisieux – Carmelite and Dr. of Church, Patron of Missionaries
  • St. Catherine Laboure – Daughter of Charity of Vincent De Paul, Miraculous Medal
  • St. Margaret Mary Alocoque – Visitation of Holy Mary - Saint to whom Jesus revealed devotion to His Sacred heart
  • St. Catherine of Siena – 3rd Order Dominican and Dr. of the Church - her life was astounding – she could levitate
  • St. Faustina – Congregation of the Most Holy Lord Jesus - Saint to whom Jesus revealed devotion to the Divine Mercy – “One act of obedience glorifies Him more than many sacrifices”
  • St. Padre Pio – Franciscian, could read souls – stigmata, bi-locate
  • St. Augustine – Dr. of Church and relatable to those of us who took the worldly route before we allowed God to transform us.
  • St. Bernard of Clairvaux – Dr. of Church, The Family who Overtook Christ - GREAT BOOK!!!  
  • St. Francis De Sales – Dr. of the Church and prolific writer
  • St. Dominic Savio – Died at age of 14 – Patron of youth – “Death before Sin” was one of his promises to our Lord.
  • St. Martin of Tours – Exclaimed, “I don’t care if I live or die, as long as I do the Will of God.”
Ask them and the entire communion of saints to pray for an increase in vocations and for God to choose from your home holy priests, religious, and marriages!

6. Spend time with holy priests & religious

  • Encourage children to altar serve
  • Bring children to final promises and ordinations
  • Bring them to Come and See weekends / nun runs – visiting different monasteries
  • Bring them to events where seminarians hang out (Steubenville Youth Conferences, NET / Lifeline Masses, Adopt a Seminarian, Totus Tuus parish camps)

7. Enlist Holy People to Pray for you loved ones

I heard once that the Lord favors prayers in this order:
  1. Consecrated: Priests, Sisters, Nuns, etc.
  2. Children
  3. The Sick / Suffering
There are many religious orders that have websites with prayer requests - take advantage of this accessible gift!   

Leave Petitions at Convents and Monasteries (the Poor Clares allow you to leave petitions with them), and write letters to religious.  You can also visit shrines and ask Mary to pray for this intention.  By God's grace, we have a few shrines within our reach:

In Summary, it all comes down to faith, trust, sacraments, prayer, and God’s Grace!! Do what you can based on where God has you on your journey – different times / different seasons. Each path is different, but perfect for us.

Children all have free will, employing these helpful tips can help guide them, but we also need to let go and trust. God is God, not us.

In the immortal words of St. Padre Pio, “Pray, hope and don’t worry!”

Thank you!


1.       New Ulm Vocations Lessons  - Courtesy of Diocese of New Ulm, MN

2., July 4, 2017 , Mary Jimenez