Families highlight ways Christian vocations are lived out

| Archbishop Bernard Hebda | November 5, 2015
Father Bruno Nwachukwu greets his parents after being ordained to the priesthood May 30 at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Father Nwachukwu serves as associate pastor of St. Hubert Catholic Community in Chanhassen. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Father Bruno Nwachukwu greets his parents after being ordained to the priesthood May 30 at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Father Nwachukwu serves as associate pastor of St. Hubert Catholic Community in Chanhassen. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

The conclusion of the recent synod on the “vocation and mission of the family” seems to have led seamlessly into National Vocation Awareness Week, Nov. 1-7. While this annual event focuses specifically on promoting three particular vocations — the call to the diaconate, to consecrated life and to the priesthood — the week is designed to lead all of us into a deeper reflection on the Christian reality of vocation.

In their final report, the synod fathers in their discussion of family life made explicit mention of the promotion of vocations, noting that the family of origin can often be an incubator of vocations. They encouraged parents to be sure to ask the Lord for the priceless gift of a vocation to the consecrated life or priesthood for at least one of their children. Having counted an amazing 62 faces on the recently issued archdiocesan vocations poster, I am guessing there are plenty of parents in this archdiocese who have already anticipated the advice of the synod fathers!

Earlier in October, I had the honor of hosting the annual gathering for parents of archdiocesan seminarians. While most seemed to see in their sons the raw potential to be good future priests, they likewise seemed to share St. John Paul II’s insight that vocations are best seen as both “gift and mystery.” There’s no one recipe for producing priestly or religious vocations — it is God alone who calls and, as Pope Francis often states, our God is truly a God of surprises!

What is often less surprising, however, is the relationship between family life and vocations to the consecrated life, diaconate and priesthood. Pope Francis has gone to great lengths to illustrate the connection between the way in which the vocation to marriage is lived out in a family and the likelihood that a son or daughter will be willing to respond to the Lord’s call.

On Oct. 18, he “raised to the altar” Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. In many ways, the celebration served as a liturgical commentary on the synod. The canonization, the first ever of a married couple, highlighted not only the dignity of the married vocation as a path to holiness, but also the powerful consequences that flow from forming a family that is centered on living out its Christian vocation.

It’s no coincidence that the commitment of the Martins to their vocation as husband and wife brought about great fruit, with one daughter having already been declared a canonized saint and all five daughters having found the strength to say “yes” when the Lord called them to consecrated life. As Pope Francis mentioned in his homily at the canonization, it was the parents’ practice of Christian service in the family that “created day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters.”

As we join in praying this week that our young people might have the awareness and strength to respond to the Lord’s call, let’s not forget to pray for strong and holy families. St. Zelie, St. Louis and St. Therese, pray for us.

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Category: Only Jesus

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