Are you looking for a way to discern your calling? The message to me this morning is that our children are missing their opportunity to discern a calling to religious life or even to marriage, because we are not telling them when to start listening.
For a little perspective on this message from this morning, my 15 year old son asked me last week sometime how old you have to be to enter the seminary to become a priest. My answer was a very calm and cool, it depends on the situation. He clarified and further got me excited by saying that he wondered if he could just enter the seminary at 15. I responded by saying that the seminary would usually want to have a young person who had at least completed high school before they started any serious formation. The conversation pretty much ended there. However, it got me thinking and I believe the message I received this morning is the directive that we, as Catholic parents, should be using when helping our children through discernment.
So, if you are anything like me, you were pretty much raised by the culture that we live in. My guess is, even if you were raised Catholic, which I wasn’t, the culture had a major influence on your upbringing, if you were born after 1965. I used 1965, because it is really just an arbitrary year that I chose, but also because most of the people that I know or have had in depth conversations about the things that influenced them during their childhood were born after 1965. Anyway, the culture told us a lot of things about sex and love and the pursuit of happiness that probably made our process of discernment difficult. If you were like me, you had close friends that helped that discernment process along whenever you strayed to far in the wrong direction. For instance, when I was discerning a call to the priesthood, a good friend of mine told me that I needed to be married. (For reasons that we will leave out of this post.) However, it helped me realize that God was calling me to share my life with someone who could help shape me into a better version of who I could be if left to my own de”vices”.
So, what does this have to do with discernment for our children today? It came to me this morning that when our children start experiencing their sexuality for the first times in their life, they will have natural questions. It is how we answer those questions that will decide whether or not they will be choosing to consult us in the future about clarification of how this works.
For instance, if we find out about our son having a nocturnal emission for the first time, we could choose to make light of it and say it happens to all children in about the 6th grade and let it go. (Unfortunately, this is the route I chose with my first two boys.) However, the better route to take would be to ask them about what thoughts they had that could have potentially led to this experience. It is important that this be done in a non-threatening and non-accusatory way, so we should choose our words carefully. We could say something like, “Is there anything you can remember from your day that could have caused you to react differently than you can ever remember reacting?” Truth is, the answer is most likely going to be dull silence from a 6th through 8th grader, but the fact that you are asking means that you respect that this is something that they need to take ownership of. Their thoughts and reactions to stimuli that exist in the world are important, and they need to learn at a young age to take the fleshly thoughts captive and make sure they don’t let their imagination get away from them. Once the boundaries are established for the stimuli that led to the reaction of their body, they can start to deal with what their body is saying to them. It is saying that there bodies are ready to start cooperating with God in creation of new people. How you word this, really depends on your child and their maturity level/vocabulary. After establishing the reality of what is physically happening in their body, it would be a good time to start the conversation about saving themselves for their future vocation. Whether that is a future wife or for a future vocation to the priesthood, their bodies are something that should be kept holy for the purpose that God wills for them.
Enough for now, I will continue this topic once I get some feedback from my wife about having this conversation with our daughter, who thankfully is only 3 years old. So, we have some time to figure this out, but I would appreciate your feedback and comments for any advice you may be able to help out with…God bless you and thanks for reading!
Lord, please direct our steps as parents to have the conversations we should have with our children when the time comes to have them, and give us the wisdom to follow up on the ones that we may have missed. I ask this, as always, in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen!