"The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus. When you see a priest, think of our Lord Jesus Christ."
-St. John Vianney
The other night I attended a going away party for a dear friend who is entering seminary this week. As I was talking to his dad, I applauded how beautiful it was that his son was embracing his vocation. His response was something I didn’t expect: “I am so humbled that God would give me a son who would become a priest.” I was speechless.
As I write this, holding back tears, I am keenly aware of just how important the role of a parent is when it comes to a child’s spiritual formation. My friend’s dad exhibited the heart of man in love with God; a man who understands that in surrendering his child to our Lord, he gains so much more than he could imagine.
Parents have a crucial role in raising their children. As Catholic parents, we are either an encouragement or a hindrance to our child’s salvation. Do we support them in following God’s will for their lives? Or do we discourage them in our own selfish wants?
I cannot imagine what it is like to be a parent who surrenders their child to the religious life. To have a son or daughter enter religious life means a degree of physical separation that many parents may never be ready for. Yet, parents are reminded of surrender the moment their child is Baptized—the infant belongs to our Lord and whatever His call may be.
Oftentimes, one of the biggest distractions parents face is the world’s idea of success—how intelligent, athletic, pretty, and capable their kids are. Yet, a Catholic parent’s success in raising children is not based on the degree of education attained by their child, or the amount of income or property they ultimately acquire, or the number of people at their child’s wedding; rather, a parent’s success is solely based on whether they teach their child to know, love, and serve our Lord and others, and whether they impart knowledge to their child of what salvation ultimately means.
In 1 Corinthians 7:17, St. Paul tells us: “…let everyone lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him.”
In raising children, parents are responsible for teaching their children to discern the will and call of God. How easy it is for us to get distracted by our passions and human desires that we forget the beauty of self-control and virtue. Truly, in focusing our attention on the Lord and His will rather than on ourselves and our surroundings, we can ultimately discern where our Lord is calling us.
As mothers and fathers, do you encourage your sons and daughters in their vocations? Do you daily give your children to your Father, entrusting Him with His will? Or do you cling to them in fear, inhibiting them from being all God is calling them to be? What a beautiful testament to loving God is the vocation to the priesthood.
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 5:13). What better way to love another than to take upon oneself the role of priest.
As I was leaving the party, my friend’s father gave me a cross made by his mother and said, “Every time you look at this cross, say a prayer for [my son].”
To the parents of my brothers who have embraced their call to the priesthood, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Your role in forming men who said yes to our Lord shows courage, fortitude, and humility. You will never know the impact they have had on my life alone, and I am forever indebted to your charitable surrender.
“People who say that we priests are lonely are either lying or have got it all wrong. We are far less lonely than anyone else, for we can count on the constant company of the Lord, with whom we should be conversing without interruption. We are in love with Love, with the Author of Love!"
-St. Josemaria Escriva
Betsey Sawyer is an attorney and adjunct professor in Mississippi, and works for Women of Grace as the Mission Advancement Coordinator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Photo courtesy of Eliza Kennard Photography)