Parents’ driving desire for their children is to lead happy, fulfilled lives. When a son begins discerning the call to priesthood, it can be a confusing and uncertain time for both him and his parents. The choice is certainly counter-cultural, and just seems odd, especially when we consider today’s media as representing financial wealth and sexual conquest as the dominant measuring sticks of success for a man.
More importantly, parents know the joys they receive from a loving spouse and raising children and want their own children to experience those joys as well. It is hard to imagine living a life without these experiences because of a career choice. However, the priesthood cannot authentically be presented as just another “career option” because it is not. The priesthood is a call to a life radically opposed to many of the ideals held by secular culture where chastity, obedience and detachment from money are ridiculed and mocked. The priest, though, by his life, proclaims to the world that something far greater than the rewards of today awaits us. In the end, the life to come is worth more than anything in this world.
Will my son be lonely?
The call to the priesthood is not a call to loneliness. As a priest, your son will have the support of his brother priests and spiritual relationships with the members of his parish. His duties will be challenging and are extremely important to the people he serves. Each week, a priest enters the lives of dozens of his parishioners at their most vital moments: in the baptism of a newborn child, in the absolution of decades of previously unrepented sin, in the consecration and distribution of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, in the exchange of marital vows before God, in the anointing of the sick and in the funeral of a deceased member of the Church. Because he is “priest,” because he stands in the person of Jesus Christ, the priest is a central part of their lives in these precious occasions. In saying the prayers of the Daily Office and in celebrating daily Mass where Christ becomes truly present in the Holy Eucharist, the priest is in constant contact with our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Will my son be happy without a family?
When God calls someone to a specific vocation such as the priesthood, it is up to that person to accept the call or not. God does not force, He only calls. But, as many priests will tell you, if the Lord wants a man to be a priest, it will be the happiest and most fulfilling life he could possibly lead. After all, God is the source of all joy and lasting fulfillment.
Questions Parents Frequently Ask
Will my son still be considered successful?
If you measure success by money, children, or other common goals to a secular life, then in your eyes your son will not be successful. If you measure success through your son’s eyes, his desire to answer the call and meet the challenges of leading a life in Christ and serving people to find the same, then you will be on the same page as he is and see the possibilities. The priesthood is an uncommon life and a few rare men are blessed with the calling and the skills to serve the Lord in this capacity. A priest holds an indispensable role. In the sacraments, Christ acts through his priests and provides the graces needed to reach heaven: it is the priest who gives absolution for sin; it is the priest who consecrates the Holy Eucharist; it is the priest who anoints the sick and dying. In short, it is the priest, standing in persona Christi, who prepares the soul for death and eternal life. The successes of a good priest echo through all of eternity, long after this earth has passed.
What about grandkids?
Grandchildren are a blessing, there is no denying that. And, entering the priesthood does mean that your son will not have any biological children. This is, undeniably, your sacrifice in supporting your son as a priest. Reflect, though, upon the powerful impact a dedicated priest has on the many people he meets, and upon the value of accepting God’s will in life, even when it may be difficult. A priest’s life is a life of sacrifice, because it is the life of our Lord. The parent of a priest will also make sacrifices in this life for the greater glory of the next, because their life is that of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ask Mary to pray for you for wisdom and understanding, as your son discerns God’s will in his life.