Dear Friends and Benefactors,
We continue our series of
letters on education…
Having spoken of the
principles that must lead us in educating a child from the time of infancy to
his coming of age, we will now speak of the age when a young person must make
his first major choices in life. A certain step in education has—it is
hoped—been accomplished, but the work of education is not complete. The young
man (or woman) has, ideally, received what he needs—the Faith, formation in
virtue, willpower, intelligence, etc. It is now time for him to make choices
that will affect his whole life. It is time for him to choose a state of life,
and possibly to respond to a religious vocation.
For all human beings, God has
a general plan and common goal—Heaven. Each one of us is called to save his
soul, and we receive the graces for that. “Blessed be the God and Father of
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,
that we should be holy and unspotted in His sight, in charity” (Eph. 1:3-5).
This general call starts with the grace of Baptism, is maintained and grows by
means of the various sacraments, and ends with the grace of a happy and holy
The graces given during our
entire adult life and up to our death, however, depend to a large extent on the
choices we make as young adults. Although every state of life can, in itself,
lead to heaven, for a given soul the state of life that will lead to heaven is
the one that God has planned for him. Thus the importance of discerning God’s
will as regards one’s state of life, and of choosing accordingly.
God leaves us freedom, and
requests that we use our intelligence to discover His Divine will, but He
nevertheless does have a plan for each one of us, and the graces He gives us
depend on our submission to His Providence. It is therefore in light of one’s
eternal salvation that the choice of one’s state of life must be made, because
to knowingly deny or reject a vocation or state of life is to deny Providence
and to reject God’s plan for oneself. Men must adapt to the graces which are
offered to them; they must submit to the plan of God. To refuse a vocation is to
disobey God and thwart His Divine plan. This introduces a break in the
succession of graces prepared for the soul and effectively jeopardizes nearly
all chances of salvation, happiness and success.
Now, in the general plan of
God, some are called to give themselves in a special way to the service of God;
they have a vocation, a calling to the religious life or to the priesthood. “If
thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou
shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me” (Matt. 19:21). “You
have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (Jn. 15:16). Our Lord repeats
these words each time He calls someone to a religious vocation. Every young
person has the grave duty to ask himself—without presumption, but honestly in
front of God—whether or not God is calling him to this privileged state of life.
A retreat made with the desire to discern God’s will is the best way to make a
peaceful but honest decision. St. John Bosco maintained that one out of three is
called to a religious vocation. If we do not see these numbers in our own times,
is it because there are many who never pose the question of a religious vocation
for themselves, and others who are not ready to hear God’s calling?
Many young people are not
called to a special vocation, but they still face significant decisions, such as
courses and places of studies, jobs, etc. Not everyone is meant to be a doctor
or a lawyer or, for that matter, a mechanic or a plumber. Nevertheless, God has
a plan for everyone, and each person is fitted by Him for what He has in mind.
It is the same when it comes to choosing a spouse; there also God has a plan.
These choices will go far in determining a person’s life, and therefore every
effort must be made to correspond to God’s plan. Each must do his best to use
the gifts or talents that God has given him; to fail to do so is to echo the man
in the parable: “And being afraid, I went and hid thy talent in the earth.” Let
us not forget the answer of Our Lord: “Wicked and slothful servant!…Take away
therefore the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents”
(Mt. 25:26). How disheartening it is to see so many of our youth, especially
young men just out of high school, discontinue their studies, many for no more
reason than dislike of the effort involved or the convenience of having an
immediate job. Are they really asking themselves what the plan of God is for
them, really trying to use the talents God has given them?
We remember the story of Jonas
in the Old Testament. Jonas was asked by God to go to Niniveh and preach; he was
thus given a vocation, a special divine mission. But Jonas refused. He took ship
to Tarshish, and the Lord sent a tempest that was so great the ship was in
danger of sinking. “Take me up, and cast me into the sea, and the sea shall
be calm to you: for I know that it is because of me that this great tempest is
upon you….And they took Jonas, and cast him into the sea, and the sea ceased
from raging” (Jonas 1:12–15). Jonas knew that, having disobeyed the call
from God, he was responsible for the punishment God sent. It is the same for us.
We cannot do whatever we want in life without any consideration for God’s will
and still hope for His blessings. If we would have true success and happiness in
this life, we must be willing to place God’s will before our own inclinations in
the major decisions of our lives.
What are the duties of parents
with regard to the possible vocation of their child, his choice of a state in
life, his future profession, and so on? What are their responsibilities as
regards the great choices in their child’s life?
The first parental duty is to
want to know God’s will; a parent should often wonder in prayer what God has in
mind for his child, and should ask God to make His will known. Too often we
would like to impose our own ideas, but it is not for us to advise God; on the
contrary, it is for Him to guide us. A parent can exceed his authority in this
regard, either in pushing a vocation or in discouraging it. Some parents,
especially the mother, so desire a vocation for their child and push it so hard
that they manage to convince their children that one exists. This is not the way
for God’s will to be known. Let God make the call to the religious life, and let
everyone else submit to His Divine Will. On the other hand, it sometimes happens
that parents will object to a particular religious calling: “You can become a
priest if you want, but not a monk or a brother!” For other parents the idea
of any religious vocation at all is so far from their mind, the possibility is
simply never brought up. Again, this is not the way for God’s will to be known.
A young person should be neither pushed into nor in any way prevented from
pursuing a religious vocation.
The second parental duty is to
discreetly advise and suggest, based on the signs—or not—of a religious
vocation. For this it is necessary to know well the child, discerning his
inclinations and his tastes, recognizing both his abilities and his limits. This
knowledge is necessary for the discernment of a vocation, but it is also
necessary when there is not question of one, for it allows a parent to properly
advise his child with regard to his choice of a profession. Again, it is not a
question of pushing or forcing, but of discreetly helping.
It would be a great mistake,
however common, to think that parents have no responsibilities once the young
man or woman has reached a certain legal age. To be sure, the child is now grown
up, but that does not mean that his parents no longer have any obligation to
supervise, watch, counsel, or guide. Obviously such supervision and guidance
cannot be done the same way it was when it was question of a young child, or
even of a teenager. It would be very wrong, however, for the parents to wash
their hands of all responsibility on the pretext that “He is grown up.”
Another mistake would be to
prematurely facilitate, or even push for, the young person’s move from the
family home. Parents cannot keep their children at home indefinitely, but it
would be a great shame to encourage them to live on their own before it is clear
that they are mature enough to do so. How can certain parents do everything to
see their children move out on their own, and then be surprised that they start
living a life of sin?
These are grave
responsibilities, and one can easily see himself as not up to the task. Let us
remember the mercy of our God, who gives everyone the graces he needs to fulfill
his obligations. And if some look back and realize that mistakes have been made,
let them have recourse to God through prayer, asking Him to repair the damage
that has been done, confident in the almighty and infinite mercy of God. “Raise
your son, despair not” (Proverbs 19:18).
With my prayers and blessing,
in the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Mary.
Fr. Arnaud Rostand