Many times throughout my work here at the Archdiocese I have been asked about ways to encourage religious vocations in our children. There are many ways to do this, of course, but the best way I have found is to make priesthood and religious life seem real. The best way to do that is to interact with priests and religious as often as you can, and the best place to do that is in your own home.
Recently, my family had the privilege of hosting our pastor and a couple seminarians for dinner. The evening went about as one would expect in house with 6 small children and three guests – adults attempting to talk between the constant requests for attention coming from each of the children. We made it through the meal and eventually, one toy truly caught the attention of our guests and became the center of our evening’s entertainment.
Yes, Legendary Yoda was teaching Father and our seminarian guests how to use the force and to defeat the Dark Side! And the kids were eating it up! The couldn’t believe that a priest and men studying to be priests would be so entertained by one of their toys! (And to be honest, it is pretty cool!) It was a special experience for them. But the fun didn’t stop with the movements and simple phrases of the mechanical toy.
One of the features of Master Yoda is that he answers “Yes or No” questions asked of him. We asked him several ridiculous questions when suddenly Father had the idea of asking him if each of the seminarians was going to be a priest. Much to the seminarians’ pleasure and relief, Yoda responded with an unequivocal “Yes” for both men. Then Father asked a few more questions which may change the lives of my children:
“May I ask you a question, Master Yoda? Will Henry become a priest?”
“May I ask you a question, Master Yoda? Will Julia become a nun?”
“Yes, is the answer I see.”
Of course it is true that our children know that Yoda is a motorized toy and cannot truly predict the future, but this interaction, although it was out of amusement, was a really important moment for them and you could see it in their faces as they lit up when Father mentioned their names specifically. Here’s why:
- Father is a figure that both their parents love and respect (and by extension so do they)
- this interaction was in their home, a place they associate with safety and comfort: hearing that they could be called to the priesthood or consecrated life now can be associated with safety and comfort
- Yoda did respond negatively to other questions (meaning, Yoda could have said “No” and he didn’t)
- Nobody in the room said that Yoda was crazy: they were affirmed not just by Yoda but by Father, the seminarians, their siblings and their parents
So, if you are looking for ways to encourage your son or daughter to consider the religious life here are a couple of very simple suggestions: pray for your children often; make the religious life seem like something normal, as normal as being a doctor or lawyer or carpenter; treat the priest or religious with love and respect; create opportunities for your children to interact with priests and religious, especially in your home. And if you happen to have a talking Yoda toy available, it can make for a very interesting evening.
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