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“Ask a Priest: What If Mom Opposes My Possible Vocation?”
Q: For a couple of months, I have been discerning a vocation to the priesthood, and I can now say that I do feel as though I have a vocation. My concern is that my mother is against me becoming a priest. I mentioned to her about my vocation and she reacted in a negative way. Ever since then, I have not mentioned it to her. I’m 18 and plan to join seminary in about two to three years. But I can’t help thinking, what if, when I tell her I’m leaving, she acts in a disordered way and tries to prevent me from going? I do not plan on bringing up the subject until the seminary accepts me. Any advice? Should I pray for her? – K.A.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It’s great to hear that you are open to the idea of the priesthood. While you feel sure of having a vocation, the process of discernment is also very much in the hands of the Church.
A vocation comes from Jesus, and he calls whomever he wants. This basic fact is good to keep in mind. Following a vocation is about being open to what Jesus wants, not what a family member wants.
To follow a priestly call in no way would dishonor your mom. Loyalty to God never contradicts the fitting honor that we owe to our parents.
Rather than speculate about what your mom will do if and when you leave for the seminary, you might try to be proactive and engage her in conversations at opportune moments. See whether she understands that God call people to different paths, with an eye toward their holiness and happiness.
You might also see whether Mom has a particular concern about whether the priesthood would be a good fit for you.
For now, the best thing would be to intensify your prayer life and sacramental life. Feel free to offer some of that for Mom. She, too, is on a spiritual journey. God might be inviting her to greater generosity and to a greater openness to his will.
A vocation can help to bring all the family into a deeper life of faith. This is a moment for Mom to go deeper into her confidence in God’s providence.
For yourself, it would be good to find a spiritual director, perhaps a vocation director or regular confessor.
For extra reading you might look at To Save a Thousand Souls and The Priest Is Not His Own.
Stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the rosary. She will be there to help you … and your mom.
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WOW, Father . . . everything you advised is EXACTLY what came to my mind, as soon as I read this person’s question. Absolutely, this 18 year old says in two or three years he plans to enter into a seminary. He is 18 years old at present. It is possible that this mom’s concern is not about her son’s ‘call’ to be a priest but that he is saying this ‘at age 18.’ A mom and dad would question the decision of an 18 year old son or daughter who spoke of getting married to someone they are currently dating in two or three years. Parents understand a decision by an 18 year old, may not be yet ‘ripened’ decision. (mature)
SO YES, time to talk with his mom and dad if there’s a dad. Rather than just come out with “mom, I’m called to the priesthood.” ( a statement of fact) Approach mom (dad?) and say, mom as a high school graduate, I have been thinking of how I can best serve others in a job. You raised me well in our faith practice of Catholicism and you know I always looked forward to going to Church on Sunday. (or maybe, I really appreciated the parochial education that impressed faith in God… something like that) I’d love to hear your thoughts with regards those who are called to serve in the ministry of the Church, because … well, It is looking like God is calling me. (If the son simply came out with a blunt “MOM, I am called to the priesthood and plan to go to the seminary in two or three years.” (it can be somewhat of a shock)
I AGREE Father, the best way to discern a vocation to serve God and God’s people is to spend time with God and God’s people. Attend daily Mass, yes… find a faithful priest to discuss this call with. I THINK that would take calling the Archdiocese and speaking with a Vocation Director (spiritual director) Without a doubt pray the Rosary and offer that meditation to Mary with regards a call to the priesthood. MARY is the person who gives anyone a ‘call’ in life. A call is not as a job, I had come to. EVERYONE gets 3 vocations to consider: The married life, which entails pro creation and bringing about new souls for God’s kingdom, The Single Life, being there for one’s birth family and serving ‘in a job’ in the world, and OF COURSE a religious vocation (sister, brother, nun, or priest) serving God and God’s people directly. It came to me . . . MARY understands these 3 vocations of humanity.
She who was DAUGHTER to her Heavenly Father, She who was MOTHERr of her human/Divine Son and supporter of Joseph, as helpmate who WHOLLY supported Mary and Jesus, WHOLLY, Jesus her Redeemer, She who was ESPOUSED (married) to the Holy Spirit THREE CALLS for mankind to consider
(and some do overlap, of course) BUT one will dominate. SINGLE LIFE, and available to be there for
parents, grandparents, aunt, uncle, cousins, siblings. MARRIED LIFE, to support another soul and help them up to heaven and vice versa, as well as being open to creating new life as an earthly MOTHER or FATHER to child(ren) and of course RELIGIOUS LIFE wholly devoted to directly assisting Father, Son, Holy Spirit by bringing the Gospel to God’s people of faith.
As you say Father, its great if this young man feels a call to the Holy Priesthood. At 18, ‘test’ that call by
intensifying the Sacramental life: Mass, daily and Sunday, Eucharistic Holy Hours (sitting before the Blessed Sacrament, not saying anything, just sitting and adoring Jesus’ presence) Volunteer in some parish ministries as perhaps CCD teacher, altar server, lector reading the old/new testaments at Mass. There’s a host of ways to come into contact with being wholly part of church. NOT ALL services but where called to serve
(one or two) and YES daily and Sunday Mass and Holy Hours of Adoration as well as alone time sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Stay involved ‘in good ways’ with a part time job ‘in the world’ and . . .. SURE, if there’s a special female friend, ENJOY activities of movies, restaurants, being on a sports team (bowling tennis golf…whatever)
YES say prayers for mom / dad when at Mass, for her continued spiritual conversion (which is what all priests do . . . pray for the spiritual conversion of those hey lead)
IF THE CALL TO A RELIGIOUS VOCATION is ‘real’ . . . this young man will know it. Don’t forget, stay connected with the Vocation Director, spiritual director.