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What should I do if someone discourages their son's vocation?

Danielle asks:

Dear Fr Anthony,

First, I would like to thank you for your wonderful ministry- it has helped me and enlightened me a lot. My question isn't about my vocation- its about other's vocations. I've heard it said that one reason there is a shortage of priests is that people don't answer to their vocation. Well, I know this person who felt that he might of had a vocation to the priesthood. Sadly, his parents discouraged him, and now he is not anywhere near that idea. I feel bad because I know that if it was his vocation, it would be the way he could be happiest. So, is there anything I should do or say when something like this comes up? Perhaps it is to late for him to go down that path now, but what if I hear of someone else who is younger and being discouraged from what they feel is their vocation? Should I say something to the parents like, "Hey, don't discourage your kid from his vocation," or what? Do I talk to the person and ask if they are still considering religious life? This is really bothering me, and I would really appreciate it if you could be in contact with me. Thank you for your time and efforts.

Dear Danielle,

It is very sad that your friend was discouraged from the vocation by his parents. This is not unusual and often the parents do so with the best of intentions, but it is nevertheless a mistake. One thing is to slow down a young man and encourage him to consider well the step he wants to take, (so as to test him a little to make sure it is a mature decision, or to make sure he faces up to his weaknesses or something he may be running away from, for example) and quite another to discourage the thought of the priesthood at times using some pretty heavy emotional pressure in the process.

I don't see anything wrong with respectfully calling the parents on something like that, it may be a great favor you are doing to them and their son. But keep in mind that there are good ways and then not-so-good and even bad ways of doing something that in itself is good. You have to know whom you are dealing with as well, since the motives behind such opposition can be many and varied, ranging from their own struggles with the faith, to prejudice against the priesthood, to skewed ideas about the particular seminary their son wants to join, or their difficulty in giving up the ideas they might have nourished as regards what would make their son really successful and happy in life, to mention a few examples.

Similarly, I would see nothing wrong in making a suggestion to your friend if he is still at an age and in a situation in which the priesthood is still an option. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and you may be just the instrument God is looking for to speak to his soul.

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