Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a national convention for Diocesan Vocation Directors. This convention has several functions for the priests who attend: social networking and just plain camaraderie with fellow Vocation Directors, education and “professional development,” and spiritual and physical refreshment. Each of these pieces year in and year out are equally valued by the members of the NCDVD and I, being a lay, married, father of 3 children and an associate vocation director, get a chance to experience all this from a decidedly different perspective.
Throughout the week I listened as priests and lay people taught priests how to work in the field of Vocation Promotion, how to increase the effectiveness of the message they hope to spread and how to reach more efficiently the right young men who are being called to the priesthood. I listened as priests taught their brother priests in the homilies during Mass. I watched as young priests met fellow young priests from across the nation and shared what is working for them and what they need help with and all the while I was able to sit back and think, what does this all mean for me as a husband and father.
The answer I received on the last day of the convention was one that surprised me a little. The realization is that almost everything that was being taught in those workshops and applied to the priesthood in those homilies was also very personally applicable to my life! Sure, the “professional development” applied very directly to my work, but the homilies about the role of a vocation director, the hard work of the vocation director, the importance of the priesthood in the life of the church all applied to me personally, because, I am a FATHER!
In paragraphs 1655-1657 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read that the family has the special distinction of being called the Domestic Church, the place in which our Faith is first introduced, fostered, and shared and it is in leading ones children to discover their vocations that a father and a mother participate fully in the priesthood of the baptized.
At the conclusion of this fantastic week of learning and reflecting, I finally understood that my role as father of my family is not so different than the role of the priest of my parish. We are entrusted with the souls of our families. It is our duty to make sure that while attempting to work with God’s grace to get ourselves to heaven, we live out a life of total self-sacrifice that enables those around us to get to heaven as well. We are expected to be holy examples of virtuous living and when we fail to do so, it matters all the more because of the responsibility in being entrusted with God’s children (no matter the number).
So, there I was, at the convention’s closing Mass, in front of the icon of the NCDVD patron, St. John Vianney, asking for prayers that I might be a good and holy priest for my family because, in that moment, I realized, that is my vocation; that is my responsibility; that is my gift.