The other day I linked to an article debunking reasons for women to become nuns. The article was written by, and for a Roman Catholic audience but there were some points that could be useful to an Orthodox audience as well.
A rather lively discussion took place following the posting of the article and that led to a discussion about vocations and sharing our faith.
One commenter took issue with what she called “advertising for vocations.” The issue was that vocations are just that, vocations, and not careers. I agreed but said vocations need to be nurtured not only by the parish but most importantly by the family.
We have, here in the United States, somewhat of a vocation crisis. In my Archdiocese, I am the last home grown vocation, and I was ordained in 2004. When a priest is needed we just bring a priest over from Romania. The reason for this is that we need Romanian speaking priests. I support that, for now, but what about the future. What are we doing to support the call in young men to the priesthood?
God is constantly calling men and women to the ministry in the Church. He is planting the seeds but those seeds need to be nourished and cared for. Healthy parishes will produce healthy vocations to the various ministries in the Church. I also believe that we need to stop thinking of the priesthood as the only vocation in the Church. What of monks, nuns, teachers, missionaries, chanters, choir directors, theology professors all of these are vocations, and they all need nurturing. The most valuable thing we can do is pray, pray for vocations every day.
The nurturing of any vocation begins in the home; parents are the first teachers of their children. When I said this on Facebook yesterday the response was, what if we do not know about our faith? Well I certainly understand this situation. We have done an extremely poor job of teaching the faith to the people in the Church. In my experience, we spend far too much time on festivals and language schools and other such things and remarkably little time on any kind of religious education. Call a meeting about fundraising and the room will be packed, schedule a Bible Study and suddenly everyone has something to do.
So I ask this question, what are you doing to teach your children the faith? Are you attending Liturgy on Sunday, every Sunday, or do you only attend when you have nothing else to do. I am sorry but allowing your child to play sports on Sunday morning is a heresy and not what Orthodox Christians should be doing. Do you attend Vespers on Saturday night, or does your Church even have Vespers on Saturday night? Do you show up late or just on time for Liturgy or do you come to Church early enough to quiet your mind and pray a little bit? How many of you have never heard the words, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”?
Do you pray together as a family? Do you pray before meals, not only at home but when you are out to eat? Do you have an Icon corner in your home and is it in a place that everyone can see and do you use it. Praying together as a family is extremely valuable.
What about feast days? Do you attend either Liturgy or Vespers of the Feasts of the Church? Do you know when they are and what they represent? Do you follow the fasting and abstinence rules of the Church? Do you have a spiritual Father? Do you go to confession? Do you take communion? I cannot count the number of time I have seen parents bring their children up to communion but then not receive themselves. Parents you are the first and most influential teachers of your children. They will model your behavior, and they see everything.
Parents need to talk to their children about vocations in the Church. Parishes need to do this as well. When was the last time your community invited a missionary or a monastic to come and visit your Church? There are a number of monasteries here in the United States with many monks and nuns. Invite a monk or a nun to come to Church and talk about monastic life. Does your community know about Orthodox missionaries and the countries they serve in? The Orthodox Christian Mission Center has many resources available for free, picture of missionaries and biographies of their work and the countries they serve. Post the photos, pray for the missionaries by name at Liturgy and when they are home, ask them to come to the Church and talk about missions.
When choosing a college for your child to attend how much of an influence is the location of an Orthodox Church or an OCF Chapter on campus. Have you considered Hellenic College or the new Saint Catherine’s College? All of these are crucial in fostering vocations in the Church.
The fostering of vocations is the job of all of us in the Church. The whole Church needs to be involved in fostering vocations to all of the ministries in the Church. The Church of tomorrow needs the vocations of today. What are doing to ensure there will be vocations tomorrow?