November 4-10, 2018 is National Vocation Awareness Week, an annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promote vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.
The Stump of Jesse: Supporting Vocations Within the Family
by Deacon Ton Nguyen
“WHAT? There is a factory that produces priests?”
When I was a child, I thought our genius God invented a holy machine to make priests. And my wise mother patiently guided me step by step to understand what a vocation is. God has a special call for each one of us: one is called to get married; one is called to be a priest; another is called to be a religious sister or brother, or to live a single life. Then my mother asked me to pray for my vocation, to open my ears attentively, to listen to what God is communicating to me and to respond to His call joyfully.
One day, after listening to the homily, I ran back home in a hurry and told my mom that God had called me to be a good shepherd. From that day on, I took care of our family’s cows more seriously. I gave them names; I sang to them and recited many stories and poems to them. I led them to green pastures and clear water. You might think that I was a crazy kid and indeed, I was. 😉 One time, while the cows were eating at a free-range field, there was a super heavy rainstorm. I didn’t know what to do to keep the cows dry so I knelt among them, folded my hands and prayed to God and Mother Mary to stop the rain.
Now, several years later, I am almost a priest! Words cannot express how happy and fulfilled I am. I always felt connected to the prophet Jeremiah because God called him when he was very young as well. It is never too early to pray for your vocation.
“The Lord answered me, say not, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.”
Priests are first formed within their families. It is the family that encourages their children, grandchildren, or friends to discern their vocations under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Will we shy away from doing so because of the scandal that is happening in the Church and neglect this mission? No, we should fold our hands and pray to God and the Virgin Mary to stop the abuse and to heal the abused; we should also be honest with ourselves, fight for what we believe in, be great examples of Jesus’ discipleship to the world, and have the courage to follow God’s invitation.
I instituted the “Jeremiah’s Cup Ministry” as a deacon project in my parish (Mary Seat of Wisdom, Park Ridge, IL). This ministry invites parishioners to intentionally pray for vocations by passing on a consecrated chalice from family to family, and classroom to classroom. The responses from families have been inspiring. I love it.
“I would sometimes look at the cup and say a silent prayer to God to fortify me in my own vocation of parenthood.”
“It sparked some interesting conversations about our family life being the foundation for faith where a seed could be planted.”
“We had an easier time talking about our son’s potential vocational call to the religious life. We need priests! I want my grandchildren to be able to receive the sacraments.”
“When I thought about praying for my daughters’ vocations, honestly I didn’t know how I would feel about any of them being called to religious life. What is the life of a nun even like? Jeremiah’s cup made me realize I have a lot to learn about vocational calls for women.”
Pray for vocations!