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3 ways to encourage family and friends to seek God's will

Several years ago my daughter begged to watch a videotape over and over. It wasn’t a cartoon that had her mesmerized – it was a youth rally tape! A stage was suddenly illuminated and there they stood – five men in black. The music began, “Here come the men in black” and five priests began a choreographed dance routine! After several viewings, Shannon raced to her bedroom. When she emerged, she was wearing a black turtleneck with a white piece of paper scotch-taped onto the collar. “I’m going to be a priest when I grow up.” How do we encourage loved ones to seek God’s will?

The invitation. Voco, from which the word vocation is derived, means call or invitation. The invitation doesn’t come from the world, although the Spirit may use the hands and voices of others. The call echoes through the heart during conversations with God. It may seem difficult to accept in today’s world of  “show me the evidence.” But the Psalms remind us, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” Voco also means a summons. The emblem of St. Dominic shows a hound carrying a torch in its mouth, and informally some call his order “Domini Canes” – meaning hounds of the Lord in Latin. Through words, rather than force, Dominicans summon us to listen to God.

Match gifts to demands of the work. For several decades, J. L. Holland has been studying vocational choices. Individuals with certain personality characteristics tend to be  attracted to particular lines of work. Those in ministry tend to have social personality types, with verbal and interpersonal skills and the desire to interact with people. The diocesan priesthood offers these individuals an effective context for the use of their talents. An investigative person, on the other hand, prefers solitary time pursuing a particular task. A religious order, whose charism matches this talent, may nurture the gifts of a theologian or Church historian.

3 ways to encourage others to follow God’s will: In a loving family, children are influenced by their parents’ values and dreams. We can encourage a child’s vocation by:

1 Providing opportunities to pursue talents throughout childhood and adolescence

2 Encouraging exploration of different paths without trying to bring premature closure to their decisions

3 Bringing personal concerns to God: “If he chooses this, I’ll never be a grandparent.”

On Aug. 1, we commemorate the patron saint of vocations, Saint Alphonsus Liguori. He left his career as a  prominent lawyer when God invited him into the priesthood. St. Dominic (whose feast is celebrated Aug. 8) spent a quiet decade as the canon of a cathedral before he was called by God to preach. Throughout life’s journey, our God of surprises guides our steps.