Do you know how sad it is when you are talking to a young man about becoming a priest, and we’ll start chatting, and you see there is an interest there, and he has his wits about him, and the know-how and the enthusiasm and the sincerity, and then you’ll say to him, “How can I follow through? Can I give you a call?” And sometimes — it will break your heart — he’ll say, “Don’t call the house, because mom and dad will be upset if they hear I am thinking about becoming a priest.”
There is what you might call the negative side of the family. I happen to think there might be a benevolent explanation for that, and that moms and dads deep down only want their kids to be happy, and they think that priests are unhappy. And if they think that priests are crabs, they don’t want their sons to be that. So that’s why I always say to priests, “We’ve got to be men of joy, or else what parent is going to want his or her son to be a priest?”
I think that is changing, and we’ve got a positive influence. When the family beams, when the family encourages, when the family fosters. You often see me write or speak about a “culture of vocations.” What I mean by a culture of vocations is that when our young people grow up in a culture that encourages you to do God’s will and that affirms one in his desire to be a priest, you are going to get priests. I grew up in such a culture. I said to my teachers in grade school, “I think I want to be a priest,” and they beamed and did everything possible to encourage me. My parish priest would. My folks would. My neighbors would. The parish would. I can remember as a kid — I must have been 9 or 10 years old — getting a haircut, and the barber said, “Hey shrimp, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I said, “I want to be a priest.” And he wasn’t even a Catholic, but he said, “Hey, isn’t that great?” Now that is the culture of vocations that we need in the Church.
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