How to talk about vocations during the holidays

Holidays can be times to gather with family and friends that we haven’t seen in a while. We find ourselves updating one another on the happenings in our lives — new jobs, new houses, maybe new significant others, etc. There are a plethora of articles out there offering advice on how to talk to loved ones about politics, career changes, the status of your relationship and more. But I doubt you’ll find many articles offering tips on how to discuss someone’s vocation!

When you are gathering with family and friends this holiday season, here are a few tips when you encounter young adults who may or may not be discerning a religious vocation:

  1. It’s OK to ask. If a young adult is single, it is OK to ask politely if they have ever considered religious life. I do not advise asking them this if they’re in a serious relationship. Do not be discouraged if they brush you off or just laugh. On average, a person needs to be invited to consider religious life at least three times. Your ask may be part of God’s plan.
  2. Affirm. When speaking with a young person who is searching for their vocation, point out what you see as their gifts. You can do this in a card or verbally. Telling them what you admire about them without even mentioning a particular vocation is helpful for their discernment, whether they know it or not.
  3. Do not overwhelm. Don’t sign anyone up for e-newsletters or a weekend retreat, or hand over a bunch of brochures. You can mention that you saw something that made you think of them; talk to them about it. If they want whatever it is, they will ask. Another option: Mail them an article or brochure with a small note — “This made me think of you.” Don’t follow up; don’t ask for their thoughts. Just let God do the talking.
  4. Create a space where all vocations are welcome. Oftentimes the holidays can be filled with mothers or grandmothers wondering when they will have a grandchild to spoil. While you may be well-meaning in these comments, it may not be welcoming for a young person who is considering a vocation to religious life, ordained life or the single life. Many young people worry about how their family and friends will react if they do discern religious life.
  5. Share. When it’s appropriate, share your story. Whether you’re married, single or a member of a religious community, share the stories of how you came to know your vocation. What helped you? What do you wish you would have known? By being open about your discernment, you’re inviting others to be open about their vocation as well.
  6. Pray. If you’re ever in doubt about how to encourage a young person in their vocational discernment, pray. It might seem obvious at first, but pray for them and pray for yourself. Pray that God might use you to help them on their journey. Pray for their future spouse, whether it be a person or the church.

Above all, do not be offended if someone doesn’t want to talk about a relationship or their vocation. The first stages of discernment can be extremely personal. Do not be offended if a young person doesn’t want to admit they are discerning or discuss their vocation. Things could be confusing and while they’re trying to sort out what they think, they might not need to know what you think. Yet. There will come a time when they are ready to share. Be patient.

Creating comfortable spaces for young adults to discern their vocation not only facilitates stronger families, but a stronger church as well.

— Story by Jenna Legg

Jenna Legg; Michelle Bodine photo.

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