Twice in the past two days I have heard or read impassioned prayers for young people to be open to God's vocational call to the priesthood and religious life. Neither prayer mentioned asking God's help for these young people to listen carefully and thoughtfully to God's call to Holy Matrimony, which is also a vocational path to which arguably most of these young men and women will be more likely to be called than to either the Priesthood or religious life. I think this is a very huge mistake.
I contend that a lot of the problem with marital difficulties among men and women who were raised in the Catholic church might be because we live in a larger culture that sees marriage as a limited, disposable and often unnecessary institution. And then within our churches we hear prayers for vocations which call only the priesthood and religious life as being set apart, called by God for a higher purpose.
Speaking for myself as well as my devoted husband, we both know that from a young age we were called to the vocation of marriage. We went into our marriage thinking of it as a vocational choice to honor God and through how we live our lives and raise our children to point others toward God. In the act of having our five beautiful children, and raising them in the faith we are doing it for the greater good of the Kingdom. We continually pray for our marriage as a vocation, and to help our children be open to God's vocational call to them wherever that call may lead them.
And yet, when the Church as a whole prays for vocations, my children only hear about vocations to the priesthood and religious life. They don't hear about marriage as a vocation and rarer still are prayers for the vocation of single Catholic adult. (to which at least one of my children has been called I believe).
As I see it (and have only heard in one vocational prayer) Marriage is the source of all other vocations. Without holy marriages open to procreation where will the Church find the children to be called to be the next generation of priests and religious? Since the church doesn't believe in artificial insemination they won't be creating them in a laboratory.
I also contend that if we worked as a church to pray for and strengthen the vocation of Holy Matrimony, and teach it as a vocation to which men and women are called the crisis in vocations to the priesthood and religious life will be overcome. Men and women will choose marriage more wisely and with a thought toward having more than 2.2 children (if you look at some of the families in our churches today you see these kinds of couples already emerging). More children raised in the faith means more children for God to call to vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
So the cure for the vocations crisis is not in praying for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life, but in praying for the vocation of holy matrimony first, or at least as equal to and on the same level as the other vocations in the church.
I wonder if we had an International year of the Family within the church, and focused all of our prayers for an entire year on that vocation, what kind of miracles might begin to happen?