July 26, 2019

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

The growing importance of the vocation of parents

Sean GallagherNot long ago, I heard the buzzing of locusts for the first time this summer. When I heard it, I let out an almost instinctual sigh.

That’s because when I was my boys’ ages, I always identified first hearing locusts with being on the downhill side of my summer vacation and the first day of school being not too far away.

Nowadays, that’s even more the case. My oldest son’s first day as a high school senior will be during the first week of August. Children in schools with balanced schedules might already have started classes.

All five of my boys are full-fledged students now, with my youngest son, Colin, starting kindergarten this year. Four of them are students at Lumen Christi Catholic School in Indianapolis. My oldest son, Michael, is enrolled at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School, also in Indianapolis.

And while my wife Cindy and I very much appreciate the authentic Catholic education and formation our boys receive at these schools, we still place a high priority on our God-given roles as our sons’ primary educators.

I’ve known about this crucial part of the vocation of parents since before my boys were born. Living it out concretely is a daily, ever-changing challenge that Cindy and I can only fulfill with the help of God’s grace.

And while parents in all ages and places have always needed this grace to carry out the mission of forming their children, it seems that this divine help is all the more needed today.

The culture in which we live seeks to form our children according to its values, which are more and more at odds with the Gospel. Those who promote these values do so with great vigor in many ways through various forms of media and in our society’s widespread consumerism.

And these apostles of moral relativism, unrestrained autonomy and freedom defined as license not only champion their own cause with enthusiasm, they also disparage Gospel values and those who seek to live by them with an ever-greater hostility. In seeking to present themselves as paragons of tolerance, they actually promote intolerance—at least to those who choose to disagree with them publicly.

It’s this cultural climate in which children are sadly growing up that makes me see the vocation of parents as increasingly important in the life of the Church now and at least the near future.

Some 25 years ago, I actively discerned a possible call to the priesthood and religious life. While I ultimately found that God had called me to marriage and family life, I still greatly value the vocation to ordained ministry and the consecrated life and hope to pass on that value to our boys.

Over my 18 years of married life, though, I’ve come to see this calling as heroic, even if I am the first to confess that I too often fail to meet its demands.

Living out the vocation to marriage and family life with the help of God’s grace in this culture is a great challenge, but one that can hopefully bear great fruit.

God’s grace flows through us parents to our children as we seek to form them so they can live more fully as the adopted children of God they became at their baptism.

As they live this life more completely, which so often runs counter to the values of our culture, they then can become a vital force of renewal in society. In the process, they’ll hopefully become the saints that God has dreamed of them being for all eternity. †

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