BETWEEN PARENTS AND CHILDREN
[continued from yesterday]
...We are here dealing with what is called a vocation. Now a vocation is a call from God. It is known by certain signs which are recognized by the Church, and with which spiritual directors are well acquainted. If, therefore, those signs are present, if the vocation is sufficiently manifest, then clearly the child is perfectly justified in obeying the call of God, and in setting aside the command of the parent who interferes with the call of God. And the principle works both ways. If the child is called to any given state of life, then it is wrong for the parent to interfere with that call.
If, on the other hand, the child is not called to a given state, then it is wrong for the parent to urge the child, either directly or indirectly, to enter that state. Whether the case be one of entering upon matrimony, or the priesthood, or religion, God's call goes before the wishes of a parent. To ignore the wishes of parents in such a matter is no dishonor to them. Our Lord indeed rebuked the Pharisees, because under the pretense of honoring religion they taught men to withdraw the honor due to parents. The virtues by which God is honored and by which parents are honored are quite distinct from each other, but they are not at variance. Each virtue is limited by circumstances. Virtue carried beyond this limit is no longer a virtue but a vice. Thus the virtue of dutifulness to parents is limited by the virtue of religion, or the worship of God. It can be no honor, therefore, to a parent to render him obedience when obedience to God demands some contrary action.
Thus, whenever it comes to a choice between the service of man and the service of God, the service of God must prevail. Hence those plain words of Christ:
"He that loveth father and mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is notworthy of me."These words apply more particularly to the priestly and religious states, though there is an equally strong sanction as regards the matrimonial state. Christ Himself said:
"Have ye not read that he who made man from the beginning made them male and female? And he said: For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh."On the other hand, there are circumstances when the claims of the parents would seem to prevail. It is not so in reality, for in these circumstances the call of God is not manifest. It is when the parents are so very poor that they cannot live without the support of their children. God does not wish children to leave their parents in such plight, under the pretense of leading a higher life. The highest life in such circumstances is to stay at home and take care of the parent who may be poor, sick, or aged.
There are four chief signs of a religious vocation, namely: constant desire; fitness for the order as to health, ability, and character; acceptance by the order; the absence of any obligation of supporting parents in need.
If, therefore, the candidate for religious life found that, in order to enter religion, he must leave his parent in destitution, that would be a clear sign that he had no vocation. That one fact would mark the limits of the virtue of religion.
God could not possibly be honored by the entrance of one into religion under such circumstances. To act thus would be to turn the virtue of religion into a vice. Hence the duty to parents and the duty to God cannot clash, for the limits of the one are outside the limits of the other.
If in any given case they seem to clash, if a child wishes to marry, or to become a nun, or a priest, or a monk, contrary to the wishes of its parents, then the practical thing to do is to consult one's spiritual director. He is trained in the theology of the subject, he knows something of human nature, he knows the disasters that are in store, either for forcing a vocation where there is none, or for destroying a vocation where there is one. He knows also the blessings that are in store for the true vocation faithfully followed....
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.