Recently, I went with a couple brothers to talk to grade school students about life as a Dominican friar. Here are a couple thoughts.
#1. Young people are curious about life as a Dominican friar.
This struck me as good news, and I get the impression that such interest would extend to other religious life choices (priesthood, religious sisterhood, etc.). Kids knew that the life of a friar is different from a life outside the Order, and they wanted to know what makes it different. We got a lot of questions like, ‘What do you do during the day?’ or ‘Do you eat candy?’ or ‘Is there noise in the monastery?’ The questions sounded to me like they wanted to know why people would want to live this life. I’ve been inclined in the past to share ways in which our lives aren’t too different from the world outside, to seem more accessible. Talking to the grade schoolers has me thinking about sharing more readily the ways in which this life is different from secular life AND that it is much-needed.
#2. Young People Need Vocational Support
Visiting the grade school reminded me first-hand of the investment parents desire to make in the future happiness and success of their child. The school literature touts every learning resource a loving parent could want for their child; ample access to the latest technology, a new library, extensive resource learning for children in need of academic help, and a program to help gifted children further excel. This school is also intentional about its Catholic identity, and sees spiritual development as an essential part of its mission. I thought the grade school’s request for us to come and speak reflected an awareness of an aspect of spiritual care: the role which ‘Vocation’ has in the role of one’s spiritual life.
There are many people in the world who feel lost, and who do not know where God is calling them. This feeling can begin well before adulthood. My hope is that this ‘wandering’ does not describe the immediate experience of any of those students, but I would not be surprised if it did, especially for some of those in junior high school.
For Dominican friars, the preaching and promotion of all vocations – not just religious ones – is especially appropriate. We all gave the students advice to pray, make time for silence, cultivate their consciences to love the good, and to persist in asking God to guide them. My prayer is that the fostering of vocation among young people is fostered more and more in the years to come, and that Dominican friars are near the center of this effort.