Ask most seminarians, and they can remember the precise moment when they told their parents they felt called to the priesthood.
Some received overwhelming support right away. Some encountered raised eyebrows. And some found themselves having to defend their decision against Mom or Dad’s vehement opposition.
Once in a while, pursuing the priesthood causes rifts in families. One seminarian from a non-Catholic background broke the news to his family after the bishop had accepted his application. His parents have not spoken to him in several years. Despite the great sadness he felt and his longing for reconciliation with his parents, this man felt God’s call so strongly that he could not ignore it, and he was recently ordained a priest.
While this is an extreme case, the point is, a lot of guys are nervous about how their parents will react. Fr. Brett Brannen, in To Save a Thousand Souls, described the ideal parent as one who is at peace with God’s will, who says, essentially, “I will pray for you and support you as you go to seminary… and I will be equally proud of you if discern that you must leave seminary.”
Fr. Brannen goes on to write:
“Let me give one final word of advice to you when the time comes to tell your family that you are going to seminary. Please give your parents a break! This is not an easy thing for them to hear. They likely will have mixed emotions about this news. They need some time to process all of this and to get answers to their many questions. You are their child! They brought you into this world and sacrificed themselves to raise you and to teach you about Jesus Christ. Be patient with them no matter how they react. Parents are not the enemy here! On the contrary, in most cases, God used them to nurture your vocation in the first place.”
No matter how your parents react initially, remember to love them and honor them. And take heart: almost every seminarian will tell you that as they get closer to the priesthood, parents become more supportive as they see their son’s confidence and happiness grow.