One of the best occasions as a missionary to meet Christian families is at the celebration of baptism. During the rite several important questions are addressed to the parents. I strongly emphasize one of these questions every time I administer the sacrament.
The question goes: “You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training your child in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to raise your child to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you really understand what you are undertaking?”
I always invite the parents to respond to this question actively. For me, this is where the parents profess their full responsibility toward the child and their acceptance of their role as primary educators of faith.
The Christian Family Reflects the Life of the Church
In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis said that “the Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” In other words, the dynamics of the family reflect in the life of the Church. This joy of the family engenders a profound love and harmony between persons. It flows from the spirit of togetherness, mutual support of each member and above all the presence of God’s love. If God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony. Self-centeredness prevails, and joy fades. If this happens, the Church suffers.
“Vocations Usually Come From Good Families”
According to St. Arnold Janssen, “Vocations usually come from good families.” It is indeed true that the family is the most important institution responsible for fostering vocations.
Let us not forget that Jesus himself was born into a modest family. We read in the scripture, “And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. And the child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him” (Lk 2:39-40).
In this passage, Mary, Joseph and Jesus are presented as a faithful Jewish family, pious and righteous before God. In a Christian family, the parents should manifest good examples to their children in hope of creating and fostering a culture of vocations for consecrated life.
Our own family is our first school, our first school of human values where love is learned through word and deed.
St. Arnold Janssen would say, “If the Church is to have more priests, more men ready for sacrifice and apostolic work, the good Lord must grant that Christian marriage becomes ever more holy.”
When I was a child, my parents would always encourage me to attend Sunday school and participate in various church activities. From these childhood experiences, I believe my vocation for the religious missionary life was nurtured through the influence and encouragement of my family.
Speaking the Language of Vocation in My Missionary Apostolate
As a young missionary, I truly believe vocations for the consecrated life are always present in the hearts of the young people—vocations waiting to be nurtured and cultivated by our prayers and encouragement. In our parishes and communities, we need to appeal to parents, to families, to instill a sense of vocation in our young ones.
In my apostolate, my presence at the Orkesumet Secondary School every Friday afternoon is an avenue not just to teach catechism but also to promote vocations. With my stuttering Kiswahili, I try my best to impart knowledge to my students. Although I struggle to speak the local language, there is always joy because my students love to participate and understand the importance of education. My ministry of presence in the school is a good avenue to remind my students constantly about the beauty of life as a missionary.
Furthermore, my regular visits to the jumuiya (small Christian community) during weekends to join my students in prayers are good opportunities to get to know them and their families better. By visiting them, listening to their stories and reflections and interacting with them, I learn of my students’ daily struggles. Despite these struggles they remain firm in their faith.
The proof of a strong faith among the Christians families in Orkesumet is the large number of churchgoers every Sunday, their enthusiasm to support parish projects and their charismatic celebration of the liturgy. I feel a profound joy every time I see the Christian families celebrating vibrantly in the church and at other festivities.
Strengthen the Seedbed of the Family
God is the sower of vocations. In order for vocations to flourish and the harvest to be plenty, the seedbed itself—the family—must be of rich, fertile, fine soil. We need to pray persistently and encourage our Christian faithful that our families and homes become a most excellent seedbed of vocation in the service of God’s Kingdom.