They came from across the globe to learn how to build up what’s been called the school of love and the domestic church. Hundreds of families eager to grow in faith attended a dazzling array of presentations and talks by prestigious speakers.
Helen Alvaré, a professor of law at George Mason University, presented a keynote address about how families are the means by which we learn self-giving love.
“Sacrificial love is a habit,” Alvaré said. “If we don’t begin the habits of sacrificial love in the family, good luck practicing it with those we don’t even know. Family love gets us to a wider circle. You begin with the person who takes too long in the bathroom, but you end up with strangers in need whose only link is their common humanity.”
Alvaré said today’s movies and songs highlight “fears being overcome and families accepting one another and other families, rich and poor … the purveyors of these dreams are not wrong … we are built for relationship.”
The crowd split into breakout sessions after Alvaré’s talk to learn some of the practical ways to help foster vocations.
Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, Vicar General of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, emphasized the importance of parents having a vibrant, daily relationship with Christ.
“Long before we teach them to pray, we’ve been forming them in who God is, just by our presence, just how we look at them,” Sr. Regina Marie said. “The little baby has no clue there is a God, but the child knows there is someone who finds the light in him, who wants to take care of him.”
And as he grows older, he learns that even when he’s naughty, he still belongs…he is learning about the heart of Christ, Sr. Regina Marie said.
She offered four concrete ways parents can help their children discover their call from God.
“First, love your own sacrament of matrimony. If our children see that life is not always easy, that there is suffering but we are deeply satisfied … our children will turn their hearts to God,” Sr. Regina Marie said.
Second, parents must recognize that each child has his or her own, distinct relationship with God, and that it is different from the parents. In recognizing that, parents can be safeguarded against trying to manipulate or control their child’s vocation.
Third, it’s vital for parents to expose their children to religious life. Visit a monastery or a convent, and if you can’t, sign up for newsletters from them so that your children will see the reality of religious life.
Fourth, parents need to pray fervently, as a couple and as family, that the Lord will make His will known for each child.
Three other religious sisters offered their take on how families could nurture vocations within family life and all those who attended were given a copy of “For Love Alone,” a DVD about women religious and how they discovered their calling in life.
Mother Ann Marie Karlovic, OP, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of Cecilia, offered her take on how parents can help foster their children’s vocations. It’s not so much a matter of talking about it. It’s all about faith in action.
“Children are nurtured when they see parents take time away from the computer, away from TV, taking time to pray, to reflect and read Scripture,” Mother Ann Marie said. “I don’t remember my father telling us we had to go to Mass. We just did it.”
Follow Joyce Coronel on Twitter at @JoyceCoronel.