23 September 2008

Blessed Damien cautions parents

Thanks to the wonders of inter-library loan, I am currently reading Charles Warren Stoddard's Father Damien: The Martyr of Molokai (San Francisco, California: Catholic Truth Society, 1901).

It is a short little book (only 30 pages), but it includes several of Father Damien's letters, which are a great pleasure to read.

On Christmas Day 1858, then Joseph De Vuester wrote to his parents, asking their permission and blessing for him to pursue his vocation. His words may seem harsh:

My dear parents: I cannot hesitate to write to you on this grand Christmas Day, for the great feast has brought me to the certainty that God has called me to quit the world and embrace the religious state. Therefore, my dear parents, I ask you again for your consent; for without it I cannot venture to enter on this career. God's command to obey our parents does not apply only to childhood.

Do not think that in choosing the religious state I am guided by own will; I assure you that I do but follow the will of Divine Providence. I am not afraid that you will refuse me, since it is God who calls, and I am obliged to obey his call. For you to hinder your child from following God's will, would expose yourselves to terrible consequences from His anger, and would expose me to the irreparable misfortune of losing the vocation for which God has destined me from infancy, and would put in jeopardy your eternal salvation.

You know, my dear parents, that each individual is bound to conform himself to the designs of God in choosing a state of life, if he wishes to make his future happiness secure; do not, therefore, distress yourselves at God's designs for me. Augustus [his older brother] writes me that I should certainly be admitted in his Congregation as "Frere de Choeur," that I should not fail to speak to the Superior at the New Year, and should begin my novitiate a little later.

Hoping for this great happiness, I sign myself, your obedient son.

Joseph at the time was eighteen years of age.
His words may be a bit harsh, but they are also true. Parents must not only help their children to discern God's will for their lives; they must also help and enable their children - to whatever extent possible - to respond generously to God's design for their lives.

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