At the end of April, my youngest daughter, who is 17, came to me and asked me to let her go on a retreat. I hastened to encourage her—thinking this was a fabulous idea. It was only then that she told me the retreat was actually in St. Louis, Missouri with the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus.
This bit of information sent me clear into a bit of a panic. I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible when I asked—why Missouri? You can’t find a retreat anywhere between Connecticut and Missouri? She saw right through me. She laughed and said, “I like them, Mom and their work interests me. Besides, it’s a general vocations retreat about how to discern God’s plan. It doesn’t mean I’m going to join their community.”
After my initial stage of panic began to die down, I then got distressed over the fact that this particular retreat would be happening right in the middle of our family vacation to Chicago. It is fair to say that I was unsupportive of this endeavor. She caught on quickly and we held to a silent code of not talking about it for a few weeks.
I confess that I was most upset by the idea that she wanted to leave our family vacation early for this retreat with a group of Sisters that we knew nothing about. I asked her how in the world she came up with them—was she doing research on the internet? My heart reminded me that there are far worse things she could be doing on the internet than researching women’s religious communities! But she told me she had read about them in Adoration.
I groused—sure, now she was using the Adoration card! I went to my spiritual director and asked his opinion. He suggested I tell her to wait until she was 18. I frequently try to do everything my spiritual director suggests because I believe that his direction comes from his close relationship with Christ and the prayers he says on my behalf, but this one didn’t feel right to me. I know we shouldn’t often rely on our feelings to make decisions, but sometimes God uses them to get our attention. I knew this was one of those times.
After some prayerful consideration, I told my spiritual director that I had made the decision not to be an obstacle to my daughter’s intention to go on this retreat. Regardless of the hows and the whys, I had always promised God that I would encourage my daughters in whatever vocation He had in store for them. If she did not belong on this retreat, some other obstacle would present itself and God would make his plan obvious to me. I however, wouldn’t be that thing standing in her way.
So, I admit to shedding a tear or two when I dropped her off at O’Hare airport in Chicago in the middle of our family vacation for her flight to St. Louis. My daughter is the kind of person who knows God’s mind fairly quickly so I asked her for only one thing—to please come home after this retreat and if it was in her mind to go back I would help her pack when the time was right. She laughed and agreed.
I saw great things in my daughter after her return from the retreat. We haven’t talked much about it, but I trust her judgment and I know she will tell me anything I need to know when she’s ready.
Parents have an important role to play in the spiritual formation of their children, but if you are not a parent there are many opportunities to be a spiritual parent to a child in your life. We all know it’s a great gift to give the children in our lives the ability to flex their wings and it’s a great feeling to know they are interested in spending more time developing their relationship with God.
Encourage the child in your life to strengthen their faith by participating in a retreat or camp. A vocations retreat may be a bit heavy, but there are Catholic enrichment camps happening all over the country.
Here is a small list of summer activities that your children can explore (or if you are available, consider volunteering!):
I have met Patrick personally and he is a dynamic individual who loves to share the faith. He’s funny and he’s real—two important traits which inspire trust among teens today. I’ve worked with teens and they can identify a faker from miles away! If you have kids interested in the faith, this is a great opportunity to teach them how to defend it—to light a fire within them and surround them with the truth.
Some Catholic colleges offer summer programs to help upper level high-school students discern the differences between their favorite prospective institutions. Students attend these programs on campus to become better acquainted with college life. Catholic Digest has put together a list of college immersion camps at some of the most popular Catholic schools in the country.
My daughter has friends who attend Camp Veritas, an apostolate of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Those friars must be doing something right because the spots fill up quickly and this year they have secured a new location in Emmitsburg, Maryland. At Camp Veritas, teens play and pray, learning how to infuse their daily life with the joys of the faith.
What other camps do you know about? Are you volunteering with children this summer? I would love to hear about it! Share your comments below.
And remember to encourage the kids in your life to do something great for God this summer!