My son is in the vocation discernment stage of life—one I didn’t spend a great deal of time in, myself, truth be told, which led to a certain amount of stupid choices both personal and professional.

Would that I had all the money I spent pursuing the elusive “Miss Right” instead of discerning marriage and the spouse God intended for me (thanks for making it happen in spite of my faulty reasoning, God). And would that I had all the time I spent blue-skying about achieving fame and fortune behind a guitar when I knew deep-down that I didn’t have the stomach for being a starving artist.

I listened to nobody but myself back in the day. My son, on the other hand, has been listening carefully for God’s voice while watching and learning from the world around him. As the result of his attentiveness, he is very seriously considering priesthood.

That’s a fact of which my wife and I are very proud, by the way. He’s the last shot my immediate family has at moving the old surname into the future, but judging by the number of Moores in the world, I figure there’s enough distantly-shared DNA around to handle civilization’s needs for the foreseeable future.

In the age-old paternal spirit of, “I’m going to help my boy do a better job at this whole life thing than I did,” the Moore boys recently went to a vocations fair hosted by our archdiocese.

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Is it just me or is “fair” something of a generous word for a series of folding cafeteria tables in a grade school gymnasium? You’d think a Catholic religious vocations fair might at least feature some themed midway games—Ring-of-the-Fisherman Toss, Knock Over the Altar Wine Bottles, Whack-a-Heretic, stuff like that.

Seriously though, it was a great thing to see. But just between us, I’m not sure the archdiocese didn’t stack the deck a little. At least in terms of the options for young men. I mean, what diocese these days wants to lose guys to the religious orders?

There were more than twenty or so orders of sisters represented and only about eight or nine for men. One of those was the archdiocese itself and one was the no-priests-allowed De La Salle Christian Brothers (of whom I am fond, by the way, as they were the guys in charge at my high school…make of that what you will…in their defense, it was the ’70s).

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Nobody consulted the Knights of Columbus about having beverages on hand for the dads.

As you might expect, some orders had their elevator speeches down better than others, and everybody had brochures and trinkets available. By the way, just so you know, in case you go to one of these fairs and you’re used to trade shows and such where people are blowing considerable marketing budgets on their presentations, prepare to be underwhelmed by the trinketry.

Even the archdiocese, without the vow of poverty, had a less-than-memorable assortment. I mean, how many of those rubber bracelets does one kid need? I think my guy came away with four. To be fair, he also got a nice wrist-rosary at one table. And the Redemptorists had some cool wooden coins. The Franciscans, of course, went the humble route with some simple stickers on a roll (and some fun shtick about how their IT department designed them to fit on any cell phone case).

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But hey—trinkets, shminkets, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve got my eyes on the prize. Ordination time. That’s when the REALLY cool swag starts to flow. Mothers gets the maniturgium—the linen cloth a newly ordained priest’s anointed hands are wrapped in; according to pious tradition, Mom shows the cloth at the pearly gates and gets to cut the line.

What about Dad? He gets the stole from the priest’s first confession. The impressive, ecclesiastic, straight-from-the-Vatican official name for that? “The stole from the priest’s first confession.” And as far as I know, there are no heartwarming pious traditions attached to it.

Perfect. Isn’t it?  Mom gets something that sounds like the Pope gave it to her personally and Dad gets the chamois that’s been mopping up sin. A nicely embroidered, but sin-stained length of cloth that they’re obviously not going to let into heaven.

Probably the only good thing to come out of meager vocations over the years has been clearing up the backlog of fathers standing in line to have their sons’ confession stoles validated.

Now, while we didn’t get any relics or signed saint photos or anything like that, there was one thing every table had that was more valuable than any memento. They had joy—100 percent genuine, light-in-the-eyes joy.

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Joy…Joy…Joy…Joy, down in their hearts.

Each and every man we spoke to was so happy and so obviously pleased with where God has placed him that there wasn’t a single second when I thought one of them might be blowing smoke.

What father doesn’t want that kind of joy for his son?

And when you come right down to it, the only name any of us should be concerned with passing on is the Holy Name of Jesus.

 

 

 

 

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