Almost five years ago, I joined the Franciscans when I was 22 years old. For some, that was too early. “Don’t you want to see the world?” one friend asked me. Of course I do. But I can and will do that as a friar.
I knew when I was 21 that I wanted to be a Franciscan. Some people know even earlier than that. On an almost regular basis I meet or hear from someone in high school that’s seriously discerning a vocation; some as young as 16 say they’ve made up their mind and are just waiting to be old enough. As far as I’m concerned, this is a great thing! Age does not always indicate readiness, and sometimes, maturity and a clear call from God can come at a young age. There are young people out there that could enter religious life as soon as they’re old enough (usually between 19-22 as a minimum), while others who are in their 30s still need a little time to grow up.
We always encourage kids to think about what they want to be when they grow up and are delighted when they say “doctor,” “teacher,” or “lawyer.” Why no “friar,” “sister,” or “priest”? Sure, they can’t fully know what this life entails at that age, but can a kid know what it’s really like to be a teacher either? If there is an interest, no matter the age, there are age appropriate questions and experiences that can be explored.
That’s the topic of the newest installment of “Ask Brother Casey,” a question inspired by more than a few requests for advice: “I’m not old enough yet to join religious life, but what should I do to prepare?”