Our call to discipleship can come in many ways. Sometimes God may call us in big ways-a change in career, taking on a leadership role at work or in an organization we volunteer for, or stepping back from work to care for our children or our parents. Other times though, the call to discipleship is simple- calling a loved one to brighten their day, delivering Christmas cookies to neighbors, or simply sharing something special with someone else.
Being a disciple and living out our faith is important to both my husband and me. For us, our own light of faith kindles our desire to share and model this light, this call to discipleship for our children. Every now and then this call may lead to a big and obvious action, but most of the time it is the simple everyday moments that bring light to what it means to follow Jesus. One example of this simple call to discipleship can be seen in taking our children to Mass.
As a parent to four children under the age of ten, going to Mass is not always an easy task. Reminding them they cannot wear basketball shorts is met with an eye roll or a loud “why?!”, telling them to wear their nice shoes is usually followed with a mumble under their breaths, and repeating for the umpteenth time that we cannot bring toys that make noise is often followed by tears. Thankfully, our older two children are old enough to behave once we get into the church building, but our younger two are still learning, and taking an extended break from attending Mass in person has only made this simple Sunday desire to to illuminate this call to discipleship a bit more challenging.
Because of the pandemic, our Sunday Mass going is still not as consistent as it was pre-COVID. We stay home if someone has a sniffle or if we think the church will be more crowded for any given reason. We have also started going to a different parish simply because it is larger, and we feel more comfortable with the extra space. These differences and inconsistencies are just enough of a change for our five-year-old to blurt out “why can’t we just watch church on the TV!” and for our newly three-year-old to see how loud he can yell at the most inopportune times.
To help nurture the light of faith in them and bring more attention to the positive behavior we hope for, we started to let our older two children light candles after Mass for acting like “big kids.” Each week we would remind all of them that whoever was a big kid could light a candle. It did not take long for our five-year-old to join the “big kid” club. But week after week our youngest would still yell, hit, or throw his book, earning him a trip outside and losing another turn to light a candle.
A few weeks ago, as we were getting ready to walk out of the door, our oldest son ran back to his room. He came out with a smile on his face and eight quarters in his hand-enough to light four candles. I told him we had money for the candles, but he was very excited to share his carefully counted $2 with his sister and brothers. Modeling our example of kindling the light of faith, he showed his youngest brother the money and told him, “See if you are a big boy, two of these are for you to light a candle!”
It took several reminders, but for the first time since before COVID, our family of six made it through the entire Mass without having to take anyone outside. As soon as the priest walked down the aisle to the back of the church, our youngest child proudly pronounced, “I’m a big boy!” and grabbed his brother’s hand to go and light a candle. My Mama heart melted- our oldest son was beaming with excitement to share his money with his siblings as they all happily dropped their 50 cents into the donation box to light their chosen candles. This simple act, my seven-year-old choosing to give his own money to the church and choosing to share it with his siblings, is a concrete example of how we have passed the light of our faith on to our son.
A couple weeks later as we were walking into Mass, this very nice, presumably homeless, woman asked if we had any change to spare. Each week she sits in the same spot outside of the church, so we have gotten used to seeing each other and sharing small talk. Being thirty-something years old, we did not have any extra money with us, only the money we brought to light the candles after Mass.
As Mass ended, we told our children we did not have money for candles this week. Instead, we gave the money to the woman sitting outside. When we got to the car we explained to our children what we did, and to my surprise, there were no complaints. They were all happy to help someone else over lighting a candle. Another way our light of faith shines through a simple call to discipleship- putting the needs of someone else above our own wants.
The following week the light of our faith shined brightly in our oldest as she excitedly counted out her eight quarters, modeling her brother’s behavior from just a few weeks before. We also gathered a couple pieces of fruit and a piece of string cheese to give to the lady sitting outside of the church. As four smiling pairs of eyes approached the woman, tears welled in her eyes as she thanked us for the food. A simple act, sharing food with someone in need, is another way we are lighting the call of being a disciple.
These actions may be simple, but the impact is far from simple. We light the call to discipleship by donating money to the church each week through the collection basket and lighting candles, so our children are learning at a young age the importance of giving back to the church. We bring the light of Christ to those in need by donating food, and toys and clothes our children have outgrown, so giving the woman outside of the church a couple pieces of food was not an abnormal action. Our call to discipleship may be big at times, but it can also be seen in our normal everyday actions. We can be disciples by letting our light of faith shine on our loved ones and with those in need.
Photo by Charlotte Phillips