“Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God and also in Me.” - John 14:1-2
Discipling a child is an “inside” job – it begins in the home. I learned about Jesus and the love and mercy of God from my parents first, and as a parent it has been my mission to incorporate practical ways to bring my faith alive for my children to ‘catch’ hold of and form them into disciples. Discipleship leads through example and draws others into a Christ-centered life. Beginning each day with praise and prayer, thankfulness and petition. It can involve sharing a simple breakfast together, encouraging each individual in their specific tasks for school or work, or offering a touch of blessing as they go off into the new day. Other acts can include reading age-appropriate books about our magnificent God and the saints and participating in daily Mass as often as possible. Mass brings every person to the Altar of Love – to the source of our help – ‘the fountain of grace.’ Hearing the Word of God proclaimed and remembering the ultimate sacrifice given for our redemption is full of richness that settles upon and within us. The Mass is our way of participating in the redeeming mercy and love of Calvary and helps keep us on the narrow path when we venture out into our day. Singing songs and playing games that reinforce the fundamentals of our beliefs brings the doctrine alive and becomes a part of our core being. Using all our senses to learn about our Catholic faith makes it an integral part of who we are as individuals commissioned to be Church to the world in everything we do.
Throughout motherhood, I attempted to teach our children to serve in all kinds of ways and to look beyond themselves and care for another. In the home, we have endless opportunities to serve each other and share the message that others are valued and important to being the Body of Christ together. I taught sharing, deferred to someone else’s wants first, offered a helping hand, worked side by side to accomplish a task, and simply enjoyed spending time together. This discipling has one goal: to bring each child to a deep understanding of their identity in God and their inheritance from Jesus. It has to be intentional and repeated in the simple day-to-day. There are countless other ways I can disciple and the Holy Spirit helps me make it real and animated as I nurture my communion with Him.
Wow, what a calling we have! The first people we “practice our faith” with are right in our own homes! As Christ Himself noted in the Gospels, sometimes this is the most challenging environment. Those who know me the most – who see all my cracks and weaknesses – can more easily dismiss me or even ignore me. Jesus Himself was not welcomed in His hometown. At home, in the raw moments shared with one another amidst the messiness of real life, we are just ordinary people to each other. Yet, in the beauty of the family, God uses the ordinary to bring about the miraculous. Love and sacrifice poured out for each other each day refines us and molds us. In rubbing against each other’s edges, we become the children God created us to be.
All this explained – discipling doesn’t assume that when we nurture our children in the faith that it is a done deal. As a mom, I do my part, every day of my life, and pray each child remains captive in the Lord’s heart as they grow and leave. It’s a freedom each of us is blessed with – to one day go forth and be disciples in a new place, apart from parental tutelage. Continuing to disciple adult children is scary and wonderful at the same time, and quite the delicate balance. I share this to remind you that we are all in different stages of being formed and in constant need of being discipled, no matter our age or state in life! My husband and I were blessed with seven children – one in heaven and six living. Of the six, four have chosen to walk away from or live on the fringes of the Catholic Church and the traditions they were raised in. I know I am not alone in this, as other families have children leaving the Church as well.
I used to stress over it and worry myself into utter agitation. Gradually, as I practice my faith more fervently, attend Mass, and bring my children in name to the Altar of the Lord, the peacefulness has returned. I am confident that the work that began in them will come to a positive end because what God desires, even more than this mama, is to have each of them with Him in eternity. He will stop at nothing to keep chasing after them! As St. Ambrose instructed Monica as she chased after her adult son, Augustine: “You have done your job. Do not talk to Augustine about God. Talk to God about your son.” I am not in charge of their decisions, but I can continue to grow in making my own choices rooted in Christ and love them no matter what. Jesus shows me ways to love and serve them where they are right now and remind them of their inheritance as a child of the living God. Sometimes it’s speaking encouragement, hard truth, or sharing my struggles. Sometimes it’s performing some act of kindness that exhibits the heart of God to them: little ordinary things like making enough food to include them when they stop by, finishing their laundry when they have to run off to work, sharing a little text message that I love them, an invitation to come play board games, or just being available to listen and keeping the door of communication always open. This also always includes inviting them to join us in the Rosary, coming with us to Mass, or other activities at the parish; not pushing – just extending the invitation.
And so, my husband and I continue to walk out each day ‘practicing’ by doing all we can to become better children of God ourselves. We leave the rest to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mother Mary, Saint Joseph, their guardian angels and all the saints to do what they do best. Discipling is an ‘inside job’- it grows in the living, beating heart of the home – and God works His miraculous through us to draw each of His children to Him. My confidence that He will complete His good work in each of these is secure!
Come back to me with all your heart
Don’t let fear keep us apart
Trees do bend though straight and tall
So must we to others’ call.
Long have I waited for
Your coming home to Me
And living deeply our new life
Song: Hosea by Gregory Norbet