To be a watchman

| Ben Tlougan | January 25, 2018 | 0 Comments

It’s about 2345 hours, and there is only a little light from the moon to help us see. My partner and I are on tour duty. Along with about four other two-man teams, we’re keeping watch over our base in northeast Afghanistan.

We passed the time chatting while keeping an eye on our sector. As our shift was nearing its end, we were discussing our lives back home and what we planned to do when we returned. Suddenly, the general silence of the night was split by a loud whistling sound. We looked up and saw an orange streak headed directly toward us. Of course, our first instinct was to duck, but as everything slowed down, I thought to stand up and watch the incoming rocket as it flew just over the top of our tower and impacted one of our trucks inside the base’s walls. I told my partner to report the incoming rocket and where it impacted while I moved to our 240, the machine gun we had fixed to a small turret in the window of the tower. I watched for any more enemy movement and prepared to engage.

What is a watchman? A watchman, for all intents and purposes, is the one who stands guard so that others can relax, sleep or clean up. They trust the watchman to alert them of danger and be the first to engage and hold the enemy at bay, allowing them time to respond. Watchmen is a superb description of what God has called us to be as men.

It was while in Afghanistan that God first laid on my heart the need for a new movement in men of the Church. In our culture today, it seems that women have taken up the role of spiritual leaders in the home, but this isn’t supposed to be their burden to bear. God is calling men to step up into this role of spiritual leader and protector. It is we men who should be passing on the faith by living it — showing the importance of daily prayer and Bible reading, regular reconciliation and daily and Sunday Mass, and adoration.

I was excited when the Catholic Watchmen initiative was rolled out a few years ago. I think it does an excellent job of helping us attain the basics of living out the Christian life through the “Seven Disciplines” — praying, reading sacred Scripture and being a spiritual father, being fully engaged at Sunday Mass and a witness to your family and community, and going to confession and attending parish-based meetings with other Catholic men.

It is easy to say that the spiritual disciplines are for priests and religious, and as laymen we have other things to focus on, but that’s just not accurate.

A perfect example is in Nehemiah 4. A portion of the Israelites had been able to return to Jerusalem from captivity, and its walls were in rubble. They started rebuilding the walls to be able to defend the city, but some of Israel’s neighbors weren’t happy about this and were threatening to attack. So, Nehemiah had some of the men take shifts standing guard while others worked, but even those working were armed in preparation to fight off their enemies. In the face of a large enemy that had promised to destroy them, Nehemiah encouraged his men: “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the great and awesome Lord, and fight on behalf of your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your families” (Neh 4:14b).

As with the men of Israel in Nehemiah 4, we need to be working with one hand and brandishing our weapon in the other so that we are prepared to engage the enemy at any moment. We do not get to delegate this responsibility to priests, parish staff or our wives. We are the ones called to stand in the gap, to pray, to educate and to raise our children and those who look up to us, and to be men and women of God.

In this world that seems to be steadily moving away from God’s truth, let us not be submissive to the enemy and things of this world that would pull us and our families away from God. Let us stand guard, always vigilant, prepared to engage the enemy that threatens those we love. Let us be Watchmen.

Tlougan is an Army combat veteran and the director of discipleship for youth, young adults and men at St. Hubert in Chanhassen.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen