Timeless vigilance in Christian prayer

| September 21, 2020 | 0 Comments

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A fellow Catholic Watchmen leader recently shot me an e-mail, asking if our parish was going to resume hosting monthly Saturday prayer vigils. Perpetual adoration was postponed due to the pandemic last March, and he reminded me of how important this hour of prayer had been up to that point in time. No matter the hour of the day or the watch of the night, those who realize prayer is so essential in Christian life always have time for prayer.

“The Midnight Watch” still resonates with me more than four years after the Catholic Watchmen movement introduced the practice. Inviting men to join the call to spiritual battle, a two-minute video designed to demonstrate the importance of a vigilant prayer life did its job at the Minnesota Catholic Men’s Conference. Imagine it is 11:40 p.m. as midnight approaches. A man gets up quietly, so as not to disturb sleeping souls in the household. You can see his breath as he heads outside in the windy cold, dons a stocking hat, scrapes some snowy slush off the windshield and drives down to the local parish. He opens the church door with a passcode as two faithful friends join him in fellowship. They enter the chapel. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed on the altar in the monstrance. Rosaries in tow, they give each other a nod and kneel in prayer in a spiritual fight for the protection of their families, parish and community. The time 11:59 p.m. displays on the clock at home, and then suddenly clicks to the next minute — the third watch. His wife and kids sleep peacefully as the hour of prayer commences: “Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory be …”

A signature element of the CW movement, “The Midnight Watch” is meant to inspire and transform men by demonstrating what a dedicated, disciplined life of prayer looks like in the spirit of accountability, and that instituting and persevering in a daily spiritual prayer life at home is essential. Their spouses are not to go it alone — as much research shows happens — and more men need to step up their spiritual leadership. Praying with persistence with a devotion to Jesus, Mary and Joseph emulates the holiest of families, who certainly had their share of spiritual warfare.

LEARN TO PRAYArchbishop Bernard Hebda and Bishop Andrew Cozzens are teaching a five-part virtual series on praying with Scripture, which launched Sept. 13. Find more information at archspm.org/synod.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The ‘spiritual battle’ of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer” (2725). Spiritual battles are won through a regular, active prayer life: rising, eating, reflecting, examining, contemplating. “Without prayer, a man is like a soldier who lacks food, water and ammunition,” Bishop Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix wrote in 2015’s “Into the Breach.” A family prayer routine of thanksgiving at meals, rosaries, litanies, Mass, adoration and vigils are all opportunities to feed, hydrate and equip the soul. All hours of the day, all watches of the night.

Some battles are tougher than others, and that’s why watchmen do vigils. The human condition compels us to engage in a life and death struggle with the rotten fruits of evil: division, deception, materialism, etc. Hence, we must always pray for Christ’s help. Jesus taught prayer, forgiveness, mercy and love amid enemies looking for opportunities to deceive him. He defeated death, gave hope, provided strength and taught the good fruits of holiness to his followers. We are to learn from his saving knowledge, press on and do the same. That means leading, unifying and encouraging family members to embrace a vigilant, active prayer life — inside and outside of the home.

A conversation with God has no boundaries and no time zone. St. John Damascene states, “Prayer is a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God, the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” Come Holy Spirit!

Deacon Bird ministers at St. Joseph in Rosemount and All Saints in Lakeville, and assists the Catholic Watchmen movement. Reach him at gordonbird@rocketmail.com. Learn about the archdiocese’s Catholic Watchmen initiative at thecatholicwatchmen.com.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen