There’s one in every family. One child who needs to be watched AT ALL TIMES. In my family it was our third child, who silently got into mischief whenever my back was turned. He often used a stool to climb up onto a table, then somehow kicked the chair away. When I eventually realized things were a little too quiet, I would discover him stranded, silently dangling in the air.
I’ve found that I have to be watched at all times, too, when it comes to my spiritual life. I need to keep an eye on my thoughts because they guide my actions--and sometimes they aren’t going in the right direction. They have a way of silently wreaking havoc on my soul. The virtue that helps me stay on the narrow path is vigilance.
Transforming Virtue: Vigilance
Vigilance means alert watchfulness over danger. In the spiritual realm it means watchfulness against the three dangers to our souls: the world, the flesh and the devil.
My first step to vigilance is to be suspicious of myself. That’s a focus on the flesh. Monthly confession is an excellent way to reveal the areas that need my attention. When I first returned to the practice of confession, I considered myself a pretty good person. After all, I didn’t steal and hadn’t killed anyone. Then as my prayer life increased, as I began to study the lives of the saints, I saw more areas where I fell short of pleasing Jesus. I learned that I needed to be suspicious of myself and to examine my motives and actions.
Watchfulness is my next step to vigilance. After identifying the areas where I tend to sin, I can be more careful to avoid temptations and the lure of the world. For example, if one of my sins is to indulge in pornography, I may need to ditch the smart phone and it’s endless opportunity to sin. If I enjoy gossip, I may need to avoid that one person who always seems to draw me into negative conversations. Half the battle is won by simply avoiding temptation.
The third step to vigilance is direct combat--combat against the devil and his vices. Defects, like weeds, tend to grow until they become habits. Then they’re hard to identify as defects and feel like comfortable clothes. That’s why, when I availed myself of the sacrament of reconciliation only rarely, I didn’t even realize I had defects. They were just the way I saw things. They were the lenses I looked through in seeing my world. When I put on new lenses, with Jesus as my focus, I was able to see my vices. Then I could begin the arduous work of replacing vices with virtues.
Valiant Vigilance: Blessed Miguel Pro
Blessed Miguel Pro is perhaps not the first saint one would think of when exploring vigilance. He’s known as Mexico’s Merry Martyr. He was a trickster and a merry maker who enjoyed poetry, song and dance. He was also a brave priest who was vigilant in ministering to Mexican Catholics during a time of intense persecution.
Miguel Pro became a Jesuit novice when he was 20 years old--just in time for the Mexican Revolution. When the Jesuits were exiled from Mexico, Father Pro spent time in the United States, Spain, Nicaragua and Belgium. In 1926 his superiors allowed him to return to Mexico despite the persecution occurring there.
Blessed Pro returned to a country openly hostile to Catholics. Churches were closed and priests were targets of police surveillance. To administer the sacraments was a serious offense. Nonetheless, Father Pro gave daily communion to hundreds of people, heard confessions in huts, said Masses in private homes and gave retreats in garages. All the while, he donned various disguises to elude the police, serving his people with confidence and joy.
Persecution eventually caught up with Father Pro. He was falsely accused in a bombing attempt on the President-elect, and he became a wanted man. Pro was arrested along with his two brothers Humberto and Roberto, and a young engineer named Luis Segovia Vilchis. No evidence was brought against them. They were not tried in the courts. Pro was sentenced to death without the benefit of any legal process.
Plutarco Calles, President of Mexico, viewed Father Pro’s execution as an opportunity to show Catholics as groveling cowards. He made it a public execution, inviting representatives from all the government secretariats, the press and photographers. He was certain it would be an entertaining show to bolster his regime. Instead, Father Pro behaved like a hero. As a last request, he asked to be allowed to pray. He knelt and prayed fervently, then kissed his crucifix and stood. Rejecting a blindfold, he faced the firing squad with his arms outspread and said “May God have mercy on you. May God bless you. Lord, You know that I am innocent. With all my heart I forgive my enemies.” http://puffin.creighton.edu/jesuit/pro/pro_martyr_06.html
Blessed Miguel Pro died with a rosary in one hand and a crucifix in the other. His last words were “Viva Cristo Rey!” Long live Christ the King!
A Coach fired for praying before a game
Movie about Miguel Pro
Praying for our leaders
The world, the flesh and the devil
Kids are used to being told how to behave. They’re also used to seeing a lot of grown-ups who tell them how to behave, yet don’t behave well themselves. Especially on the soccer field or basketball court. How can you tell which behaviors to imitate, and which ones to forget?
One thing you can do is ask yourself: “Would I want to be treated like that?” If the answer is no, then it’s probably not a good thing to do. Another good question is: “If Jesus were standing next to me, would I want Him to hear what I’m about to say?’ If the answer is “No Way,” then you should probably keep the words in your head instead of on your lips.