Sometime last year my friend Ryan and I started talking about doing something suggested by what I had read in my morning devotional reading. In that day’s passage the author of In Conversation with God suggested that when Catholic men greet each other they should ask one another, “How goes the watch?” He said this was how Roman soldiers used to greet a fellow soldier while he was on guard duty. The suggestion was that someone in one’s group of men should always be standing guard–praying and fasting–defending the others in the circle of friends. This idea resonated with me and with my friend.
We talked for a while about initiating this project, launching it here at the school where I work, St. Mary’s Catholic High School (the greatest High School in the universe) but we never really seemed to be able to get it off the ground.
Just before Lent started this year, I decided that I would do it on my own, and, since then, I have dedicated Mondays to praying and fasting for the men in my life. I made a list of all the men at the school, which expanded and eventually became all the men in my life, including my sons and my father and their friends.
I haven’t been exactly perfect at it for a while. I’ve been out of town and with my new dietary restrictions, I’ve been a little bit hesitant to fast for too long, but for the most part, I have been able to do this and have been happy to stand guard.
Of course, one has to be careful not to make others suffer while you’re mortifying yourself. It took me a few weeks to figure out that my kids weren’t being especially annoying on Monday nights. I was.
In case you’re wondering, Uncle Screwtape’s recipe for headless children is one part low blood sugar + a very long day.
Be on guard when you’re on guard!