In the Latin translation of the Scriptures there are a number of
"V words" that play an important role in the effort to chart our
course to Christ. Venite! - Come! Videte! - See! Vacate! - Be
still! Perhaps the most important is the one which our Lord
used with particular solemnity: Vigilate! It can be translated a
number of ways: Keep watch! Be alert! Stay awake! Be on guard!
But no matter what translation you choose, its importance remains:
What I say to you, I say to all. Watch! Vigilate!
VIGILANCE is the sentinel of the spiritual life. It is the
guardian of victory in the quest for holiness. VIGILANCE safeguards
both peace and perseverance. It enables us to triumph over the
little and large temptations to mediocrity, routinization,
half-heartedness, mean-spiritedness. VIGILANCE helps us to go the
extra mile on the path to holiness. It keeps us alert for the
pitfalls on the way to our Lord, and invites us to recognize His
summons to come, to see and to be still before the unfolding of His
plan in our lives.
Perhaps his forays into the world of knighthood and battle made
St. Francis of Assisi a man of exceptional VIGILANCE. The merchant's
son knew what it was to keep watch, to be alert in battle, to be on
guard in the face of earthly enemies. When he entered the Lord's
service, Francis transposed the lessons he learned as an aspiring
knight into viable spiritual weapons to fight the battles of the
Lord. Like St. Paul, the saint from Assisi soon learned that in the
wars of the spirit, we are not contending against flesh and
blood... but against the powers and the spiritual hosts of
(Eph. 6:12) And, like St. Paul, the Little Poor Man learned
that VIGILANCE is the guardian of every spiritual victory in Christ.
VIGILANCE marked every aspect of St. Francis' spiritual quest.
He was known for keeping long, solitary vigils through the night,
watching and waiting for the Lord in silence and prayer, building up
his spiritual reserves through contemplation. He practiced VIGILANCE
in thought and encouraged others to do likewise. To the friar who
was struggling with thoughts of pride and arrogance, the Seraphic
Patriarch advised nurturing humble, thankful thoughts. To those
fearful of falling in times of temptation, he counseled nourishing
interior VIGILANCE with prayers of praise and the remembrance of
God's greatness and goodness.
The Franciscan philosophy of VIGILANCE is very simple: We
take every thought captive to obey Christ
(2 Cor. 10:6)
Unguarded thoughts too often lead to unguarded words. The Little
Poor Man was aware of the great power which words have — to lift up
or to tear down, to wound or to heal. He made his own the earnest
prayer of the Psalmist: Set a guard over my mouth, 0 Lord, keep
watch over the door of my lips.
The sturdy guard VIGILANCE also enabled St. Francis to avoid acting
out of mere impulse, of responding uncharitably or impatiently to
the untoward, the unexpected or the difficult in his life.
VIGILANCE is, above all, love. It IS the way toward our
encounter with Christ. (Navarre Biblical Commentary) This kind
of VIGILANCE kept St. Francis' spiritual life so vibrantly fresh
that even on his deathbed he could energetically proclaim: Let
us begin! VIGILANCE ensures that we, too, remain alert as we
await the Lord so that when He comes and knocks He may find us
watchful in prayer and exultant in His praise. (Collect
for Monday of the First Week of Advent)