Children are most comfortable when they know they have their parents’ attention. This is particularly true when a child is tempted to do something they’ve been told not to thus they refrain from acting on their impulse, at least for that moment. Another point to consider is that children crave the presence of their parents in the simplest ways i.e. eating at the dinner table, reading a book or playing at the park. The common thread in these examples is that the virtue of vigilance provides a simple and direct way of guiding a child toward God.
The virtue of vigilance was often stressed by the great Saint and educator John Bosco as a way of guiding his students toward an intimate communion with Christ. The practice of vigilance was in the classroom and in the extracurricular activities his pupils were involved in thus they would know that St. John Bosco truly cared for them and was watching over them. In essence the virtue of vigilance was a means by which St. John Bosco visibly expressed his love to his students and they knew it.
A farmer prepares the land for the upcoming harvest knowing that great care must be taken to ensure a healthy yield. This requires constant vigilance of the crop itself making sure it is taken care of for the sole purpose of producing edible food. This method parallels how we would cultivate the religious development of a child and echoes what St. John Bosco would stress and what would eventually lead to the development of his Preventive System of instruction (Reason, Religion and Kindness).
His Preventive system of educating was exercising a genuine care for the soul of a child so that the child would definitively know they are loved. The virtue of vigilance by its very nature fosters an engagement directed toward the religious development of a child in a healthy and productive way.
A great way the devil distracts us from our daily walk with Christ is injecting the notion; “I’ll get to it later.” When this attitude spills over toward the parenting of our children, the long term effects can be devastating with the child perceiving that his or her parents have no interest in him or her. Authentic spiritual vigilance means a direct concerted effort to guide the religious development of our children by our authentic witness of faith and second how they interpret our witness and apply these actions in their own lives e.g. “like father like son.”
The value of being vigilant in the religious development of our children cannot be overstated. It does not mean hovering around our child protecting from the elements of the world like a ‘Helicopter Parent’. On the contrary it means teaching and guiding how to navigate the world through a Catholic lens rooted in Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2727) provides us with a fitting closing reflection on the virtue of vigilance in light of Christian prayer:
We must also face the fact that certain attitudes deriving from the mentality of “this present world” can penetrate our lives if we are not vigilant. For example, some would have it that only that is true which can be verified by reason and science; yet prayer is a mystery that overflows both our conscious and unconscious lives. Others overly prize production and profit; thus prayer, being unproductive, is useless. Still others exalt sensuality and comfort as the criteria of the true, the good, and the beautiful; whereas prayer, the “love of beauty”, is caught up in the glory of the living and true God. Finally, some see prayer as a flight from the world in reaction against activism; but in fact, Christian prayer is neither an escape from reality nor a divorce from life. St. John Bosco, Pray for us!
Hope filled blessings and be encouraged, we are all journeying with you. I pray our Lord richly blesses you. Always remember that I love you, there is no way I will ever love you less, and I will continue to pray for you every day. Please remember me and the priests who serve you in love.
~ Fr. Behrend