“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up.” Karol Cardinal Wotyla (Sept. 1976)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

"3rd Watch" Prayers

Many times during my youth when I would stay out until all hours of the night, the radio in my rusting car would always sound much better than it would at daytime as if it had a much stronger signal. I wasn’t imagining things, it did/does. Accordingly to Wikipedia: "During the night, [the absorption in the D-layer of the ionosphere] largely disappears and permits signals to travel to much more distant locations via ionospheric reflections." Well, understanding this jargon is "above my pay grade", but basically I can understand this as the radio waves have less interference at night.

Mary Ellen Barrett wrote a beautiful piece about a priest’s homily for mothers where he spoke about "Third Watch" praying:

"Several years ago a priest, whose homilies always taught me something, gave a great one about a time of night called third watch. That time when no one is awake except policemen, firemen, emergency workers, priests and mothers. He spoke of how on every third watch he covered he had to go out and minister to someone in their last hours and comfort those who mourned. Many people seem to die in the early hours of the day.

This priest said that mothers too were often up at this time tending to their sleepless children. Teething and colic; nightmares and strange sounds; tummy aches and sniffles. All conspire to keep parents from their regular and greatly needed slumber. He made the point that mothers could be a great resource of prayer at this time of night. They could do God's work so easily as they minister to their children.

His words came back to me last night as I watched my little one sleep. How I had, many times, used this time to say a rosary, offer up prayers for some intention or begged the Blessed Mother to intercede on my behalf, mostly for more sleep. I thought that maybe this time was ordained by God for mothers and fathers to offer up for those in need. Those who leave this world in the dead of night and are in desperate need of prayers. Maybe this time should be for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

So as I watched a little chest rise and fall and sweet little eyelids flutter I prayed for those who had no one to pray for them. I offered up my exhaustion and major laundry chores for those in purgatory. I contemplated those who didn't have a warm bed, a roof over their heads and a loving family. I asked God to protect them and the saints to pray for those who are alone.

When you are a busy mom you find it difficult to carve out time for prayer. There really can't be a contemplative time in the day that can be dedicated to Our Lord. So these little moments of quiet can become our prayer time. Maybe that's why a baby periodically needs a mother in the night. God is, perhaps, calling us to prayer. Perhaps these times He uses to call us to think of Him and to make our vocation of motherhood our constant prayer."

This column reminded me of my car radio many years ago. These "3rd Watch" hours of the night seemingly to me have a stronger signal from God because of the stillness and quietness that accompany them. "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). In these hours you are isolated from you waking-hours distractions. There is less peripheral interference with your intimate moments with God just like the radio's nocturnal signal. Ms. Barrett wrote this from a mother’s perspective, but it also rings true to fathers with children, children taking care of their elder parents or sick family members, graveyard-shift workers, college students cramming for the big tests, or financial breadwinners that have trouble sleeping at night because of their many financial pressures. Don’t lose these special, intimate opportunities.

Htip: The Family Denn

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