– by Lucas Pérez

Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to share a spiritual sense I have been having for a long time now.

It’s related to being “watchmen’ or ‘watchtowers’ for our communities and the Church.

This sense was confirmed when reading Bishop Robert Barron’s book “Letter to a Suffering Church”. What impacted me the most, at the end of the book, is that in the historical crisis of the church, the Lord has raised men and women.

Remembering history a little bit, we have some examples or testimonies: 

  • Benedict decided to go to the desert, he was in communion with God for three years. Others joined him. For many centuries, the Benedictines re-civilized Europe, keeping the best from the old world and offering a framework both economical and spiritual for the development of communities and cities 
  • Francis of Assisi who longed to live the Gospel in a simple and radical way was joined by thousands who wanted to share his life.
  • From Ignatius of Loyola came the Jesuits, and there an army of missionaries, evangelists, theologians was born to tend the spiritual crisis of that time
  • The time of the Enlightenment had a freezing effect for spiritual movements, but this was counteracted by the Methodist renewal of John Wesley, Charles Wesley and George Whitefield in Great Britain. 
  • Stuart Piggin has outlined how the development of the evangelical movement in Australia impacted Australian society.  
  • Jonatan Edwards theologically defended the Holy Spirit movement in the renewal of 1730-1756 in the United States.

We could mention more men, women and communities who, in a decisive time, held and restored the Church.

Who is that blind not to realize the current and urgent needs of the Church? We are living a historical decisive moment in which we are called to be that Bulwark. This leads me to remember what David Pereyra said:

The Sword of the Spirit is a medicine for a disease is yet to come.

But it has come.

We are, then, God’s strategy for these times. The Lord’s guidance is clear in terms of our role to protect, to claim and to be an alternative Christian way of life that is solid and effective. We could say with fear and humility “Come and see how to live in God’s people”.

To be a Bulwark for others: it is said, however, that we are called because of a time of spiritual conflict. The emphasis of this prophecy is in defense. To defend other Christians. The prophecy of “a nation at war” gives us a complementary perspective to emphasize offense. Also, the prophecy of the bulwark made clear that “we are only a part of a wider effort”.

When the Lord spoke to us, he addressed us as his sword, the sword of his Spirit.

The name is related to the preaching of the word of God (Eph 6:17). It is also related to being in a time of spiritual warfare. The name points out a mission for our times.

As I conclude, I would like to share that we should be, as pastoral leaders, watchmen or watchtowers for our communities, by encouraging them to fast, to watch and to pray, since these are our heavenly weapons that will keep us firm and persevere with strength which are our spiritual defenses.

But we are also called to be a voice for the Church, a measuring rod, through evangelization, although I think we should do even more. I don’t yet know what.

In this moment in history of crisis in the Church and in the midst of this pandemic, I feel the urgency as a bulwark to be those saints who stand out for their holiness but also because of their intelligence in seeking to sustain the Church with the strength and the power of the Spirit.

Finally, I am copying this message from Gregory the Great that also impacted me and expresses what it means to be a watchman

Because I love Christ, I do not spare myself in speaking of him.

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel.” Note that a man whom the Lord sends forth as a preacher is called a watchman. A watchman always stands on a height so that he can see from afar what is coming. Anyone appointed to be a watchman for the people must stand on a height for all his life to help them by his foresight.

How hard it is for me to say this, for by these very words I denounce myself. I cannot preach with any competence, and yet insofar as I do succeed, still I myself do not live my life according to my own preaching.

I do not deny my responsibility; I recognize that I am slothful and negligent, but perhaps the acknowledgment of my fault will win me pardon from my just judge. Indeed when I was in the monastery I could curb by idle talk and usually be absorbed in my prayers. Since I assumed the burden of pastoral care, my mind can no longer be collected; it is concerned with so many matters.

I am forced to consider the affairs of the Church and of the monasteries. I must weigh the lives and acts of individuals. I am responsible for the concerns of our citizens. I must worry about the invasions of roving bands of barbarians, and beware of the wolves who lie in wait for my flock. I must become an administrator lest the religious go in want. I must put up with certain robbers without losing patience and at times I must deal with them in all charity.

With my mind divided and torn to pieces by so many problems, how can I meditate or preach wholeheartedly without neglecting the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel? Moreover, in my position I must often communicate with worldly men. At times I let my tongue run, for if I am always sever in my judgments, the worldly will avoid me, and I can never attack them as I would. As a result I often listen patiently to chatter. And because I too am weak, I find myself drawn little by little into idle conversation, and I begin to talk freely about matters which once I would have avoided. What once I found tedious I now enjoy.

So who am I to be a watchman, for I do not stand on the mountain of action but lie down in the valley of weakness? Truly the all-powerful Creator and Redeemer of mankind can give me in spite of my weaknesses a higher life and effective speech; because I love him, I do not spare myself in speaking of him. 

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Lucas Pérez is a coordinator in the Arbol de Vida community in San Jose, Costa Rica. He is currently the Zonal President in Central America and the Iberian Peninsula of the Ibero-American region of the Sword of the Spirit.

Photograph of the members of the International Assembly of the Sword of the Spirit in front of the Belem Tower in Portugal.