I have a deep love of the very ideal of a vigil: A waiting, a watchfulness, an alert anticipation. The most well-known vigil of the year has just ushered in 50 beautiful days of celebration for the church. Easter Vigil is the pinnacle of the Catholic liturgical calendar. A beautiful service where the faithful keep watch for Christ’s return and all of the catechumens are received into the church after their long commitment of study and reflection. It marks an important anniversary for me and my husband for several reasons. It was at the Easter Vigil in 2009 that I came into the Catholic Church, an emotional experience that changed me forever. Easter Vigil of 2010, I watched through joyful tears as my husband was baptised and entered into the fullness of the faith, and that very same night our marriage was convalidated in front of our family, friends, and the whole group of freshly minted Catholics from his RCIA class with whom I had the privilege of sharing the faith for the previous 9 months.
Smaller vigils have touched my heart in the past several years. It was during my months in RCIA that I discovered a deep devotion for Eucharistic adoration. We are fortunate at our parish to have perpetual adoration, and I’ve found myself often stopping in out of the blue during the busiest and most stressful moments of my life. As my mind rebels at the thought of “doing nothing” in the midst of a chaotic schedule, I never fail to fall to my knees before the exposed host without Christ’s words echoing through my mind: “Could you not watch with me one hour?” And in that quiet little side chapel, my thoughts are eased and I hold my own small vigil for Him.
Life has been hectic during this first year with our newest addition. As her sleeping schedule moved from four awakenings to one and then fluctuated somewhere in between, and her naps grew ever shorter until she gave up all but one, my energy levels have been sorely tested. Add to that my constant shuttling of our oldest to various obligations, practices, and meetings, and my own evening classes at the dojo, and I’m understandably ready to collapse into bed the moment the girls are tucked in. A month long illness took an even greater toll on my energy reserves, and many evenings I found myself relinquishing responsibility of our girls to my husband as soon as he walked through the door from work so that I could medicate and take my fever and aches straight to bed.
It was just before Easter with vigils prominent in my mind, and while I was finding my way back to health, that my husband texted to see if it was possible for him to head out for a happy hour that had been planned as a reunion for a group of his former co-workers. Though I quickly assured him that he should attend, my shoulders slumped with the weight of the idea of a long day and evening ahead alone with the girls. I looked around at the house, which had become a bit more untidy than usual while I had been recovering, and felt overwhelmed by how much seemed to need my attention. It was in that moment that I thought of my husband, working so hard for us each and every day and then coming home through an hour of traffic to the chaos of an untended house, an exhausted wife who headed straight for the consolation of her pillow, and our girls grumpy with sleep but needing a full bedtime routine whether they were in a cooperative mood or not. I was struck by how long his days must have seemed lately, and that spurred me to action.
I got the girls fed, bathed, and in to bed in record time and then tackled the house with enthusiasm. Surprisingly, the activity perked me up and by the time things were sparkling, I felt I actually had enough left to stay up and read. I had been curled up with a book on the couch in our bedroom for about ten minutes when my husband came home. Within moments, I heard him bounding up the stairs. He had a huge smile on his face and exclaimed, “Hey! The light is on!” He gave me a big hug and remarked on how beautiful the house looked. “It is so amazing to come home and have everything already done and to come upstairs and see the light still on and you still awake! Thanks for waiting for me!”
I realized again how important one hour can be. Making the extra effort, regardless of how busy or fatigued or ready to quit for the day you may be, can be a huge blessing to your marriage. We were able to spend a quiet hour together just catching up, reconnecting, and best of all laughing together. By the time we headed to bed together, I realized that I was actually feeling more relaxed and more rested than I had in weeks. Wrapped up in my own little crosses and feeling rather low about myself in general, I had forgotten what a blessing my husband sees in the small act of my being present (and how much joy I receive by seeing his own). It wasn’t the clean house or the children already down for the night or even the opportunity for a night out with old friends, but the simple act of keeping vigil for his return to our personal space, our one-on-one time, that truly brought him joy.
Since then, I have made it my goal to offer up that little hour of my day, to hold off sleep, to keep the light on, to be present and waiting when the kids are put to bed and my husband returns to me, to our coupledom, to our marriage. Keeping vigil has blessed our lives in so many ways, and I have a chance to re-live that daily.