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Siege2Surge: Sight the sun (Son)

This is the second in Siege2Surge, a six-part series that outlines how a dad’s six Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will equip him to lead his family spiritually each and every day.


41° 43' N, 49° 57' W: These haunting coordinates mark the spot where the Titanic went down.

Noon: This is the precise time that you as a husband and dad will take on water and capsize if you do not master your second Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

The stakes are high. The “noonday demon” — the “destruction that wasteth at noonday” (Ps 91:6), an elusive and fatal spiritual torpor — has come knocking. A mid-day crisis has arrived at your threshold.

What’s more, your first SOP — the silence you savored, the Word you heard, the blessings you gave — now seems remote. The sun was soft and low in the eastern sky then; now it scorches from above. You glance at your screen — an email from your boss marked “urgent” regarding this afternoon’s meeting, another terrorist attack in Europe, a doctor’s appointment reminder for your son’s stress fracture, a bill-pay “reminder” — and realize that you are under siege and navigating perilously close to shoal water.

Saints for two millennia have hit noon with a plan — and so must you. The moment has come for you to execute your noon SOP: you must shoot the sun.

Sighting in on the sun (“shooting the sun”) is a mariner and naval practice to determine your position at sea. Without shooting the sun each day at “local noon,” when the sun is at its highest point in the sky, the navigator is lost. To do this he uses a sextant, an optical tool that by measuring the angle of the sun above the horizon enables him to determine the latitude of his ship. If the navigator has done his job well, he can combine this noon latitude with his other celestial sightings earlier in the day and confidently confirm his ship’s location, thus showing if it is necessary to change course to stay on track for his destination.

The first step of your SOP is to shoot the sun and establish your coordinates. First, get up onto the bridge — away from the churning engines below deck. In a personal way, fixing your coordinates can only be done through a direct and focused sighting on the Son through prayer. Just like your first SOP, this starts with silence. Then say the Angelus, a time-tested prayer that, like a good sextant, allows you to take an accurate fix of the sun, the Son and His mother. Whether you are at a nearby daily Mass or in fluorescent-lit cubicle, your SOP is the same: sight in on the Son, encounter the Son, determine your coordinates and see if a course change is needed.

The second step of this SOP is to stand in the midday gap for your wife and children. “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (Jas 5:16). As one called to hand yourself over to your wife “even as Christ loved the Church” (Eph 5:25), you have the privilege of interceding before the Lord on behalf of your wife and children, asking the Lord to bless and draw them closer to Himself. Remember that your SOPs never depend on your emotions: today you may not feel much like a “righteous man” but drive through any dry periods and be an intercessor known for his grit and quiet professionalism. While you’re at it, ask a quiet professional by the name of St. Joseph to put in a good word for you.

You were already planning on the third and final step of your SOP: now that you have shot the sun and prayed for your family, call your wife. (Texting renders a less reliable coordinate). Let her know that you’re thinking about her.

Though the Titanicsank for many reasons, it bears noting that her captain, Edward Smith, originally failed his maritime exams because he lacked sufficient navigating skills.

It’s now 12:01 … 12:05 or 12:10. You still have promises to keep and miles to go before you sleep, but you know where you are in relation to the Son. You corrected course just shy of a hidden shoal. The noonday demon fled as soon as it glimpsed you on deck conferring with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The surge is on.

Johnson is associate director of the St. Thomas More Institute.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017