Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Strengthening in Lent

This photo was taken of ice formed at the bottom of a woodland mountain, where the melt runs off into a tiny stream, which then runs down the mountain into a larger stream, which runs off into the Delaware River over a mile away. But the ice is melting today because the sun is growing stronger. You can feel it, and see it, and even hear it in the ice dripping. The sun is strengthening.

"Look into nature, and then you will understand everything better," Albert Einstein said.

As a young priest I was chaplain to a hospital and often watched babies strengthen in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care. I met other folks strengthen through their struggle with cancer, and family members who fought hard to strengthen emotionally through the serious sickness of loved ones.

We can feel Jesus strengthen in his desert-dialogue with Satan: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,'" and "Again it is written, 'You shall not not tempt the Lord your God,'" and "Begone Satan! for it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" Matthew 4: 1ff

So maybe Lent's long forty days can be a strengthening time:

That I would be 
strengthened in my prayer through the long forty days,
strengthened in my attentiveness to the Gospels,
strengthened in this relationship - these friendships,
strengthened in my endurance by taking a Lenten walk each day,
strengthened in my lungs as I try to get off these cigarettes,
strengthened in my disposition as I do something kind,
strengthened in my spirit which sometimes suffers weakness,
strengthened in my faith ~ the culture says don't bother.

That I would be 
strong enough to get out of bed each morning,
strong for the long commute, 
strong for the work I don't feel up to,
strong for the surprises and challenges
strong as I'm tempted to give up
strong for those who need me
strong in my most vulnerable place
strong for God's sake (literally)!


  1. We distance ourselves from certain emotions that by all means scare us because of how weak, vulnerable, incapable, or unable they may make us seem to others. However, it’s only through allowing ourselves to embrace the weakness and it’s only through allowing ourselves to feel those daunting emotions that we invite love in to strengthen us and give us hope. Let others help you, we cannot take the journey alone.

  2. This has been a fruitful preparation time for Lent. I pray it continues.

  3. You are a different priest than the one I knew years ago. You made us feel small and like pieces of crap. And here you are preaching about being standing up and being strong. Or maybe this is all show and you still are the same man who put us in our place when we didn't agree with you or didn't worship you. Maybe ur different now.

  4. Well you might be surprised that I would publish your comment here. I think I'm very different from the priest you knew years ago. I'm very sorry to have burdened you and the others. I burdened myself. I'm 65 years old now. I was in my late 20's when I was ordained. Maybe men shouldn't be ordained until they are at least 40. A friend listened to someone complain about me once who said of me: "He has a lot to learn," "Don't we all" the friend replied. Since my first parish I've been a chaplain to monastic sisters and a chaplain to a futuristic hospital, I took a leave of absence for a few years and taught minority students in NYC and later high school. Then was chaplain to a community of teens who had lost their way and pastor to a couple of parishes. Hopefully learning, changing and growing up. The only thing I'd disagree with in your note is the bit about wanting people to worship me. That's just off the mark. But thanks for reminding me, especially at the start of Lent which focuses our continual transformation. And pray for me.

  5. Drawing strength from struggle. Lead the way Father, lead the way.

  6. The melting ice signifies our warming hearts as we she'd the cold barriers that keep is from Christ. I pray to use this Lent wisely and to warm my spirit to being comfort to those stucK in the frozen ice that life sometimes seems like. Unmoving, and unforgiving.

  7. Thank you for the energy and effort you put into this amazing teaching blog....and thank you for reminding me that it is here and available ..oh I have so much to learn.

  8. Wow! You took a real punch today. I thought you handled it well. We have to pray for God's strength daily. Love and forgiveness, a really big deal to possess for we are challenged daily. Peace.

  9. Three little words that pack a strong tonic of healing that we all need to hear and say. I am sorry. Your humility and honesty goes a very long way. Let's all continue to pray for one another this Lent. It's a moment by moment walk if we work it and take it seriously. You gave good example Fr Stephen. Thank you. Pointing the way as always.