Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Surviving Difficult Days

Reliquary holding the Crib of Bethlehem ~ Santa Maria Maggiore ~ Rome

These are difficult days. One television commentator said, "It seems as if the nation has veered off into shadow".  After the murder of five police officers in Baton Rouge, a mother broke down before the cameras and said, "Our children have lost the right to be safe on the street". And the host of a radio call-in show used the term "ammo-sexual" referring to the intense intimacy the nation shares with guns. 

Saint Paul tells us in the Letter to the Philippians that there is a Christian response to the world where it is warped and diseased:

Delight yourselves in the Lord, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for being reasonable, and never forget the nearness of your Lord. Don't worry over anything whatever; whenever you pray tell God every detail of your needs in thankful prayer, and the peace of God, which surpasses human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus. My brothers and sisters I need only add this. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and admirable." Philippians 4:6-8 

Recently while in Rome during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, my twelve year old friend Katie, made a visit to the chapel at Santa Maria Maggiore which houses the relic-crib of Bethlehem. We can see the boards of the crib through the glass "egg" in the photo here. In anticipation of her pilgrimage I asked her to write a poem-prayer as she sat in the chapel. Her poem is a true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and admirable stream of consciousness, where in an awake and attentive silence she allowed her mind to roam. 

A stable
  filled with hay
  with oxen and sheep
  with cows
  a donkey
  and mice by your feet.

There was a mother who gave birth to a king,
  a king in a stable, not a grand palace.
The animals knew of his power and love,
  and gave their manger,
  a king's crib made of wood.

The stable had sheep
The stable had hay
The stable had love
The love of  a king who would die for his people
The love of parents who would guide and protect
The love of a God who would save creation
  even if it meant he would die on a cross.

The manger is here
  still made of wood
  placed in a church
  in a case of glass and gold.

People come, who kneel
  and say their prayers to the king.
The stable and the manger
  not fit for an earthly king
  were all you needed on the day of your birth.

People come to admire your humility
  as shepherds and wise men did on that day
People still flock to what once was your crib
  to see the place where you laid your head.



  1. These are indeed difficult and dark days for our nation, but this is a ray of light, a joy to read. At 12, a child must have some sense of world happenings, yet can find a way to connect to something simple and sacred.

    1. Yes, her mother told me that she's very aware of what's going on but is able to detach from it and focus on what matters. In fact, her family went to Rome a few years ago and the crib chapel was closed for renovations. When the Jubilee Year was announced and she was told the family would be returning to Rome, her first thought was, "Good, we'll get to see the crib." Talk about holding something in your heart!

  2. We should read the Bible more. We would see that even in the time just after Jesus walked the earth, there was despair and violence. St. Paul tells us to be thankful to God and to find the goodness in things. We should pay attention to this message in order to live a happier existence. This young friend of yours listened and did this. It is a blessing.

    1. "We should read the Bible more." Indeed! Perhaps one of the best ways to step into Bible reading would be to mark as a "favorite" the lectionary readings for daily Mass. The lectionary is wonderfully constructed: a first reading from either the OT or the NT letters, a psalm and a Gospel. \

  3. "The love of a king who would die for his people
    The love of parents who would guide and protect
    The love of a God who would save creation
    even if it meant he would die on a cross."
    This youngster understands God better than many people I know. Looking at love above all.

  4. Having young people in our lives is a blessing which I have found out as I have gracefully aged and have had grandchildren. They help to keep our world views fresh and feeling alive as their innocence reminds me of more carefree times in life. Although I see you worked with troubled youth, you must have many nieces and nephews who have young children to keep that brightness alive. How fortunate for the young Katie to benefit from your acquaintance.

  5. I try to find delight in the little things I see and try to remember them when I read the paper and watch the news. It does feel like we are in survival mode. Difficult days still ahead.

  6. When the news commentator said, "It seems the nation has veered off into shadow" I understand. Difficult days ahead indeed. But the motto of the Christophers is: "Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." I will do what I do the best I can. I feel I am entering a new depth of prayer as we step into this.

  7. Delightful! I am so glad to come across this. Thank you for posting it and sharing your thoughts. It does give hope for surviving in these difficult days. Refreshing.

  8. My 12 year old friend helps me to keep hope alive.