IMAGE: NS photo/L’Osservatore Romano handout via EPA
By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Don’t respond to grief or anguish
with pills, alcohol or avoidance, Pope Francis said in a morning homily.
Figure out what is going on inside your heart, then turn
to God and beg him for help, he said Sept. 27 during an early morning Mass in
the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
Reflecting on the day’s readings, the pope looked at the
“spiritual desolation” experience by Job and the responsorial psalm,
“Let my prayer come before you, Lord.”
Job lost everything and felt utterly abandoned and unfairly
tormented, the pope said. He unleashed his desperate cries to God, venting all
of his feelings of hopeless despair and regret, and yet, he never blasphemed or
cursed God in his ranting, he said.
Everyone has experienced some degree of despair that
“makes us feel as if our soul were crushed,” unable to breathe and
perhaps even eager for death, the pope said.
“We have to understand when our spirit is in this
state of extended sadness, where there is almost no air. This happens to all of
us” to some degree, he said.
Some people might “take a sleeping pill,” avoid
facing the situation or “have two, three, four shots” of something
strong to drink; but that “doesn’t help,” he said.
So then what should people do when they go through
“these dark moments because of a family tragedy, an illness, something
that brings me down?” he asked.
In times of hopeless, spiritual despair, he said, the
answer is to pray hard, just like Job, who cried out day and night for God to
He said Psalm 88 and its response — “Let my
prayer come before you, Lord” — “is a prayer of knocking at (God’s)
door, but hard. ‘Lord my soul is surfeited with troubles and my life draws near
to the nether world. I am numbered with those who go down into the pit; I am a
man without strength.'”
This is praying with genuine candor and honesty, he said,
because it is the way a child pours out his emotions to his father. And this is
how “we must pray in the most terrible, darkest, most desolate, crushing
When someone is hurting and trapped in this spiritual
despair, he said, the best thing to do is “talk as little as
possible” because in these cases speeches “ultimately do not help and
they can cause harm, too.”
A person can help with loving silence, “being close,
a caress and prayers to the father.”
The pope asked that people pray for the grace to
recognize and reflect upon the reasons for their despair, the grace to pray
fervently to the Lord in times of trouble, and the grace to know how to best
accompany those who are suffering, sad and despairing.
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