Pope’s Advice for Accompanying the Suffering: Don’t Give Speeches. Be Close. Caress.

Posted by Kathleen Naab on 27 September, 2016

Santa Marta

Spiritual desolation is something everyone will experience at some point, says Pope Francis, and when we see a loved one going through this darkness, we need to offer comfort and support with our closeness, not our counsels.

The Pope said this today during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

Drawing from the reading from Job, the Holy Father noted, “Spiritual desolation is something that happens to all of us: it can be stronger or weaker … but that feeling of spiritual darkness, of hopelessness, mistrust, lacking the desire to live, without seeing the end of the tunnel, with so much agitation in one’s heart and in one’s ideas…  Spiritual desolation makes us feel as though our souls are crushed, we can’t succeed, we can’t succeed and we also don’t want to live: ‘Death is better!’ This was Job’s outburst. It was better to die than live like this. We need to understand that when our soul is in this state of generalized sadness we can barely breathe: This happens to all of us … whether strong or not … to all of us. (We need to) understand what goes on in our hearts.”

The solution to spiritual desolation is prayer, the Pontiff said.

“What should we do when we experience these dark moments, be it for a family tragedy, an illness, something that weighs us down?”

Noting that some people would think of taking a pill to sleep and remove them from their problems or drinking “one, two, three or four glasses” he warned that these methods “do not help.” Instead, today’s liturgy shows us how to cope with this spiritual desolation, “when we are lukewarm, depressed and without hope.”

The Pope said the way out from this situation is to pray, to pray loudly, just as Job did, day and night until God listens. “It is a prayer to knock at the door but with strength! ‘Lord, my soul is surfeited with troubles. My life draws near to Hell. I am numbered among those who go down into the pit; I am a man without strength.’ How many times have we felt like this, without strength?  And here is the prayer. Our Lord himself taught us how to pray in these dreadful moments. ‘Lord, you have plunged me into the bottom of the pit. Upon me, your wrath lies heavy. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.’ This is the prayer and this is how we should pray in our darkest, most dreadful, bleakest and most crushed moments that are really crushing us. This is genuine prayer. And it’s also giving vent just like Job did with his sons. Like a son.”

Comfort the afflicted

For those close to the people who are suffering, the way to proceed is with closeness, silence and prayer, since words and speeches in these situations can do harm, the Pontiff suggested.

“First of all, we must recognize in ourselves these moments of spiritual desolation, when we are in the dark, without hope and asking ourselves why. Secondly, we must pray to the Lord like today’s reading from Psalm 87 teaches us to pray during our dark moments. ‘Let my prayer come before you, Lord.’ Thirdly, when I draw close to a person who is suffering, whether from illness, or whatever other type of suffering and who is experiencing a sense of desolation, we must be silent: but a silence with much love, closeness and caresses.  And we must not make speeches that don’t help in the end and even can do harm.”

The Pope concluded his homily by asking the Lord to grant us these three graces: the grace to recognize spiritual desolation, the grace to pray when we are afflicted by this feeling of spiritual desolation and also the grace to know how to be close to people who are suffering terrible moments of sadness and spiritual desolation.

 

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