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 listen.
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
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,
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.