By Hannah Brockhaus
Feelings of spiritual desolation, or a lack of will to live, should be combated with prayer, not with sleeping pills or alcohol – things that only distract us from the problem – Pope Francis said Tuesday.
“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,” the Pope said in a homily Sept. 27. We need to “understand what goes on in our hearts.”
Offered on the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, the Pope said Mass at Casa Santa Marta for the Vincentian Sisters the Daughters of Charity, who serve at the house.
In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s first reading, which is from the Book of Job, saying “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. What should we do when we experience these dark moments, be it for a family tragedy, an illness, something that weighs us down?” the Pope asked.
Instead of giving in to this despair, or trying to distract ourselves from our problems by taking sleeping pills or drinking “one, two, three or four glasses” of alcohol, which “do not help,” Francis said we should pray.
“It is a prayer to knock at the door but with strength!” Pope Francis stated. “Our Lord himself taught us how to pray in these dreadful moments.”
Quoting the day’s Psalm, he said to pray, “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,” the Pope continued. “This is genuine prayer. And it’s also giving vent just like Job did with his sons. Like a son.”
Pope Francis emphasized that spiritual desolation is something that happens to everyone and said that the first step is to recognize within ourselves when we are having these moments of hopelessness or when we don’t understand why something is happening.
And then, he said, “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.’”
Offering advice for when we encounter a person who is suffering or experiencing a sense of desolation, the Pope said we should 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.”
Francis’ homily concluded with his asking the Lord for 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.”