Italy is facing a new spike in COVID-19 cases and on Monday the Vatican confirmed that four Swiss Guards had tested positive for the virus.
The 83-year-old pope, who is missing part of a lung, was photographed wearing a face covering for the first time when he arrived for his general audience Sept. 9. But he took the mask off as soon as he stepped outside the car that dropped him off.
The pope has spent time personally greeting pilgrims since he resumed general audiences with the public present at the beginning of September, following an almost six-month break due to the coronavirus crisis.
Officials announced last week that masks must be worn outdoors within the territory of Vatican City State and in workplaces where social distancing is not possible.
The pope’s address was his 10th in a cycle of catechesis dedicated to prayer. He said that the Book of Psalms had taught countless people how to pray over the centuries.
“As we read and reread the Psalms, we learn the language of prayer,” he said, adding that “the Psalms are the word of God that we human beings use to speak with Him.”
He noted that the Psalms contain prayers expressing all kinds of hardship. The Psalmist does not play down this suffering, he said, but instead places it in the context of humanity’s relationship with God.
Emphasizing that suffering is always personal, he said: “Even the pains we suffer cannot be merely specific cases of a universal law: they are always ‘my’ tears.”
He recalled that before the audience he met the parents of Fr. Roberto Malgesini, who was stabbed to death Sept. 15 while serving the homeless in the northern Italian city of Como.
He said: “The tears of those parents are their own tears, and each one of them knows how much he or she has suffered in seeing this son who gave his life in service to the poor.”
“When we want to console somebody, we cannot find the words. Why? Because we cannot arrive at his or her pain, because her sorrows are her own, his tears are his own. The same is true of us: the tears, the sorrow, the tears are mine, and with these tears, with this sorrow, I turn to the Lord.”
He continued: “All human pains for God are sacred. So prays the prayer of Psalm 56: ‘My wanderings you have noted; are my tears not stored in your flask, recorded in your book?’ Before God, we are not strangers or numbers. We are faces and hearts, known one by one, by name.”
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“In the Psalms, the believer finds an answer. He knows that even if all human doors were barred, God’s door is open. Even if the whole world had issued a verdict of condemnation, there is salvation in God.”
The pope observed that problems sometimes remained unresolved despite our prayers. In such situations, it is important to remember that “the Lord listens.”
“Those who pray are not deluded: they know that many questions of life down here remain unresolved, with no way out; suffering will accompany us and, after one battle, others will await us. But if we are listened to, everything becomes more bearable,” he said.
“The worst thing that can happen is to suffer in abandonment, without being remembered. From this prayer saves us. Because it can happen, and even often, that we do not understand God’s plans. But our cries do not stagnate down here: they rise up to Him, He who has the heart of a Father, and who cries Himself for every son and daughter who suffers and dies.”
He concluded: “If we maintain our relationship with Him, life does not spare us suffering, but we open up to a great horizon of goodness and set out towards its fulfillment. Take courage, go ahead with prayer. Jesus is always beside us.”