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Rome Reports

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Pope Francis: Praying to make one’s soul “appear” beautiful doesn't help

Lately, Pope Francis has been dedicating a lot of time to greeting pilgrims.

Many were puzzled that he wasn't wearing a mask, which is obligatory in the Vatican as of this week. He does however, strive to maintain safety distances, though he doesn't always manage to.

The pope kissed the hands of each of these priests, who were recently ordained in Rome. He greeted some families with small children and couples who have been married for decades.

Then he explained that he was resuming his catechetical series on prayer. He gave the example of Elijah, a prophet who suffered many discouraging defeats throughout his mission.

“In the soul of those who pray, the sense of their own weakness is more precious than moments of exaltation, when it seems that life is a series of victories and successes.”

Pope Francis took advantage of the opportunity to say that prayer isn't about feeling something extraordinary. It's about establishing a personal relationship with God that, like any other relationship, must be nourished in good and bad times.

“This always happens in prayer: moments of prayer that we feel lift us up, even full of enthusiasm, and moments of prayer of pain, aridity, trial. This is what prayer is: letting ourselves be carried by God, and also letting ourselves be struck by unpleasant situations and even temptations. Prayer is not about locking oneself up with the Lord to make one’s soul appear beautiful. No, this is not prayer. This is false prayer. Prayer is a dialogue with God, and letting oneself be sent to serve one’s brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis also praised Elijah's ability to signal the errors of people in authority. He said we need Christians like that, but that they have to fulfill one condition: that of not acting impulsively, but only after praying and reflecting.

“How much need we have for believers, for committed Christians who take action before people in authority, with Elijah's courage, to tell them, 'We must not do this.' 'This is murder.' We need Elijah's spirit.”

The pope also explained that praying isn't about distancing oneself from the world. In fact, he said it's the opposite—that those who live a true life of prayer worry about the concrete needs of others.

This week the rain forced the audience with pilgrims to be held inside Paul VI hall instead of the Courtyard of St. Damaso.

Javier Romero

Translation: CT