Pope Francis Tells Faithful: Learn Some of the Psalms by Heart

The pontiff told listeners that there are many Psalms that can help them in their day-to-day lives.

Pope Francis gives a blessing to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024.

Pope Francis said Wednesday there are Psalms to fit any need and that they should be learned by heart and repeated often.

“It is necessary to make the Psalms our prayer,” the Pope said at his general audience in an overcast but hot and muggy St. Peter’s Square on June 19.

Continuing his series of catechesis on the Holy Spirit and the Church, he explained that the Psalms “are the songs that the Spirit himself has placed on the lips of the Bride, his Church.”

“If there are Psalms, or just verses, that speak to our heart, it is good to repeat them and pray them during the day. The Psalms are prayers ‘for all seasons’; there is no state of mind or need that does not find in them the best words to be transformed into prayer,” he said.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis greets pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Speaking to a crowd of Catholics and tourists, he pointed out specific Psalms that could be helpful to pray in different circumstances, such as Psalm 50 for when one is feeling bad for having sinned.

He also recommended Psalm 51 for when one is feeling oppressed by remorse or guilt for being a sinner. “We can repeat with David: ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love,’” he said.

“If we want to express a strong personal bond with love, let us say: ‘O God, thou art my God / I seek thee, / my soul thirsts for thee; / my flesh faints for thee, / as in a dry and weary land where no water is,’ Psalm 63,” he continued.

“And if fear and anguish assail us, those wonderful words of Psalm 23 come to our rescue: ‘The Lord is my shepherd … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, / I fear no evil.’”

A boy holds up a rosary as Pope Francis passes by in St. Peter’s Square during the pope’s general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

A boy holds up a rosary as Pope Francis passes by in St. Peter’s Square during the pope’s general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The pontiff told listeners that there are many Psalms that can help them in their day-to-day lives. He added that the Psalms do not lose their effectiveness by being repeated many times, unlike other prayers.

“Form the habit of praying with the Psalms. I assure you that you will be happy in the end,” Francis said.

He drew attention to another beautiful aspect of praying with the Psalms: the fact that they help one avoid reducing prayer to just a series of requests to the Lord — “give me, give us…” 

“The Psalms help us open ourselves to a prayer that is less focused on ourselves: a prayer of praise, of blessing, of thanksgiving; and they also help us give voice to all creation, involving it in our praise,” he said.

Pope Francis is surrounded by children in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis is surrounded by children in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis also pointed out that the Psalms are so important that, though they are part of the Old Testament, they are sometimes included together with copies of the New Testament.

This is the case with a book he received as a gift, he noted, an edition of the New Testament and Psalms that once belonged to a Ukrainian soldier who died in the war. The Holy Father keeps it on his desk, he said.

The pontiff highlighted that not every Psalm, or every part of some Psalms, is relevant to modern man given that they “reflect, at times, a historical situation and a religious mentality that are no longer our own.”

“This does not mean that they are not inspired,” he underlined, “but in certain aspects they are linked to a time and a temporary stage of revelation, as is also the case with a large part of ancient legislation.”

“What most commends the Psalms to our attention is that they were the prayers of Jesus, Mary, the Apostles, and all the Christian generations that have preceded us,” Francis said. “When we recite them, God listens to them with that grandiose ‘orchestration’ that is the community of saints.”

At the end of his hourlong audience with the public, the pope publicly greeted members of the Friends of Cardinal Celso Costantini Association as it marks the 100th anniversary of the First Council of the Catholic Church in China.

The “Primum Concilium Sinese” (the first Plenary Council of China) was held from May 15–June 12, 1924, and was led by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Celso Costantini.

Pope Francis said this anniversary makes him think of “the dear Chinese people.”

“Let us always pray for this noble people who are so brave and have such a beautiful culture. Let us pray for the Chinese people,” he said.

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