10. PRAYER OF POPE PAUL VI FOR PRISONERS

{This prayer was composed by Pope Paul VI for the inmates of Rome’s Regina Coeli prison, which he visited on April 9, 1964. It deserves a place in the Ritual; and we are grateful to the N.C.W.C. News Service for its permission to print it.}

Lord, they tell me I must pray; but how can I pray when I am so unhappy? How can I speak to you in the conditions in which I find myself? I am sad; I am angry. Sometimes I am desperate. I would like to curse rather than pray. I suffer deeply because everyone is against me and criticizes me because I am here, away from my own family and from my activities. I am without peace, and how can I pray, O Lord?

I know you were good, you were wise, you were innocent. Yet they slandered you, they dishonored you, they tried you, they beat you, they crucified you, they put you to death? But why? Where is justice? And you were able to forgive those who treated you so unjustly and so cruelly. You were able to pray for them. Indeed, they tell me that you allowed yourself to be put to death in that manner in order to save your executioners, to save all us sinful men. And also to save me?

If this is so, Lord, it means that one may be good at heart even though the condemnation of the courts of men weighs on one’s shoulders. I too, Lord, feel at the bottom of my heart that I am better than others would believe. I know what justice is, what honesty is, what honor is, and what goodness is. Before you, these thoughts stir in me. Do you see them? Do you see how disgusted I am with my miseries? Do you see that I would like to cry out and weep? Do you understand me, Lord? Is this my prayer?

Yes, this is my prayer. From the depths of my bitterness I raise my voice to you. Do not reject it. You at least, who have suffered as I have, more than I have, you at least, Lord, listen to me. I have so many things to ask of you. Give me, Lord, peace of heart. Give me a tranquil conscience, a new conscience capable of good thoughts.

Indeed, Lord, to you I say it. If I have been remiss, forgive me. We all have need of forgiveness and mercy. I am praying to you for myself. And then, Lord, I pray to you for my loved ones, who are still so dear to me. Lord, assist them. Lord, console them. Lord, tell them to remember me and to love me still. I have so much need to know that somebody is still thinking of me and loves me. And also on these companions in misfortune and affliction, together here in this prison, Lord, have mercy. Mercy on everyone. Yes, also on those who make me suffer, on all. We are all men of this unhappy world. But we are, Lord, your creatures, your likeness, your brothers, O Christ. Have pity on us.

To our poor voice we add the sweet and innocent voice of the Madonna, of the most blessed Mary, who is your Mother, and who is for us also a Mother of intercession and consolation. Lord, give us your peace; give us hope. Amen.