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I have worked with people in deep anguish either from physical pain or absolute hopelessness and depression. They say "I pray for relief, and God does not give it, I can tolerate no more." How can I say to them, "This is an opportunity for cross bearing and repentance, it will be worse for you if you end your life now,” when they have reached their limit. I grieve for them and pray that God gives them some relief. I‘m not sure that I could, in their place, bear their suffering either. It is easy to give theoretical answers, “You are rejecting the gift of life that God gave you and don’t trust His Providence enough.” If I, in empathy to their pain, can understand and see how they could succumb to hopelessness and despair, feel compassion for their suffering, and not be sure that I could stand it myself, how could God not respond by easing their suffering so that they can bear it (of course sometimes He does)? If God does not seem to answer the prayers of some desperate people and they continue to feel abandoned what can we say to them?

I am going to anticipate, if you don't mind, a natural question about those who have chosen to complete their suicidal intent:

What shall we do about them?

I will tell you what I do for the suicides I know and mourn for. I pray for them, "... for I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day."

I pray for mercy, and nothing less concrete or mysterious.

I love the prayer, "Lord have mercy." It is the prayer of a child, in a little boat, rocking on the tempestuous waves of the ocean of totality, where the angels stand on the horizon between sea and sky. There, I know I am illiterate, inarticulate, bereft of all language save the monosyllabic moans of an infant with the most elementary of reality-testing devices.

It is the answered prayer by the Good Samaritan, and the Ship Master, that gives mercy its content and sacrament its meaning: substance beyond definition and expectation.

I do not know what to ask for in the relief of those self-trapped in Hades, but I ask for what He knows alone, and can alone accomplish. My cousin, my client, my friends are shades now, and I would give them no service in the Church, for they did not die a Christian death, but could they receive mercy beyond all expectation and definition?

If I could, could not they?

This is so good, thank you!

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