Paul Geres is the non de plume of a French priest who was in charge of a parish in an industrial city. These prayers are from his small book Prayers for Impossible Days. Geres writes about the purpose of these unusual prayers in the Preface to the book:
We have all experienced impossible days. There are days when worry, anxiety, or pain seem to drain us of everything—except the knowledge that we are suffering. Time itself can then seem to become identical with pain.
On such days it is hard to keep going in our daily routine, even to meet close friends. We know that life goes on. Our duties at home or work do not go away. But everything seems to be like a mirror that reflects the unbearable light of the pain inside us. Whether the pain is of the heart or of the body is of little importance. Either way, the pain remains. There are, indeed, impossible days.
There are also days—perhaps less difficult—when we are simply tired of everything. We might not be aware of a specific reason; things are not usually that clear. Life itself can weigh us down, because every day seems to be like the one before and each morning brings the same wear and tear as it has for five, six or ten years. Finally this begins to add up, and the burden becomes heavy.
Yet, precisely on those days we ought to pray. We might have despaired of sensing the shining face of God in our lives. Especially then do we need to step back from ourselves and turn to the One who has promised to sustain us with steadfast love.
But is wanting to pray enough? It is of little help to know that the grace to pray is ours. There are still impossible days when we desire no consolation —even that of asking for consolation.
I have written these prayers to help my friends, known and unknown. These petitions reflect a variety of experiences of suffering and pain. Their value—if any—is that they reflect many confidences given to me and faithfully recalled inner lives and daily struggles of many individuals crushed by impossible days. It goes without saying that they are not meant to replace personal prayer; that is out of the question. I offer them simply as a help in giving voice to our pleas to the God of all comfort.
—Paul Geres. Prayers for impossible days, tr. from French by Lucien Jerphagon. Revised edition. Augsburg Books, 2001.
The illustrations for these pages are from Carmen Bernos de Gasztold. Prayers from the Ark, trans. Rumer Godden. London: Pan, 1962.
This week we enjoy a variety of musical settings of the psalms — usually the psalm set for each day.