By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Saying “thank you” to God is a beautiful prayer, Pope Francis told a group of children and teenagers with autism.
“God likes that way of praying,” he said Sept. 21 during a brief audience with youngsters assisted by the Sonnenschein Center in St. Polten, Austria, and with their parents and center staff members.
While some of the young people focused on their tablets or half hid behind their parents, others beamed at the pope with big smiles.
The name of their center means “sunshine” in German, and Pope Francis told them they are like flowers that blossom in the sun.
“God created the world with a great variety of flowers of every color,” he told them. “Each flower has its beauty, which is unique. And each one of us is beautiful in the eyes of God and he loves us.”
Knowing that, the pope said, one naturally feels a desire to thank God, to say, “Thanks for the gift of life, for all creatures. Thank you for mom and dad. Thank you for our families. And thank you also for the friends at the Sonnenschein Center.”
Pope Francis told the young people that they could even add a request to their prayer of thanks.
“For example, ‘Dear Jesus, could you help mom and dad with their work? Could you comfort grandma who is sick? Could you provide for all the children in the world who don’t have enough to eat?'”
He also suggested they try this prayer: “Jesus, please help the pope to guide the church well.”
“If you ask with faith, the Lord certainly will hear you,” he told them.
After thanking the parents and teachers, Pope Francis returned to his prayer request, telling them, “Please don’t forget to pray for me. This work is not easy.”