CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) — Everyone is given the grace to pray, which is the only way to have a life-giving relationship with God, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Resuming his weekly general audiences after a month-long break, Pope Benedict continued his series of talks on prayer Aug. 1. (Watch a video of the audience.)

The audience, which lasted less than half an hour, was held in Castel Gandolfo’s main square, just outside the entrance to the papal summer villa. The Vatican said the estimated 2,000 pilgrims and visitors could not all fit inside the courtyard of the villa.

Marking the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists and patron of moral theologians and confessors, the pope said the saint lived in “a period of great rigorism,” but encouraged priests to administer the sacrament in a way that communicated “the joyful embrace of God the merciful father, who in His infinite mercy never tires of welcoming back His repentant sons.”

Looking at St. Alphonsus’ tract “The Necessity and Power of Prayer,” the pope said human life often is marked by temptations and weakness, but even the simplest prayer to God can give a person the power to resist evil and do good.

“The grace to pray is given to all,” the pope said. “We should not be afraid to turn to God and, filled with trust, present our requests to him with the certainty of receiving what we need.”

St. Alphonsus taught that all people need a relationship with God, who created them, and the way to initiate and deepen that relationship is through daily personal prayer and receiving the sacraments, he said.

The grace that comes through prayer and the sacraments “increases in us the divine presence that directs our path, enlightens it and makes it safe and serene, even in the midst of difficulties and dangers,” Pope Benedict said.