Michelle Francl-Donnay

Michelle Francl-Donnay

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading. — Ps 130:1-3

Tuesday night, I woke to the phone ringing on my bedside table. It was 12:55 a.m. and my youngest son was calling from California. Sometimes you just need to talk to your mom at the end of a long and tough day. We talked until a bit after 2 a.m., then I slipped back into bed, to catch a few hours of sleep before a long day of classes and meetings.

That night, as I sat down to say Compline — Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours — I thought of all the nights where I prayed this “last” prayer of the day, only to be up again and again with little ones. The psalm set for this Wednesday night is the De Profundis, Psalm 130, named for the first words of the Latin translation. Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.


When my sons were young, this prayer so often rose out of the depths of my exhaustion. Hear my voice, O Lord, and let this little one fall back to sleep. Or in my worries over a sick child, I would long for the morning to come, when things inevitably would seem less frightening.

Now when I pray Psalm 130, memories of those long dark nights swirl across the pages of my breviary, and I can feel in my depths the yearning of the psalmist for relief, for the Lord’s merciful presence. My soul is longing for the Lord, more than watchman for daybreak.

Pope Francis speaks of the way God’s mercy is like the love of a mother or father for their child. It is a visceral love, arising from the very depths: tender, compassionate, indulgent and merciful. It expresses itself in very concrete ways. God binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted, he sets prisoners free, he forgives us all our sins.

It is a love that doesn’t keep count, that is never exhausted. Like a mother, one ear always open to hear the child who calls out in the night, God is listening for us. Each and every time we cry for mercy.

To listen: Arvo Pärt’s setting of the De Profundis

To pray:  De Profundis

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,
Lord, hear my voice!
O let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleading.

If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
Lord, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness:
for this we revere you.

My soul is waiting for the Lord.
I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than watchman for daybreak.
(Let the watchman count on daybreak
and Israel on the Lord.)

Because with the Lord there is mercy
and fullness of redemption,
Israel indeed he will redeem
from all its iniquity.