Since Sept. 11, many people across the country have been looking for answers, and the Rev. John Kselmen says he has some to pass out.

Kselmen said Wednesday that psalms are a way for people to cope with tragedy. The reverend spoke at Saint Thomas More, a Catholic chapel on Park Street, to an audience of about 40 that consisted mainly of older members of the church community, but also included some members of the Jewish faith and some students.

Kselmen spoke of the history of psalms as comfort in times of grief. He cited several examples of people who have turned to psalms to express their personal sorrow. Those examples included Jesus, early Christian communities, and, more recently, Nazi victim Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Israeli Housing Minister Natan Sharansky, who suffered in a Soviet gulag prior to his immigration to Israel.

“The psalms allow people to challenge God.” Kselmen said. “They are a great resource for people in pain who need to find ways that will express that pain.”

Kselmen focused his lecture on the transition of the psalms from representing people speaking to God to representing God speaking to people.

Kselmen divided the psalms into two categories: those that praise God and those that lament the misfortunes of life, such as attacks, severe illness and even slander in a court of law. He pointed out that different psalms may speak to people at different points in their lives.

Kselmen said that we may not agree with some of the images of God, like those of God as a doer of vengeance. But he said that by accepting God and not humanity as the bringer of vengeance, people are relieved of a great burden.

The speech was well-received by those attending.

“He brought a lot of new things to me, things that I had not heard of before,” Sister Carolyn Capobianco said. “I learned from this.”

Mark Lee, who was tape-recording the lecture for the church, said: “He was a very engaging speaker. He provided new insights into the psalms.”