Pope Benedict XVI’s spiritual exercises for Lent will include contemplative prayer and meditations on spiritual themes like the communion of the Christian with God.
Over seven consecutive days starting Sunday Feb. 26, the Pope and senior members of the Roman Curia dramatically reduced their usual workload to make time for daily mini-retreats.
They undertake the exercises collectively during the seasons of Advent and Lent with the aim of growing closer to Christ.
The titles of each of the seven days of mediations were: “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”; “Communion and Life”; “Communion and Mercy”; “Breach of communion, sin”; “God is love”; “Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and Prayer - The Holy Spirit”; and “Love and Faith.”
The meditation “God is Love” will explore themes like the death of a priest, penance and reconciliation, fraternal love, and the Virgin Mary as “Mother of Believers” who is “a model of communion with the Father and the Son.”
The Pope’s spiritual exercises will take place in the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel.
The theme is taken from the New Testament letter 1 John 1:3: “And our fellowship is with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.”
This year the exercises will be guided by Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa in the Congo.
The exercises began at 6 p.m. on Sunday with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Evening Prayer, and a meditation followed by adoration and Benediction.
After that the daily routine will be see the first mediation begin at 9 a.m. after Morning Prayer.
At 10:15 a.m. Mid-Morning Prayer will be followed by the day’s second mediation.
The third and final mediation will then take place at 5 p.m. whereupon it will be followed by Evening Prayer, adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Since 2007 the 72-year-old Cardinal Monsengwo has been Archbishop of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals in 2010.
He was a pivotal figure in the Congo’s transition from dictatorship to democracy in the 1990s and continues to be an outspoken critic of corruption in public life.
In recent years other notable clergy who have been invited to preach to the Pope during Lent have included the emeritus Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Marco Cé, the emeritus Archbishop of Bologna, Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, and the French Discalced Carmelite and theologian Fr. François-Marie Léthel.