Pope, Curia Begin Spiritual Exercises
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's annual retreat began this evening in the Vatican, with Cardinal Francis Arinze offering the meditations.
The traditional Lenten retreat for the Pope and the Roman Curia will conclude Saturday. In the mean time, the Holy Father's public audiences will be suspended.
Cardinal Arinze, retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is preaching on the theme of "The Priest Meets Jesus and Follows Him." The prelate has recently published a book on that topic, titled "Riflessioni Sul Sacerdozio, Lettera a un Giovane Sacerdote" (Reflections on the Priesthood: Letters to a Young Priest).
"It is a programmatic title," Cardinal Arinze told Vatican Radio. "The first day the priest follows Jesus to encounter God, who must have first place in our life. The second day the priest believes in Jesus in the Eucharist, in sacred Scripture."
"The third day," he continued, "he believes in Jesus in the Church, he encounters him in the Church and in the other people who are part of the Church, as also in missionary work. The fourth day the priest meets Jesus in prayer: in personal prayer, community prayer, in the liturgy. And then the last day, he meets Jesus who has compassion for those who are sick, those who hunger for truth."
Following Jesus every day "is demanding, of course," the cardinal said. "Jesus does not let us take a vacation, but he does permit us a life that has meaning."
"We are not building castles in the air," Cardinal Arinze continued. "We know Jesus, we follow him, and so, looking back, we do not feel like we have wasted our time or our life, but we can be renewed every day -- and we will never come to the end of following him."
The 76-year-old cardinal, who served as a priest and bishop in Nigeria for 25 years and who worked for 25 years in the Roman Curia, said that he wanted to draw on his personal experience: "The more you share the experiences you have had, the more authentic is the testimony."
"We are not always able to concentrate so much," the prelate reflected. "And so here are six days of concentration in which we will not worry about our everyday duties but, with Jesus at the center, before him -- [with] listening, meditation, praying, singing -- we will try understand better what he wishes."