Pope begins Lenten spiritual exercises reflecting on Christ’s gaze

Rome, Italy, Mar 11, 2019 / 10:24 am (CNA).- A Benedictine abbot is leading Pope Francis and the Roman curia in Lenten spiritual exercises this week, with the theme of Christ’s gaze and gestures in the life of the world.

“Let us allow ourselves to be looked at by Him. Jesus is our humanism,” the Italian monk Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni said in the first of his spiritual reflections March 10.

Gianni, the abbot of San Miniato al Monte Abbey in Florence, will provide two meditations each day of this week’s papal retreat, which also includes daily Eucharistic adoration and Mass.

“Look at how He looked. Looking at the rich young man, He loved him; the meeting of eyes with Zacchaeus, who climbs up a tree to see the Lord Jesus, who looks up to meet him,” the Gianni said.

The monk told the Roman curia, “Our pastoral action, our taking care of the people entrusted to us … of the humanity that is entrusted to us by the Lord, can really be a new flame of ardent desire, and a return to being a garden of beauty, peace, justice, measure, harmony.”

Citing the Italian poet Mario Luzi and Venerable Giorgio La Pira, a mayor of Florence in the 1950s and ’60s, the abbot said that the Benedictine tradition “prolongs the gaze of the monk from the cloister to the city in front of the monastery.”

“The perspective of the monastery is not an alternative to the city, but an exemplary, paradigmatic, authentic testimony, in which the city could rediscover the reasons for its vocation, its mystery, present and future,” he continued.

The pope’s spiritual exercises are taking place at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town just 16 miles outside of Rome. Located on Lake Albano, the retreat house is just a short way from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. It will be the sixth consecutive year the pope and members of the Curia have held their Lenten retreat at the house in Ariccia.

While the practice of the Bishop of Rome going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago, it had been customary for them to follow the spiritual exercises on Vatican ground. Beginning in Lent 2014, Francis chose to hold the retreat outside Rome.

All of the pope’s activities are suspended this week until he returns from his Lenten retreat March 15.

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