ROME — After spending a week in Ariccia with members of the Curia for their annual Lenten spiritual exercises, Pope Francis returned to the Vatican Friday with words of gratitude and his own brief reflection.
Shortly before leaving the Casa Divin Maestro retreat house in Ariccia, the pope voiced his gratitude to Franciscan priest Giulio Michelini, who led the meditations for the week, saying, “I want to thank you for the good you have wished us to have and for the good you have done us.”
He thanked the friar first of all for his openness and for being “natural” during the preaching, sharing himself “without artifice.”
Francis also gave thanks for all of the work Michelini put into preparing the meditations. “It’s true, there is a mountain of things to meditate on,” he said, but noted that as St. Ignatius says in the Exercises, when one encounters feelings of consolation or desolation, you must “stop there” to meditate on it.
Surely everyone has found one or two things to deeply reflect on after hearing Michelini’s meditations this week, the Pope continued, saying the rest “will serve for another time.”
“Sometimes, the simplest words are the ones that help us, or the more complicated ones: to everyone, the Lord gives the right word,” he said.
Concluding his remarks, the pope voiced his hope and prayer that Michelini can “continue to work for the Church, in the Church, in teaching, in so many things that the Church entrusts to you. But above all, I wish you to be a good friar.”
Pope Francis returned to the Vatican Friday with members of the Roman Curia at the conclusion of their March 5-10 Lenten spiritual exercises. He began the tradition of leaving the Vatican for the retreat after his election, choosing instead to spend it in Ariccia, just a short ways outside of Rome.
According to a Vatican communique, after offering the final March 10 Mass for Syria, the pope and members of the Curia left, arriving back at the Vatican just before 11:30 a.m.
At the conclusion of the Mass, Pope Francis sent 100,000 euros to the poor in Aleppo, thanks to a contribution from the Roman Curia.
For this year’s spiritual exercises, the pope personally chose Michelini, a Franciscan of the Seraphic Province of the Friars Minor of Umbria, to do the preaching.
The meditations for each day were focused on the story of Christ’s Passion as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew. Each day included two meditations, each on a different part of the story.
For example, reflecting on Jesus’ silence in the face of his accusers, Michelini spoke about the different kinds of silence: the good kind, such as silence in prayer and the bad kind, which is remaining silent in the face of wrongdoing, because we are worried what others will think of us.
Reflecting on Christ’s passion, Michelini in one meditation said, “I wonder if I have the courage to go all the way to follow Jesus Christ, taking into account that this brings to bear the cross.” As Jesus said, “if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”