As you know, the Holy Father and some ranking members of the Roman Curia have been on retreat in Ariccia, just south of Rome, since late Sunday afternoon. Below is a video offered by vaticannews. Following that are some brief summaries of the meditations offered by this year’s retreat master, Portuguese Father Jose Tolentino de Mendonça, vice-rector of the Portuguese Catholic University in Lisbon and a consultant of the Pontifical Council for Culture since 2011.
SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: “JESUS WANTS TO QUENCH OUR THIRST”
“Let the one who thirsts come” framed the reflection of Fr. José Tolentino Mendonça for the spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia on Monday.
By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Pope Francis and members of the Vatican Curia travelled on Sunday afternoon to the “Casa del Divin Maestro,” a retreat center in Ariccia, located in the Alban hills just outside Rome. They are taking part in the weeklong curial spiritual exercises. For his meditation on Monday, Portuguese Fr. José Tolentino Mendonça chose the phrase that the Apostle John puts on the lips of Jesus in the final chapter of the Book of Revelation.
Jesus offers unconditional love
Fr. Tolentino says Jesus comes to us in his own incompleteness, in his own emptiness. He stands before us and repeats the phrase, “Let the one who thirsts come!” Jesus offers the water of life, that is, unconditional love, even though he knows that we are still “incomplete and under construction.” Fr. Tolentino then suggests that since this is Jesus’ final invitation, we need to recognize that we are the ones who are thirsty, and more importantly, “just how much we thirst.”
Thirst is a teacher
As any dehydrated person can attest, water is the cure, Fr. Tolentino continued. Quoting American poet Emily Dickinson’s, “water is taught by thirst,” Fr. Tolentino asks the question, “do we allow our thirst to be a school of authentic awareness—ours and God’s?” Our thirst goes undetected because it “is painful and is discovered little by little.” Fr. Tolentino concluded, saying that in the end, Jesus invites us to dialogue with him about “the most profound dimensions of existence, so that we can meet that thirst present in every human person: thirst for relationship, acceptance and love.”
SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: RECOGNIZING OUR THIRST FOR GOD
Fr. José Tolentino Mendonça continues exploring the theme of thirst with Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia during their Spiritual Exercises.
By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
“I became aware that I was thirsty,” and “Thirst does not make me ill” are the titles of the reflections given by Fr. Tolentino on Monday evening and Tuesday morning.
Recognize how we thirst
On Monday afternoon, Fr. Tolentino focused on becoming aware of the thirst within.
“Connecting with one’s own thirst is not easy work, but if we do not do it, the spiritual life loses its grip on reality,” Fr. Tolentino says. Recognizing our thirst is how we anchor our spiritual lives in the concrete reality of who we are. After this introduction, Fr. Tolentino then explored how it is possible to evaluate the “state of our thirst,” and how “to interpret that thirst,” before turning to the theme of “the thirst for God” through a reflection on Psalm 42: “As a deer longs for running waters.” Yearning for water happens when water is absent. We yearn for God precisely because we feel his absence. Fr. Tolentino explains that, “the absence of God becomes a kind of temple because it sets in motion desire, nostalgia, sighing, seeking. And thirst then becomes a type of uninterrupted prayer.”
Thirst versus apathy
The theme he picked up on Tuesday morning is that the thirst discovered within is not a manifestation of illness. “The opposite of thirst which appears at times in our lives is apathy. It is this thirst for nothing which more or less assails us imperceptibly that makes us ill,” Fr. Tolentino explains. He then turned his attention to the topic of burnout and suggests that the prophet Jonah can teach us “the treatment” for our desires. By fleeing from God, Jonah manifests “the contradiction of our desire,” he says. Sadness is another symptom of apathy that Fr. Tolentino says can be cured by learning from Jesus. “Come to me, all of you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” (Mt 11:28-29).