2/18/2018 Sunday–WEEK I   S. Giovanni in Laterano
2/19/2018 Monday S. Pietro in Vincoli
2/20/2018 Tuesday S. Anastasia al Palatino
2/21/2018 Wednesday S. Maria Maggiore
2/22/2018 Thursday S. Lorenzo in Panisperna
2/23/2018 Friday Ss. Dodici Apostoli
2/24/2018 Saturday S. Pietro in Vaticano



At the Angelus Sunday, Pope Francis emphasized that Lent is a time of “spiritual training” to overcome evil in us and around us. “In our life we always need conversion, and the Church makes us pray for this.”

Lent is not a time of sadness, the Pope insisted. It is, instead, “a joyful and serious commitment to strip ourselves of selfishness, of our old man, and to renew ourselves according to the grace of our Baptism.”

“Only God can give us true happiness,” he said. “It is useless for us to waste our time seeking it elsewhere.”

“During this first Sunday of Lent,” said Francis, “we are invited to listen attentively and to take up this appeal of Christ to be converted and to believe in the Gospel. We are called to begin the journey towards Easter with commitment, to welcome more and more the grace of God, who desires to transform the world into a kingdom of justice, peace, and fraternity.”

The Holy Father then noted that, “next month, from March 19th through the 24th, about 300 young people from all over the world will come to Rome for a preparatory meeting for the Synod taking place in October. But I strongly desire that all young people might be the protagonists of this preparation. Therefore, they will be able to contribute online through linguistic groups moderated by other young people. The contribution of the “groups of networks” will be united to those of the meeting in Rome. Dear young people, you can find more information on the website of the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. I thank you for your contribution to making this journey together!”

“At the beginning of Lent, which – as I’ve said – is a journey of conversion and of struggle against evil, I want to offer special good wishes to prisoners: dear brothers and sisters who are in prison, I encourage each one of you to live the period of Lent as an occasion of reconciliation and of renewal of lives under the merciful gaze of the Lord. He never tires of forgiving.”

“I ask everyone to pray for me and my collaborators in the Roman Curia as we start a week of spiritual exercises this evening.”

“I wish all of you a happy Sunday! Enjoy your lunch, and see you soon!”


Pope Francis and ranking members of the Roman Curia departed the Vatican Sunday afternoon for Ariccia where they will spend the next five days on retreat. These annual spiritual exercises usually start on the Sunday following Ash Wednesday. They are being held in Ariccia, a 20-mile drive south of Rome, at the Casa Divin Maestro (Divine Master House), run by the Pauline Fathers. (photo news.va)

The theme for the retreat is, “Praise of Thirst.”

Themes of meditation during the week-long spiritual exercises include: Apprentices of Amazement, the Science of Thirst, The thirst of Jesus, and Listen to the Thirst of the Peripheries.

The February 18 to 23 retreat will be led by Fr. José Tolentino de Mendonça, a Portuguese priest, poet, and Biblical theologian, who was selected by Pope Francis to prepare and deliver meditations during the spiritual exercises. He is vice-rector of the Portuguese Catholic University in Lisbon and has been a consultant of the Pontifical Council for Culture since 2011.

The Holy Father and ranking prelates of the Roman Curia left the Vatican Sunday at 4, arriving in Ariccia at 4:45pm

At 6 pm there was an introductory reflection, Eucharistic adoration and vespers. Dinner followed at 7:30.

The schedule for successive days is as follows:
· – 7:30 am, Eucharistic celebration
· – 8:30 am, breakfast
· – 9:30 am, first meditation
· – 12:30 lunch
· – 4 pm, second meditation
· – 6 pm, Eucharistic adoration, vespers
· – 7.30 pm dinner

FRIDAY, the final day of the retreat, there will be Eucharistic celebration at 7:30 am, breakfast at 8;30 and the final meditation at 9;30, after which everyone will leave Ariccia for the Vatican.

During the retreat the Holy Father will have no public meetings or audiences, including the Wednesday general audience.

Click here to see where the Holy Father and other guests are staying (be sure to click on ‘Places and Surroundings’ for some lovely additional photos): http://www.casadivinmaestro.it/www/aaa_intestazioni/intestazione.asp?LANGUAGE=ENG


Some years ago, when I was working for the Holy See at the Vatican Information Service, I wrote a piece on the history of papal retreats. Because there was generally little if any news during such a retreat, given that the Pope does not hold audiences in this period and the heads of Roman Curia offices are also involved in the retreat, we had to find something for our readers so I researched the history of papal retreats.

Annual retreats for the Pope and Roman Curia trace their origins to Pope Pius XI who, on December 20, 1929 marked the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination by publishing the Encyclical “’Mens nostra’,” On The Promotion of Spiritual Exercises” which was addressed to “Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and Other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.”

In that encyclical, the Pope informed the faithful that he had arranged to hold spiritual exercises every year in the Vatican, a custom still practiced by the Holy Father and ranking members of the Roman Curia. In the early years this retreat was held during the first week in Advent but now takes place in the first full week of Lent. Cardinal Achille Ratti, archbishop of Milan, was elected to the papacy on February 6, 1922, and took the name of Pius XI. He died on February 10, 1939.

On January 6, 1929 feast of the Epiphany, Pius XI declared a Jubilee Year to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of his ordination and asked the faithful to “share in the joy of their common father and to join with us in rendering thanks to the Supreme Giver of all good.” At the end of that year, in the Encyclical “Mens nostra,” he looked back at the “many and rich fruits” of the Jubilee and wrote that, as a way to “express our heartfelt gratitude, … we have deemed it fitting … to establish something most excellent which will, we trust, prove a source of many advantages to the Christian people. We are speaking of the practice of Spiritual Exercises, which we earnestly desire to see daily extended more widely, not only among the clergy, both secular and regular, but also among the multitudes of the Catholic laity.”

Pius XI then wrote at length on the history of “Sacred Retreats,” citing the words on this subject of his predecessors, of Doctors of the Church and founders of religious orders such as Don Bosco of the Salesians and, most especially of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, “whom we are pleased to call the chief and peculiar Master of Spiritual Exercises.”

The Pope in fact, on July 22, 1922 had “declared and constituted St. Ignatius of Loyola the heavenly Patron of all Spiritual Exercises and, therefore, of institutes, sodalities and bodies of every kind assisting those who are making the Spiritual Exercises.”

He underscored the “joy and consolation” he found in Spiritual Exercises and he announced: “And in order that we may secure this joy and consolation, both for ourselves and for others who are near us, We have already made arrangements for holding the Spiritual Exercises every year in the Vatican.”

While highlighting the value of retreats, he admonished: “Nor should the priests of the Clergy, secular and regular, think that the time spent on the Spiritual Exercises tends to the detriment of the apostolic ministry.”

In 2014, the spiritual exercises for Pope Francis and members of the Curia marked the first time that they were held outside Vatican City, specifically in Ariccia, not far from Rome, in a religious house.