Here is the Vatican-provided English-language summary of the Pope’s address at the General Audience this morning:
Dear brothers and sisters: Today, Ash Wednesday, begins our annual Lenten journey of preparation for Easter. In a sense, we imitate Jesus, who spent forty days of prayer in the desert preparing for his public ministry. From a spiritual perspective, the desert is a place of life, not death. It is a place of silence, where we are interiorly free to hear the Lord’s word and to experience his loving call. In our busy world, how much we need that kind of silence, in order to grow in prayerful openness to God, to cultivate an ecology of the heart and to centre our lives on the things that really matter. An important part of our Lenten desert experience is the practice of fasting, which trains us to recognize, in simplicity of heart, how often our lives are spent in empty and superficial pursuits. The solitude of the desert makes us all the more sensitive to those in our midst who quietly cry out for our help and encouragement. This Lent, may our prayer, fasting and works of mercy strengthen us in our resolve to follow the Lord on his journey through Good Friday to Easter Sunday, and enable us to know the power of his grace, which can make of every desert a garden of new life.
I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States of America. May the Lenten journey we begin today bring us to Easter with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Upon you and your families I invoke joy and peace in Christ our Redeemer.