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Pope’s Lenten Retreat: ‘Make the City a Welcoming Place’

Seventh Lenten Meditation of Father Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni to the Pope and the Roman Curia

The appeal of Mayor Giorgio La Pira (1904-1977) “to make Florence, but in reality all cities, a place of welcome where a message of peace and hope is renewed” is “prophetic, but also profoundly current,” said Father Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni, preacher of the Lenten Retreat of Pope Francis and the Roman Curia, on Thursday morning, March 14, 2019.

“It’s a task that Mayor La Pira attributed to his service as politician, but it’s a service that the Church cannot but recommend, desire, propose, and witness, in our time, to the Mayors and politicians of the whole world. So that the city truly becomes again, from Isaiah’s perspective . . . a ‘standard for the people.’”

In his seventh meditation, reported by “Vatican News,” the Father Abbot of San Miniato al Monte (Florence) reflected on the theme “”Its Flags of Peace and Friendship,” beginning his meditation on the splendour of Jerusalem as described in chapter 62 of Isaiah: “Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people.”

“These wide-open gates are a very beautiful image so that the whole of humanity can finally enter and meet, and experience God’s great promise that becomes reality, the future that makes itself presence of light, of love, of peace and of justice,” noted Father Gianni.

We “need to root in Christ and in His love our look of faith, our vision,” said the Abbot. This rooting “opens our small heart to universal dimensions,” he added.

“The poor and pilgrims, in particular, must be welcomed with all the care and solicitude possible because it’s precisely in them that one receives Christ in an altogether particular way,” he continued.

“Hospitality Is a Paschal Event”

To welcome “is a paschal grace, with all the difficulties, the responsibilities, the fatigue,” explained Father Gianni. Saint “Benedict says so to us; it’s about spending time with guests,” you’ve heard it: to read with them, to give them food, to wash their feet, to wash their hands. It’s time that passes, it’s true, but it’s the mercy of the Lord, who visits us and, consequently, hospitality is a paschal event.”

At the beginning of his monastic life, having retired in absolute solitude, Saint Benedict forgot that the day of Easter had arrived, the Abbot recounted. Christ sent him a priest with food and a bit of water so that he would interrupt his fast and solitude. “When Benedict saw this guest arrive, his expression gives us the measure of the mysterious events which the arrival of the guest represented: ‘It’s truly Easter because I had the grace to see you.”

Stressing that hospitality is a school of mercy, the preacher quoted words of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), monk of Burgundy and Abbot of Clairvaux: “The merciful grasped the truth of his neighbor conforming himself to him by sympathy, to the point of living his joys and his sufferings as if they were his own, weak with the weak, ready to rejoice with those who are happy and to weep with those who weep.”

The “Miracle if a Resurrection Already Underway”

Father Gianni also paid tribute to the martyred monks of Tibhirine, murdered in 1996, during the Civil War in Algeria.

“There is among men a presence of God that we ourselves must assume: to be witnesses of Emmanuel, of God-with-us. It’s in this perspective that we understand our vocation to be a fraternal presence of men and women that share the life of Muslims, Algerians, in prayer, in silence, in friendship, wrote Brother Christian de Cherge, Prior of the community of Trappist monks. “The Church-Islam relations still stammer, because we have still not lived sufficiently by their side. God so loved men that He gave them His Son, His Church — to each of us. There is no greater love than to give one’s life for one’s friends.”

“Each detail of the life of the body and of the soul, concluded the Abbot, surprises as the veritable miracle of a resurrection already underway. May the Lord enable us to multiply these miracles. And we will be able to multiply them in the measure in which we make our own Christ’s logic of love, which is, inevitably, a crucified logic, so that Easter is generated as a descent of the Holy Spirit with which the Father gives the fullness of life to one who is removed and cut off. And it’s truly the hope of a Church that, as the great Cathedral that Mario Luzi (Italian poet – red.) sings in Opus Florentinum, has its doors eternally open so that ongoing through them, all feel the incessant living respiration of this evangelical breath that, despite our resistances, the Holy Spirit has gone through the heart of each one of us.”

About Marina Droujinina

Journalist (Moscow & Brussels). Theology (Brussels, IET).

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