Pope Francis returned to the Vatican on February 23, 2018, after the conclusion of the week’s spiritual exercise, but not before hearing challenges by Fr José Tolentino Mendonca, preacher of the retreat.
Echoing the Pope’s words, Fr. Tolentino urged those in the retreat to listen to the thirst of those living on the periphery, according to Vatican News. In that way, “the Church will rediscover herself.”
In his talk the afternoon of February 22, Fr. Tolentino recalled that “the voice of God should always confront us with the primordial question: ‘Where is your brother’?” And he reminded the retreatants that 30 percent of the world’s people do not have clean drinking water in their homes.
He suggested that “the periphery is in the DNA of the Christian.” In fact, he pointed out that Jesus was born on the periphery, in Nazareth, “a name so insignificant that it is one of the rare places in Palestine that was never named anywhere in the Old Testament.”
In his final meditation, the morning of February 23, Fr. Tolentino spoke of the Beatitudes, calling them not just words or laws, but the key to Jesus’s life. In Jesus, we see a model of living out each of the beatitudes.
For Christians, the Beatitudes are a “self-portrait of the one who pronounced them,” according to Fr Tolentino. Jesus presents “an image of himself which he is constantly revealing to us and imprints on our hearts.” It gives us a model to “transform our own image.”
Sunday afternoon, Feb. 18, 2018, Pope Francis departed the Vatican to participate in his annual Lenten Spiritual Exercises at Casa ‘Gesù Divin Maestro’ (the Divine Master House) in the town of Ariccia near Rome. Originally, the Spiritual Exercises took place in the Vatican, but Pope Francis moved them to the retreat house, 16 miles outside of Rome.
Fr. José Tolentino Mendon, who led the meditations, is a Portuguese priest and Biblical theologian and vice-rector of the Portuguese Catholic University in Lisbon.