Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Lent is "a Great Spiritual Retreat," Pope Tells Audience

Vatican, Feb. 6, 2008 ( - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) likened the season of Lent to "a great spiritual retreat lasting 40 days," during his public audience on Ash Wednesday, February 6.

The Holy Father told the crowd gathered in the Paul VI auditorium that the penitential season is an opportunity "to rediscover the gift of faith we received at Baptism." It is also a time to make use of sacramental confession, he said, "placing our commitment to inner conversion under the protection of divine mercy."

The imposition of ashes, the Pope said, is an important reminder of man's weakness-- a particularly important message for a society that makes no room for religious belief. "When he proclaims his complete autonomy from God, modern man becomes self-enslaved, and often finds himself tormented and alone," the Pontiff observed. During Lent, he said, the faithful feel "an encouragement to return to the arms of God the tender and merciful Father."

Penance and prayer can lead to true and lasting happiness, the Pope continued-- unlike "achievement of success, desire for prestige and pursuit of luxury." He explained that while earthly gains provide only partial and temporary satisfaction, "the only joy that fills the human heart is the joy that comes from God."

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