Pope Having "Profound Experience" at Retreat


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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 26, 2010 ( Benedict XVI's spiritual exercises this week have been a "profound experience" for the Pope, says a Vatican spokesman.

Father David Gutiérrez, director of Vatican Radio's Spanish programs, told ZENIT that "once again, the Pontiff gives the faithful the example of the attitude one must have in this particular time of prayer, reflection and conversion."

The Holy Father and members of the Curia will complete spiritual exercises Saturday, which are being preached by Salesian Father Enrico Dal Covolo.

Each day of the week constituted a specific framework from which to look at the vocation to the priesthood, in line with the Year for Priests convoked by Benedict XVI.

Monday was a day of "listening," Father Gutiérrez explained, centered on the "lectio divina" of a well-known biblical passage as paradigm of the vocational calling, God's calling to the prophet Samuel (1 Kings 19:1-21).

The preacher proposed several biblical figures as well as Fathers of the Church on this attitude of listening to the divine call, and especially the model of St. Augustine, a saint much loved by Benedict XVI.

Tuesday was dedicated to reflect on man's response to the divine call. According to the spokesman, the preacher reflected on "the response man gives to that call of God, reviewing some biblical stories, especially the one referred to in the Gospel according to St. Matthew where Jesus speaks about building on the sand of our interests or building on the Rock of God."

"A strong emphasis was made in the sense that the vocation and response are for the mission," he said. "This second day ended with a reflection on the priestly example of the Holy Curé d'Ars."

Wednesday was dedicated to penance, and according to Vatican Radio's commentator, the purpose was to reflect on "the human aspects that are involved in [the vocation call], especially those referring to what we can call the resistances that the human being presents in face of the will of God who calls."

"Temptations, doubts and resistances form part of our history, what generates the awareness that we are always sinners, but they also invite to openness to the grace of God who always forgives us," he explained. "It is the permanent attitude of conversion that the Church asks of her faithful in this season of Lent and that the Pope is living in a profound way with his Spiritual Exercises."

First followers

Following the tradition of the Church to consecrate Thursday to Eucharistic worship and the veneration of the ministerial priesthood, that day of this week was "Christological," that is, dedicated to reflect on the person of Jesus Christ, and the preacher reflected in depth on the call to the first disciples, said Father Gutiérrez.

"Both the lectio divina as well as the morning meditations followed this text to understand Jesus' role in the life of the one called, of each priest," he explained.

The priestly figure presented this day by Father Dal Covolo was that of Italian Salesian Giuseppe Quadri, whose priestly life was an example of humility and simplicity.

"His motto was 'I will try to be a saint.' This motto is the message left by the preacher of the Pope's Exercises: That all may be saints in the exercise of the priestly ministry," said Father Gutiérrez.

Today, the meditation centered on the Virgin Mary, model of response to the divine call. As Father Gutiérrez explained, "the Holy Father and his collaborators meditated, following the texts of the Magnificat and the Annunciation, both taken from the Gospel according to St. Luke, on the figure of our heavenly Mother, seeing in her the example of the confirmation of God when he calls one of his children."

"The preacher presented today for reflection the figure of Pope John Paul II," he added, "a person who lived his priestly, episcopal and Petrine ministry always trusting the Virgin."