Cardinal Francesco Montenegro: For a Christian Lent is a Gym

The Cardinal and Sister Alessandra Smerilli Presented the Pope’s Lenten Message

Cardinal Francesco Montenegro
Cardinal Montenegro with the Holy Father (C) Vatican Media

Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, Archbishop Emeritus of Agrigento and a member of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Sister Alessandra Smerilli, Secretary ad interim of the Dicastery, presented Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2022, taken from the Letter to the Galatians. And Father Massimo Mostioli, of the Diocese of Pavia, brought the testimony of his commitment to the pastoral care of the Roma, an action that continues Father Mario Riboldi’s experience of fraternity.

To Strip Oneself of the Superfluous  

 “The Holy Father invites us to enter Lent by interiorizing more radically what it means to look at a person we meet with Christ’s eyes and to recognize Christ’s eyes <in him>, said Sister Smerilli. “To strip ourselves of the superfluous, to lighten ourselves, to assume seriously the call to conversion means in the Church, in this historic moment, to express more distinctly in our life  and in our relations that love that pours out of the intimate life of God.”

Inevitable was the reference to what is happening in Eastern Europe in these hours. “Winds of war, after decades of senseless rearmament, with a growing increase of armaments, and a pandemic that has reaped victims, exasperating inequalities, bringing to light what doesn’t function in our economic and social <dimensions>, posing new questions; However, <all this> cannot make us lose hope. God believes in the earth and He takes care of it as a farmer who doesn’t abandon his field.” Hence, “Lent is not a Christian time that withdraws us from the world. The desert of fasting and of temptations is inhabited with the obstinacy and faith of one who, looking at the stones, sees the harvest.”

It’s a Propitious Time to Sow, Says Cardinal Montenegro

 “The Pope offers us a help, substantiated by the Word of God,” to live Lent in the best ways,” said the Cardinal. “The image of the sowing and the harvest is often used in Sacred Scripture. The Pope values it in God’s line and in that of the believer (. . . ). Lent is presented as a propitious time to reap God’s sowing, especially through the listening and meditation of His Word.” However, “the Lenten period is also a time of commitment for every believer to exercise himself in the art of sowing, knowing that no germ of good will be wasted.” Hence, there is no room for discouragement. “The great hope that comes to us with Easter must push us all not to get tired of doing good to all.”

A Gymnasium

 Finally, Cardinal Montenegro spoke of patience. The Holy Father stresses “the invitation to be patient and to take one step at a time as the wise farmer of whom Scripture speaks. Lent is, in some way, an image and mirror of all of the life of a Christian. As such, it is training, a  true and proper gym. In face of every setback or of the difficulties that can sap Lent, he reminds us that we can always begin again, with the help of God’s mercy.”

The Pope’s Message is a track of commitment and responsibility. Each one of us, on our part, is called not to tire of doing good, to sow justice and charity, not to desist from following ways of human promotion, to work assiduously so that each one is respected in his dignity.”

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester