Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pope's annual retreat focusing on thirst

On Sunday afternoon, Pope Francis and the members of the Roman Curia arrived by bus at the Casa Gesù Divin Maestro located in the town of Ariccia, located sixteen miles outside of Rome.

The annual Spiritual Exercises are being led by a Portuguese priest, Father José Tolentino de Mendonça.  The Vice-Rector of the Portuguese Catholic University in Lisbon is focusing his meditations this week on the theme: Praise of Thirst.

I became aware that I was thirsty, and Thirst does not make me ill are the titles of the reflections given by Fr Tolentino last evening (Monday) and this morning.  Sister Bernadette Mary Reis, FSP explains the focus of the two sessions that have been delivered so far.

Recognize how we thirst
On Monday afternoon, Father Tolentino focused on becoming aware of the thirst within. Connecting with one’s own thirst is not easy work, but if we do not do it, the spiritual life loses its grip on reality, Father Tolentino says. Recognizing our thirst is how we anchor our spiritual lives in the concrete reality of who we are, he said. After this introduction, Father Tolentino then explored how it is possible to evaluate the state of our thirst, and how to interpret that thirst, before turning to the theme of the thirst for God through a reflection on Psalm 42: As a deer longs for running waters. Yearning for water happens when water is absent. We yearn for God precisely because we feel his absence. Father Tolentino explains that the absence of God becomes a kind of temple because it sets in motion desire, nostalgia, sighing, seeking. And thirst then becomes a type of uninterrupted prayer.

Thirst versus apathy
The theme he picked up on Tuesday morning is that the thirst discovered within is not a manifestation of illness. The opposite of thirst which appears at times in our lives is apathy. It is this thirst for nothing which more or less assails us imperceptibly that makes us ill, Father Tolentino explains. He then turned his attention to the topic of burnout and suggests that the prophet Jonah can teach us the treatment for our desires. By fleeing from God, Jonah manifests the contradiction of our desire, he says. Sadness is another symptom of apathy which Fr Tolentino says can be cured by learning from Jesus. Come to me, all of you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me (Mt 11:28-29).

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