…to celebrate Ash Wednesday in Santa Sabina

Pope Francis has urged Christians all over the world to listen to what Jesus wants to tell them through the Scriptures and through others.

The call by the Catholic Pontiff comes as Christians on Wednesday (today) celebrated Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of the 2023 Lenten season.

Pope Francis will preside over the Ash Wednesday celebration in Santa Sabina, according to romereports.com.

“The traditional Ash Wednesday procession will return to the Aventine Hill this Wednesday at 4:30 pm,” the report said.

“As in previous years, it will begin at the Church of San Anselmo and will end at the Basilica of Santa Sabina. Pope Francis will preside over the celebration that marks the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent.”

The report adds that a year ago, Pope Francis was unable to attend the celebration because of his knee problems. In his place, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, presided over the Mass.

“The pilgrimage from the Church of San Anselmo to the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill follows a steep path. This route symbolizes the path of faith that the Church travels during Lent,” it says.

In a Lenten message last week ahead of Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to listen to what Jesus wants to tell them through the Scriptures and through others.

Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports that the Pope, using the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration as a departure point, addressed both the journey of Lent and the Catholic Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality.

The Pope, in the message released February 17, recalled “the command that God the Father addresses to the disciples on Mount Tabor as they contemplate Jesus transfigured. The voice from the cloud says: ‘Listen to him.’”

“The first proposal, then, is very clear: We need to listen to Jesus,” he said. “Lent is a time of grace to the extent that we listen to him as he speaks to us.”

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“During this liturgical season,” he continued, “the Lord takes us with him to a place apart. While our ordinary commitments compel us to remain in our usual places and our often repetitive and sometimes boring routines, during Lent we are invited to ascend ‘a high mountain’ in the company of Jesus and to live a particular experience of spiritual discipline — ascesis — as God’s holy people.”

Pope Francis said one of the ways Jesus speaks people is through the Word of God, which is heard at Mass.

But if one cannot attend Mass during the week, it is a good idea to still read the daily readings of the liturgy, the Pope encouraged.

“In addition to the Scriptures, the Lord speaks to us through our brothers and sisters, especially in the faces and the stories of those who are in need,” he added.

Pope Francis also called for confronting the difficulties of ordinary life remembering that Lent is a period that leads to Easter.

“Do not take refuge in a religiosity made up of extraordinary events and dramatic experiences, out of fear of facing reality and its daily struggles, its hardships and contradictions,” the Pope said.

“The light that Jesus shows the disciples is an anticipation of Easter glory, and that must be the goal of our own journey, as we follow ‘him alone,’” he said.

“Lent leads to Easter: the ‘retreat’ is not an end in itself, but a means of preparing us to experience the Lord’s passion and cross with faith, hope, and love, and thus to arrive at the resurrection.”

Pope Francis compared the journey of Lent and the Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality to a “strenuous mountain trek”.

He said while Christians hike up the mountain, they must keep their eyes on the path before them, but at the top, they are rewarded by the beautiful panorama that confronts them.

“So too, the synodal process may often seem arduous, and at times we may become discouraged. Yet what awaits us at the end is undoubtedly something wondrous and amazing, which will help us to understand better God’s will and our mission in the service of his kingdom,” he said.