St. Anselm on the Aventine is overseen by Benedictine monks, while Santa Sabina, a basilica dating to the first century, is the mother church of the Dominican order.
Reading Pope Francis’ homily after the proclamation of the Gospel, Parolin said: “Today, as we embark on the Lenten season, the Lord says to us: ‘Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven (Matthew 6:1).’”
In his homily, the pope gave some indications for how Catholics can carry out prayer, fasting, and almsgiving without falling into the “hypocrisy of appearances.”
Hidden prayer, he said, “becomes the secret to making our lives flourish everywhere else.”
“During this Lenten season, let us pray above all by looking at the Crucified Lord. Let us open our hearts to the touching tenderness of God, and in his wounds place our own wounds and those of our world. Let us not be always in a rush, but find the time to stand in silence before him. Let us rediscover the fruitfulness and simplicity of a heartfelt dialogue with the Lord,” Francis advised.
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On almsgiving, the pope said, “if prayer is real, it necessarily bears fruit in charity. And charity sets us free from the worst form of enslavement, which is slavery to self.”
Fasting also detaches us from inordinate self-interest, Pope Francis said. “Fasting is not a diet. Indeed, it sets us free from the self-centered and obsessive quest of physical fitness, in order to help us to keep in shape not only our bodies but our spirit as well. Fasting makes us appreciate things for their true worth.”
Pope Francis’ homily concluded by recalling his appeal for Ash Wednesday to be a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine.
Prayer, charity, and fasting, he said, are not only spiritual medicine for ourselves, but “they can change history.”
“First, because those who experience their effects almost unconsciously pass them on to others; but above all, because prayer, charity, and fasting are the principal ways for God to intervene in our lives and in the world,” he said.
Prayer, fasting, and charity, he said, “are weapons of the spirit and, with them, on this day of prayer and fasting for Ukraine, we implore from God that peace which men and women are incapable of building by themselves.”
“O Lord, you see in secret and you reward us beyond our every expectation,” he prayed. “Hear the prayers of those who trust in you, especially the lowly, those sorely tried, and those who suffer and flee before the roar of weapons. Restore peace to our hearts; once again, grant your peace to our days.”
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.