Pope on Ash Wednesday: Lent is the soul's wake-up call to go back to the essentials

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The Roman Aventine hill is the traditional Ash Wednesday scene celebrated by the pope.

The ceremony began in the Basilica of St. Anselm with this prayer. Then Pope Francis participated in a penitential procession to another place, the nearby Basilica of St. Sabina.

The pope makes the procession in silence and on foot, as a symbol of the penitential path beginning along with the liturgical season of Lent.

During his homily he explained how Lent can help order many things in one's life.

'It is a call to stop, to focus on what is essential, to give up superfluous things that distract us. It is a wake-up call for the soul.'

He also said Lent is a time to rediscover life's path. Therefore, he invited interior questioning. 

'Each one of us can ask ourselves: in the journey of life, do I look for the way forward? Or am I satisfied with living in the moment, thinking only of feeling good, solving a few problems and having fun? What is the path?'

The pope said the goal is God and the path of life draws one to Him. To find this direction in life, Pope Francis said there is a very useful sign: ashes.

'The small mark of ash, which we will receive, is a subtle, yet real reminder that of the many things occupying our thoughts, that we chase after and worry about every day; nothing will remain.'

Therefore, the pope invited Christians to live for more than the culture of appearances, which is like chasing after nothing but dust.

'We need to free ourselves from the tentacles of consumerism and the snares of selfishness, of always wanting more, never being satisfied, and from a heart closed to the needs of the poor. Jesus, who burns with love on the wood of the cross, calls us to a life lit in His fire. It is not lost in the ashes of the world. It's a life that burns with charity and does not burn out in mediocrity.'

After the homily, came the imposition of the ashes. The pope was the first to receive them from the hands of Cardinal Jozef Tomko, head of this basilica.

Then the Holy Father imposed it on other members of the Curia who accompanied him.

Lent has officially begun with this ceremony. It's a time in which the pope encourages us to return to God, without fear of embracing a life that the life that never ends. 

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