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Rome Reports

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Pope Francis' seven proposals for seven Lenten seasons

This was Pope Francis' first Lent as pontiff.

He explained that this time is a moment for openness to others. He said to obtain it, one had to bring together three elements: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

March 5, 2014
“All of them require not letting oneself be dominated by appearances. What matters is not appearance. The value of life doesn't depend on the approval of others nor on success. Rather, it depends on what we have inside.”

In 2015, he spoke of the temptation to show off one's good deeds.

Feb. 18, 2015
“When a good deed is done, almost instinctively we feel the need to be recognized and admired for it. We yearn for that satisfaction. But Jesus invites us to carry out the good deed without calling out attention, trusting only in the reward of Our Lord.”

The Ash Wednesday celebration in 2016, the Jubilee of Mercy, took place in St. Peter's Basilica. This time, the pope invited the faithful to recognize their own sins, to allow themselves to be healed by God.

Feb. 10, 2016
“May Lent be a beneficial time of 'pruning' of falsehood, of worldliness, indifference; not to think that everything is fine if I'm right; to understand that what counts is not approval, the pursuit of success or consensus, but a pure heart.”

In 2017, he said Lent helps to escape hypocrisy and to practice heartfelt fasting, almsgiving and prayer.

March 1, 2017
“Lent is the time to say no to the suffocation of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good.”

The 2018 proposal revolved around three verbs to overcome mistrust, apathy and resignation. They were pause, see and return.

Feb. 14, 2018
“Pause from this compulsion to a fast-paced life that scatters, divides and ultimately destroys time with family, with friends, with children, with grandparents, and time as a gift... time with God. See and contemplate the real face of Christ crucified out of love for everyone, without exception. For everyone? Yes, for everyone. Return without fear, for this is the favorable time to come home, to the home of my Father and your Father. It is the time for allowing one’s heart to be touched... Remaining on the path of evil only gives rise to disappointment and sadness.”

In 2019, he asked to pause and reflect on the truly important things in life.

March 6, 2019
“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.”

This year, the pope said changing one's life means realizing that God wants one to live to the fullest.

Feb. 26, 2020
“If I live only to earn money, to have a good time, to gain a bit of prestige or a promotion in my work, I am living for dust. If I am unhappy with life because I think I do not get enough respect or receive what I think is my due, then I am simply staring at dust.”

The pope's Ash Wednesday homilies all share a spiritual depth in the way they challenge each person to grow.