Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday distributed ashes at the ancient Church of Santa Sabina on the Aventine hill in Rome. In his homily at the austere 1,500 year-old church, Vatican Radio reports that the Pope called prayer a “dialogue with God” and the “engine of the world.” He also reminded Catholics that Lent is a journey of conversion that invites all believers to prayer, penitence, and fasting.
Pope Benedict said that Christ’s prayer on the Cross, “shows us a person abandoned by all entrusts himself completely in God.”
“Lent teaches us to experience God as the only anchor of Salvation," he said.
The Pope continued, saying that "true prayer is a dialogue with God, and without this our interior dialogue becomes a monologue, giving rise to thousands of self-justifications. Prayer, therefore, is a guarantee of being open to others. True prayer is the engine of the world, because it keeps us open to God. Without prayer, there is not hope, just illusion, which induces us to escape from reality".
The Pope called prayer, fasting, and almsgiving “places of learning and [the] practice of Christian hope.” He said the three activities are inseparable, nourishing each other and bearing fruit when practiced together.
Addressing the topic of suffering, Pope Benedict said that Jesus suffered for truth and justice, revealing the Gospel of Suffering as the other side of the Gospel of Love.
The Pope said all men could take part in this “Gospel of Suffering,” saying, "The greater the hope is that animates us, the greater also is the capacity to suffer for truth, love, and goodness,”
“We should offer up the small and great trials of our daily existence and insert them into the great compassion of Christ," Pope Benedict said.
Ashes have been distributed at the Church of Santa Sabina for more than 1,500 years.