The annual Lenten retreat for the Pope and members of the Roman Curia will this year focus on the theme, "Praise of Thirst."

Themes of meditation during the week-long spiritual exercises include: Apprentices of Amazement, the Science of Thirst, The thirst of Jesus, and Listen to the Thirst of the Peripheries.

Held this year Feb. 18-23, the retreat will be led by Fr. José Tolentino de Mendonça, a Portuguese priest, poet, and Biblical theologian, who was selected by Pope Francis to prepare and deliver meditations during the spiritual exercises.

De Mendonça is vice-rector of the Portuguese Catholic University in Lisbon and has been a consultant of the Pontifical Council for Culture since 2011.

Ordained a priest in 1990, he completed his Master's degree in Biblical Studies in Rome, before obtaining his doctorate in Biblical Theology from the Portuguese Catholic University, where he later taught as an assistant professor.

From 2011-2012 he was a Straus Fellow at New York University studying the topic of "Religion and Public Space."

His books, well-known in Portugal, are beginning to be translated into other languages. De Mendonça is also an award-winning poet and essayist. In 2015, he won the Italian Res Magnae Literary Prize for his book, "A Mística do Instante" (The Mystique of the Instant).

The program for the spiritual exercises will begin Sunday evening with adoration and the recitation of vespers, also called Night Prayer. The remaining days will each follow a basic schedule of Mass at 7:30 a.m., followed by the first meditation of the day.

In the afternoon will be a second meditation, again ending with adoration and vespers. The final day will have only a morning meditation.

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The week of prayer and meditation will take place at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town just 16 miles outside of Rome.

Located on Lake Albano, the retreat house is just a short way from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. It will be the fifth consecutive year the Pope and members of the Curia have held their Lenten retreat at the house in Ariccia.

While the practice of the Roman Pontiff going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago, it had been customary for them to follow the spiritual exercises on Vatican ground. Beginning in Lent 2014, Pope Francis chose to hold the retreat outside of Rome.