Papal preacher takes to social media during Lent

byJustin McLellan

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, addresses Pope Francis and officials of the Roman Curia during his fourth Lenten reflection in the Vatican's audience hall March 24, 2023.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The cardinal accustomed to preaching to popes and officials of the Roman Curia is now taking his Gospel message directly to the faithful through social media. For six days during Lent, the Vatican was releasing brief -- approximately two minutes long -- spiritual reflections by Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, through its channels on X, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. As of Feb. 20, the second day of the initiative, only videos in Italian and Spanish had been published online. According to a Vatican News article announcing the launch of the cardinal's virtual reflections, the initiative was intended to allow people to "pray with the pope and the Roman Curia" during their Lenten spiritual exercises. Pope Francis and members of the Curia were scheduled to pause their institutional obligations to privately participate in spiritual exercises Feb. 18-23. "In the world there are few words capable of being said in one minute that are enough to fill a day and, in fact, a life: those that come from the mouth of Jesus," Cardinal Cantalamessa said to begin his first video in the series, noting that he hopes the brief reflection would be like a spiritual "chewing gum" which viewers could return to throughout their day. The cardinal reflected on the question Jesus poses to his disciples in St. John's Gospel: "What are you looking for?" Citing St. Augustine, he suggested that everyone ultimately searches for happiness in their lives, something that can only be found in God. "Examine yourself, brother or sister, and see if the explanation for so much of your sadness and restlessness is not precisely here: that is, looking for water in cracked wells rather than the source of living water that is God," he said. In the cardinal's second video, released Feb. 20, he reflected on Jesus' words to Martha in St. Luke's Gospel, "There is need of only one thing," and referenced the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard who said a life lived without that thing is wasted -- namely, God. Cardinal Cantalamessa preaches to the pope and members of the Roman Curia most Fridays during Advent and Lent. He also is the preacher at the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord's Passion attended by the pope in St. Peter's Basilica.