Click here if you don’t see subscription options
A screen grab shows Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik, an artist and theologian, giving a Lenten meditation March 6, 2020, from the Clementine Hall at the Vatican. Priests who work at the Vatican were invited to the meditation, but the Vatican turned it into an online event in accordance with advice to suspend gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (CNS screen grab)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Friday Lenten meditation for priests who work at the Vatican turned into an online event March 6 as Vatican officials continued to study precautions for avoiding the spread of the coronavirus.

While top officials of the Roman Curia were concluding their annual Lenten retreat outside of Rome, priests who work at the Vatican originally were invited to begin their day with a half-hour Lenten meditation in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

But, in response to the coronavirus spread, the Vatican adopted the recommended health precaution of discouraging large meetings and gatherings, and so offered the meditation online instead.

The Friday reflections in Lent, like in Advent, usually are led by the official "preacher of the papal household," who, for the past 40 years, has been Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.

However, the 85-year-old friar was unwell -- not with the coronavirus, the Vatican press office said -- so the March 6 meditation was given by Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik, the mosaic artist and theologian.

To avoid gathering dozens of people in one room, Vatican Media broadcasted Father Rupnik's talk live on its YouTube channel so that all the priests who were invited could participate, said Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office. He did not know how many people, if any, joined Father Rupnik in the hall, but most participants were watching online.

The Vatican Media camera focused only on Father Rupnik and the crucifix behind him.

Father Rupnik began his meditation with the Gospel of John's account of Mary at the foot of the cross. "Anyone who has spent time with a mother and seen her at her son's funeral, recognizes immediately the scene is much more difficult than the opposite: a son who buries his mother.

"To see one's own son die is something absolutely singular, but especially if one's son is the savior of the world," he said.

Ancient icons of Mary at the foot of the cross show her with her hand on her cheek, a traditional sign of a person undergoing "the harshest trial" and great perplexity, he said.

In Eastern Christian spirituality, he said, when Jesus is on the cross, he concedes to Mary the "highest degree of wisdom," which involves finally understanding "the meaning of failure, the meaning of collapse, the meaning of suffering and the meaning of such a humiliating death."

Throughout her life as a mother, from the moment of Jesus' birth in a poor stable, Mary had to rethink the popular, and normal, ideas about God's power and omnipotence and beliefs that the promised Messiah would be triumphant in the sense of political, worldly power.

It is "very, very human" to think that salvation never could come through suffering or "such a cruel death," he said.

Mary's growth in understanding the meaning of Jesus' life, death and resurrection is the same growth, the same conversion, to which all followers of Jesus are called, Father Rupnik said. The reality of what happened to her son changes the way Mary understood the promises of God about Jesus and about the promised Messiah.

"God exists truly as love, and love means giving oneself," he said. "It's not abstract, saying, 'I love you.' What kind of gift is that? Love is realized through self-giving."

"Our God manifests himself this way," dying on the cross out of love for humanity and overturning the most human way of understanding power and suffering, Father Rupnik said.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

The latest from america

In 2012, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that 'Just Love,' by Margaret Farley, R.S.M., could not be used in Catholic classrooms. It was a different era in the church.
James T. KeaneNovember 28, 2023
Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Pope Francis embrace after visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem on May 26, 2014. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The Second Vatican Council helped establish a bond of friendship between Catholics and Jews. What is the state of that unity after the Oct. 7 terrorist massacre?
David MeyerNovember 28, 2023
On the advice of his doctors, Pope Francis has “with great regret” canceled his visit to Dubai for the COP28 conference on climate change, the Vatican announced on Tuesday evening, Nov. 28.
Gerard O’ConnellNovember 28, 2023
Pope Francis has decided to punish one of his highest-ranking critics, Cardinal Raymond Burke, by revoking his right to a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary.