Celebrating Ash Wednesday Mass, Pope Francis offered helpful Lenten advice – summoning Catholics around the world to heed these forty days as a “wake up call for the soul.”

On the afternoon of Ash Wednesday, the Holy Father led a penitential procession in Rome from the Basilica of Saint Anselm on the Aventine to the Basilica of Saint Sabina. They began praying the Stations of the Cross and singing the Litany of the Saints as they went.

In his Ash Wednesday homily Pope Francis offered advice as members of the Faithful embark on forty days of fasting and penance, which serve as a “wake up call for the soul.” Pope Francis said this wake up call comes with a message from the Lord: “return to me.”

“It is a summons to stop, to focus on what is essential, to fast from the unnecessary things that distract us. It is a wake-up call for the soul. Return to me, says the Lord. To me. The Lord is the goal of our journey in this world. The direction must lead to him.”

He explained that the imposition of ashes serves as a sign that helps us find our way, as “the Lord is the goal of our journey in this world – the direction must lead to him.”

“It is a reminder that of the many things occupying our thoughts, which we chase after and worry about every day, nothing will remain. No matter how hard we work, we will take no wealth with us from this life.”

Pope Francis called on the Faithful to fulfill three Lenten tasks: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. Forty days of penance invite us to focus

“first of all on the Almighty, in prayer, which frees us from that horizontal and mundane life where we find time for self but forget God. It then invites us to focus on others, with the charity that frees us from the vanity of acquiring and of thinking that things are only good if they are good for me. Finally, Lent invites us to look inside our heart, with fasting, which frees us from attachment to things and from the worldliness that numbs the heart. Prayer, charity, fasting: three investments for a treasure that endures.”

Pope Francis called the on the Faithful to eschew the material and worldly pleasures that “fade away like dust in the wind.”

“Lent is the time to free ourselves from the illusion of chasing after dust. Lent is for rediscovering that we are created for the inextinguishable flame, not for ashes that immediately disappear; for God, not for the world; for the eternity of heaven, not for earthly deceit; for the freedom of the children of God, not for slavery to things.”

The Holy Father concluded: “We should ask ourselves today: Where do I stand? Do I live for fire or for ash?”

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