V.—THE ADVANTAGE OF A RETREAT MADE IN SOLITUDE AND SILENCE
In order to form a true idea of the good produced by a Retreat, read some book on the subject, and see the wonderful conversions brought about by the Exercises. I will mention a few.
Father Maffei tells us there was in Sienna a priest who led a disedifying life. He made a Retreat under the direction of a missionary who happened to be in that town; and not only was he converted, but one day when there was a great multitude in the Church, he went into the pulpit weeping and with a rope round his neck, and there asked pardon for all the scandal he had given. He afterwards became a Capuchin and died a Saint. On his death-bed he made known that all the great graces he had received were due to the Spiritual Exercises.
Father Bartoli relates that a certain German knight, who, having abandoned himself to all kinds of vice, gave his soul to the devil by a document signed in his own blood. He afterwards performed the Spiritual Exercises, and he often fainted from excess of grief. He thenceforth led a life of severe penance till the day of his death.
Father Rossignoli tells us that in Sicily a certain baron’s son led so debauched a life that, having tried all means to make him amend, but in vain, his father was obliged to put him in a galley to work with the slaves. But a certain good Religious, moved to compassion, sought out the young man, and by his kind winning manners, induced him to meditate whilst at his work on the great Truths of Eternity. This he did, and soon he made his confession, and so changed his life that his father was glad to receive him back to his house again, and never again had any reason to be displeased with his son.
A young man in Flanders, having made a Spiritual Retreat, gave up his wicked life. Seeing his friends amazed at his conversion, he said to them: “You wonder at my change of life, but I tell you that if the devil himself were capable of making the Spiritual Exercises, he would be converted to penance.”
A Religious who had by his bad conduct become insupportable in his Community, was sent by his Superiors to make a Retreat. When he was going away he jestingly said to those about him: “Get ready your Rosary beads to touch me when I return.” But the Exercises did indeed change him so completely that he became an example for all the other Religious, and, seeing the change, they all wished to make the Exercises.
Some young men, seeing a number of their friends going to make a Spiritual Retreat, wished to accompany them, not to profit their souls, but in order afterwards to jest about the Exercises. Just the opposite happened; for during the Retreat they were so filled with compunction that they began to sigh and weep for their sins. They made good Confessions and changed their lives.