VI—THE ADVANTAGE OF A RETREAT MADE IN SOLITUDE AND SILENCE
I could add a thousand other examples, but I shall relate only one more—the case of a nun in the Convent of Torre di Specchi in Rome. She pretended to be a learned woman, but led a very imperfect life. When the Spiritual Exercises were being conducted in the convent she began them, but very much against her will. The very first meditation on the “End of Man” made such an impression on her that, weeping, she went to the Spiritual Father, and said: “Father, I wish to become a saint without delay.” She wanted to say more, but sobs prevented her. Returning to her cell she wrote out a consecration of her entire self to Jesus Christ, and gave herself up to penance and retirement, and persevered until death.
If we had no other motive for attaching so much importance to the Spiritual Exercises, it would be enough to consider the esteem so many saintly men had for them. St. Charles Borromeo began to lead a perfect life after the first Retreat in Rome. St. Francis de Sales attributed to the Spiritual Exercises the first beginnings of a holy life. Louis of Granada, a man of very great virtue, used to say that a lifetime would not suffice to explain the knowledge of Divine things which he discovered in going through the Spiritual Exercises. Blessed John of Avila called the Exercises a school of heavenly wisdom, and exhorted all his spiritual children to make them. Father Louis Blosius, the holy Benedictine, used to say we should give God special thanks for having in these latter times made known to His Church the precious treasure of the Spiritual Exercises of a Retreat.
But if the Exercises are of great help to persons in every state and condition, they are of special help to him who wishes to make a proper choice of a state of life. For I find it laid down that the first end for which the Exercises were instituted was that of making the choice of a state of life, because upon this choice depends the eternal salvation of each one. We cannot expect that an Angel from Heaven should come to assure us of the state which, according to the will of God, we should choose. It is sufficient to put before us the state we are thinking of choosing, and then to consider the end we have in view in that choice, and weigh all the circumstances.
This is the principle reason for which I wish you to make the Exercises in silence; namely, for making the choice of the state of life.